Labor History in 2:00

May 29 The Fight to Organize the Mills

May 29, 2017

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

That was the day five governmental agencies began independent investigations into the Little Steel strike, then in its third day.

The Labor and Justice Departments as well as the NLRB and Senator Robert LaFollette’s Civil Liberties Committee all inquired about Wagner Act violations.

Production at Republic, Inland and Youngstown Sheet and Tube steel mills was grinding to a halt.

Across five states, strike forces proved stronger than steel bosses had anticipated.

Subsidiaries across the Great Lakes region continued to shut down.

Weekend wrap-up reports of violent clashes on picket lines appeared in newspapers across the country.

Strikers had adopted a “Quit Work or Starve” policy against those who remained behind the gates.

They successfully turned away mail trucks and tore up railroad tracks in yards at Warren and Youngstown, Ohio facilities to stop food deliveries.

The strike was referred to as a grim siege as Republic was forced to drop food by airplane to hemmed-in scabs behind the lines.

At Inland Steel in East Chicago, Indiana, company police clubbed picketers as they stopped railroad cars headed into the plant.

In Buffalo, strikers stoned scab cars as they passed through the gates.

In Monroe, Michigan, strikers successfully prevented the night shift from crossing.

In South Chicago, three strikers were being held on conspiracy charges, following a pitched battle with police the day before that injured more than 20.

1000 strikers there had attempted to establish a picket line at Republic Steel gates. SWOC president Philip Murray demanded additional investigation against Republic, charging the company had been stockpiling ammunition and hired private gunmen.

His worries would be confirmed in the decisive battles that lay ahead.

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