COLUMBUS LOCAL 208 CHARTERED MAY 1941
On one of the first days of the TWU's 1941 convention, a Midwestern accent rang out at Transport Hall in New York City. Orville Dailey, the delegate and president from the newly chartered Local 208 rose to the podium to address the 1,500 delegates.
Dailey told of the birth of a TWU transit local in Columbus, Ohio. "We struggled along for four years trying to organize the transport workers of that city," he said. "But, Columbus is notoriously open shop, and in dealing with the powerful utility company (which ran the transit system), which was anti-labor, we had a very hard struggle there."
The old AFL union, representing those workers, had walked away from its responsibilities to the 519 bus drivers, trolley operators, and mechanics in Columbus. After four years of tying to do it alone, the local approached A.L. Calhoun, past president of TWU's first Ohio local, the Akron based Local 1 and an international Executive Board Member.
Dailey recalled that the local telephoned Calhoun and asked for help. Calhoun replied: "I'll be in Columbus in two hours." Calhoun kept his promise and two hours later, he met with the employees of the Columbus and Southern Ohio Electric Company which operated the transit system.
The system consisted of 97 street cars, 103 trolley coaches, and 61 motor buses which served Columbus and the surrounding areas. The company was formidable and like other utility/transit companies of the day, it supplied both transit service and power to the area.
The new TWU Local was given its official CIO charter on May 8, 1941. The twelve charter members were John W. Miller, Carl Aiken, A.R. Moore, Newt Randekin, Fred E. Maugher, Samuel S. Wright, Orville Dailey, Harold M. Swisher, Robert R. Rush, Hersel I DeWees, John H. Young, and Hoyt H. Rowey.
The TWU served notice on the employer that it now was the representative of the transit employees. All the employees at an earlier meeting had unanimously voted for TWU affiliation and all but one former AFL officer were reelected under the TWU banner.
But the old group, now a rump of barely a dozen members, made a deal with the company. As representatives of the old AFL union, they signed a contract with the company.
John "Jay" Miller, a charter TWU member, recalled an AFL rally where his members were warned not to sign TWU cards. "If any of you guys sign up," he was told, "you'd be out of the AFL." Miller said that his members answered by "throwing their AFL badges on the stage."
The TWU petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election in early August, 1941. After some delay, an election was scheduled for November 12.
In the meantime, a number of rallies were held. TWU President Mike Quill appeared on Sunday, November 2, at the old CIO Union Hall on South High Street. Quill's voice resounded off the walls as he exhorted the Columbus transit workers to vote TWU in the representation election.
Aiding in the TWU drive were the Steelworkers, Auto Workers, Garment Workers, Rubber Workers, Mine Workers, Newspaper Workers, Communication Workers, Paper and Toy Workers, Office Workers, and Shoe Workers. It was a united effort by all of the industrial unions of Columbus.
The vote was taken at the Cleveland Avenue, North High, Kelton Avenue, and Glennwood Avenue barns. And when the ballots were counted, TWU had won a decisive victory. TWU was certified as the sole bargaining representative for Columbus transit workers and contract bargaining immediately began.
That night, the members threw a big party for the new local where everyone, including family and friends, were invited. As Convention delegate Dailey had predicted months before, "I believe that with a spirit like that of the Transport Workers Union in the city of Columbus, we can not lose."