University of Pittsburgh | About Labor Legacy | Archives Home | Contact Us  
Home Databank Document Sets Labor Through the Years People, Places, Commemorations Special Features Union Profiles Site Map     
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 moment.
     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 this skirmish.
     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 fire.
     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 of fire.
     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 Steel Companies.
     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            
(Mrs. Harold J.)