|PRESS RELEASE: July 12, 1937, from Steel Workers
Organizing Committee, 117 N. Walnut, St., Canton, Ohio, Phone 20943.
At five minutes to eleven this evening, July
11, 25 to 30 special deputies, city police, and armed gunmen of Republic
Steel -- several of whom are foremen in the mill -- opened without cause
bullet, buckshot, and tear gas fire upon a crowd of strikers and pickets
outside of Union Headquarters in Columbiana Heights, Massillon, Ohio.
I (Harold J. Ruttenberg, Research Director of the
Steel Workers Organizing Committee) stood upon the steps of the union
office for several minutes before the Deputies, Special Police, and
deputized Republic Steel Corporation foremen opened fire without
provocation. Prior to the first shot that was fired I saw and heard
three Deputies tell a motorist to turn his lights off, which he did.
Then I heard a Deputy say: "Let's bust
them up!!" Then I heard shots and smelled tear gas. I
ducked and went through the union offices to the rear. On my way
through I crawled on the floor as gunfire was being poured into the side
of the office profusely.
I found my way to the rear door of the office,
and went around the far side to the main street. There I saw two men
lying prostrate upon their faces obviously wounded by gunfire.
Somebody hollered: "They are shot!" I could hear the
bullets splattering off the sides of buildings along the main street.
The crowd of strikers and pickets around
headquarters is routine. They are there in such numbers every night
around eleven o'clock, as that is the time shifts of pickets change.
Rather than give the Deputies and Republic Steel gunmen cause to open fire
the men restrained themselves extraordinarily to prevent such an outburst.
I charge, as an observer to the unprovoked and
unwarranted attack upon peaceful pickets, and as an official of the Steel
Workers Organizing Committee, that the Republic Steel gunmen opened fire
as part of a preconceived plan to inspire terror in the hearts of the
people of Massillon by committing murder against part of them.
The Civil Authorities of Massillon, the deputized
Republic Steel foremen and the other gunmen participating in the brutal
and wholesale shooting are guilty of the premeditated execution of a
preconceived plan to march on strike headquarters and peaceful pickets to
fill them with lead and tear gas. Any attempt of these gunmen to
absolve themselves of the sole responsibility for this shooting is further
evidence of their guilt.
One man was shot to death, and several others
wounded -- some in the back -- so far as we can learn at the present
Prior to this unprovoked attack upon strike
headquarters and peaceful pickets there was a small skirmish a mile away
at the plant's main gate between Deputies and deputize Republic Steel
foremen and Republic Steel Workers, whom the Deputies mistook for
strikers, pickets, or strike sympathizers. Tear gas was fired at
We will carry our strike forward with all the
more vigor and determination to make Tom Girdlor and Republic Steel adopt
a sane and legal labor policy with recognition of independent trade unions
through signed collective bargaining contracts.
The plant was closed Sunday. Only 500 of a
normal working force of 3,500 have gone through our picket lines.
These 500 -- mostly bosses and superintendents -- were sent home Saturday
to try and coerce more men back to work. There are less than 200 men
inside the mill tonight. We will hold a protest meeting early.
The foregoing statement is joined in by Frank
Hardesty, Sub-Regional Director of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee
in the Canton-Massillon area.
Mr. Hardesty was an eye witness of the
shooting. His statement on same follows:
I was standing on the steps of the strike
headquarters when the shooting began. I stood there for a minute
watching the fire from the guns to determine whether it was real or dummy
When I realized it was real bullet fire I
retreated up the street with the crowd. As I moved up the street a
man fell in front of me wounded. Another was shot in the arm beside
me. There were bullets flying through the air and bouncing off the
buildings like a hailstorm.
I found a hole in the fence about 75 yards from
the steps of the headquarters leading off to the right of the main
street. With others I went through the fence to escape from the line
More will follow.
