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GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO.
AFFIDAVITS AND STATEMENTS
The following is an affidavit made and sworn to by George B. Roberts, International Representative of the United Rubber Workers of America, now stationed in District No. 5 of the above mentioned organization, at Los Angeles, California. His statement is as follows:
I arrived in Gadsden, Alabama, Wednesday, June 17th. Plans were being made at this time for a huge MASS MEETING by the State Federation of Labor and Yelverton Cowherd, our Attorney in that area, in the interest of the United Rubber Workers of America. Mr. Cowherd and myself worked together in making arrangements for a suitable place in which to hold this meeting. Also in checking the laws regarding the distribution of hand bills and use of loud speakers to announce the meeting in the city of Gadsden. At the same time plans were being made, the Commissioners met and adopted ordinances making it unlawful for any person, without first obtaining a permit from the city of Gadsden, to speak through any horn, megaphone, sound box or place any other mechanical or electrical device where the sound is amplified on the streets or within its police jurisdiction, and prohibiting the distribution of hand bills without first obtaining permit from the city government.
Learning of these laws, Attorney Cowherd arranged a meeting with the three Commissioners, at which time we asked permission to use both handbills and loud speakers. Permission to use loud speakers on the street was denied us and we were asked, that in order to avoid any further antagonism in the city, that we would refrain from handing out hand bills. We readily agreed to both, informing the Commissioners that we were just as anxious as they were to keep peace and harmony in the city and to avoid any disturbances. Commissioner Burns questioned me as follows: “Mr. Roberts, how do you intend to organize these people. Are you going to their homes and threaten them into joining your Union?” I politely informed Doctor Burns, as well as the other two Commissioners, that I have never threatened any one into joining the Union and would not be a party to any such action and assured them that any co-worker of mine, indulging in any such activity, would immediately be discharged. They again told me that they would not tolerate any rough stuff and would punish any one who did such a thing. I told them that I heartily agreed with them.
Just the day before this meeting with the Commissioners, the Gadsden Times newspaper came into the street with head lines as follows: “City to add 250 Special Policemen”—“Gadsden Plans Protection of all Interests"; "New Ordinances Passed to Keep Peace During Labor Invasion”-“Commission Acts”—"Officials Employ 125 New Police, Promise 125 More”. The write-up reads in part (quote) After the city Commission had sworn in 125 special policemen and had announced that it would swear in 125 more to preserve the peace and protect the working people of Gadsden, officials said they were preparing to go the limit to maintain order. “Remember you are now working for Gadsden and are its Representatives”, said Commissioner of Public Safety, R. A. Burns, to the men after they had taken the oath. “We are all in the same boat; we are going to rise or fail with Gadsden. It is a fight for Gadsden and Gadsden people”. Commissioners Van and Meighan also made it plain that the special officers were appointed to preserve the peace and to protect the interests of all the people of Gadsden. (End of Quote) Also a front page article of the same paper titled “Effort to Hearings of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. were held on Wednesday and Thursday March 17 and 18, 1937. The company was represented by Paul W. Litchfield, president, Clifton Slusser, vice president, and Alton C. Michaels, superintendent, and Ralph F. Chalfont, foreman of the Gadsden, Ala., plant. George 8. Vann, chairman of the city Commissioners of Gadsden, Harold c. Parsons, secretary-treasurer of the Akron (Ohio) Employers' Assn., Sherman H. Dalrymple, international president of the United Rubber Workers of America, L. G. Cleere, Elzie L. Gray, John s. House, Edward Ledlow, C. D. Lesley, Zella Morgan and William H. Ricketts also testified at that time. Bee pt. 8, pp. 2638-3051 and 3197-3228.
Make Cat's Paw of Gadsden”. The editorial reads as follows: “It is an amazing and disconcerting development when persons from other cities and other states, who have no interest whatever in Gadsden, come here attempting to transfer to this quiet community some of the turmoil and strife that exists elsewhere. It is not pretended or suggested that any sort of advantage will result to Gadsden workers by reason of this alien invasion. The open and confessed purpose is to use Gadsden as a cat's paw to drag chestnuts out of the fire for persons who reside hundreds of miles away.
