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United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) records

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United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) records

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United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Alabama):

A Guide to Its Records at Georgia State University Library

Georgia State University
Georgia State University
Special Collections and Archives
100 Decatur St., SE
Atlanta, GA 30303-3202
Fax: 404-413-2881

December 1990

Profile Description

Creation: EAD version 1.0 finding aid created in XMetaL 4.5 by William Hardesty from HTML source, October 2006.
Language: English

Collection Summary

Repository: Georgia State University Library, Special Collections and Archives, Atlanta
Creator:United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.)
Title:United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) records
Dates: 1943-1974
Quantity: 51.5 linear ft.
Abstract:The collection consists of records of Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) of the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastics Workers of America, and its predecessor the United Rubber Workers of America, from 1943-1974. It contains correspondence (1943-1954); minutes of Local 12 (1949-1970), the ladies auxiliary (1952-1961), the Gadsden Industrial Union Council (1946-1962), the URW, District 2, (1944) and the URW District 8 (1944-1964); administrative and committee records (1943-1969); financial records (1943-1972); plant operation records (1943-1974); subject files (1943-1973); and name files (1946-1972).
Identification: L1980-32

Organization of the Records

Organized into seven series:
Series I. Correspondence, 1943-1954
Series II. Minutes, 1944-1970
Series III. Local 12 Administration, 1943-1969
Series IV. Financial Records, 1943-1972
Series V. Plant Operations, 1943-1974
Series VI. Subject Files, 1943-1973
Series VII. Name Files, 1946-1972

Scope and Content of the Records

The records of United Rubber Workers, Local 12 include material dating 1943 to 1974, with the bulk covering 1943 to 1954. The records are organized into seven record series: Correspondence, Minutes, Local 12 Administration, Financial Records, Plant Operations, Subject Files, and Name Files. The records also include a large body of printed items such as periodicals, contracts, and pamphlets, as well as a large number of photographs. The information available in this collection should be valuable in assessing the role of the local, not just in its representation of workers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's Gadsden, Alabama plant, but in the community, the international, and in the industrial South. A significant volume of these records concern the Gadsden Industrial Union Council and the role of that body in the same areas. The materials have been housed in Special Collection's Printed Collection and Non-Print Collection.

History of United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12

In December 1928, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company announced the establishment of a new tire plant in Gadsden, Alabama. Low wages and non-union labor most likely made Gadsden an attractive site for Goodyear expansion. However, within five years of this move an all out drive to organize Gadsden rubber workers was underway.

The United Rubber Workers (CIO) drive to establish a union in Gadsden had a rather tumultuous beginning. When International President Sherman Dalrymple made an organizing trip to Gadsden in 1936, he was severely beaten by company thugs--with law enforcement officials looking on--as he attempted to conduct a union meeting. What followed this incident was a series of attacks and a campaign of intimidation directed at union members. It would not be until 1943, with the demands of a war-time economy and NLRB enforcement, that a fully chartered union was established at Goodyear's Dixie plant. On April 10, 1943, with a 1,147 to 327 margin, Goodyear workers voted in favor of URW representation. Four months later the first agreement between URW Local 12 and Goodyear was signed.

In 1946 Erskine Bowers, "a farm boy from Sand Mountain," was elected president of Local 12. Bowers would hold this position for a total of 21 years. Under his leadership Local 12 quickly established itself as one of the URW's strongest locals. In 1947, when the URW signed the first company-wide agreement with Goodyear, both Bowers and Vice-President Virgil Thompson played active roles in the negotiations.

In the 1950s Local 12 gained relatively wide acceptance in the city of Gadsden. Solid community support, a dedicated membership, publicity via the Union Sentinel, and a creative fund raising campaign brought to fruition Local 12's first meeting hall at 110 Hoke Street. Participation in the United Givers Fund and numerous other charities further solidified the local's standing in the community. Politicians who once scorned the union now actively sought its support. Following the nationwide rubber strike of 1954, Local 12 entered a long period of prosperity and rising membership as the day-to-day tasks of running a union replaced the struggles of the past.

