Click Here to Return to Trades and Unions Index

Click Here to Return to Top Ten Events in Beaver County Index

Summer of 1937 Hot One on Labor Fronts

Beaver County Times, Wednesday July 2, 1975


The summer of 1937 was a hot one in Beaver County, both in temperature and labor troubles.

Several persons died as the result of heat prostration and related causes when a tremendous heat wave engulfed the county duringJuly of that year.

One Aliquippa man was killed in the midst of strike violence in late June when struck by a tear gas cannister from a gas gun accidentally discharged by a county deputy sheiiff.

Michael George, 39, a roving CIO picket., from Aliquippa, suffered a fractured skull on one of Beaver County's darkest days. His was the first labor-related death in Pennsylvania during the days of the struggling Steelworkers Organizing Committee (SWOC), forerunner of the United Steelworkers of America.

The Deputy Sheriff, Jay Jackson of Fallston, was later absolved of guilt by Beaver County District Attorney Robert. E. McCreary.

The rioting broke out when Moltrup Steel Products Co. attempted to reopen its Beaver Falls plant, shut down voluntarily four weeks earlier when the firm refused to sign a CIO contract.

When it became apparent that-pickets would not permit "loyal" employes, of the, firm to report to work, the firm decided to shut down temporarily.

According to newspaper accounts, a number of small fights broke out. Seventeen deputy sheriffs and state policemen were on hand to quell the rioting.

The district attorney ruled that the tear gas cannister had been fired accidentally.

Two days after the fatal shooting, the Beaver, Daily Times carried a 'front-page story declaring "Plants Continue To operate Here Despite Pickets." The first two paragraphs of the story read:

"Quiet reigned today on Beaver County's strike-torn labor front after a day of tensness that followed fatal rioting in the Moltrup Steel Products Co. plant, Beaver Falls, Monday afternoon. "Back to Work'movements-met no opposition at two picket-besieged steel plants in Beaver Falls.

"No effort was made, however, to reopen the Moltrup plant, where a small band of pickets barred entrance via the narrow footbridge leading across the Pittsburgh.& Lake Eric railroad tracks from Fourteenth Street. Company officials announced today that despite insistent demands of loyal workers there would be no attempt made to resume operations for several days, at least until after funeral services are held for Mike George (as the deceased was also known), an Aliquippa picket wounded fatally in Monday's rioting."

Meanwhile, Beaver Falls and state police centered their concentration at the Union Drawn Steel Company, to prevent possible disorder. Operations had been resumed two days earlier, after a month-long shut down over labor troubles.

Republic Steel Companys Union Drawn, Steel and Ideal Foundry and Machine Co., both in Beaver Falls, were both closed for several weeks during the mid-summer turmoil.

An 18-day strike at the National Electric Products Corp. plant, Ambridge, ended June 19. However, violence also flared there between CIO pickets and laborers attempting to enter the plant for work several days earlier, resulting in the resignation of three Ambridge police officers. A fourth Ambridge policeman reversed his decision to resign.

Approximately 20 persons were beaten, one seriousy , as a result of the bloody clash on the morning of June, 16, 37, when an attempt was made to re-open the strike-closed plant. The plant had been closed for two weeks because of a controversy between the ClO workers and the members of the American Federal of Labor.

All told, more than 2,500 workers in Beaver County were idled as labor controversies forced temporary plant closings in Beaver Falb and Ambridge during the surnmer of 1937.

Violence flared often during attempted Plant reopenings, but it is now apparent that what happened then in Beaver County was tame compared to labor-related violence in other parts of the country.