Side A: In 1934, workers at the Electric Auto-Lite Company and other automotive-related manufacturers secretly organized the Automobile Workers Federal Union Local 18384, American Federation of Labor (AFL), which became the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 12. Anti-unionism, broken pledges by management, and abuse of workers had festered locally for generations. Workers bitterly resented the fact that management took advantage of the Depression’s high unemployment to decrease wages. In February, workers struck at Auto-Lite, Bingham Stamping, Logan Gear, and Spicer Manufacturing Company. When management refused to negotiate in good faith, the workers, including a large number of women, struck the Auto-Lite in mid-April. Auto-Lite management secured a court order limiting the number of strikers to twenty-five. The strike appeared to be lost until the Lucas County Unemployed League organized fierce resistance to the court injunction as the crowd around the plant grew to ten thousand. (continued on other side)
Side B: (continued from other side) As the conflict escalated into civil war, Governor George White ordered Ohio’s largest peacetime deployment of National Guard units. Machine guns were mounted near the Elm Street Bridge and other strategic points. Efforts to quell the rioting evolved into hand-to-hand combat, with strikers and guardsmen battling with bricks and tear gas in the streets of the North End. On May 24, 1934, during the “Battle of Chestnut Hill,” guardsmen fired into the crowd, killing onlookers Steve Cyigon and Frank Hubay. Under pressure of a general strike, Auto-Lite’s management agreed to recognize the union, becoming one of the first large automotive manufacturers to do so. The victory here played a major role in securing landmark Federal labor protection under the Wagner Act and the founding of the UAW in 1935. Closing Auto-Lite’s doors in 1962 did not shut out the memories of the tragedy and triumph of 1934.
Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, Union Memorial Park Committee, and The Ohio Historical Society