Interview with Tom Girdler, Jr.
Interview with Tom Girdler, Jr.
Interview Date: December 22, 1992

Camera Rolls: 315:74-78
Sound Rolls: 315:41-43
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Tom Girdler, Jr. , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 22, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

*
INTERVIEW
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[camera roll 315:74] [sound roll 315:41] [slate marker visible on screen]
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QUESTION 1
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

That looks better now, with the blank thing in front of the—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

We're ready.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. About Aliquippa?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

I moved to Aliquippa in 1914. My father came from Atlanta, Georgia, up to Aliquippa, as the assistant super-intendent of the J and L plant at that time. Aliquippa was known as Woodlawn, it was the company town of J and L, it was built on about, I think, six hills, with the main street running down the valley between the hills. The superintendents, of which father was one, lived on the third hill, or plan six, as they called it, which was the Knob Hill of Aliquippa, at that particular time. The main street had a streetcar running down the middle of it, and the main stores were all on the front, Franklin Avenue, was the call of it [sic]. The main store was the PM Company, which is the company store. There was a drugstore on the corner called Hannah's Drugstore where everybody used to meet for ice cream sodas. The main grocery store in town was run by an Italian called Bontempo. There was a movie theater, Harvey's Movie Theater, as I remember. Further down the street were the houses, and the churches were located in that part of it. Aliquippa, as I remember, was a town of about twenty thousand at the time, and the main industry in town, of course, was J and L. In fact, it was a company town. J and L built the town, laid the town out, and
** the mill supervision, management of the mill, were responsible to see that everything in Aliquippa was conducted in a good, solid fashion, for the benefit of the citizens of the town.
** Aliquippa was a wonderful place to grow up. There were lots of woods around the hill. Back of my, our home was a farm where a fellow had an apple orchard, which it used to be great fun to steal, climb the fence and steal the apples. In short, Aliquippa was my idea of a wonderful place for a family to live in the early stages of their life.

INTERVIEWER #2:

Excuse me, we need to stop for just a second.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Cut.

[cut][slate]
INTERVIEWER:

As soon as we get the signal.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

And, got the signal.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

The town was laid out in what they called 'plans'. Plan one, two six, the plans were all on hills, except for, I guess it was the west end of town, which was on the, bordered on Franklin Ave. The supervisors of the different mills, foremen and on up, lived in plan one, two, and three. Most of the laborers lived on the hills down to the west end of the town. Plan eleven was the plan where most of the, shall we say, lower income people, lived, but they were all supervised and policed in a good fashion, and there was little if any crime in the early days of Aliquippa. I can't emphasize too much the fact that it was a good place to live for kids. The school system was good, there were two or three grade schools and one high school in the early days. After I left, they built a new high school on the top of the hill, and I think that was where Tony Dorsett went to high school. Aliquippa had a baseball field and a swimming pool that was furnished by the mill, where I learned how to swim, and all in all I'd say Aliquippa was a great place. I haven't been back in, oh, maybe thirty years, so I can't tell you much about it now, but that's the way it was at that time.

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QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

Now, in the article you gave me last night, your father described Aliquippa as "a benevolent dictatorship." Can you tell me what he meant by that?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, I think he meant by the fact—

INTERVIEWER:

I'm sorry, can you say "my father"? When he said—

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

He meant, my father said, was the superintendent of the mill, and the superintendent of the mill was responsible to see that the conditions were right for the employees of the mill to live. They saw to it that there was police protection, saw supervision, the facilities were taken care of. The water company and the sewer company were all under the supervision, indirectly, of J and L. There were no outside influences allowed to creep in. I say allowed, I don't know if that that's the proper word, but no outside influences crept in that were to the detriment of the people and conditions of the town at that particular time.

INTERVIEWER:

Now, what kind of influences would have been detrimental to the community?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, you could have had a lot of crime. You could have had [coughs], you could have people who allowed their property to disintegrate, and fall apart. That didn't happen. I hope that answers your question.

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QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

Now, your father, as we talked about yesterday, was extraordinarily successful and well-respected as an executive. Can you tell me about his philosophy of business, and his management style?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

My father was the best business executive I ever met, and the best business executive in the United States at the time. He had, main theory was he would hire good people, give the people a good job to do and let them do it, not interfere. If they did it, they progressed and got along, if they didn't do it, they were replaced. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it, either you did your job—and there was no beating on the head or anything, you would just, the performance told the story, and it was his belief that if a man was successful, let him do his own job, but pick the right fellow for the job. He also, I believe it's truthful to say that father felt that, promotion from within was more desirable than going outside and hiring a lot of outside people. While I'm not saying that J and L didn't hire outside people, but, I know they did, but whenever possible, father always believed that it was better for the morale of the organization to promote within, if you had qualified people to do so. He was a fair man, father was smart, intelligent, innovative, big word. He was knowledgeable about the steel business. Father went to Ley University[?], had an engineering degree, he had experience before he came to J and L. I would say, all in all, he was, father, as I remember him, was successfully [sic] in every job he ever took out. I think that's about all I can say on that.

