Auto-Lite Strike Memorial
1101 Champlain Street
Labor unions played an important part in the Toledo brewing story. This ad from a 1946 Mansfield News Journal laments the fact there was no Buckeye Beer in town due to a strike back in Toledo. And this ad from Home Brewing points out the brewing employed only union labor. This helps set the stage for the site to our left, an extremely important landmark in the labor movement.
In 1934, workers at the Electric Auto-Lite Company and other auto-related plants secretly organized an AFL union that would later become UAW Local 12. Anti-unionism and broken pledges by management had festered locally for years. Workers resented the fact that management took advantage of the Depression era's high unemployment rate to lower wages. When management refused to negotiate in good faith, the workers struck the Auto-Lite in mid-April. Auto-Lite management secured a court order limiting the number of strikers to twenty-five, but the Lucas County Unemployed League organized a very public resistance to the court injunction and the crowd around the plant surged to ten thousand protesters.
As the conflict escalated, the governor ordered in the Ohio National Guard. Machine guns were mounted near the Elm Street Bridge and other locations. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Guard did little to quell the situation. Strikers and Guardsmen battled with bricks and tear gas.
On May 24, 1934, during what has been called the "Battle of Chestnut Hill," Guardsmen fired into the crowd, killing two people. As a result, area workers threatened a general strike and Auto-Lite acquiesced to become one of the first large automotive manufacturers to recognize the union.
The Auto-Lite Strike was covered in national newspaper and radio stories and it eventually played a major role in both the creation of landmark Federal labor laws under the Wagner Act and the founding of the UAW in 1935.
Let's head north on Champlain and turn right onto to Bush. Pull over to the parking area on the left-hand side of the street in front of the large brick building with the interesting architectural arches on Michigan and Bush.