|SWOC Training Camp
Two hundred steel workers lived, learned, and
played for two weeks in a camp situated just below the highest point in
Pennsylvania (3200 ft.) in the heart of beautiful state forests. The
Steel Workers Organizing Committee rented Mt. Davis WPA Recreational Camp
and held its training course of two weeks for approximately one hundred
steel workers each week. The Camp was built in 1933 by the CCC boys
who leveled ground to build fields and courts for sports, damned a
mountain stream to make a lovely lake and built roads and erected cabins
and barracks. It was abandoned in 1936 and was about to be torn down
when the Pennsylvania WPA Department of Education and Recreation revived
it. The Camp, complete with the services of a staff of cooks,
recreational leaders, a nurse, nature study man and with all the
facilities there available for a healthy and vigorous vacationing is now
rented to groups and organizations. From July 10th to the 18th SWOC
lodge officers, grievance committeemen and about fifty steel workers'
wives and representatives of women's auxiliaries took Mt. Davis Camp over
with the common purpose of building a stronger union. They came form
five states representing some eighty SWOC lodges form fifty different
The daily schedule was a balanced program of
educational and recreational activities. In the mornings two hours
were on discussion of practical union matters such as, "The
Administration of Contracts", "The Business Affairs of the
Union", "Production Problems" and "Dealing with
Management". The morning sessions were the core of the training
program and were designed to give local union leaders information and
experience to better equip them for leadership in their union.
Classes tended to be informal. After the speaker had finished his
address a panel of representatives from different types of mills from
different geographical areas quizzed him and each other on the topic under
discussion. A good deal of time was given for comments and reports
from the floor. The Northeastern Regional Director of the SWOC, two
representatives form the Union's Accounting Department, a Harvard
professor and two company officials addressed the morning classes.
The appearance of the latter brought a novel experience into the lives of
the boys and indeed into the life of the company officials
themselves. They were there informally discussing their own
philosophies, -speaking frankly-, in regards to collective
bargaining. The panel discussions they and the men and women of the
mills participated in were by far the most interesting of all.
After supper the evening meetings were called to
order. They were concerned with problems of wider significance and
touched on the larger but still vital aspects of the Labor Movement.
Topics such as "Unemployment and Social Security", "Labor
and Political Action", "Labor and the Law", and "Why
do we have Depressions" were discussed by prominent speakers.
One of them was Dr. Ralph E. Tuner, formerly University of Pittsburgh's
famed liberal professor, now connected with the Social Security Board and
chairman of the Educational Committee of the Federal Workers of
America. Others were the Welfare Director of the City of Pittsburgh
and Kennedy campaign manager in that county, two Catholic priests, the CIO
Associate Counsel, another CIO attorney, Director of the CIO, the Harvard
professor, the Unemployment Director of the CIO, and the Educational
Director of a great CIO Union.
Afternoons were set aside for recreation and
sports except that the women sponsored short meetings after lunch devoted
to the problems of trade unionists, of trade unionists' wives and of the
consumers in general. Entertainment had its share of the daily
program: dramatics with social significance, talent shows, music,
dancing, singing around camp fires and wiener and marshmallow
roasts. Movies show after the evening lectures included
"Millions of Us", "People of the Cumberlands",
"The Plow that broke the Plains", "Towards Unity",
"Hands", a technical picture on the manufacture of steel and
Charlie Chaplin shorts.
A library containing over sixty different types
of pamphlets and folders and books for circulation was an outstanding
feature of the camp. Over fifteen hundred pieces of literature,
secured from CIO, Government agencies and private organizations, were
distributed free. there was a large reference section. And
here, also, a representative of the U.S. Department of Labor explained the
functions and services of that department.
The camp was the first experience of its kind for
many who attended it. Getting together with their fellow workers
from other mills, form other communities, deriving stimulation from each
other and having fun in work --all this in a camp atmosphere-- was a
welcome change from the regular routine of life in the mill
community. Ideas and information gained through discussion and
through lectures by men prominent in the labor and social fields gave the
men and women a broader appreciation of the problems facing them.
The camp experience as a whole will make better union men and stronger
unions. To what extent the camp was worth while can best be
expressed by the editorial comment in the Pioneer Edition of the SWOC Camp
Paper written by the secretary of the Jones and Laughlin Aliquippa local:
"For a week we've lived together - we've
deepened our understanding of the problems of our
organization. Now we begin to think about the future - we
have a better idea of the place of unionism, and our duty in
leading the way to a democratic solution of the economic
difficulties the people face. We go home convinced more than
ever of the necessity for union education in each lodge, so that
we may do a better job as union men. We were the pioneers
here and we liked it. we studied, talked, listened, read,
argued, and now we face our problems with more confidence;
confidence that has been gained through the training camp.
We recommend that the cam be continued, expanded, pushed, and
above all extended to other districts. Next year's camp
should be bigger, better, and longer."
-- Katherine M. Ruttenberg