INTERVIEWER:

And how did workers feel about him?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Most of the workers that knew him, loved him. I can't say that was universal, because there were people that didn't perform up to standard and were removed. I remember a story, one time, I'll tell you about. Father, in later years, was the director at the Aviation Corporation—

INTERVIEWER:

You know what, I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to interrupt. Are you going outside of the '30s? Are you going outside of the '30s?

INTERVIEWER:

No, well, it was in '39. Well, forget that.

INTERVIEWER:

I'm sorry.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Forget that.

INTERVIEWER:

Any stories in the '30s that illustrate what kind of boss he was?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

No, I can't tell you anything particularly about that.

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QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me about Captain Mock, who he was, and what his job was?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Captain Mock, when I met as a boy of about five or six years old, was head of plant protection at the Aliquippa plant. He was a tall fellow, about, I would say six feet one, straight, ramrod straight, with steely blue eyes, and he was one of the finest men I ever met in my life. He was fair, he was courageous. He was also one of the best rifle and pistol shots I've ever seen in my life. Captain Mock taught me how to shoot a shotgun, and we'd go down on the slag dump at the plant, he'd throw clay, he'd have another fella throw clay pigeons in the air and I'd shoot at them with a shotgun, and he'd miss, and I'd miss them. He'd break them with a .22 rifle. He was an ex-Pennsylvania state trooper, and one of the early ones, and one of the good ones. He was hired from the Pennsylvania state police by J and L. He later went to Pittsburgh after I left Aliquippa, to be in charge—

[camera cuts, audio continues]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

—of all plant protection for all of J and L's plants and mines.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, we're out film. That, every eleven minutes we have to change film rolls.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

OK.

[cut][slate][change to camera roll 315:75] [sound roll 315:41]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

 [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] 

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Captain Mock was in charge of all the plant protection of the J and L plants, eventually. He was in charge of Aliquippa when I knew him. He was responsible for the safety of the plants, for the security of the plants. He was also, I think, something of a benevolent godfather to the police force in Aliquippa, although I'm not sure of this. I think he, I think one of his ex-patrolmen became chief of police of Aliquippa, that I'm not exactly sure about. Fella I'm talking about was Mike Cain, who used to ride around on a motorcycle all the time with a sidecar on it. Mock was one of the most fearless, well-controlled people I've ever seen. There was a time, in the '30s, when a fellow went berserk in the payroll department and started shooting at the people in there, and he came out the side door of the main office with a revolver in his hand, and Mock was in the police office, which was about fifty to seventy-five feet away. He grabbed a gun and ran outside, and the fellow was standing there with this .45 revolver in his hand. I said, what did you do? He said, I let him shoot at me once so they wouldn't say I killed him in cold blood. He shot at me and missed, and I shot him three times and didn't miss, but he said, the first time, when he didn't go down, I thought to myself, I must be getting old, I can't shoot. He said, I found out the bullet hit a rib and slid right around his heart. I said, Where did the other two go? About and eighth of an inch away, but they missed the rib. And the fellow was carried away in an ambulance. But it just goes to show the courage of the man.

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QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

Now, you told me he was paid to oppose the Union, can you tell me what that meant?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

He, he did what?

INTERVIEWER:

You told me yesterday he was paid to oppose the Union.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, that was part of his job.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me what that meant?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, it meant that, no union organizers or things were allowed to go on on J and L property, and he saw to it that they didn't. he wasn't under-handed about anything, if someone came down, it was his job to know where the union organizers were. J and L was opposed, as was all the steel industry, was opposed to the union formation of their employees. They thought things were going along pretty well, and they were. So Harry Mock was, well, I would say, it was his job to see that the status quo remained, if possible, without being rough or unruly or out of the bounds in the way he did it, and I think he did it with dignity, that I ever knew of, anyhow.

