II. The Depression -- "...during the Depression we got paid by Brinks Express, and was only paid $10.00. If we had more coming it was owed us..." -Frank Glyda, press operator, as quoted in The Acklin Press, 1975.

C. The Formation of the U.A.W. and its Acklin Unit

Willys-Overland, a leader in Toledo's industrial community, joined the American Federation of Labor as the United Auto Workers Federal Union #18384 in February of 1934. In March of that year many other plants, particularly those who supplied parts to Willys-Overland, joined them including Spicer Manufacturing, Bingham Stamping, and the Electric Auto-lite Company.

InApril of 1934 the Electric Auto-lite company refused to recognize the Union and fired over 100 union workers replacing them with strike-breakers. The pickets and protests became so violent that the National Guard was called in. On May 24, 1934 two Toledo strikers were killed during a scuffle between protestors and Guardsmen. Following the violence the strike was quickly settled, but the incident led to the organization of the United Auto Workers International Union

Although Acklin never struck, union sympathy ran high. Shortly after the violence at Auto-lite, James Acklin introduced a retirement plan and disability benefits to his employees. Acklin was one of the first companies to offer such benefits to their employees. In 1937, led by 28 year old Lewis Mattox, Acklin Stamping organized as a part of the U.A.W. Local 12. A vote was held by the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency created just two years prior, in order to determine the level of employee support, and the results were unanimous -- 96% of Acklin Employees supported the formation of a union. Lewis, throughout his years at Acklin remained active in the Union, serving on the annually elected Union committee nearly 30 times - over 12 of those times as Chairman - until his retirement in December, 1973.

Thanks to Lewis Mattox's strong leadership, the company and the union were able to co-exist in an almost model fashion. Lewis, and the Union, recognized that the in order for the company to remain in business and remain competitive costs had to be kept as low as possible. And as a result they didn't make demands on the company's leadership that were unreasonable or fiscally unsound. By the same token, the management of Acklin understood that the workers had rights and needs. The company and the union jointly formed a safety committee consisting of both Union and Company members. James Acklin had offered the company's employees a retirement plan and disability benefits in 1934, well before the implementation of such programs on a federal or local level. Acklin also provided paid vacations, sick leave, hospital coverage, and other "fringe" benefits to its employees.

This isn't to say that there weren't disagreements between the company and the union. After World War II particularly the union gave up its more radical demands in order to ensure cost of living increases, a pension plan and disability benefits. Lewis Mattox was described by employees who worked with him through the years as tenacious, as someone who wouldn't back down. Cordia Ross, press operator said that "Louie talked to them [the management] as if he was a Big Boss too." This tenacity and conviction on both sides helped the company and union find common ground.


National Guardsmen, Electric Autolite Strike, 1934.




Union Shop Committee, 1954.

Union Shop Committe 1954.

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Last Updated: 6/27/22