Midland Steel 1933 to 1941

1. Maps, Charts and Photos

2. Texts

3.  Interview with John Anderson



Agency, Ontology, and History

Midland Steel
Dodge Main
Michigan Steel Tube
Murray Body
Detroit Steel Products

Shelton Tappes interview (Skeels, WSU)

J. D. DOTSON (U of M, Flint

Blacks in the Auto industry
Communists (leadership and IWO) (Ed Lock on IWO)
Harry Ross (Dodge Main) on community organizing
Frankensteen-Mortimer IWO (Morimer to Chas re Frankensteen 3-22-38, in Kraus  Boxes 11 and 13)
flying squadron
social geography of Detroit
UAW Local 410: Socio-Technical Patterns
Work-flow Diagram drawn by Art Lamb, Works Manager




John Anderson: MESA, UAW Local 155, communist

PF: I spoke to racehorse, Oscar Oden,

JA  Oh, racehorse, yeah

PF  how did you first meet him, how you knew to get in touch with him?

JA  I dont recal.  I remmber talking to the preacher, the colored guy, but I dont remmber talking to racehorse.  I met the colored preacher at his house.

PF: how did you know to get in touch with him?

JA  welll you know, when your organizing you get information.

PF  you must have had your foothold in this plant as result of MESA

JA  got name of preacher from one of the poeple in the plant

PF  how long before strike did you get name of preacher.  3 months?

JA  only a matter weeks

PF I have names of preachers

JA dosent recall

PF  Oscar Oden claims that there was no such influential preacher in the plant.
JA  well, there was, and I met with him.  I was organizing other shops at that time

4:30  PF going over list of names, JA remembers some
Frank Carr, doesn't remmber

JA: Jim Howe, turned out to be a stook pidgeon



JA: let me put this in perspective.  when the strike was over, we won the strike, and I recall the planning of that, keeping one shift in and one shift out, and all the women out of the plant I remember, and meeting in the Slovak hall, and Strong I guess is the name of the street, and the agreement was accepted unanimously, you know.  But then after that I got onto other shops and I think that they, they wanted a chapter of their own.  I think they called it 410.  There was a lot of politicians ??? [I imagine] inside there that wanted to get offices.  I was concerned with organizing, not power.  I didn’t give a damn, as long as you were in the union.  whether they were in 155 or not

PF: do you mean that the difference between staying in 155 and forming their own local would have something to do with the number offices that were available?

JA:  well, that entered it.  And then of course I was a Lefty and some of them didnt like that.  I mean they were quite willing to take the amount of money I gave them you know, but you see success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.  And since they was the first strike they called themselves the Pioneers

PF: right

JA: [accurately??] speaking, there was nobody in the plant particularly that played a key role in the sense of the strike.  They were followers, not leaders.

PF:  yeah.  that’s the impression I’ve gotten already from talking to a lot of people.

JA: Another thing also was that, I got a letter of thanks from them . . . and I think they had their own paper, but they never mentioned me in it at all hardly, you know, and of course the right wing and (in?) the union didn’t want to give me any credit for it.  You know with a key strike in a sense, it was the first sitdown strike in Michigan, you know.  And the guys in the plant were very proud of the fact that they were pioneers as they put it, they were very proud of that.

PF: yeah, you know the local became a Homer Martin stronghold—

JA  that’s right—

PF at least in that first leadership group 

JA that right—

PF  and from what I’ve picked up from talking to other people who have been in the shop for twenty or thirty years, this was a group of fairly conservative Irish Catholics.

JA yeah 

PF That was the largest single group   10:30

JA Probably that was true becuse I was never close to them after that . . . following that was the General Motors strike, and Lewis through Phil Murray asked me to go up into Flint, and so I didn’t have to much to do [with Midland Steel] after that

PF:  How many people who were working in Midland Steel at the time did you actually deal with?

JA:  The only ones I deal with would be the steering committee  11:00 

PF:  So that would with what, about six people?

JA:  Oh no.  There was more than that.  You see, we had a meeting the night before we sat them down, and at that meeting, as I remember, there was at least two dozen people, as I recall.  You see, there was key guys in the shop, and I didn’t know then all by name.  There was two in particular that were good men, and I asked them to watch Jim Howe, to be his body guard, to see that there was no skuldugery, you know, and of course I was very proud of that.  They were good guys, but I don’t remember their names now.

PF:  Maybe I’ll go down a list of these chief stewards, and there might be a few people on this list, because it’s likely that they would become chief stewards when the union got established.

Bud English

JA:  uh uh

PF:  Doesn’t ring a bell?

JA:  No.

PF:  Glenn Snyder?

JA:  Maybe, but I couldn’t be sure.

PF:  OK.  George Watson.  12:15

JA: uh uh.

PF:  Somebody by the name of Borovich

JA:  Well I don’t know.  There was a Borovich, I think he was a welder, I’m not too sure, but

LIST . . .