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QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

Now, can you tell me how your father felt about unions?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

My father was not in favor of unions. Definitely. He felt that it was better for people to take care of their own life, than to have somebody else try to take care of it for them. Unfortunately, there people in the industry, in different industries, that took advantage of their employees, which was not true of J and L, or most of the big companies that I knew of. As a result of it, father recognized there was some need for union, but there was no need for adversarial opposition of unions to management all the time, which created a division between the workers and the people they worked for. He was strictly opposed to that. He felt that the management of J and L and Republic Steel at that times [sic] he was with them, was interested in and very much concerned about the ultimate welfare of their employees, and if they were treated fairly, they would do their job. Unfortunately, the unions came along, the unions which did come along created an atmosphere of animosity, or negative approach, and there was an adversarial that existed and still exists to this day, although I think that conditions [coughs] in the last seven years have lessened that some. I think that probably the better grade of people in command of the unions over the years, of development, education, learning, and experience, has proven to most of them, or a lot of them, at least, that it's better to get along than it is to fight all the time, and there was a lot of that, very much... the early days of the steel workers, United Steel Workers, there were a bunch of radical elements in certain portions of the steel-working business. Whether there was, father always thought that, that most of the, that radical element was Communist-backed, or Communist-inspired, anyhow. I'm not so sure that was right, but there were definitely radical elements, and most of the radical elements were - oh, it may be unfair to say so, but most of the radical elements were uneducated, or of a lower grade of education, and had their own interests at heart more than the interests of the other employees, although they claimed they didn't. Father was against unionization, and felt that things were getting along the way they had been, and I think, in general, he was right. But that's about all I can say about that.

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QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

That was great. Can you tell me, when he formed Republic Steel, what were the conditions, what was it like there?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

The conditions at the time of the formation of Republic Steel, which was in 1928, 1929, were at the end of the boom years. And during the boom, Cyrus Eaton of Cleveland had bought a bunch of steel companies that he was going to put together an industrial empire in the Middle West, but Cyrus Eaton got into a proxy fight on control of one of the companies, and while they won the fight, he lost control of the companies he bought, and by the time Republic was formed, which was April 8, 1930, Cyrus Eaton was out of the picture. Father was, had been hired to, by Cyrus Eaton, to form, put together the merger of all these small, or smaller, steel companies, and at the time of the merger he was in sole charge of the thing at that particular time. There was a fellow by the name of E.T. McLarry, who was President of Republic Iron and Steel Company, who was appointed president of the country, and father was chairman of the board. And McLarry lived for about a week, and died, and business conditions were getting so bad at that particular time, they never replaced him as a president. They made father chairman of the board and president of the company, and he was the one that bore all the command decisions during the early and the middle '30s. That pretty well explains it.

INTERVIEWER:

And yesterday you were telling me that business was really, um, poor, during those early years?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Business wasn't poor, gal, business was terrible. They went from nothing, to a case of extreme poverty. They had trouble meeting payrolls, they had trouble keeping the plants going. They had trouble meeting their financial responsibilities, but by hard work and the friendship of some knowledgeable people, and the fact that the Republic management that was put together was an excellent management, they survived the early '30s. Although, I think they would have had tough going, if the War hadn't come along.

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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me the story you told me yesterday, about calling in the salesmen?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, at one time, they had lost their line of credit in New York City, due to the jealousy of some previous assocaites, which we won't mention. They were having trouble generating enough money to beat [sic] the next bi-weekly payroll, so they called all their salesmen in from the road and sent them out to collect bills, collect past-due accounts or current accounts to get enough money in to pay for the next payroll, which they made successfully. After that, they established a line of credit with a New York bank, due to friendships that father and a fellow named Myron Wick, who was our financial vice-president, had generated over the years on Wall Street, and they survived. But it was close.

INTERVIEWER:

We're out.

[cut][slate]
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QUESTION 9
[change to camera roll 315:76] [sound roll 315:42]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

[coughs]

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

And, we're set.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so what did your father think about strikes?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, my father and I think about the same thing about strikes, most strikes are useless. I've never seen a strike that wasn't named by the unions as being caused by the company, and I've never yet seen a strike that was actually caused by the company. It's very rare that the company would close down or lockout, or something like that. The union always said, We were driven to it, but I never saw the chauffeur. I believe that most strikes are useless, nobody wins, most of the settlements of strikes take place these days, are settled on the basis of one of the last offers or the very close to the last offer of the steel companies, or the company involved. And whereas the union says that they win most of the strikes, the lost wages, the lost time, the lost productivity, is more than enough to counteract what gain has taken place, most of the time. So, I think a strike is practically a no-win situation, and I don't believe it's a necessary evil, although I think the unions would have trouble justifying their existence if they didn't say they won all the strikes that go on. I think my father felt pretty much the same way about it, and I don't think he would approve, well, he didn't approve of the '37 strikes. He fought them as hard as he can [sic], and as far as 'little steel' was concerned, they outlasted the union and temporarily won a victory which prevented them from signing up the union for several years, which took place right before the War on a patriotic gesture, as a—

INTERVIEWER:

How did your father fight them as hard as he could?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, he kept the plants running, kept the plants open and in condition, and he started them up, he got them back to work. I don't say he got it, but there was a back to work movement started and the plant started, and when enough people came back to work to gain some wages, the strike was over, and the union capitulated temporarily.