The ajustice of it and the unfairness of it, as it relates to Gadsden workers, is intensified by the fact that these workers are peacefully engaged upon jobs that are perfectly satisfactory to them andin which they do not wish to be disturbed. They have a perfect right under the Constitution and the law to continue at their labors unmolested, and they must be protected in this right. Outside interference with the rights of these workers is opposed by this community. The law must be upheld to the fullest degree and every possible protection given those who wish merely to exercise their right as free men to make a living for themselves and their families. Peace prevails in Gadsden and it must be maintained; must be maintained in the interest of every element of the citizenship and especially in the interest of those whose only purpose is to provide for their families through peaceful labor. The obligation to protect these Gadsden workers from coercion and intimidation of every nature is imperative and public officials should be supported unanimously in their
purpose to furnish this protection. Peace prevails. It must be preserved. There must be no new era of carpetbagism in this community."
All of this, I say, did more to incite riot and cause bloodshed than anything else we could think of.
Saturday came and the meeting was well attended by approximately two thousand five hundred men and women. Mr. Yelverton Cowherd acted as Chairman of this meeting. The meeting was opened with a prayer and one verse of “America". I noticed the faces of a few men in small groups and they looked like a pack of sheep-killing dogs. These same fellows had laid the plans to disrupt and disburse the crowd. This was later proven by heckling from the same group that looked so sheepish during invocation of the blessings of Deity. Some of this group were scattered through the crowd to do their heckling.
The Commissioners had been kind enough to allow us to have a loud speaker on the speakers' stand and in spite of the 250 deputized special police, they could not keep these wires from being cut six times during the meeting. A shot was fired during the speaking and in spite of all this action of the opposition group, organized labor and its sympathizers refused to become disorderly. The meeting was carried to a successful conclusion and I want to say that the credit for the success of our meeting was given to the sane and diplomatic manner in which Mr. Cowherd conducted this meeting.
Having other business in Birmingham, I took with me several organizers and left part in Gadsden at a small hotel on the outskirts of the city. On Sunday night I received a long distance call from one of our organizers who told me that he had been called out of bed to the lobby and when he reached the lobby three men were standing just outside the door. They invited him out on the sidewalk. He refused to go out, telling them that if they had anything to say to come inside and tell him. They would not come in but warned him that he should get out of town just as fast as he could and be out before daybreak.
Upon learning this, I sent more organizers to Gadsden to await my arrival to begin the campaign. Realizing that this hotel just mentioned being situated in a manner which offered every opportunity for attack by outsiders and being far enough away from the center of town that it would require some time to obtain police protection, we arranged quarters on the tenth floor of the Reich Hotel and were told that we would be given every protection that any other guest of the hotel would receive. I arrived at this hotel with my baggage about Wednesday
I was met at the door of the hotel by John D. House and E. L. Gray, my co-workers, who told me of the threats to be run out of the city at three o'clock that same afternoon. Discussing this rumor with other officers and knowing that the town was deserted due to the closing of all stores and business places, it would be an ideal time to carry out this threat, so with this in mind and having a lot of business to take care of, we decided to close the Union Headquarters and met in the conference room on the tenth floor of the hotel. This we did and upset their plans for that day.
The next day Union Headquarters was opened as usual and immediately upon opening, the officers in charge were notified that the threat for running us out of
the city still held good for some time that day. This was reported to me and I immediately took a Committee of three and appeared before the Chief of Police between 10:30 and 11:00 A. M. and told him of the threat of the day before and how we had leaned over backwards to avoid any trouble in Gadsden, and now that this threat still held good for this day, I asked that he station police in the neighborhood of the headquarters so that he might know who started any trouble and who did not. He assured me that he would look into it. I told him that I had done my duty by reporting to him in advance and that I sincerely hoped that he would do everything in his power to prevent any invasion upon our offices.
