Autolite: (6) Unions
“Unions” In the Fostoria’s Spark Plug Plant
The Fostoria Spark Plug Plant started operation as an “open” factory. However, the “parent” Toledo firm, in 1936, had just experienced a very devastating strike, where even bloodshed resulted from a tremendous battle between the Independent Union and the faction backed by the UAW-CIO, with the National Guard in the middle. As a result of this strike, the local management of the plant felt that it should have means of communicating with the workers; hence, a so-called “Independent” Union was formed. Earl Beil was its first President; Ralph Barbour was the Industrial Relations person who represented the commpany.
In 1943, a plant group of hourly employees felt it should be represented by the UAW_CIO. This unit of people petitioned the Federal Labor Relations Board to hold an election at the factory, giving the workers an opportunity to choose between the unions. Even though the plant was sincere in trying to match the wages and benefits that a national group could offer, the majority of the employees showed its desire to belong to UAW-CIO. Joseph Wingates was the first President of this Union, Local 533, and Robert Swartzbaugh represented the company as Industrial Relations Manager. The Union became the sole bargaining agent for the plant workers. Needless to say, there were some hard feelings evident during the organizational drive of UAW-CIO. It was a few years before these attitudes disappeared.
For expedient purposes, the local UAW-CIO and the company in Fostoria operated with two contracts: one, the national agreement, which dealt with conditions common in all organized plants of the insurance, sick leaves, holiday pays, etc. and two, the local agreement, which was a guide to the specific problems of the plant, such as job bidding, plant and depantmental seniority, safety, security, grievance procedures, etc. This type of organization worked well, and exist even up to the present.
(Early pictures and developement of Autolite site on North Union Street)