B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

B.J. Widick

Rubber Workers Urge Labor Unity

Ask C.I.O.-A.F. of L. Peace;
Refuse C.P. Whitewash of Bridges Wrecking Tactics on West Coast

(October 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 40, 1 October 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

TRENTON, N.J. – The third annual convention of the United Rubber Workers of America held here last week was marked by considerable achievements on many important trade union questions and a solidarity and union democracy that sets an example for other C.I.O. unions.

Unity of the C.I.O. and the A.F. of L. on the basis of recognition of industrial unionism for mass production industries and inclusion of the railroad brotherhoods in the united labor movement was called for in a resolution adopted unanimously at the convention.

Pledge of a strong fight against any modification of the Wagner Labor Act and against adoption of a British Labor Disputes act was made by the U.R.W.A.

Support Railroad Unions

Support of the United Rubber Workers to the railroad brothehoods in their battle against an impending wage cut was also pledged.

Among the most important achievements of the past year recorded in the officers’ reports was the smashing of a wage cut drive in Akron at the Goodrich plant which prevented a nationwide slash. Likewise the U.R.W.A. reported signed contracts with U.S. Rubber, Goodrich and Firestone, three of the largest concerns in America.

Membership of the U.R.W.A. had remained high despite layoffs of 25,000 union men in the past year who are still considered in the union, due to special provisions made in the constitution. Refuse Endorsement to Bridges

The convention refused to approve a Stalinist resolution calling for endorsement of Harry Bridges’ West Coast union-wrecking policies and for repudiation of the progressive Los Angeles Trade Union Conference which includes U.R.W.A. locals.

The delegates unanimously turned down a proposal to hold conventions biennially instead of yearly. “We want to check our officials yearly. We don’t want any auto workers situation,” they explained in debate.

The convention rebuked a Stalinist delegate from Akron who was a delegate from another local by voting not to permit the practice in the future, unless the delegate was first elected from his own local. “Who paid her way here,” a Goodrich worker asked.

Three attempts inspired by the Stalinists to enlarge the executive board so that election of a Stalinist would be assured were defeated by the progressives in the convention.

Still Follow F.D.R.

Everything looked rosy for the Stalinist clique when the convention first began. The great majority of delegates were Roosevelt followers and the Stalinists hopped on the band-wagon cheering as over 75 resolutions were passed in less than two hours in support of the “New Deal.”

Only argument was on the question of praising Roosevelt in the resolution calling for him to run on a third term. Some delegates said he was the greatest president, others argued he was no greater than Lincoln or Jefferson and should only be called one of the greatest. With debate proceeding along that fashion, a few progressives didn’t take the floor to speak against Roosevelt’s policies.

The national C.I.O. policy of playing around with Democrat and Republicans and the C.I.O position on labor unity was outlined in speeches by Allan S. Hay wood, New York C.I.O. director John Brophy, national C.I.O. director, Eli P. Oliver, executive vice-president of Labor’s Non-Partisan League, and other speakers.

Knowing the militant and democratic traditions of the rubber workers, Brophy in his speech did not dare to use the language he used on the West Coast recently in seeking to cover up Bridges stacked C.I.O. state convention although the West Coast rubber workers were staring him in the face and had passed out a well-documented booklet exposing Bridges and Brophy to the U.R.W.A. Delegates.

Blast Mayor Hague

Other resolutions called for support of Labor’s Non-Partisan League, blasting of Mayor Frank Hague and fascist tendencies in U.S.A., criticism of the Dies committee, etc., etc.

Of special importance was the lengthy discussion on organizing in the South, in particular at Gadsden, Ala., where Goodyear’s two-year reign of terror has resulted in vigilante attacks against unionists. Gadsden is the Achilles heel of Goodyear Local in Akron, and a special five-point organizing campaign was recommended to the executive board for action. The constitution was amended to provide for even more union democracy, and a special provision was included that at no time should organizers comprise a majority of the executive board. This provision was a compromise over a Goodrich Local proposal that no organizer should serve on the board. “We don’t want to allow anyone to build a machine in the union through posts,” the delegates declared. It was in this way that the delegates time and again showed they are determined to keep the U.R.W.A. as a democratically run union, and certainly the convention was an excellent illustration of that democracy.

The Stalinists interrupted the proceedings here to introduce their factional resolution in support of Bridges, and for condemning the West Coast delegates who had passed out the booklet exposing the Stalinist “rule or ruin” policy. A brilliant answer to this proposal was made by George Burden, West Coast delegate, who outlined the Bridges’ maneuvers and their disastrous consequences.

Praise Western Organizer

Then S.H. Dalrymple, international president, took the floor and contrary to reports published in the Daily Worker, criticized the Stalinist-introduced resolution as one “which breaks the unity and harmony of this convention,” and he told the delegates that the executive committee had agreed not to bring the subject up at the convention. So the resolution was squelched by a motion to table indefinitely which passed by a huge majority.

Later in the convention, the West Coast delegates introduced a motion praising the work and policies of George B. Roberts, U.R.W.A. western organizer, who had previously been criticized for blasting Bridges, and this motion passed unanimously, as the C.P. crawled into a hole to hide.

Frightened by the turn of events, the Stalinists rushed to get Michael Quill, Transport Workers’ U ni o n president and “party line” follower, down as speaker but his clever speech proved of no avail.

The legislative committee report included recommendations for extension of the Social Security Law to provide for benefits to W.P.A. workers, endorsement of the Civil Liberties Committee work, favored a low-rent housing program, condemnation of use of the National Guard in strikes, and opposition to laws conscripting capital in war-time since “this would lead to drafting of labor to which we are unalterably opposed.” These were passed.

Officers Re-Elected

The present officers, Dalrymple, vice-president Thomas F. Burns, and secretary-treasurer Frank Grillo, were unanimously re-elected.

In the elections for executive board two surprises came when N.H. Eagle and Salvatore Came-lio, organizers and founders of the union, were defeated for re-election. Part of this was because of the feeling delegates had against having organizers on the board and part of it was their reputation for playing too close to the Stalinists. John Marchiando, another board member and organizer, also suffered defeat.

In their place were elected Scott Friess, a progressive from the U.S. Rubber plant in Indiana, G.T. Palmer, of Barberton, who also has a progressive reputation, and C.V. Wheeler, of Goodyear Local, who is not very well known but follows the Stalinist party line.

L.S. Buckmaster, president of Firestone Local, and outstanding for his work at the convention, got the highest vote for re-election; L.L. Callahan, president of Goodrich Local and a well-known Akron labor leader was re-elected, and Walter J. Welsch, representing the small locals, was returned to the executive board.

In all localities the U.R.W.A. had fought for adequate W.P.A. projects and higher wages, and is doing its best to keep the burden of the crisis from falling on the workers. Although the financial condition was not very good, the International Union could obtain $100,000 from the C.I.O., if needed, Grillo said.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 14 September 2015