Controversy surrounded the union in 1964 as the NLRB heard arguments in a discrimination suit filed against Goodyear and Local 12. The union was eventually cleared of these charges, but the issue of racial discrimination within the union was forced to be addressed by both union officials and the rank-and-file. The growing strength of Local 12 was showcased at the 1966 International Convention in Miami Beach. When a resolution that would have allowed for the payment of officers' wives travel expenses was introduced, Local 12 successfully led the fight against this measure.

Bowers retired from his third term as president in 1969. His successors have maintained the same strong leadership which has served Local 12 so well throughout its history. Since 1943 Local 12 has overcome many hurdles to become a respected feature in a community that had once been called "the toughest anti-union city in the United States."

Biographical Sketches

E. K. Bowers served as president of Local 12 1946-1949, 1950-1959, and 1961-1969. Bowers moved to Gadsden in 1936 and began working for Goodyear at 36 cents per hour. He was given this job only after agreeing not to join a union. In 1943 he dismissed this restriction and started his organizing career with the United Rubber Workers. Bower's potential was soon recognized and he was sent to Highlander Folk School's CIO summer training workshop. He served as chairman of Division B in 1945, was first elected president in 1946, appointed to the Gadsden Industrial Union Council's (GIUC) Legislative Committee in 1949, and acted as that organization's treasurer in 1949. Bowers was a representative to the URW International from 1947 until his retirement in 1969. From 1959 to 1960 Bowers returned to a production job in department 352E while Lindsey Elsberry served as president.

J. Alton Brown was one of the original signers of Local 12's charter application. His first position with the union, beginning in 1945, was as chairman of Division A. He was elected Recording Secretary of the GIUC in 1949. Other positions included Secretary of the Civil Service Board, the Post-War Reconversion Committee, the Job Classification Committee, and the Hospital Campaign Committee. There is extensive correspondence with Brown in the J. M. Holland folder.

O. A. Garrard was vice-president of Local 12 from 1969 to 1974, and was first elected president in 1977.

E. L. Hayes was president of Local 12 from 1971 to 1977. He had earlier been Chairman of Division C, was active in CIO-Committee on Political Education (COPE), and served as a member of the Etowah County Mental Health Association.

J. M. Holland was one of the first Goodyear employees in Gadsden, having worked in Akron from 1923 to 1929 and moved to Gadsden when that plant opened.

H. L. Knowles served on the Local's Executive Board from 1945 to 1947 and was vice-president in 1948 and 1950. He was also president of the GIUC for several years and continued as president of the Gadsden Labor Council after the merger of the AFL and CIO.

Jimmy T. Karam had been a member of the Goodyear "Flying Squadron," a group of company thugs who attempted to intimidate workers seeking organization. In 1945 he established the Veterans Industrial Association, a "free employment agency," in Lake Village Arkansas. This group was designed to supply veterans as scabs to break unions.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Georgia State University Library online catalog (GIL). Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Bowers, Erskine K.
Hayes, E. L.
Rumely, Edward A. (Edward Aloysius), 1882-1964.
Committee for Constitutional Government.
Gadsden Industrial Union Council (Gadsden, Ala.)
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
United Rubber Workers of America. District 2.
United Rubber Workers of America. District 8.
United Rubber Workers of America. Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.)
United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America.
Labor unions--Rubber industry workers--Alabama.
Labor unions--Alabama--Local unions.
Rubber industry workers--Alabama.
Tire industry--Alabama--Employees.
Wages--Rubber industry workers--Alabama.
Wages--Tire industry--Alabama.
Gadsden (Ala.)--Labor--Trade-unions.


Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult the reference archivist to determine copyright holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Administrative Information


[item], [folder title], [series title], United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) records, L1980-32, Southern Labor Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

Acquisition Information

Donated by A. O. Garrard, URW Local 12 President, August 8, 1980.

Processing Information

Processed by David C. Berry and Brad Paul, July-December 1991. Edited and EAD finding aid created by William Hardesty, October 2006.

Separated Material

Separated material: During processing, printed material, artifacts, and photographic material were separated to other Southern Labor Archives collections. See List of Separated Material following Detailed Description of the Collection.

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