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Goodyear Accord Imperils Union

Layoff of 1,600 More Men Ends Rubber Sit-Down

(November 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 16, 27 November 1937, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio, Nov. 21. “They licked us again, but it’s the last time!”

This terse comment by a progressive rubber worker summarized the Sunday meeting of Goodyear Local where the United Rubber Workers official leadership shoved down a betrayal proposal that allows 1,600 additional layoffs against which a rank and file sit-down had been called.

The United Rubber Workers’ leadership abjectly surrendered to the threat of National Guard strike-breaking, and agreed to an eight-point, government sponsored program, which gives Goodyear further opportunity to break the union.

But it took five hours of bitter argument to defeat the rank and file opposition to the lay-off proposals, which rallied around the slogan, “All or None. We all work or nobody does.”

The program of the union leadership was a clever one. It was announced to the sit-downers that a special meeting Sunday would take up the question of strike action. This and other reports brought the sit-downers out of the three plants.

Present N.L.R.B. “Offer”

When the meeting was called to order, John House, Goodyear Local president and leading reactionary, read the labor board proposals which the union negotiating committee and the company had agreed to. The agreement allowed for the lay-off of the 1,600 men who had been given notices. It established department seniority while the rank and file demanded, and the union needed, factory seniority. It promised to rehire the workers on the basis of seniority.

It means that the company policy of getting rid of the militant unionists by closing down key departments has been sanctioned by the union!

A counter proposal was offered from the union floor to the effect that the company be forced to rescind the lay-off orders or a strike would take place.

Bill Carney, Goodyear unionist and now C.I.O. director in New Jersey, amended the counter-resolution calling for an immediate strike vote and action.

Dalrymple Swings Axe

Then S.H. Dalrymple, president of the United Rubber Workers, leaped to his feet and rebuked Carney and declared his amending motion out of order.

“This meeting wasn’t called to take strike action. It’s unconstitutional. We can’t strike. The National Guard would defeat us. We haven’t the money for a strike,” Dalrymple shouted.

Carney indicated that the very life of the union was at stake. That the C.I.O. had won its first great victory in the Goodyear strike of 1936. That either the union fought back or it was doomed.

Rank and filers tore the official proposal apart. They called it a betrayal of union men. For hours the argument continued. But the steady barrage of defeatist propaganda of the leadership began to take hold.

Stalinists Equivocate

The Stalinist spokesman took an ambiguous position, one that confused the issue and helped the union officialdom. “We don’t want to see men laid-off but I don’t like the counter-resolution. It isn’t complete,” he said. He didn’t make any clarifying motions. He didn’t explain that he, under party orders, had approved of the evacuation of the plants, which was the basis for the defeat.

It was the threat of the National Guard action and the realization that the union leadership wouldn’t fight Goodyear, that swung the tide. A vote of 1,492 to 822 approved of the union officials’ agreement.

The rank and file is willing to stake its life in a struggle against the strikebreaking tactics of the National Guard. Sentiment for a general strike against the National Guard grew hourly in this city while the Goodyear union was meeting.

Need Militant Leaders

But the workers have seen what reactionary union leadership does when a serious crisis confronts it. The rubber workers remember how the steel workers were betrayed by their leaders in the “Little Steel” strike. That the National Guard had been called because the C.I.O. had asked for it.

It takes a militant, class-conscious union leadership to smash the strike-breaking of the cops, the Guards, and the other governmental forces of oppression.

A powerful leadership of that kind doesn’t exist in Goodyear. The progressive have been learning slowly and through painful experience, such as this Sunday meeting, the need for genuine left-wing leaders with a program of class struggle.

The sit-down is over. The 1,600 rubber workers join the 21,000 other unemployed in this city. The union continues to retreat.

But not for long.

There will be more lay-offs. Goodyear has already indicated that. There will be more sit-downs. The mood of the rank and file guarantees that. Meanwhile the progressives are learning fast.

And when it breaks loose again, there will be no stopping.

Starving men have nothing to lose but their chains and the rubber workers are realizing it.

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Last updated: 23 November 2014