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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

FAWICK-AIRFLEX STRIKE

FAWICK-AIRFLEX STRIKE

The FAWICK-AIRFLEX STRIKE, 8 Mar.-6 June 1949, was called by Local 735 of the United Electrical Workers (UEW), an allegedly left-wing CIO union. At issue was the union's failure to sign non-communist affidavits as required by the Taft-Hartley Act. When the Fawick-Airflex Corp., producers of automotive parts, located at 9919 Clinton Rd., refused to bargain with Local 735 because it failed to obey the law, workers voted 99-16 to strike the plant. UEW business agent Marie Reed called the company charges of Communist domination and Taft-Hartley violations a smokescreen that hid the real issues of wages and working conditions. Fawick had threatened to fire 7 union members, refused to make a wage offer, and wanted to institute a new job-evaluation program in order to weaken the seniority system.

In the first of many court battles during the strike, charges of Communist domination of the UEW were made. Fawick vice-president Richard Huxtable asserted that the company would never bargain with the UEW. Meanwhile, the rival AFL-United Automobile Workers (UAW) had filed to hold an election at Fawick. Sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board, the election was on 22 Mar. 1949, and the AFL-UAW lost 75-50. Although the UEW was still the legitimate bargaining agent for the Fawick workers, the company barred the union. When the AFL initiated a back-to-work movement at Fawick, infuriated UEW leaders filed unfair labor charges against the company for acting in collusion with the AFL. As the AFL increased it role, the UEW picket line became violent, and strikers arrested for picketing violations, including Joseph Kuess, Marie Reed, Morris Stamm, and Paul Shepard, appeared before Judge James C. Connell, who called the strike a "communist conspiracy" and exacted high bonds, stiff fines, and jail terms for violators. The AFL-UAW continued to gain worker support, and when another election was held the auto union won. On 6 June the AFL-UAW signed a 2-year contract with Fawick which effectively ended the strike and evicted the UEW. Despite its links to the CIO, the UEW strikers at Fawick received little support from the CLEVELAND INDUSTRIAL UNION COUNCIL. After losing appeals, most of the convicted strike leaders served reduced prison terms. The UEW Intl. paid the $38,000 in fines but was expelled from the CIO in Nov. 1949 for alleged Communist ties.