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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(6 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 39, 6 June 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The strike called this week at the Toronto, Canada, plant of the Seiberling Rubber Co., marks the climax of a series of struggles of rubber workers in that area.

Premier Hepburn has made a notorious reputation for himself as a C.I.O. baiter. His strike-breaking activities make him a rival of Tom Girdler.

In the face of this situation, the United Rubber Workers of America has been organizing Canadian plants, and the rubber workers have been calling strikes and winning them this spring.

Local 118 of the U.R.W.A. struck for wage increases, seniority rights, stabilized working hours, collective bargaining rights and a signed contract. The wage demand calls for a 10 percent increase for employees earning more than 60 cents an hour now, and 15 per cent for those making less than 60 cents hourly. The plant employs 150 men of whom 125 already are on the picket line, union leaders said.

Victory Expected

Settlement of the strike of 750 rubber workers at the Kitchener, Ont., plant of the B.F. Goodrich Co. was expected this week with indications that the strikers would win major concessions.

The Goodrich strike began in the shoe department where the workers demanded a 3.2 cents per hour increase and were turned down by company officials. They walked out and soon were joined by the rest of the employees and a full strike was called.

Two prolonged strikes in February and March were won by Locals 67 and 68, U.R.W.A. at the Dominion Tire and the Merchants Rubber Co.

Signed agreements containing sweeping concessions for the rubber workers ended those strikes. An arbitration committee was selected to adjust the wage increase demand. It is headed by Prof. Norman MacKenzie of the University of Toronto. An hourly increase of five cents was asked by the strikers. The report of the arbitration committee is also expected to announce its decision soon.

Organization in the Goodyear and Firestone plants in Canada has been coming along fairly well. All in all, the Canadian rubber workers at present are doing the sort of job that the Akron rubber workers did in 1936-37.

Importance of these successes is three-fold: The C.I.O. is obtaining a firmer base in Canada, the United Rubber Workers of America is boosting wage levels outside of Akron and thereby putting a damper on decentralization to some extent, and Labor is realizing that union struggles can be won irrespective of reactionary political regimes controlling the government.

The militancy of the Canadian rubber workers is explained by the conditions under which they work. Wages are way below Akron levels for the same work Akron workers do. Hours are much longer, shop conditions intolerable, and the speed-up limitless.

* * *

Good News

Good news came this week from the Oklahoma labor front. A jury returned a not guilty verdict for 93 oil strikers at Tulsa on charges of unlawful assemblage.

It was a big blow to the companies which have been trying to break the picket line maintained for over six months by the Oil Workers International Union.

It put a crimp in the company plans to railroad Jack Hays, local president, and 36 militant unionists on charges of conspiracy, as revealed in previous issues of the Socialist Appeal.

The present victory of the oil workers was hardly expected by the prosecutor, who went into a veritable rage when the jury announced its acquittal by a nine to three vote. The trial of Hays and the 36 unionists will have a different kind of background than the oil companies and its stooges in the county administration expected.

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Last updated: 16 January 2016