In Climbing My Family Tree I share stories of my ancestors as I discover them, so the posts are sporadic. My family history is a work in progress, and I might have to backtrack occasionally if (when) I make mistakes, so if we share a branch or two I encourage you to double check the research sources rather than accepting mine wholesale. I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit often to find new posts. I enjoy sharing them with you!
This is Part 10 of a 13-part blog series sharing my Grand-uncle Don’s life story, in his own words, via an autobiography sent to me by Don’s grandson, Ron Oldfield, after Ron stumbled across one of my prior posts about his grandfather. It is shared with the permission of both of Don’s children and Ron Oldfield. [Note – Anything in brackets with green type is my added explanation of something in Don’s text.]
Part 10: Cooper Tire
Cooper Tire Ad
After the war, I went back to the Cooper Tire Company where I already had eight years of service. I served as a tube splicer and later as a tire builder. My friend Harold Wise was president of the Union. He talked me into running as a secretary and I was elected. After Harold’s and my term were up we didn’t run again. His old rival had wanted to be president real bad and he got elected. Shortly after that, at a board meeting, he didn’t get his way on something so he wrote his resignation on paper and went home. He figured they would call him back and he would have his way. Not so, they didn’t. I got a phone call at 2:30 in the morning and they wanted me to take over the Union Presidency. I didn’t want to but they persisted and I finally gave in and said ok. There would be a special election in two months and figured I couldn’t do too much damage in that short time. When the election came they wanted me to run again. I said alright and ended up with no opposition. Surprisingly, I got an idea. The man I replaced had always been a thorn in the side of the union. I picked him out to be on the executive board and he accepted. Sometimes I asked his opinion and this pleased him. Now he couldn’t complain and I ran the show.
When I was secretary, the vice-president and I served on the job evaluation committee. The company had always wanted this and I did too. The two of us would meet with the treasurer and cost accountant. I had known the treasurer before and felt he was an honest man, which he was. I was not so sure about the other one, but he had little to say. Each job was rated on a point scale which determined how much the rate paid. Skilled jobs got more pay, also lesser jobs got points for dust, dirt, heat, and noise. Most of the 250 different jobs got a raise in pay. Tire building was the highest skilled of jobs. The bead wrappers (women) were making as much money as the tire builders, so they got a cut in wages. Boy, did I make enemies! The women were furious. I had appointed the machine shop steward to the executive board. He was a real nice guy and we got along just fine, but his wife was a bead wrapper and she never forgave me.
Aerial View of Cooper Tire - 1950s
We had never had a change in our contract with the company, so the first thing I did was to ask for a new contract. The company agreed and we both gained by it. Funny thing. I led the negotiations and wrapped it up. Before we signed it, my time was up and my chief steward, whom I supported to take my place, signed it first. It was my baby, but I had become his chief steward so I signed it second. He never had anything to do with it. The union had been established for six years. I was the only president to change the contract and it was a good one. As chief steward, I often got calls in the middle of the night and sometimes I had to go to the plant to settle things. My wife got fed up with this and wanted me to quit. I had thirteen years of seniority and as a union officer had top seniority in the plant. I finally gave in and quit. A year later during a lay-off I went back to the Cooper Tire Company once at 2:00 A.M. The president of the company walked by and I told him it was my last night as I was called back to Toledo. He tried to talk me out of it. I said “but I lost my seniority.” He said “yes, but you have longevity.” I was going to say ok, but I thought my wife would be mad, so I said no.