July 11 Little Steel Strike Beginning to Collapse

July 11, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1937.

The Little Steel Strike was beginning to collapse. 

Strikers in Massillon, Ohio had gathered that Sunday night at union headquarters across from Republic Steel’s Massillon Works. 

As Ahmed White describes in his book, The Last Great Strike, the union had organized weekly festivities on Sunday nights, including food, live music and dancing. 

For weeks, the Law and Order League had repeatedly demanded special police be deputized and armed to crush the strike. 

By early July, Ohio National Guardsmen ensured the forcible reopening of the mill.  

One self-appointed special deputy leader, Major Curley decided tonight would be the night he was going to “clean out that God Damned hall.” 

He provocatively positioned his deputies in front of union headquarters. 

First he ordered his deputies to fire on picketers attempting to block the gate at shift change. 

When strikers hurled bottles and rocks in response, the deputies unleashed massive rounds of gunfire and tear gas for more than half an hour. 

Guardsmen, railroad and company police joined in the anti-SWOC siege. 

Two strikers were dead. 

Nick Valdos was shot in the hip as he attempted to aid wounded strikers. 

Fulgencio Calzara was shot in the back of the head in front of union headquarters.

Another seven strikers were shot and seriously wounded.

At least four more were hospitalized with injuries. 

Police forces ransacked the hall, seizing union records and membership lists. 

They continued their rampage through the neighborhood, ransacking homes and arresting anyone suspected of ties to the union. 

As many as 165 were arrested and held for several days. 

As White notes, the NLRB and the LaFollette Commission both concluded that blame for the evening’s violence lay with Republic.

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