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Raw Deal Put Over in Akron

Green & Co. Surpass All Records For Treachery

(April 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 18, 20 April 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, O., April 14. – The great strike involving 35,000 Akron rubber workers, which was to set the spark to the 1935 wave of strike struggles in America, is over before it began – the latest and most sinister betrayal of organized labor by William Green and his lieutenants.

A group of militant progressives, which has been growing in the last few weeks, led the opposition battle and, only after hours of desperate lighting, was defeated by the better organized official machine, which finally shoved through the agreement by a series of deceptive maneuvers and outright railroading. This progressive tendency, which has been greatly strengthened and clarified by the events of the last 4 hours, will find a clear public expression in a mass meeting to be held by the Akron branch of the W.P. April 17, at which James P. Cannon will analyze the betrayal and outline the next steps in the fight to build an effective union. The Game of Delays

The imposing of the treacherous agreement upon the rubber workers and the breaking of the strike by the A.F. of L. officialdom followed a carefully designed course. The strike, which has been looming for eighteen months past, was delayed month after month on the urging of the A.F. of L. officials, even after the rubber companies brazenly defined the rulings of the National Labor Relations Board that an election be held on the matter of representation for collective bargaining. When the government further demonstrated its unwillingness or inability to enforce its own ruling, these officials continued to point to the government as the agency from which union recognition might be secured instead of to the mass strength and militant action of the workers.

Last Minute Promises

Following an overwhelming vote by the unions last week in favor of strike, a last-hour course of delay was pursued by the A.F. of L. leaders in order to give the forces of the national government and local press a chance to get into full play. Every effort to set a definite strike date was deliberately brushed aside. While still urging the workers to prepare for action, the officials implanted in the minds of the inexperienced union members the belief that a strike might still be averted and that the demands for union recognition might be secured through the intervention of Francis Perkins and the pressure of the government.

As late as twelve hours before the signing of the actual agreement, Claherty and other organizers boldly proclaimed through the press that they would agree to nothing less than an election conducted by the Department of Labor off the companies’ properties, in which the companies would unconditionally recognize the group securing the majority vote. It cannot be doubted that the terms of the final settlement were well known to Green, Claherty and Co. even while these misleading statements were being made to disarm the workers and leave them unprepared for the last crushing blow.

C.P. Plays Claherty’s Game

A new angle was the role of the Communist Party in the Akron betrayal. During the last and most critical days leading up to the debacle, the C.P. in effect collaborated with the A.F. of L. officials, and in return for an indirect endorsement from the A.F. of L. leaders withheld all criticism of the obvious step-by-step course of treachery. The “non-aggression pact” with a vengeance!

Claherty, Bill Green’s personal agent and chief figure in the betrayal, was several times played up in the Daily Worker during the past week in militant role. His statement that “he was not going to fight the communists, etc.” was given prominence in a first page story. Day by day. as progressives looked to the one-time denouncers of the A.F. of L. as a “company union” and its bureaucratic officials as “fascists” to point out in uncompromising words the openly apparent moves toward the betrayal, the C.P., instead of uttering any warning or denunciation of the betrayers, imparted an air of radicalism to these leaders in return for the right to trail in their company and gain “respectability” in the eyes of the workers.

Browder Swallows His Tongue

Earl Browder, national secretary of the C.P., spoke Friday night to over nine hundred workers in Akron and deliberately refrained from even mentioning Green, Claherty and Co. In last Saturday’s Daily Worker, at the very moment when the entire scheme to break the strike should have been clear to anyone with even a pretense of class-conscious judgment, Browder issued a statement on the Akron situation in which he warns the workers against the government but not against their own treacherous leaders with whom he was in alliance. These he addresses in the Daily Worker with “comradely words”! So capitulating to the bureaucrats was Browder, that Wilber Tate, an official A.F. of L. organizer, who spoke from the same platform, was reported in the Akron daily press as being more militant than Browder!

Akron press reports on the morning following the signing of the agreement fully indicated the extent of the rubber bosses’ victory. Officials of the Big Three plants and heads of the company unions were described as “jubilant.” One rubber official declared, “We don’t see what all the fuss was about. We have always given our employees precisely what the terms of this agreement call for.”

Dragging Through the Courts

The terms of the agreement place company unions on an equal status with real unions, contains no guarantee of recognition to the genuine union, prevents the calling of a strike while the injunction cases against the companies are tried in the Appeals Courts and through the U.S. Supreme Court, which may drag on for endless months, and forbids the holding even of an election until the court decisions are handed down.

The unions must now prepare to fight an attempt to discharge and black-list the outstanding militants and progressive local leaders and to withstand a reign of intimidation and terror which may be launched against union men in the plants as the companies continue their counter-drives to smash the union.

Workers Party members in Akron will continue to assist in organizing the progressive unionists to fight the reactionary A.F. of L. officialdom, and help renew the courage of the union men to continue to fight for their union and build it to greater strength by more correct and militant leadership and policies.

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