Under Fire, Under Siege: Strikebreakers in Kent, Ohio
In June 1936, two truckloads of Cleveland strikebreakers crashed through a peaceful picket line in Kent, Ohio. They fired sawed-off shotguns and tear gas in an attempt to intimidate the workers and break a six-week-old strike at the Black & Decker Co. The strikebreakers not only failed to end the strike but had the tables reversed on them as more than 100 strikers and sympathizers firing high-powered rifles at them for six hours. The strike, attack and siege are the subject of UNDER FIRE, UNDER SIEGE, written and produced by journalist and filmmaker Fred Endres.
Organized labor in the mid-1930s was slowly gaining a foothold in American industry, helped along by programs created by the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. However, there still were hundreds of violent clashes in the country between union workers and management police, thugs and strikebreakers.
In Kent, most of its small industries were unionized by 1936 and the local unions supported each other. Consequently, when 49 strikebreakers crashed through the machinists’ Local 1203 picket line at 6:30 AM on June 18, 1936, union members from other area companies hurried to support them. UNDER FIRE, UNDER SIEGE tells the full story of the event.
Writer/producer Endres is a professor emeritus in the School of Media & Journalism at Kent State University. Narration was done by John Butte, veteran broadcast journalist and educator. Students from Kent State University recorded some voiceovers.
Premiered on PBS Western Reserve in 2021.