B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

B.J. Widick

9,000 Rubber Workers Quit Akron Plants

Goodrich Plants Struck in Fight Against Wage Cuts

(May 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 22, 28 May 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio. – The recent upsurge of the Akron labor movement received further impetus this week when 9,000 rubber workers completely shut down the six plants of the Goodrich Rubber Company.

Resentment over long-standing grievances at the Goodrich plants flared into a sit-down late last week in protest against seniority; violations among electricians. It immediately received factory-wide support and the next day large picket lines closed the shops.

All Grievances Up

L.L. Callahan, president of Local 5, United Rubber Workers of America, announced that the negotiating committee would use the opportunity to settle all major grievances. Negotiations were proceeding satisfactorily early this week.

The strike climaxed a series of victories over the past two weeks, which successfully stopped a vicious anti-labor offensive.

Recently the fight of progressive Goodrich unionists against wage-cut proposals received a 10 to 1 majority vote from the rank-and-file and inspired the entire Akron labor movement.

The report of the United States Department of Labor, which followed the vote by a few days, substantiated the claim of unionists that wage-cuts were unjustified. The company’s claim that decentralization was inevitable unless wages were reduced was exploded by these actions. However, it may be expected that Goodrich will attempt to decentralize some production to penalize the union for its militant stand.

Firestone Contract Renewed

The solidarity of rubber workers led to a renewal of the contract between the Firestone Company and the U.R.W.A. – a contract which included provisions for a standard six-hour day and maintenance of present wage scales.

Firestone broke the united employer front when it realized how costly the battle with the rubber workers would be.

“If Firestone signed, so can Goodrich!” progressive unionists declared in rallying Goodrich workers for direct action to settle grievances.

Successful settlement of a strike at the Sun Rubber Co. last week gave further incentive to the aroused Goodrich workers. Victorious strikes by Akron truck drivers, and waiters and waitresses, added fuel to the rekindled labor movement.

An “enthusiastic” welcome was given last week by hundreds of U.R.W.A. rank-and-filers to a Goodyear company-sponsored rally. Thunderous cheers greeted a company stooge as he mounted the rostrum. Two hours later, the militant audience was still cheering when the stooge descended from the platform in despair after being able to utter only a few words during the entire period.

The events are a remarkable tribute to the courage and solidarity of the rubber workers who lave withstood a series of union-busting attacks, ranging all the way from “red apple” propaganda to mass lay-offs which have made thousands destitute. The well-laid strike-breaking plans of the Greater Akron Association and the Chamber of Commerce have been punctured flatter than a worn out tire at the present time.

Union Position Better

Negotiators for the Goodrich union have been placed in a stronger position by the signing of the Firestone contract. Besides the six-hour day and no wage cuts, it includes vacations with pay – one week for five years’ service, two weeks for ten years, seniority rights guaranteed with no lay-offs until the work week has gone down to 24 hours, and the acceptance of the union’s grievance committee setup.

Goodrich this week issued secret orders to its office staff to consider this week of idleness as its vacation, indicating that the plant probably will not reopen until next Monday.

Because of this sign and the bitterness of management toward the union, the rubber workers are preparing for a prolonged strike, even though satisfactory negotiations are progressing.

The famous slogan of the five-week Goodyear strike – “Hold That Line!” – has been revived, showing that the gum miners are returning to their old tradition of militancy.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 30 July 2015