Interviews conducted in 1970s: 35
Interviews reviewed since 2010 and incorporated in this study of the Midland Steel sitdown strike and post-strike factionalism:

John Anderson

George Borovich

Ben Wainwright

Barney Kluck

Bob Brenner

Ed Tyll

Joe Black

Jim Peters

Oscar Oden

Herman Burt

Levi Nelson

Commentary on Transcript

Organization of local by Anderson begins only about three weeks before the sit-down
JA:  . . . I know that the purpose of Midland Steel was a twofold purpose.  One it was a general thing to get a better break for the men in the shop.  The other thing was that if we were able to carry on a successful sit-down strike in Detroit there were some repercussions that would help organizing.  And if we won, we knew it would, you know.  But you see, you gotta remember one thing.  In those days there wsn’t too many people with experience in the first place.  Reuther himself had come back from the Soviet Union and didn’t know shit from shinola about the union.  he was [head] of activities on the west side.  but he was an unpaid board member, and and an active guy too.  He did a lot more work for free than some of the staff that would be paid for doing it.  But nobody wanted to take that chance because when I went to the executive board of the UAW they were for the most part scared.  They didn’t want to get too deeply involved.  The kind of feeling was [?] do it you know, but I had a hell of a time getting the OK to do it in the first place.

[see Kraus U of M interview]

PF:  was there any real opposition?

JA:  wll there was more of a silence than oppositon.  The only ones that the one that stood out was Mortimer.  he spoke in favor of it.  But Homer Martin didn’t have much to say about it at all [and none of the others did].

PF:  what about George Addes, what was his attitude?

JA: well, I don't remember one way or the other

PF: what about Frankensteen?

JA: i dont recall, i dont think he opposed it though

PF: and was Reuther on the Board?

JA:  He was on the bd, yeah.  I think he would be because he went on the bd [at South Bend].

PF: do you remmber what his attitude was?

JA:  It was not promnent one way or the other, you know. 

PF: so it was mainly Mortmer . . .

JA: Mortimer was the main one

PF:  Ah, that’s very interesting.  From what I know  of Mortimer he was the kind of guy to see those possibilities . . .

25:00  JA:  yeah, but  he had more than that.  He  had courage.

PF:   yeah.  he had courage, and also understood what it took to  organize.  you couldn’t go slowly at certain times.

JA:  he did more to organize Flint than anybody else.  He did the Jimmy Higgins work.  Then after that out went bob travis and roy reuther, but walter didn't  play any role at all.
Chester Podgorski.  First part of interview by telephone on 9-1-75

Assembly Lines: social composition
Plymouth lines: 50% foreign-born, 25% 2nd generation, 25% black

Truck line: check this.  May have been mostly black.  H. L. Harries may ave worked there.  Check Jim Peters interview

Podgorski was on day shift, no role in the union when sit-down occurred.  He was later the first recording secretary.  Worked under name of Chester Hill.  Became officer in 1938.

remembers Boll and Carr.  Question of Jim Howe re charge of being a stoolie.  Defends Howe
methodological issues:

many informants say that the foregin-born were the best unionists, the most loyal.  But they were not the initiators, the risk-takers, the cognitively involved.  Leo's description of the 1st generation at Micigan Steel Tube must bre taken as definitive.  This coincides with Bill Jenkins re. Chrysler Highland Park.  What is happening is that in the absence of careful questioning the timing and the manner of engagement is left vague.
second part of interview (conducted in the office at Aetna Blanking on 9-4-75)

someone joins Podgorski in second part of interview (conducted in the office at Aetna Blanking on 9-4-75), unnamed, voice of lower pitch than Podgorsi's.

The puzzle of the Midland Steel and Flint sit-down strikes

1.  Midland had weak leadership (John Anderson)
2.  Midland local was in the Homer Martin camp until NLRB election of december 1939
3.  Anderson and Frank. delayed acceptance of contract until publicity effect of widespread shutdowns due to lack of frames
4.  Cleveland Trust/White Motor connection: Wyndham Mortimer account of White Motor strike
spontaneity vs. organization
emergence of shop committee and Black Legion take-over of local
ontological fictions (granularity, flux, evanescence of being: the union as a political construction; the working class as ontological fiction)

agency: enlightenment trajectory; FDR 1933; FDR 1936-7

Sit-Down Strikes, Dictionary of American History | 2003 | Lichtenstein, Nelson
COPYRIGHT 2003 The Gale Group Inc.

When workers occupied   Socialist Worker.org

Michael Torigian, "The Occupation of the Factories: Paris 1936, Flint 1937" Comparative Studies  in Society and History, 41 No. 2, April 1999

Steve Babson's account of Midland Steel strike, from Steve Babson, Building the Union: Skilled Workers and Anglo-Gaelic Immigrants in the Rise of the UAW (Rutgers, 1991) pp. 171-180)

Midland Steel: history

First sit down strike in U.S. traced to Reds.

Investigation of un-American propaganda activities in the United States. Hearings before a Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Seventy-fifth Congress, third session-Seventy-eighth Congress, second session, on H. Res. 282, to investigate (l) the extent, character, and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation