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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(23 May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 35, 23 May 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio – The current issue of the Summit County Labor News gives a succinct picture of the latest developments in the labor movement here which reveal the great changes that have taken place since the hey-day of the C.I.O.:

“Two incidents happened last week which brought a jolt to Akron residents. One was the announcement of the Goodrich Company that it would build a plant for making rubber soles and heels, in Clarksville, Tenn. The other was the brutal attack upon a picket line at the Loewenthal Rubber Co. by Akron police.

“The background of the strike of the Loewenthal workers is one which is only too common. Back in January, 1938 the company pleaded with its workers that it needed a wage reduction in order to stay in business. It said that as soon as a 90-day emergency was over the wage cut would be restored. It said that if the wage cut were accepted, all workers would be kept on the payroll.

“The workers believed the company. They trusted to its sense of honesty and fairness. They accepted a wage reduction. Two weeks later 30 men were laid off, and when the 90-day emergency period was up, the company forgot to restore the wage cut. The workers went along arguing and discussing the matter with company representatives and always they were put off.

“Finally, last week-end they decided they had taken the cut long enough. They felt that their confidence and trust had been betrayed. They went on strike.”

“Law and Order”

“The, company wanted to move out some finished orders. The pickets picketed the railroad tracks. The train crews refused to run the pickets down. The Akron police appeared on the scene. They surrounded the pickets.

“They told the pickets to move on. The pickets moved slowly. Too slowly to suit the police. Without warning, they attacked the picket line – wielding clubs and revolver butts.

“A one-armed man who lost his arm in the course of his work at Loewenthal was clubbed into insensibility. The president of the union, Steve Oziomek, was apparently singled out for attention, because three policemen made for him, surrounded him, and pounded his head and shoulders with clubs and a revolver butt. When he fell to the ground he was kicked and beaten yet more.”

On the question of the decentralization of Goodrich with its threat to the U.R.W.A., the Summit County Labor News quotes L.L. Callahan, president of the Goodrich Local, which fought and won a battle against a proposed wage cut last spring.

“The B.P. Goodrich company has developed from a small shop, valued at a few thousand, to a great corporation with assets now totaling some 147 million dollars. All o has been brought about, in span of some sixty odd years. The brawn and muscle of the people of the Akron area are primarily responsible for this company’s phenomenal success.

Profits vs. Wages

“The company cleared more than $2,000,000 profit last year, despite the fact that many other companies lost their holdings in the same period. Certainly labor did not benefit greatly through this period, even though they were able to maintain their hourly wages. Indeed the India Rubber World says of the Akron factories ‘Reduced labor cost per dollar value output and recent increase in tire prices ... contribute to a substantial improvement in earnings compared with 1939.’ The Wall Street Journal also recently reported that labor costs in Akron rubber factories declined last year.”

Callahan blasted away at the Akron Beacon-Joural which printed an editorial blaming labor for the decentralization proposal of Goodrich. Counteracting this propaganda is a major task of the C.I.O. movement here.

And the problem of the unceasing police terror against all picket lines becomes more acute daily.

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