: This photograph shows police clashing with strikers at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber strike in Akron, Ohio, in late May 1938. Two police officers are holding raised batons as they and other police advance toward a group of workers. The activity is taking place along a brick and iron fence. A car with a driver at the wheel is visible to the right of the workers and police. One hundred people were injured during this strike.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, factory workers faced poor working conditions, low wages, and almost no benefits. This was true for the workers employed by rubber manufacturers in Akron, Ohio, such the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, B.F. Goodrich, and Firestone. In an attempt to alleviate their conditions, workers went on strike and left the factory to join picket lines. Company owners often hired “scab” laborers to cross the picket lines and continue production. This practice made it difficult for striking workers to obtain their demands.
In 1935, rubber workers in Akron, Ohio, tried a new approach to strikes, the sit-down strike, in which workers stopped working but still occupied their places within the factory. This process meant that the factory owners could not send in additional workers to continue the job. In addition, factory management was more reluctant to use private security forces or other strike breakers to intimidate the striking workers, as that approach threatened destruction to plant property.
In 1935, the rubber workers organized a union, the United Rubber Workers (URW). In its first year the URW created thirty-nine local chapters. This union’s goals were to improve wages and working conditions for its members, and it soon had its first opportunity. The URW organized its first strike against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company the following year. This sit-down strike began as a protest against a plan created by Goodyear to reduce wages and increase the pace of production. In addition to the sit-down strike, the rubber workers also organized long picket lines in protest. Akron’s mayor, Lee D. Schroy, attempted to send in the police to put down the strike, but the police officers refused to do so when they faced the thousands of organized workers.
After the violent strike in May 1938, three more years of cooperation between the new URW and Goodyear elapsed before the first formal contract was signed in 1941.
In the long term, Goodyear was forced to recognize URW and negotiate better contracts with workers. Legislation passed during the New Deal required industries to recognize unions and legitimized collective bargaining, increasing the URW's popularity and success even further. By the end of World War II, membership had grown to almost 200,000.
After World War II, the URW continued to work to improve laborers conditions. The union began negotiating industry-wide agreements rather than focusing on one factory. The union also became more inclusive, working to reduce gender and racial discrimination both within the union itself and in the workplace. The URW also negotiated pension plans and insurance plans with employers.
In the 1990s, the URW merged with the United Steelworkers to form an even stronger union. This union still strives to improve its members' working conditions, wages, and benefits.
View on Ohio Memory. Image ID
: AL06154 Subjects
; Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
; United Rubber Workers of America
; Labor unions--Ohio
; Labor movement--United States--History--20th century
; Strikes and lockouts--Rubber industry
; Business and Labor
; Akron (Ohio) Places
: Akron (Ohio)
; Summit County (Ohio)