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Jack Wilson

Pickets Blockade Akron Co.

Threat of Injunction as Lines Stay Solid in Walkout

(16 February 1936)

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 8, 22 February 1936, pp. 1& 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


AKRON. Ohio, Feb. 21. – Goodyear Tire plants remained idle here as large mass picket lines blockaded all gates and kept scabs at bay. Officials, unable to break through the line, in action for four days, have applied to the courts for an injunction. Sheriff James T. Flower declared his readiness to violently smash through the lines in case of a favorable court decision.

* * *

AKRON, Ohio Feb. 16 – Rubber workers at Goodyear threatened to strike this week unless the company took back seventy-five Plant-2 workers layed off last week, thus bringing the crises throughout the tire industry to another open flare-up.

Already the company was forced to swallow its statement that 137 workers who led the latest “sit-down” at Plant 2 last Friday were permanently fired.

The plant, which ordinarily runs on Saturday and Monday, was closed down by the company until Tuesday, 6 a.m. in the hope that the workers could be pacified in the meantime.

Instead, workers flocked to the headquarters of the Goodyear local of the United Rubber Workers of America, and joined solidly into the growing movement to stop lay-offs and wage cuts once and for all through a strike.

Calling the Bosses’ Hand

The last “sit-down” was joined by 2,000 tire-builders at Plant-2 and drew sympathetic “sit-downs” from all other departments which have another 2,000 men.

When the company threatened to fire the entire third shift department, a rubber worker took the floor in the factory and told the personnel manager, Fred Climer: “You’ve been ordering us workers around for a long time, now it’s our turn.”

The company announced that the 137 men on that shift, “ring leaders” were fired. But when the entire plant made preparations to strike on Saturday, the company officials called the company union together and “negotiated” a rehiring of the men.

One for All, All for One!

A union committee meets Monday at 1 p.m. with the management to demand the rehiring of the 75 men. If the company refuses, the rubber workers at a mass rally Monday night will vote on shutting down the plant Tuesday morning.

At a rally Sunday afternoon, over 1,000 workers voiced their sentiment for strike by cheering speaker after speaker who said, “Either we all go back to work Tuesday, or none of us.”

The rubber workers in other Akron plants and of course Goodyear Plant-1 are watching closely each move and it appears very probable that if a picket line is formed at Plant-2, every plant in the city will be closed.

The workers’ grievances at the shops can be summarized around these points. They demand:

Workers’ Demands

  1. Abolition of Flying Squads.
  2. Abolition of the company-formed scab organizations.
  3. Restore wage cuts of recent weeks.
  4. Rehire layed-off men.
  5. A 30-hour week.
  6. Union recognition.
  7. No more speed-up.

The latest Goodyear “sit-down”came with dramatic swiftness that took the company by complete surprise and brought wide support to the workers, union and non-union.

“We’ll Stop at 3!’’

Lay-off notices were being explained to grumbling workers on fourth shift by a company man when a worker shouted. “We’ll stop work at 3!”

Other workers took up the cry and chanted. “We’ll stop work at 3!”

Soon half of Plant-2 was shouting the slogan in unison while company officials fumed in rage.

Three o’clock came and everyone sat down at their machines as though by pre-arranged plans. Actually it was spontaneous.

The company agreed to talk to a committee selected by the men and composed mainly of unionists. A conference was scheduled at 1 p.m. the next afternoon.

Plant Closed

Meanwhile the company announced and newspapers shouted that the “sit-down” was over. Of course, the company refused to take back the men.

The news came just as the third shift, composed of ten-year servicemen, were ringing in for work. The entire department sat down immediately and were joined by the curing and mill rooms.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the company refused to let the fourth shift come into work because they knew it would join the “sit-down”. Instead the plant was closed.

Acting much quicker than in the last “sit-down” union officials called department meetings and most of the workers concerned came and joined the union in addition to recording their sentiment for strike unless the 75 men were rehired.

Scabs Ineffective

Plant-1 workers, smarting under the defeat of two weeks ago when their “sit-down” was broken, are expected to join in the strike movement immediately, thus involving 15,500 employees.

Telephone from various unions during the Goodyear conference gave assurance of complete support and joining with the strike, if it is called.

Naturally, complete shutdown of the plants is assured by a strike even though some workers do not join the movement for the key departments are 100 per cent unionized and very militant.

Even though scabs were brought into the plant, the highly technical nature of the key jobs which involve over 80 per cent of the employees, would make it impossible for them to handle the machinery and build tires!

The danger of the situation is in the refusal of the union leaders or their inability to understand the significance of the passing events and prepare consciously for the inevitable strike.

Unless this is remedied quickly, the magnificent fight of the workers will be diverted into pessimism and defeat for they must have correct leadership immediately to utilize the situation or various company moves will smash the movement.

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