Here came the scabs. The carloads of workers, at the exit of one of Republic Steel’s Cleveland mills, were likely laborers brought in to break the union, the Congress of Industrial Organizations. During the bloody and tumultuous Little Steel Strike of 1937, Ohio Governor Martin Davey, pressed by Republic, had no choice but to call in the National Guard in July 1937 to protect them.
The CIO was striking for better working conditions and wages from the Little Steel companies — Republic Steel, Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. and Inland Steel — all headquartered in Northeast Ohio. The CIO’s sit-down strike techniques had proved initially effective. But as the strike wore on for months, they deteriorated into violent clashes, with Little Steel employing strikebreakers and police to intimidate workers. A month earlier, a protest in Youngstown had turned into what became known as the Women’s Day Massacre. Police fired live ammunition into the crowd. A striker died after being shot in the neck.
In Cleveland, the National Guard was called in to protect carloads of scabs who crossed union lines. The National Guard withdrew by July 16, but fights broke out 10 days later at Republic’s Corrigan-McKinney plant in the Flats, with strikers regularly throwing stones at cars. Republic assembled a 100-man group of paramilitaries, who surged out of the mill and beat down strikers with clubs made in the mill’s machine shop. Eighty strikers and bystanders were treated for injuries. Nearly a dozen union supporters were arrested. After the melee, city safety director Elliot Ness imposed a ban on mass protests, ending the strikes.