Some of the Local Officers, members and myself were sitting around the office and upon looking out of the windows saw groups of men gathering on both ends of the street and a large group in the pool room, on the street directly across from our offices and a large group on the porch and steps of the Church next door. Seeing this, I realized that we were about to be attacked. I called the Police Headquarters and notified them that the mob was gathering and that it would not be long before they would rush the hall. This was around one o'clock. The Officer on the phone told me he would send out a radio call for all cars. I told him I hoped he would do this immediately because I was sure that they were going to attack any minute. Much time elapsed and the crowd gathered in closer to the building. I again called the police and he said he was sending out the call and some one would be there soon. I said "I hope so”. “If any violence occurs I have warned you in ample time”.
Our offices being on the second floor, John House and myself tried to reason with the men through the open windows. The men told us to come on down and get out of the city, that they did not invite us there. I said “Maybe you didn't, but many Goodyear workers have invited us, and as long as they want us to stay here we will stay". John House showed them his Goodyear Squad pin. One of the mobsters shouted “Where in the did you get it and John replied “I earned it," and said “How many Goodyear workers are there in the crowd"? One mobster replied “Plenty" and then said "All Goodyear workers hold up their hands” and many men held up their hands. They still ordered us to come down and leave town. Seeing that it was useless to try and reason with the mob through the window, we left it. I returned to the phone and called the police again. This was at least thirty minutes from the time the mob began to gather and not a policeman had arrived on the scene. Guns, black jacks, brass knucks and clubs were plentiful and the mob began to move up the steps to our office door. The door was shut and locked and a table placed against it on the end. Bricks came through the glass door and the phone rang. It was a newspaper man calling from Birmingham. I laid on the floor below the window sills as I talked to him to protect myself against possible gun fire. The newspaper man wanted to know if anything was going on. At that time the door was being crashed and bricks coming through the door. He asked if I had called the police and I told him "Yes, three times”. I asked if he would try and get the State Police because I didn't know how much longer I could use the phone. I hung up and tried to call the Sheriff's Office The line was continually busy.
By this time I looked out the window and John House and E. L. Gray were being unmercifully beaten with black-jacks, fists and brass knucks. I told the remainder of the Organizers not to have anything in their hands and to have their hands where they could be seen and to follow through the mob. We started, guns were waving in our faces. I asked the men who had the guns not to use them on the Organizers because every one of our men were unarmed. I only got a few feet when they closed in on me and one fellow demanded to know if I was going to get out of the city. I said "I don't know what I am going to do”. And one replied “Well, we do” and hit me in the face with his fist. Another one yelled "Kick him down the steps, kill the
so and so".
One big man kicked me and I lit about half way down the steps, stumbled and fell at the foot of the stairs where more of the mob kicked me in the head, in the sides, in the back and two fellows picked me up by the arms and another hit me in the face with his fists. I was helpless to do anything and would have been murdered had I raised a hand to protect myself. As the two men were dragging me through the mob, one man got a strangle hold on my neck and was crushing it when a policeman did arrive on the scene and one mobster and the policeman took me to the city jail. I saw W. W. Thompson, another co-worker, knocked in the head from behind and when he fell in the street, he was kicked from both sides. Shortly after that other Organizers, beaten and otherwise, were brought into the jail. Police went to the hotel and escorted our wives and baggage to join
the remainder of us who had been taken to Attalla, Alabama, on the road to Birmingham. My ribs were taped up and then I was taken to the Redmont Hotel in Birmingham where I was given a thorough examination and medical attention. I swear that the above statement is the truth to the best of my knowledge.
GEORGE B. ROBERTS Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 23rd day of June 1937. SEAL)
Notary Public in and for said County and State. My commission expires August 30th, 1937.
GOODYEAR TIRE AND RUBBER Co. Expenses for Guard Work and Other Expenses Incidental to Strike in 2/36–5/36