lazywebs: The labor record of Ohio's James M. Cox?
Submitted by murph on 10 February 2008 - 12:41pm. family | history | politics
In 1920, my third-great uncle James M. Cox, was the Democratic candidate for President, with FDR as his running mate. I've just found that his campaign's equivalent of Dreams From My Father is available through Project Gutenberg - The Progressive Democracy of James M. Cox, written by his secretary, Charles E. Morris. It includes some rather glowing bits on Cox's actions as Governor of Ohio from 1913-1920 with regards to labor:
It is only necessary to get a comprehensive view of Governor Cox's record with respect to labor troubles to tell the plain story of what he has done. He had scarce taken hold as Governor in 1913 when a strike broke out in the great rubber plants of Akron. It seemed to have been fomented by members of the Industrial Workers of the World, but it drew in its train
thousands upon thousands of other workers until the great plants were practically idle. In Akron, where a heterogenous collection of industrial workers dwell, idleness was a potent factor in fomenting disorder. The normal course of affairs would have been an attempt to operate the plants with strike breakers under guard, provocative acts upon both sides, and finally, recourse to an armed militia to quell the disorder after the inevitable bloodshed had ensued. Although new in executive experience, Governor Cox took another course. He sent trained and trusted investigators to Akron who learned the facts and reported to him accurately upon the situation, including also the grievances of the toilers. At the same time he gave warning to the local authorities that they preserve a strict neutrality in their dealing with the contending forces, and he uttered a solemn warning that the laws must be respected, assuring those of both contending factions that public opinion within the city would speedily ascertain the right and wrong of the controversy. And so it proved to be. But learning there were abuses in the plants that needed correction the Governor gave his assent to an investigation by a legislative committee through the helpful publicity of which all interests were induced to redress certain grievances. It gave an object lesson not only to Akron but to all the state. It taught even the turbulent element that only harm could come through infraction of the law and through disrespect for rights of person and property. The remainder of the story is that I. W. W. disturbers have more sterile soil in Ohio to cultivate than in any of the states about it.
Now, this is clearly a skewed version of things, coming as it does from campaign literature. But how skewed? Are there sources on the 1913 rubber strike and 1919 steel strike known to be relatively unbiased?
So far, the most detailed alternate account of the rubber strike that I've come up with seems like it has the possibility of its own skew - Foner's History of the Labor Movement in the United States vol. 4: The Industrial Workers of the World agrees that Cox refused the Mayor of Akron's request to send the National Guard out to protect the factories, but goes on to discuss a "reign of terror" by police and vigilantes against the strikers that Cox paid no heed to:
Although the strikers protested to Governor Cox that the city officials had "arbitrarily abridged all civic rights of the residents of Akron who happen to be participants in the strike," the Governor did nothing to half the mounting reign of terror. Thus encouraged, vigilantes swung into action. . . The strikers wired Governor Cox and asked for protection against a "Mob of the Rich," but once again their protest was ignored. A similar protest against imported gunmen from Pittsburgh went unheeded.
Foner notes that the Green Investigating Committee appointed by Governor Cox "acknowledged that most of the strikers' grievances were justified. It condemned the [Taylor] 'speeding-up system' as 'fraught with danger' and recommended its abolition. . . But after justifying the strike, the Committee exonerated the employers for their refusal to deal with workers," charging the IWW with violent and immoral tactics, but ignoring the violence on the part of the police.