Little Bits of History

Federal Labor Union

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 23, 2015
Louis F. Budenz - 1947 *

Louis F. Budenz – 1947 *

May 23, 1934: The Battle of Toledo begins. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was the first federation of labor unions in the US, founded in 1886 in Columbus, Ohio. The National Industrial Recovery Act passed on June 16, 1933 and it led to an increase in unions organizing throughout the country. AFL President William Green wanted to focus on the automotive industry since they had been able to get more attention in the press. The AFL began with the merging of craftsmen and auto workers who were using mass production methods and industrial unionism appealed to them. The AFL wished to be their voice and in that attempt were successful in getting an FLU (Federal Labor Union) at Buick and Hudson Motor Car Company in March 1934. They also had two FLUs at Fisher Body for a total of about 32,500 workers under their protection.

The four automotive FLUs threatened to strike if they were not recognized by management and demands met. President Roosevelt was afraid that an automotive strike would cripple efforts to end the Great Depression and so offered to negotiate. A solution was reached, but the AFL’s weak stance led to more than 14,000 workers leaving the union. The city of Toledo, Ohio had been devastated by the Depression when their largest employer, Willy-Overland, a car manufacturer, declared bankruptcy and the largest bank in the city collapsed. The city itself was near bankrupt and laid off hundreds of workers including 150 police. Toledo had a 70% unemployment rate.

Electric Auto-Lite Company was represented by FLU 18384 who also represented two other companies, both subsidiaries of Auto-Lite, and a third company which was unrelated. Because of this, if one company had a strike, the others would remain working and the union would remain solvent. FLU 18384 authorized a strike against Auto-Lite on April 12, 1934 and they were joined by the American Workers Party where Louis Budenz was executive secretary. He was a leading force in the strike in Toledo. The striking workers were joined by unemployed men from the AWP and effectively blockaded the company’s facility.

On this day, with about 10,000 people picketing or watching the picketers, the sheriff had Budenz and four picketers arrested. As they were led away, a policemen began beating an old man and the crowd retaliated by throwing bricks and rocks. Soon an outright riot was in progress. The next day, at 5.30 AM, the Ohio National Guard was called out. Former President Taft’s son was brought in to mediate, unsuccessfully. The rioting continued for five days with two people killed and more than 200 injured. Other unions throughout the area backed up the strikers. Taft continued to work with both sides to reach an agreement which finally came on June 3. The union won some wage increases and when the company agreed to rehire all striking workers, a second strike was averted.

It is not the job of the Civil Service to get unions to accept government policy. Since governments change their policy all the time and unions never change theirs at all, it makes much more sense for us to get the government to accept union policy. – Sir Humphrey Appleby

Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts. – Molly Ivins

When you have people together who believe in something very strongly — whether it’s religion or politics or unions – things happen. – Cesar Chavez

With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. – Clarence Darrow

Also on this day: Patience and Fortitude – In 1911, the main Research Library of the New York Public Library was dedicated.
Aaagh, Pirates – In 1701, Captain Kidd was hanged for piracy.
Two for the Price of One – In 1785, Ben Franklin claimed to have invented bifocals.
Squeezebox – In 1829, a patent for an accordion was granted to Cyrill Demian.
Bonnie and Clyde – In 1934, the two criminals were killed in an ambush.

* “Louis F. Budenz (1947)” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

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