2021-06-14 14:18:26

June 14 - John L. Lewis Calls for Strike

On this day in labor history, the year was 1937. That was the day John L. Lewis called miners who worked for Little Steel coal subsidiaries out on strike. It was an act of solidarity as conditions worsened on steel strike picket lines.

The walkout was designed to force the closure of struck mills by stopping the flow of coal. 10,000 workers in as many as 19 mines owned by Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube dropped their tools.

Bethlehem had not been one of the independent steel companies initially included in the Little Steel Strike. But workers at its Cambria Works in Johnstown, Pennsylvania walked out in sympathy with railroad workers at Bethlehem-owned Black Lick and Conemaugh Railroad.

They had been refused a contract. Striking miners in Johnstown marched to Cambria Works to join the seven-mile stretch of picket lines. In Ohio, the Canton Federation of Labor voted unanimously for a general strike if the newly-formed ‘Citizens League” attempted to force re-opening of the steel mills.

SWOC leader Van Bittner threatened to call out another 600,000 miners by weeks end if the strike was not settled. John L. Lewis remarked, “Labor is menaced by the force of arms of Republic Steel Corporation. Labor is calling attention to this situation so the law, government or public opinion can begin functioning before another massacre takes place.”

UAW president Homer Martin added, “It is our purpose to spread the light of Democracy to every part of this land until autocracy and industrial slavery have been driven from the country.”

But Johnstown civic leaders and town officials had formed a Citizens Committee and prepared for battle as the miners approached. It seemed there was no end to the anti-strike violence.

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Bethlehem Steel Black Lick Cambria Works Citizens League coal Conemaugh Railroad Free Speech TV History John L. Lewis Labor History Little Steel Coal Subsidiaries Miners Republic Steel Rick Smith Strike SWOC The Rick Smith Show Van Bittner Workers' Rights Youngstown Sheet

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