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Susan Green

Militants Make Strong Bid at URW Convention

(2 October 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 40, 2 October 1944, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

For the first time in the history of the United Rubber Workers, President Sherman H. Dalrymple was opposed for re-election as head of the 190,000 members of the union. The opposition candidate, George Bass, president of Goodrich Local 5, polled 394 votes – nearly thirty-five per cent of the total – to Dalrymple’s 756.

The forces behind Bass, which shook the earth under the feet of the Dalrymple administration – represented the rank and file discontent of the powerful Akron locals and included some of the small unions.

This vote can be understood properly only in the light of all the surrounding circumstances. It was apparent from the beginning of the convention proceedings that the Dalrymple strategists would take every advantage that their official position afforded them. Thus they steam-rollered through a convention rule to hold the elections on Friday morning – come hell or high water. Consequently the elections took place before hearing the appeals of the General Tire workers, of the Goodrich workers and of other locals. The appeals, which were the crux of the case against the administration, were not heard until Saturday. By that time many of the delegates had gone home, all were tired out, all welcomed a compromise; so that not only was the case against Dalrymple and the outgoing General Executive Board not heard before the election of new officers – it was not properly heard at all.

Under the circumstances, the vote of 394 for Candidate Bass opposing Dalrymple, of 422 for Wheeler of Local 2 opposing Buckmaster for vice-president, of 370 for Watson of Local 7 opposing Lanning for general secretary-treasurer, means more of a shake-up than the mere numbers indicate. A truly democratic convention procedure on the appeals would have influenced the elections.

Aside from the cases on appeal – which will be dealt with later – the big issue before this ninth convention of the rubber workers was the rescinding of the no-st|ike pledge. This is true not only because of the growing rank and file sentiment throughout organized labor for repudiating this anti-union policy, but because the rubber workers specifically have been so grossly victimized by it.

The question was on the floor of the convention for practically a full day.

It was apparent that there were three distinct divisions among the delegates: (1) those who had learned nothing fom the abuses under the pledge and those who wanted to learn nothing – the flag-waving Stalinists prominent among the latter – standing for reaffirming the pledge; (2) those who had learned their lessons well – strongest among these being the Akron locals – who are unshakably for rescinding; (3) those middle-of-the-road delegates who had come to do something about the abuses under the no-strike pledge, but were not yet wise enough to see that the only thing to be done was to repudiate it. It was right here that the unpreparedness of the opposition became apparent. Basing itself primarily upon the fight to dislodge Dalrymple for his unconstitutional and high-handed conduct, it neglected to give adequate formulation to a program of union policies. Such a clear-cut statement of progressive union aims by the opposition was necessary to enlighten arid influence the doubtful delegates. But fearful that they might alienate the doubtful delegates on the appeals cases and on the elections if they pressed too hard on questions of policy such as rescinding of the no-strike pledge, the opposition was hurt from this fundamental point of view.

They Fought a Good Fight

Still, a darned good fight was put up to rescind the no-strike pledge and some excellent speeches were made. Harrell, Local 5, compared the no-strike pledge to a yellow-dog contract. Watson, Local 7, said the no-strike pledge gives flag-wavers a chance to tie workers’ hands in order to frisk their pockets. A delegate pointed out that Dalrymple was going further than the Smith-Connally law. A delegate from Local 102 – a small local – showed how under the no-strike pledge, the company calls on the union president to do its dirty work against the rank arid file. Delegate Treash, Local 5, enumerated what the workers have under the “equality of sacrifice” farce, namely, violations of contracts, firing of union militants, break-down of collective bargaining, wage and job freeze, Smith-Connally law, with prices and profits sky-high.

The flag-waving performed by Dalrymple was repeated by many well-known Stalinists, especially from Local 101. Vice-President Buckmaster, on the other hand, set himself the task of befuddling the doubtful delegates. The gist of his argument was that the no-strike pledge must be separated from the abuses committed because of it. He admitted the justice of complaints against management and the WLB, but stated these must be covered “by another attack.” “Attack WLB from front and not from back,” he said. Yet in the statement of policy – adopted Saturday afternoon, when many delegates had gone home and others were asleep, reading or kibitzing at their tables – there is a clause complimenting the WLB for its “courageous” blah-blah-blah.

The vote on the no-strike pledge was 782 to reaffirm and 375 opposed. The opposition unfortunately did not take occasion to call for a referendum vote on the no-strike pledge by the union membership, as was done at the United Auto Workers convention, although it was given an opening to do so when Buckmaster stated his doubts that the 35,000 rubber workers’ of Akron are against the no-strike pledge.

The Appeals Compromise

The long-delayed report of the Committee on Appeals, which should have come up before the elections, finally saw the light of day Saturday morning. The majority report on the case of the sixty-two General Tire workers was to uphold Dalrymple and the GEB. There was also a minority report by one member of the committee, Delegate Culver of Local 98. However, he never got to reading it because a motion came from the floor to take up the case of Howard Haas immediately. Haas had been granted permission by his commanding officer to attend the convention, on unanimous request of that body, and he wanted to get to see his family in Akron before returning to the Army.

The motion passed, and much time was consumed reading documents. After lunch, as time was getting short and it was evident a real airing of the appeals would be impossible, Delegate Bass moved for a compromise to cover all the cases: The body finally agreed to have two leading delegates from each side withdraw to prepare a compromise motion.

The motion finally submitted was a. four-point compromise: (1) all suspended or expelled members to be reinstated with all their rights; (2) claims for back pay to be denied; (3) Local 5’s appeal from the GEB on the Dalrymple case to be denied; (4) fifty per cent of the fines collected from penalized members to be refunded.

The motion was adopted overwhelmingly. Whereupon Harold Haas was called on to speak. The convention rose and applauded him with spirit. He said that he had in his briefcase material which would not further the unity the compromise aimed to achieve. And as he shook hands with Dalrymple, the uniform he wore was itself an eloquent condemnation of Dalrymple’s conduct. The delegates had indicated their good feeling toward Haas by taking up a collection of $212 for him.

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