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B.J. Widick

In the Trade Unions

(21 April 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 26, 21 April 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

While the politicians in Washington are proceeding to carve out the life of the Wagner Labor Disputes Act, the National Labor Relations Board is ready to spring one of its most sensational hearings in the case of the United Rubber Workers of America against the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, Ohio.

The amazing story of the development and the results of the sit-down strikes in the giant rubber plants in 1936 will be unfolded, and this is a subject on which both the company and the C.I.O. are extremely sensitive.

Neither side is anxious to have this hot potato occupy the center of the stage but it is inevitable. For it was in resisting the onsweep of the rubber worker through their effective sit-down strike that Goodyear earned its notorious reputation as a scab outfit.

The Ku Klux Klan, the Black Legion, the Goodyear Stahlmate Club and countless other anti-union organizations had mushroom growth and decline during this period while the Goodyear officials experimented to find a way of stopping union growth. Spies, stool-pigeons, Mr. Paul Bergoff himself, the Law and Order League, ex-Mayor C. Nelson Sparks and the war veterans – all the potential and fascist scum took a crack at breaking the union but still it established itself.

Bribing politicians, giving city policemen bonuses to club and tear gas union pickets, and every other conceivable method was used by the company to stop the rubber workers.

Headlines Are Due

In the revealing of this story before the N.L.R.B., America will get a concise picture of the whole story of the difficulties and problems that faced the C.I.O. in its early days.

Tom Girdler as a member of the Board of Directors of Goodyear, P.W. Litchfield, company president, Akron city officials and others should be in for some very unpleasant publicity.

The company will probably try to avoid the issues by the simple device of raising the cry of “revolution” and “Soviets” against the sit-downs of which quite a few dozen were pulled at Goodyear.

In particular, on May 20, 1936, Goodyear yelled that the workers formed a soviet at plant two when a group of cool-headed union committeemen took charge of the plant to prevent considerable bloodshed which threatened because of the provocations of company unionists and stooges.

Although 21 union men were arrested for “rioting” the frame-up charges were exposed and the union militants freed.

Boomerang Statements

Another time Cliff Slusser, vice-president of the company, got drunk and tried to get tough with union militants in the plant, according to the unionists, and he was ejected for his own good. Of course, this incident will be termed “insurrection” by the company.

There is no question but that an intelligent answer will stop the company’s counter-offensive when the hearings begin. Unfortunately, prominent union officials like John House, Goodyear Local president, and Stanley Denlinger, attorney for the U.R.W.A., have made some ill-advised statements on sit-downs, etc., and these can easily boomerang.

One thing is certain, however. For the first time in C.I.O. history, the whole story of sit-downs, etc. from every point of view is going to be told.

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Last updated: 15 January 2016