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Jack Wilson

Perspectives of the Akron Strike

(29 February 1936)

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 9, 29 February 1936, pp. 1& 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is highly significant that precisely in that factory – Goodyear – where the company union is 17 years old and the rubber workers bona-fide union admittedly the weakest, that the strike in the rubber industry should begin! This happened because Goodyear workers were given absolutely no concessions but driven downward constantly, thus storing up an explosive force which blew up when the last sit-down provided the spark. Other rubber workers’ unions have obtained minor concessions and thus basic antagonisms were dulled.

The so-called objective economic factors involved have been pointed out in the New Militant previously and need only listing. Price wars, shifting the entire burden on the workers through wage cut, lengthening of hours, disregard of seniority rights favoring squadmen, who are nothing but company scab groups, in making unnecessary layoffs; these injustices have seared themselves in the workers’ minds. They provide the fire which has kept pickets warm despite 9 below zero weather.

Goodyear’s Fabulous Profits

Properly handled, the workers are unbeatable and support by everyone but big business is a foregone conclusion. Even a Federal fact-finding board has condemned Goodyear practices in wage cutting, etc., etc. To top that off, last Monday when the strike began, Goodyear announced an $800,000 increase in profit for 1935 over 1934. bringing its total admitted profit to $5,500,000, which fact alone rallied hundreds of incensed workers to the picket line.

Akron itself is composed of 35,000 rubber workers and their families. Add another 20,000 workers who are employed in subsidiary plants or other industrial plants and you can grasp the potential power of the workers when aroused for there are only 250,000 people altogether here. This is an over-sized mill town, in other words.

How is the rubber barons’ association trying to break the strike? In the cut-and-dried way. The perennial injunction which would abolish the picket line; the counter-demonstrations staged by the company union; full support of the bourgeois press which is doing its damndest to swing sympathy to the company; arming of hundreds of special deputies to break the picket line tomorrow; etc., etc.

In view of these facts, it would seem nearly incomprehensible that anyone would consider a possibility of defeat. But that would ignore exactly those factors which now have become the balance between victory and defeat – the union leadership.

The Progressives and Leadership

In the news report of this strike, you can see the details of the bungling job done by the union officials. That is the potential Achilles heel of the giant Labor. The no doubt sincere but incorrect policies of the leadership would have ruined the strike already if a group of progressives hadn’t emerged under pressure of events. Suffice it to say, that in so far as the strike has been placed on a class struggle basis has it been successful. The union leaders, while talking of class-consciousness, etc., etc., act in an impeccable class-collaborationist way which has been greeted with joy by the company.

For example, progressives insisted since Tuesday that the company would be given the injunction in its own money-dominated capitalist court and that plans to break the injunction were necessary. They have won the rank and file to that view, naturally for the average picket has been two miles ahead of the leader on every issue that arose. The union leaders hoped and prayed and declared time and again that the court couldn’t grant an injunction because this is a peaceful strike!

All Akron Will Reply

Since easily 2,000 rubber workers from other plants have aided the strikers on the picket line, spreading of the walkout throughout the entire industry will come as soon as the sheriff tries to slug his way into the factory no matter how much any union leaders plead to the contrary. In fact, Monday will probably see half of Akron’s rubber workers out at the picket lines ready to battle the sheriff, so strong is the sentiment for the strikers.

Quite obviously this strike is a make or break proposition for unionism in the tire industry. The companies have fully realized this. The rank and file has forced the union leaders to see it. Since this is a mass production industry capable and demanding of industrial unionism, both William Green and John Lewis are aware of the issues involved. So the center of the craft vs. industrial union fight within the A.F. of L. has been shifted to Akron.

Green took honors in round one by telephoning the international union officers of the United Rubber Workers of America that he would support them. Lewis has sent Adolph Germer and Leo Kryzycki. vice-president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, to the strike scene.

Already valuable lessons have been learned by the workers which will increase the power of the working class because of this struggle. After 21 years of complete terrorization by the companies, smashing of all attempts at strikes and unionism, the companies have been foiled in their attempts to curb the present walkout. The workers are learning their own strength. “No matter what Goodyear does, they can’t build tires without us,” the tire-builder says, determined he won’t go back until a good settlement is made and realizing the company can’t run without workers. That workers are the basis of all production. That profit is stolen from workers.

Every Aid Promised by Akron C.L.U. Committee

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