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United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) records

Identifier: L1980-32

Scope and Content of the Records

The records of United Rubber Workers, Local 12 include material dating 1943 to 1974, with the bulk covering 1943 to 1954. The records are organized into seven record series: Correspondence, Minutes, Local 12 Administration, Financial Records, Plant Operations, Subject Files, and Name Files. The records also include a large body of printed items such as periodicals, contracts, and pamphlets, as well as a large number of photographs. The information available in this collection should be valuable in assessing the role of the local, not just in its representation of workers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's Gadsden, Alabama plant, but in the community, the international, and in the industrial South. A significant volume of these records concern the Gadsden Industrial Union Council and the role of that body in the same areas. The materials have been housed in Special Collection's Printed Collection and Non-Print Collection.


  • Creation: 1943-1974


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research use.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Georgia State University is the owner of the physical collection and makes reproductions available for research, subject to the copyright law of the United States and item condition. Georgia State University may or may not own the rights to materials in the collection. It is the researcher's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and obtain permission from the copyright holder before publication, reproduction, or display of the materials beyond what is reasonable under copyright law. Researchers may quote selections from the collection under the fair use provision of copyright law.

History of United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12

In December 1928, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company announced the establishment of a new tire plant in Gadsden, Alabama. Low wages and non-union labor most likely made Gadsden an attractive site for Goodyear expansion. However, within five years of this move an all out drive to organize Gadsden rubber workers was underway.

The United Rubber Workers (CIO) drive to establish a union in Gadsden had a rather tumultuous beginning. When International President Sherman Dalrymple made an organizing trip to Gadsden in 1936, he was severely beaten by company thugs--with law enforcement officials looking on--as he attempted to conduct a union meeting. What followed this incident was a series of attacks and a campaign of intimidation directed at union members. It would not be until 1943, with the demands of a wartime economy and NLRB enforcement, that a fully chartered union was established at Goodyear's Dixie plant. On April 10, 1943, with a 1,147 to 327 margin, Goodyear workers voted in favor of URW representation. Four months later the first agreement between URW Local 12 and Goodyear was signed.

In 1946 Erskine Bowers, "a farm boy from Sand Mountain," was elected president of Local 12. Bowers would hold this position for a total of 21 years. Under his leadership Local 12 quickly established itself as one of the URW's strongest locals. In 1947, when the URW signed the first companywide agreement with Goodyear, both Bowers and Vice-President Virgil Thompson played active roles in the negotiations.

In the 1950s Local 12 gained relatively wide acceptance in the city of Gadsden. Solid community support, a dedicated membership, publicity via the Union Sentinel, and a creative fund raising campaign brought to fruition Local 12's first meeting hall at 110 Hoke Street. Participation in the United Givers Fund and numerous other charities further solidified the local's standing in the community. Politicians who once scorned the union now actively sought its support. Following the nationwide rubber strike of 1954, Local 12 entered a long period of prosperity and rising membership as the day-to-day tasks of running a union replaced the struggles of the past.

Controversy surrounded the union in 1964 as the NLRB heard arguments in a discrimination suit filed against Goodyear and Local 12. The union was eventually cleared of these charges, but the issue of racial discrimination within the union was forced to be addressed by both union officials and the rank-and-file. The growing strength of Local 12 was showcased at the 1966 International Convention in Miami Beach. When a resolution that would have allowed for the payment of officers' wives travel expenses was introduced, Local 12 successfully led the fight against this measure.

Bowers retired from his third term as president in 1969. His successors have maintained the same strong leadership which has served Local 12 so well throughout its history. Since 1943 Local 12 has overcome many hurdles to become a respected feature in a community that had once been called "the toughest anti-union city in the United States."

Biographical Sketches of Local 12 Leadership

E. K. Bowers served as president of Local 12 1946-1949, 1950-1959, and 1961-1969. Bowers moved to Gadsden in 1936 and began working for Goodyear at 36 cents per hour. He was given this job only after agreeing not to join a union. In 1943 he dismissed this restriction and started his organizing career with the United Rubber Workers. Bower's potential was soon recognized and he was sent to Highlander Folk School's CIO summer training workshop. He served as chairman of Division B in 1945, was first elected president in 1946, appointed to the Gadsden Industrial Union Council's (GIUC) Legislative Committee in 1949, and acted as that organization's treasurer in 1949. Bowers was a representative to the URW International from 1947 until his retirement in 1969. From 1959 to 1960 Bowers returned to a production job in department 352E while Lindsey Elsberry served as president.

J. Alton Brown was one of the original signers of Local 12's charter application. His first position with the union, beginning in 1945, was as chairman of Division A. He was elected Recording Secretary of the GIUC in 1949. Other positions included Secretary of the Civil Service Board, the Post-War Reconversion Committee, the Job Classification Committee, and the Hospital Campaign Committee. There is extensive correspondence with Brown in the J. M. Holland folder.

O. A. Garrard was vice-president of Local 12 from 1969 to 1974, and was first elected president in 1977.

E. L. Hayes was president of Local 12 from 1971 to 1977. He had earlier been Chairman of Division C, was active in CIO-Committee on Political Education (COPE), and served as a member of the Etowah County Mental Health Association.

J. M. Holland was one of the first Goodyear employees in Gadsden, having worked in Akron from 1923 to 1929 and moved to Gadsden when that plant opened.

H. L. Knowles served on the Local's Executive Board from 1945 to 1947 and was vice-president in 1948 and 1950. He was also president of the GIUC for several years and continued as president of the Gadsden Labor Council after the merger of the AFL and CIO.

