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From THE FIGHTING MACHINISTS, A CENTURY OF STRUGGLE
by Robert G. Rodden

James Rand and the Mohawk Valley Formula

When the IAM signed its 1934 contract with Remington Rand, union members were jubilant. But, as noted, the joy proved to be premature. Virtually from the day the contract was signed company president James Rand frustrated union efforts to enforce it. Plant managers were instructed to ignore complaints about contract violations and foremen were told not to discuss grievances with union representatives. In the resulting climate of suspicion and distrust, Remington Rand workers began to hear disturbing rumors. According to the grapevine the company intended to transfer many existing operations to a new central facility in Elmira, New York.

Union representatives, seeking a conference to clear the air, were rebuffed. Digging around for information the Grand Lodge learned that a so-called "industrial committee" in Elmira had purchased a defunct Willys-Morrow auto plant and offered it to Remington Rand free of charge. Probing deeper the union found that a dummy corporation, wholly owned by Remington Rand, was screening union attitudes of job applicants.

Rumor ran wild and uncertainty reigned in Remington Rand plants. IAM representatives were routinely lied to and given the runaround by plant managers. with the old contract about to expire the company refused to even discuss a new agreement. In desperation, a strike vote was taken in a number of plants. More than 75% of the returned ballots were marked "Strike." IAM locals, along with other unions, asked for federal mediation. But Rand, determined to force the issue, did so by firing the presidents of the federal unions in Tonawanda and Syracuse along with the president and fifteen other members and officers of the IAM lodge in Syracuse. With peaceful settlement impossible 6,500 Remington Rand employees walked off their jobs in late May. Picket lines were set up in Syracuse, Tonawanda and Ilion, New York, Norwood and Marietta, Ohio and Middletown, Connecticut.

The strike became one of the most savage, lengthy and memorable in the annals of the American labor movement. Having failed to break the earlier strike in 1934, Rand was now more determined than ever to break the spirit of unionism in his work force once and for all.

The company's first major attack came at Ilion where a sizable contingent of thugs and plug-uglies from professional strikebreaking agencies were imported to back up 300 specially sworn sheriff's deputies. The NLRB later reported:

The main road leading into the village was barricaded with a large chain. Squads of special deputies and the local police armed with shotguns--consisting of four to six deputies and one policeman in a squad--stood guard at the entrances to the village and patrolled the streets. Only persons with passes of the Association, those working at the Remington Arms plant, and others satisfactory to the guards were permitted to enter the village. Arms had been secured that night at the Remington Arms pant and were carried by many of the special deputies and police. Others carried clubs. Private cars were used to serve as police cars. The headquarters of the Ilion unions, where the pickets gathered, and which were across the street from the plant, were padlocked by the Village Board on the basis of one complaint.
With such tactics Rand was able to get the Ilion plant back into partial operation by the end of the first month. He applied the same tactics at other struck plants. The company got judges to limit picketing, landlords to raise rents and police to arrest pickets on most flimsy charges. In Syracuse, for example, two girls were sentenced to thirty days for waving a rubber rat at scabs going through their picket line. In Elmira the mayor refused to permit circulation of the national labor newspaper, Labor, while in Syracuse the mayor assured the company unlimited police protection.

At the Middletown, Ohio plant police arrested peaceful pickets and judges hit them with long prison sentences. Every week the pressure increased. Rand devised diabolic strategies to demoralize and divide the workers. "For Sale" signs appeared in front of the factories. "Citizens committees" were formed. Workers and their wives were visited in their homes and urged to join highly publicized "back-to-work" campaigns. The company also leaned heavily on locally elected officials. On one occasion the mayor of Ilion met secretly with the strikers and tearfully confessed that he was being forced into actions he did not want to take. Although he was one of the wealthiest men in town the mayor had been warned by a citizens' committee that included his banker that if he defied the company he would be ruined and run out of town "with nothing left but his hat, coat and pants." Citizens committees visited merchants and warned them not to help or give credit to strikers.

At Tonawanda, Rand planted a rumor that the strikers were deserting and most were ready to go back to work. The National Metal Trades Association sent in eighty-five professional thugs to play the part of the alleged deserters. They arrived at the plant gate armed to the teeth with clubs and bricks and, as Rand hoped, a free-for-all broke out. He stood on the sidelines snapping pictures of the fighting and violence. The next day, after the thugs had been slipped quietly out of town, the newspapers printed Rand's pictures to show how picketing labor goons had attacked honest working men who wanted only to return to their jobs.

When Rand finally gathered enough scabs to reopen the Ilion plant on June 12, he gloated about his new formula for strikebreaking. At a victory celebration he trumpeted that "two million business men have been looking for a formula like this." and indeed the next day representatives of the NAM arrived in Ilion to study Rand's union-busting success. The next issue of the NAM's Labor Relations Bulletin immortalized the "Mohawk Valley Formula" as a classic blueprint for union busting. Neither Rand nor the NAM had taken the Wagner Act into account. When the NLRB handed down its decision in April, 1937, eleven months after the strike began, 4,000 of the original 6,500 were still on the picket lines.

In a monumental 120-page decision the Board found Rand had arrogantly place himself above the law, subjecting 6,500 workers and their families to the miseries of a prolonged strike, the people of six communities to extreme economic hardship, turning neighborhoods into warring camps and unleashing unreasoning hatreds. The NLRB ordered reinstatement with back pay of the union workers discharged prior to the strike, reemployment of the 4,000 workers still on strike, disestablishment of all company unions and recognition of bona fide unions in the six affected plants as well as in the new Elmira plant. Rand fought the order all the way to the Supreme Court but was eventually forced to recognize the union and make restitution to the workers. 

The Mohawk Valley Formula

First: When a strike is threatened, label the union leaders as "agitators" to discredit them with the public and their own followers. Conduct balloting under the foremen to ascertain the strength of the union and to make possible misrepresentation of the strikers as a small minority. Exert economic pressure through threats to move the plant, align bankers, real estate owners and businessmen into a "Citizens' Committee."

Second: Raise high the banner of "law and order", thereby causing the community to mass legal and police weapons against imagined violence and to forget that employees have equal right with others in the community.

Third: Call a "mass meeting" to coordinate public sentiment against the strike and strengthen the Citizens' Committee.

Fourth: Form a large police force to intimidate the strikers and exert a psychological effect. Utilize local police, state police, vigilantes and special deputies chosen, if possible, from other neighborhoods.

Fifth: Convince the strikers their cause is hopeless with a "back-to-work" movement by a puppet association of so-called "loyal employees" secretly organized by the employer.

Sixth: When enough applications are on hand, set a date for opening the plant by having such opening requested by the puppet "back-to-work" association.

Seventh: Stage the "opening" theatrically by throwing open the gates and having the employees march in a mass protected by squads of armed police so as to dramatize and exaggerate the opening and heighten the demoralizing effect.

Eighth: Demoralize the strikers with a continuing show of force. If necessary turn the locality into a warlike camp and barricade it from the outside world.

Ninth: Close the publicity barrage on the theme that the plant is in full operation and the strikers are merely a minority attempting to interfere with the "right to work". With this, the campaign is over--the employer has broken the strike.


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