1934

This was one of the I.W.W. 's most successful years, particularly in Cleveland, where the union secured job control in several plants. The Marine Transport Workers were engaged in strike activity on the Gulf of Mexico and along both the east and west coasts; I.U. 210, the Metal Mine Workers' Union, made some progress in Colorado; organizers for I.U. 220, the Coal Miners, were busy in the coal mining fields of Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah; I.U. 310, the Construction Workers' Union, carried on a struggle against the finger printing campaign that had been started on many public works; the Lumber Workers' Union was active on the old battlefields of the Northwest; progress was also reported by the railroad, agriculural, electrical equipment and auto workers' unions.

On April 16, I.U. 440, the Metal Workers' Union concluded a successful eleven day strike at the Enameling Divis'on of the Ohio Foundry Company in Cleveland, which resulted in recognition of the I.W.W. Shop Committee, an increase in pay and 3 abolition of the piece work system in existence at that plant.1

This strike had involved about one hundred and seventy five workers. The union was successful despite the opposition of the A.F.L.

On April 28, the same union won a two day strike at the Accurate Parts Manufacturing Company. This strike resulted opposition on the part of the management to I.W.W. Organizing efforts. The incident which started it was the termination of the entire night shift at the plant. It was called off when management agreed to full recognition of the I.W.W. Shop Committee reinstatement of the men laid off and an increase in pay.

The Draper Manufacturing Company plant of Jones and Laughlin Company experienced two I.W.W. strikes in 1934. The first occurred on May 3, and resulted in an agreement to recognize the I.W.W. Shop Committee and the discontinuance of company union propaganda. This strike lasted only seven hours. The second strike occurred on June 7. It was also of short duration and was ended when the plant management agreed that the I.W.W. union alone would be recognized.

However, the third strike at the Draper plant lasted fourteen weeks, ending on September 10. It was terminated after the Cleveland Regional Labor Board had intervened, and after the I.W.W. won the election held to determine whether they or the A.F.L. was to control the plant. It had been agreed that all employees must join the union winning the election. The I.W.W. withdrew its demand for an increase in pay, when the company agreed to begin negotiations regarding wages one week after the election. It was also agreed that the question of wages would be submitted to the labor board if the union and management failed to agree. This strike was peaceful throughout, although some bitterness resulted when the company attempted to transfer its production to the Stevens Metal Contained Company in Niles, Ohio. Shortly after this successful strike was ended, management agreed to an increase in pay.

At that time the I.W.W. claimed control of five plants Cleveland. In addition, it had members in several others. The plants in which it exercised control were those of the Accurate Parts Manufacturing Company, the Enameling Division of the Ohio Foundry Company, the Perfection Metal Container Company, the Permold Company and the Draper plant of the Jone. and Laughlin Company. Recognition at the Perfection Metal Container Company had been gained in May, 1934 without a strike; however, it was necessary to strike to secure recognition at the Permold Company. A short strike for that purpose was won on May 29, when the workers were also granted a pay increase. During this period it was the policy of the I.W.W. to concentrate its organizing efforts on the small plants. One of its objectives was to secure control of all barrel manufacturing plants in Cleveland.

In June, the I.W.W. was successful in securing recognition by strike activity at three plants of the American Stove company in Cleveland. First, they won recognition at the New process-Reliable and Enameling Divisions. The occasion for the strike was the dismissal of two I.W.W.s for organizing activity at the New Process Division. The union picketed both plants and won recognition of the respective Shop Committees, as well as reinstatement of the men dismissed. Later in the same month the union won recognition at the Dangler Division as well as an increase in pay. Victory at this plant enabled the union to claim that all divisions of the American Stove Company at Cleveland were organized one hundred per cent in the I.W.W. According to a telegram from the Organization Committee, !twelve hundred stove workers were wearing Wobbly monthly dues buttons on the job.

On September 28, the American Stove Company workers went on strike for two weeks to secure the dismissal of a female forewoman at the Enameling Division, who had slapped a male member of the union during the course of an argument on the job, and another woman for "inharmonious and uncivil behaviour in the shop”. The union finally agreed to a compromise in which the forewoman was given a two week disciplinary layoff and the other woman was transferred from the Enameling Division.

In September the I.W.W. also won a three day strike at the Republic Brass Company for recognition of the Shop Committee, suitable rotation of work and observance of seniority.

During this year the union was less successful in its attempt to organize the workers at three other Cleveland plants, the National Screw and Manufacturing Company, the Excelsior Dry Cleaning Company and the Cleveland Wire Spring Company.

This was also a big year for the Marine Transport Workers Union, I.U. 510.2 It was actively organizing longshoremen and seamen in many ports. Strikes were carried on in Galveston, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and San Francisco. It seems pointless to review these strikes because not much was accomplished by them. From May to the end of the year the Industrial Worker devoted much space to the details. The purpose of the strikes is not clear, but apparently they were expected to improve conditions for the seamen and longshoremen, as well as to attract new members. There is some possibility that they were part of a larger plan, which was to secure for the I.W.W. control over all shipping. At least, the words "General Strike" were frequently used by the Industrial Worker in reference to them.

During this year vigorous, but unsuccessful, efforts were taken in and around Philadelphia by I.U. 310 and 330, Construction Workers, I.U. 410, Textile Workers, and I.U. 420, Furniture Workers, to increase their membership. The Building Construction Workers' Union staged two minor strikes in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.

I.U. 440 was fairly successful in boosting wages in Detroit. The Industrial Worker referred to the method employed in the Hudson Motor Company's Department 3760 as being typical. It was referred to as "action on the job," "conscientious withdrawal of efficiency. In effect, the procedure was the same as that of a "sit-down" strike.3

Another I.W.W. strike during this year was that of the Canadian Lumber Workers, organized in I.U. 120, against the Abitibi Pulp and Power Company, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. This strike was of short duration and resulted in only minor concessions to the workers.

Several organizing conferences were held in in various parts of the country. Most important was the twenty-first General Convention, which met in Chicago from November 11 to November 18. The principal topics discussed at this convention were organization of the unemployed, affiliation with the International Workingmen's Association, the General Strike and central versus branch record keeping. In May, forty delegates from eastern branches of the I.W.W. met in New York City to discuss improvement in organizational activities. Separate conferences were also held by the Lumberworkers, Marine Workers and Construction Workers.4

  • 1. Industrial Worker, 4/9/1934, 5/8/1934, 6/12/1934, 9/29/1934
  • 2. Ibid 3/20/1934, 4/2/1934, 5/29/1934
  • 3. Ibid 2/20/1934
  • 4. Ibid 11/17/1934, 11/24/1934