Jimmy T. Karam had been a member of the Goodyear "Flying Squadron," a group of company thugs who attempted to intimidate workers seeking organization. In 1945 he established the Veterans Industrial Association, a "free employment agency," in Lake Village Arkansas. This group was designed to supply veterans as scabs to break unions.


51.5 Linear Feet (in 114 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of records of Local 12 (East Gadsden, Ala.) of the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastics Workers of America, and its predecessor the United Rubber Workers of America, from 1943-1974. It contains correspondence (1943-1954); minutes of Local 12 (1949-1970), the ladies auxiliary (1952-1961), the Gadsden Industrial Union Council (1946-1962), the URW, District 2, (1944) and the URW District 8 (1944-1964); administrative and committee records (1943-1969); financial records (1943-1972); plant operation records (1943-1974); subject files (1943-1973); and name files (1946-1972).

Organization of the Records

Organized into seven series:

  • Series I. Correspondence, 1943-1954
  • Series II. Minutes, 1944-1970
  • Series III. Local 12 Administration, 1943-1969
  • Series IV. Financial Records, 1943-1972
  • Series V. Plant Operations, 1943-1974
  • Series VI. Subject Files, 1943-1973
  • Series VII. Name Files, 1946-1972

Acquisition Information

Donated by A. O. Garrard, United Rubber Workers, Local 12 President, August 8, 1980.

Separated Materials

During processing, printed material, artifacts, and photographic material were separated to other Southern Labor Archives collections. For photographs, see the Southern Labor Archives Photographs Collection finding aid. For pamphlets, see the Southern Labor Archives Pamphlet Collection finding aid (note that this collection has been weeded over time). For periodicals, see the Southern Labor Archives Periodicals Collection finding aid or catalog. For artifacts, proceedings, and contracts, consult Special Collections for access.

Separated to Southern Labor Photographic Collections

  1. "Tomorrow Begins Today" [16mm film]
  2. 141 b/w prints

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Artifacts Collection

  1. Decal, United Givers Fund
  2. balloon, "Compliments of the Oak Rubber Co."
  3. bumper sticker, January 17, 1955, Inauguration of "Big Jim" Folso

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Proceedings Collection

  1. United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America (URW), 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972
  2. Alabama CIO, 1957
  3. Alabama Labor Council, 1966, 1968, 1970

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Contracts Collection

  1. Local 12, United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America (URW) and Goodyear of Alabama, 1943, 1947, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1970
  2. Local 12, URW and Goodyear of Alabama Field Warehouse and Air Depot Warehouse, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1976
  3. Local 2, URW, and Goodyear, 1961
  4. Local 5, URW, and B. F. Goodrich, 1946
  5. Local 9, URW, and General Tire and Rubber Co., Akron; 1957
  6. Local 11, URW, and US Rubber Co., 1955
  7. Local 15, URW, and American Hard Rubber Co., 1956
  8. Local 61, URW, and Continental Rubber Works, Erie, PA, 1956
  9. Local 63, URW, and Quaker Rubber Co., 1955
  10. Local 131, URW, and Goodyear, 1965
  11. Local 178, URW, 1956
  12. Local 185, URW and Goodyear, 1947, 1948, 1959
  13. Local 247, URW, and Goodyear, 1965
  14. Local 286, URW, and Goodyear of Nebraska, 1955
  15. Local 290, URW, and Goodyear of Massachusetts, 1951, 1965
  16. Local 307, URW, and Goodyear of Topeka, Kansas, 1957
  17. Local 310, URW, and Firestone, 1954
  18. Local 323, URW, and Richardson Co., 1956
  19. Local 351, URW, and B.F. Goodrich, Tuscaloosa, AL, 1957
  20. Local 365, URW, and General Tire and Rubber Co., 1957-1959
  21. Local 532, URW, and Goodyear, 1965
  22. URW and B.F. Goodrich; 1953 URW and Goodyear, 1964, 1970, 1973

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Pamphlet Collection

  1. Under the following subject headings: Alabama Labor Department, AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO COPE, AFL-CIO Community Services Department, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO Legislative Reports (federal), AFL-CIO, Alabama Labor Council, Kentucky State AFL-CIO, Apprenticeship, Arbitration, Automation, United Auto Workers, Black Workers, Cancer, Congress of Industrial Organizations, Cooperatives, Credit Union, Democratic Party, Education, Environmental Issues, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Highlander Folk School, Insurance Plans, Labor Management Relations Act (Taft-Hartley), Labor Management Disclosure Act, NAACP, National Safety Council, Poverty, Religion, United Rubber Workers, Right to Work, Safety, Social Security, Tennessee Valley Authority, International Typographical Union, Unemployment Insurance, Union Democracy, Union Directories, Union Power, US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship, US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Standards, Veterans, VISTA, War Production, Workers Compensation

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Periodicals Collection

  1. American Federationist
  2. The Wingfoot Clan
  3. United Rubber Worker Union Sentinel
  4. Local 131 Reporter
  5. Local 37 News
  6. Trans-Atlantic Economic Outlook
  7. IUD Bulletin
  8. AFL-CIO Education News and Views
  9. Rural Opportunities
  10. Law in Action
  11. War on Poverty
  12. Your Union Guide [Local 186]
  13. Collective Bargaining Report
  14. Labor's Economic Review

Processing Information

Processed by David C. Berry and Brad Paul at the file level, July-December 1991.

United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, Local 12 (East Gadsden, Alabama):
A Guide to Its Records at Georgia State University Library
Georgia State University Library
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

100 Decatur St., S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404-413-2881 (Fax)