Ohio Steel Strike of 1937
Excerpts From Radio Address by John Owens/ C.I.O.
6:15 to 6:45 p.m., Monday, November 22, 1937
Labor Advances Under the C.I.O.-- A Reply to Governor Davey
On November 9, Martin L. Davey, Governor of Ohio, who was re-elected last year by the votes of labor, delivered an address before the Ohio Society in New York.
Certain statements made by Davey in this speech are absolute falsehoods. Certain others are a brazen misrepresentation of the facts of the C.I.O. strike in "little steel" this past summer.
I was in active charge of the steel strike in the Mahoning Valley, acting for Mr. Philip Murray, head of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. Davey stated that those in charge of the strike were Communists.
This is not true. Philip Murray is not a Communist, nor am I. The regional and sub-regional directors of the S.W.O.C. are not Communists.
If any of the individual steel workers active in the strike were Communists it is because the corporations hire Communists to work in their mills. Membership in a labor union is restricted to those persons actually employed in a factory or mill. Labor unions are the only voluntary organizations whose members are selected by others. Labor unions have to accept as members those whom the corporations hire. Therefore, I repeat, if there are Communists in the labor unions, it is because the corporations hire them.
Significant is the fact that two tables at the Ohio Society dinner were reserved for officials of the Republic Steel Corporation, whose Tom Girdler persisits in industrial anarchy while other, more intelligent and progressive industrialists, enter into collective bargaining agreements with their employees through unions of the worker's choice.
Even more significant is the fact that Davey's speech was arranged by reactionary public utility executives, the same lot who oppose the program to bring the benefits of cheap electricity to all American people.
Davey was the guest in New York City of Wendall Wilkie, president of Commonwealth and Southern Corporation, in company with Eben Crawford, president of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., and Paul Clapp, vice president and Ohio lobbyist of the Columbia Gas and Electric Co.
These are the economic royalists, who with the anti-social Girdlers and Purnells, persuaded Davey to use the Ohio National Guard against striking steel workers last summer. These are the men who are planning to use Davey in the future, to try to stop the progressive march of America under Roosevelt and return thsi nation, bag and boodle, to the selfish group of high financiers who nearly wrecked it in 1929.
These men sat and applauded while Davey drooled from his hypocritical lips sentimental mouthings about little children and the families of the steel workers. Little does Davey or Tom Girdler or Wendell Wilkie care about what happens to industrial workers and their children. If they really do care, why do they continue to fight every effort to abolish child labor, and every move to bring happy, secure homes to the American people?
Davey's false statements that the C.I.O. leaders in the steel strike were Communists is a late invention of his, fabricated after he turned the national guardsmen against the steel workers. During his election campaign last year, when he so eagerly sought the votes of Ohio union members, he sent emissaries to C.I.O. leaders in Akron, Columbus, Cleveland, and other cities. He was perfectly willing to deal with us then. He knew we were not Communists, but Democrats, actively interested in the re-election of President Roosevelt. Davey had his lieutenants tell us that he had never used troops in strikes, and they promised in his behalf that "neither money nor influence of any kind would induce himto use them in the future."
This pledge to the workers has been deliberately violated by Davey, for considerations not yet made public. Oviously, when a man has broken his solemn promises he does not hesitate further to falsify and lie about those he betrayed.
The C.I.O. believes in peaceful methods. It stands for law and order. We know that when law ends, tyranny begins. I know, as do John L. Lewis. Philip Murray, and other C.I.O. officials, that workers lose by violence. All responsible labor leaders encourage peaceful negotiations as the way to bring better conditions. Unhappily, the steel corporations led by Tom Girdler believe in bloodshed, and they practiced it last summer as they have practiced it for 50 years. Thery armed themselves to the very teeth.
Carl Sanburg, American poet, has written: "Smoke and blood is the mix of steel."
The Blood of innocent men is still the "mix of steel." On Memorial Day in Chicago, in June in Youngstown, in July in Massillon, blood was spilled by city policemen, company guards, deputy sheriffs. Eighteen murders were committed by steel corporation guards or by the public police power functioning in behalf of the corporations. Six of these strikers were killed in Ohio.
No prayer nor power
can give again
Beauty and breath
To these murdered men.