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New Militant, 29 February 1936

Carl O’Shea

Massed Goodyear Pickets Throw Back Police
Army for First MajorVictory in Rubber Strike

Union Threatens General Strike if Militia IsCalled Out

(25 February 1936)

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 9, 29 February 1936, pp. 1& 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


AKRON, Feb. 25. – The Goodyear rubber strike is more firmly entrenched tonight than ever, with 168 picket posts being maintained on an eleven-mile front. This morning the 15,000 strikers had a showdown with the forces of “law and order,” which resulted in a smashing victory for the union. Early in the day word reached strike headquarters that Sheriff Flower, Police Chief Boss, with 300 deputies and 130 cops, were going to charge the picket line at ten a.m., and attempt to break the back of the strike with violence.

As the zero hour neared, hundreds of pickets packed into the strike headquarters across from the struck plant. Thousand more took the streets in front of the picket posts. Each picket was well provided with “firewood.” Up the hill marched the forces of law and order. Grimly the strikers waited. The cops in the lead, the strike-breakers marched closer and closer to the massed rubber workers. The line refused to budge. Finally Boss halted his men a few feet from the taut strikers. Nervously, he looked the situation over. He was outstared. Breaking down, he cried out, “I’ve never led anyone into a goddam slaughterhouse, and I’m not going to now.” The cops broke ranks, the deputies marched down the hill again, to the accompaniment of tremendous jeers and boos from the massed pickets. One of the deputies suddenly clutched his stomach and became violently ill. The strikers, with their magnificent demonstration of militancy and determination, had carried the day.

Inside the strike headquarters this evening was a milling crowd of proud strikers enthusiastically discussing the way in which they had called the bluff of the hard-boiled Sheriff Jim Flowers, and his strike-breakers. Each picket post had its allotment of ten strikers, huddled around a stove inside a windbreak. Every two hours, cars came around delivering hot luncheons.

Women Very Active

One of the best weapons that the strikers have is the energy and high spirits of the women, who have turned out in great numbers to back up the strike. Fifty girls are on duty at the strike headquarters 24 hours a day. Every two hours, a thousand sandwiches are made and delivered to the picket posts. The women, organized in the Union Buyers Club, have proven tremendously effective in neutralizing the prejudices of the local merchants and small businessmen. An illustration of the spirit of the wives and daughters of the strikers is shown by an incident that occurred the second day of the strike. The weather was way below zero, and some of the strikers were rather loath to venture out into the cold to take care of the picket posts. The women caucused, and finally delivered the following message: You men cook. We’ll take care of the picketing! With such a spirit, from that moment on there was never any trouble in getting dozens of candidates for each picket post.

Besides the picket posts that are maintained by the Goodyear local, 22 cruiser cars are constantly on the job. Apparently the strike committee has borrowed a lot of ideas that were developed by the Minneapolis truck drivers in their strikes of 1934.

There is the strike headquarters, with hospital, commissary, loudspeaker, etc. There are the cruiser cars. There is everything in Akron today but a printed daily strike bulletin, and there is a possibility that even this will be established in the near future.

Goodyear President Broadcasts

Tonight at 10:40, the president of the Goodyear Company, Litchfield, spoke over the radio, presenting the usual boss line: Our company union has been in existence for seventeen years – seventeen years of peace and harmony ... This is not a question of wages and hours, but a question of whether the government is to be transported into the middle of a lawless mob ... We must avoid autocracy or chaos, etc., etc., in the usual boss manner. Full-page ads appear in all the Akron papers, containing the usual run-of-the-mill slanders which bosses always use against any group of workers who have the courage and determination to organize and fight in defense of their rights. Incidentally, Litchfield announced he was broadcasting from inside the plant, “because if I get out, I don’t know when I can get in again.” This will give some idea of the rigorous discipline which the strikers are maintaining around the struck plants. No one enters or leave the plant without the permission of the union. Up until a few days ago, the union was permitting the office workers to enter the plant. But four fink production workers were caught trying to sneak through, and since then no one gets by the picket line.

Real Industrial Union

Needless to say, the rubber workers have taken in almost all the craftsmen who work around the plant – carpenters, electricians, painters, sheet metal workers, pipefitters. These men saw that their place was with the mass of organized rubber workers, asked for admission into the union, and were readily taken in. Even the machinists have cracked under the stress of the strike, and a large section has already entered the Goodyear local.

Lewis Forces Strong

John L. Lewis is continuing to throw more and more strength behind the strike, as the tremendous importance of the situation becomes apparent. Last night Brophy was in town and spoke at strike headquarters, promising full support from the Committee for Industrial Organization. Adolf Germer will remain in town until the strike is over. Tomorrow crews of organizers from the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers and the United Mine Workers are scheduled to arrive. Should the strike end in a smashing victory for the union – and there is every evidence that it will – the star of industrial unionism will be on the heights. Trade unionists from all over the country are dropping into Akron and carefully observing what is going on. In case of an impressive victory in Akron, industrial unionism will loom large before the eyes of mass production workers throughout America. The situation will unquestionably have an immediate effect in the auto industry, in the steel mills and the packing house industry.

Though the company is maintaining its position of refusing to deal with the union or to open negotiations over grievances until the strike is called off, it is difficult to see how they can smash the strike. They have appealed for the national guards, but they understand quite clearly that martial law would mean a general strike in the whole eastern section of Ohio. The Goodrich and Firestone workers are ready to come out at the drop of a hat. Even now, the brothers from these other two plants spend all their free time on picket duty. The Central Labor Union in Akron has sent a delegation to Governor Davey warning him not to try to bring in the militia.

A victory in Akron today will mean the rubber industry has been conquered at last by the union movement, and will be the signal for tremendous campaigns in the other mass production industries throughout the country.

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