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Labor News Update - 09/12/2023

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Labor History in 2:00

September 12 United Rubber Workers Union Founded On this day in labor history, the year was 1935.  That was the day the United Rubber Workers was founded in Akron, Ohio.  Akron was the rubber capital of the world. All the major companies were there—Goodyear, Firestone, Goodrich and General Tire.  In Akron alone, there were more than 40,000 rubber workers and thousands more throughout the country.  After 30 years of struggling to build the union, hopes of organizing the industry were finally made real.  The founding of the international came after a successful strike the year before.  But the union was born amid growing tensions within the AFL.  These were years of industrial organizing that rivaled the exclusive skilled craft unions.  Growing demands to organize the mass industries would explode the next month at the historic AFL convention in Atlantic City.   The tensions between AFL leaders and rubber workers delegates gave a taste of things to come.   At the founding convention, rubber workers delegates opposed a number of AFL leaders’ demands.  The AFL insisted on appointing officers.  They threatened to withdraw financial assistance when the delegates demanded democratic elections.  But AFL leaders backed off when unionists from across the city protested.  Then, delegates voted down an AFL constitutional clause proposal to bar “communists” from the union.  They also refused AFL orders to organize on anything less than a total industrial basis.  Organizing skilled workers into the URW became a contentious issue at the October AFL convention. It led to the fight between Carpenters leader Bill Hutcheson and UMW president John Lewis, which precipitated the AFL split.  By the following spring, the new URW would lead another successful strike that put it firmly among the industrial unions of the CIO.

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