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Jack Wilson

Mass Picket Line Wins First Strike Conflict

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

(22 February 1936)

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

AKRON, Ohio, Feb. 22. – A general strike movement was rapidly gaining impetus here to support 4,000 Goodyear strikers against armed vigilantes and hundreds of deputies who have announced their intention of using a sweeping injunction as an excuse to smash the picket line.

A progressive-dominated committee of fifteen was chosen by 300 cheering delegates at the Central Labor Union special meeting last night with full power to do “anything they advise to help the Goodyear strikers.”

The Goodyear strikers have ad-opted the slogan, “Hold that picket line injunction or no injunction,” issued by progressives and they prepared to resist any of the attacks which are being openly prepared by Sheriff Flower, a National Guard captain.

Already national guard observers have been sent in and troops have been told to be ready for immediate call.

Company union meetings have been packed by Goodrich and Firestone foremen, businessmen, supervisors and other rats, crying for “a right to go into the factory.”

Nearly 5,000 Goodyear workers refused to enter the plants even though promised protection and efforts are being made to swing their sympathy into active support.

Union Officials Timid

John House, union president, declared in the injunction hearing that the strike was an “outlaw”strike, thus giving an excuse for the granting of the injunction and reducing sympathy to the union. Pressure from progressives, backed by the rank and file, has forced House to change his stand a little.

The union officials were afraid to come out openly for demands as they hoped for quick settlement and want the men to go back to work as they fear facing a real strike.

But progressive pressure became too strong and the union has announced it wants to abolish the Flying squad, a company scab organization, the company union known a the Goodyear Industrial assembly, and no lay-offs.

Signs urging the 30-hour week, seniority rights and return of wages cut recently were made by picket captains and the union officials will have to ask for those demands too.

Strike Events to Date

Monday night the Plant Two workers decided to go on strike immediately as the company refused to rescind lay-offs. A picket line of 500 was formed despite sub-zero weather and a blizzard.

Tuesday the plant was shut tight by the pickets and many employees coming to work joined the strike movement.

A sit-down in key departments in Plant One was begun early Tuesday in sympathy with the strikers. A committee was sent to the union asking if the picket line should be formed.

Two police attempts to smash through the Plant Two line failed Tuesday as more workers joined with the strikers instead of trying to get in the factory.

By Wednesday morning, sixty picket lines were marching in chain fashion around entrances and Plant One and Three were closed by the ‘sit-downers’ who came out on strike. Militancy and determination to win despite all obstacles were marked features of the picket talk as the temperature dropped to nine below zero for two nights.

The union officials wouldn’t sanction a strike bulletin for Wednesday morning although hundreds of Goodyear workers were coming to the picket lines instead of going to work. No effort was made to win the non-strikers over primarily because the union officials feared a strike.

Combating Company Maneuvers

Valuable days were lost by not giving out statements to non-strikers and to the papers which kept howling for “reasons why the men are striking.” Unfavorable comment began to be heard on the streets but the mistake was corrected when key workers adopted completely a correct program which had been hammered home by militants.

Pickets took charge of traffic, closed liquor stores, and generally ran East Akron under direction of a special strike committee, all week.

A company trick of sneaking in scabs instead of office workers in the payroll department while workers were waiting for checks brought a complete stoppage of every movement in and out of the factory. Even the company president, P.W. Litchfield was kept within the plant along with 500 flying squad scabs who have tear gas bombs, clubs, gas masks, etc. to use tomorrow against the workers.

The First Setback

First break in the picket line came Friday night when a court order was given during the injunction hearing that coal be allowed hauled in by train. Strike captains had trouble restraining pickets from stopping the train as the company tried to provoke trouble so that the injunction would be given.

However, the company received the injunction easily as House and Zesiger flopped terribly in the court fight as progressives had said they would. The situation began to look dark for the strikers but the Central Labor union meeting was called just in time to rally the disheartened workers and put new lifeblood in the pickets.

CLU Gives Support

The resolution adopted unanimously by the CLU delegates bristled in defiance of any injunction proceedings and called on all organized and unorganized workers to support the strikers on the picket line and financially.

Other rubber workers locals officers met after the CLU meeting and planned support for Goodyear strikers. Already workers at Goodrich demanded that they be called out on strike.

Exactly as Goodyear’s strike was a spontaneous movement, so will all organized workers walk out even though certain local union leaders will beg them with crocodile tears in their eyes not to.

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Last updated: 15 March 2018