Submitted by Juan Conatz on April 27, 2015

Several Cleveland companies were affected by I.W.W. activities in 1944. In March, I.U. 440 arrived at an agreement with Federal Aircraft, Inc. by which it was to be recognized as the sole collective bargaining agency; there was to be no checkoff; there was to be union preference in hiring and 1ay-offs; no discharges nor 1ay-offs without the Shop Committee' s approval; top rates for the industry to b e paid; and, nothing in the agreement obligated any employee to work on jobs transferred from a struck plant or to aid in breaking any strike of any union. Organization of Federal Aircraft was facilitated by the fact that several of its employees were I.W.W.'s previously employed at the American Stove Company, where they had been laid off due to lack of work. I.W.W. control at American Stove continued.

In May the union was successful in securing the reinstatement of a foreman, whom the I.W.W. protested had been dismissed unjust1y. They indulged in a brief work stoppage to make their protest effective. 1

Unsuccessful efforts were made to organize Thompson Products and American Steel and Wire Company in Cleveland. Those exerted at the latter company are particularly interesting. There, the workers were represented by the C.I.O., but some of them had become dissatisfied with the behavior of the international office.

In October, 1943 the local absolved its President, James Adams, of charges filed by the international office because of a three day stoppage to enforce time and one half provisions of the local's agreement with management. The local conceded that the stoppage was a violation of a "no Strike pledge," and that during the stoppage disrespect had been shown the international representatives. In March, 1944 because of this stoppage and general dissatisfaction with the local leaders, Philip Murray ordered the officers of the local suspended from office, and told them to turn their records over to his appointee.

Resentment over this interference, as well as over a long list of unsettled grievances, influenced the workers to stop work again on March 26. The men refused to recognize the appointee, and the company refused to deal with the local officers who lacked the approval of the International. Coincidentally, the local officers were drafted into the armed forces shortly thereafter. However, the workers immediately elected others to replace them. These were not recognized by the International either.

Several of the workers were in contact with I.W.W. organizers. On their behalf the I.W.W. on March 30 wrote to the National Labor Relations Board, pointing out that the procedures adopted under Section 9a of the National Labor Relations Act had come into conflict with the rights guaranteed under Section 7 to the injury of a large number of the workers; that there was confusion concerning the question of representation by officers elected and wanted by the workers, or officers appointed and unwanted; that there had been a suspension of officers without trial; that this suspension was made known to the company, before the workers, even those suspended, were informed.2

No reply was received to this letter. However, the expulsions were not enforced. In fact, the local officers were later reelected and recognized by the International.

The I.W.W. organizers took advantage of the situation, of course, to impress upon the workers the advantages of belonging to their union, such as the absence of the "check-off"; the settlement of grievances at the local level rather than by international officers not necessarily conversant with the details; control by the "rank-and-file”; and, retention by the local of a larger percentage of the dues collected. The failure of this organizing effort was claimed to be due largely to the fact that other American Steel and Wire plants were organized in the C.I.O., and the workers preferred to maintain this unity of interest.

In May the I.W.W. became interested in an anticipated strike of the Cleveland street car operators. Public opinion had been aroused, and there was much criticism of the operators, who, by the way, were not members of the I.W.W. I.U. 440 sent the operators a suggestion, which was commented upon favorably by the press, to the effect that instead of going on strike, they might continue to operate the cars, but without collecting fares.3 The anticipated strike was finally averted, when the Transit Board consented to arbitration after having refused it previously.

An amusing incident was reported by the Detroit branch during this year. A member of that branch had discovered an unexpected use for his I.W.W. Committee button. For some time he had been trying unsuccessfully to secure a "Statement of Availability" from his employer. He was suddenly successful one day, when he showed up with his Committee button prominently displayed, and advised his boss that he had changed his mind about leaving and had decided to settle down on the job and to organize it.

Reports from other branches indicated minor progress. The Lumber Workers' Union held a convention in Spokane on Oct. 15, 16 and 17. Plans were discussed to stimulate the recruitment of new members in the short 10 log country in and around Idaho. A conference was held in Oakland on October 22 to devise ways to make the workers of the San Francisco Bay area better acquainted with the I.W.W. Letters from the Canadian and Australian branches were optimistic about their chances of increasing their membership. And, the Marine Transport Workers reported a few new members from the Lake Michigan area.

In addition, I.U. 310 reported from the Bishop mines of the U.S.Vanadium Co. that it was unsuccessful in its protest to the National Labor Relations Board about the Morrison and Knudsen Company. That company had insisted that its employees must be A.F.L. members. The company had fired those I.W.W.'s who refused to join the A.F.L.

  • 1Industrial Worker, 5/17/1944, 5/25/1944
  • 2Footnote missing from original text
  • 3Ibid May 22, 1944, July 17, 1944