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QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

What can you tell me about that strike? What do you know about it, what do you remember your father saying about the strike of '37?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

I can't tell you too much, because I was in the Middle West, at that time, in the oil business. There were lots of confrontations at the gates, there were a lot of people locked in plants that couldn't get out on account of union pickets, there were a lot of illegal things that went on like stopping the mail, or stopping the delivery of food. In one of Republic's plants they flew food in with airplanes, and the airplanes were shot at by people at [sic] the ground. None of them were hit enough to seriously cause a crash, or something, but there were definitely holes in some of them that were shot at. All of those things were, angered a lot of people, and eventually a back to work movement started, and the strike was over.

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QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

Now, your father, in Bootstraps, said that it was more like an 'invasion' than a strike. What did he mean?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, if you were in a house, and somebody came along and stood at the front door with a gun and said, You can't get out, you'd say that somebody was invading your privacy, invading your rights. In effect, that's what the unions did. They blockaded the entrance to the plants, so that the people that were in there, that stayed in there, couldn't get out, couldn't get food, couldn't get mail, couldn't get home to see their families.
** It was definitely illegal...it was definitely wrong, I don't know whether under the Wagner Act, as such, it was illegal or not, I think it was, but that's just on my opinion. Fortunately, I was in Oklahoma at the time, and I was not subjected to any of that. I came to work for Republic after the strikes were over, after they had signed a contract with the Union.

INTERVIEWER:

And what, what did—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Can we cut for just one second? Susan—

[cut][slate]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, you're on.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

In the 1937 strike, the union in Chicago, historically, and til the days when I left, up until the days when I left, to retire, was one of the more radical unions in the CIO, or the United Steelworkers. I'm not an authority on all of the CIO, but on the United Steelworkers, I think I am. The radical elements created picket lines out there, and brought people that were not connected to the plant in on the picket line,
** and caused a lot of hubbub going along, and there was a riot at the plant. Some plant guards fired some shots, and I think, I'm not sure what the outcome was anymore, it's been so long, but I think people were killed, if I'm not mistaken, isn't that right?

INTERVIEWER:

Mm-hm.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

The one fellow that was out there at the time,
** and I don't remember his name exactly, told me that he was in the line as an observer.
** He worked for a newspaper, and I can't tell you his name, I don't remember, and I don't remember what newspaper he worked for. But he said there was a picket he talked to that was carrying a sign that said "Kill Tom Girdler." He said, I asked him, Who's Tom Girdler? He said, I don't know, I just was handed this sign.
** Those kinds of things went on, precipitated the trouble. It was unfortunate, unnecessary, and got completely out of hand, but to say that the company caused it is an entire fabrication, and I don't know who should shoulder the blame,
** and that's about all I know about it.

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QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Can you tell me what your father thought about FDR and the New Deal?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

 [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , just let this plane pass.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, we're gonna let this plane pass. OK.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

And, now's OK.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me about, how—

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

What my father thought of Franklin Roosevelt? I don't think it would be polite if I used the exact words. Father thought Franklin Roosevelt was a disaster to the United States,
** to which I fully agree. He started, he was elected on a platform of doing certain things, and he did just the opposite. He was a publicity hound, he enjoyed the spotlight, and some of the things that he thought were good for the company, or he said he thought were good for the company, were, in my opinion, very disastrous. For instance, it was during the Roosevelt years that
** I think the adversarial relationship between the unions and the companies was promoted to the greatest extent by the unions, and backed by the government.
** The Roosevelt administration did everything they could to further the interests of the working people. By the working people I mean the union people, because there was more votes there than there were any other place else, and I think it was primarily for that reason.
** You can say I'm prejudiced, and I guess I am. I think the Roosevelt years started the tenor of the working man in this country down-hill, to where, before, they used to work to earn a living to support their family and improve their lot in life, that changed to where everybody thinks that the world owes them a living, and somehow they're gonna get it even if they work for it or not. To a certain extent that's still true today, but it was much truer at that particular time than it is now. The hearings that took place at that time in the government on the strikes, were all set up by government to the advantage of the unions. The LaFollette hearings were probably the most unfair, uncalled for judicial inquiries that were ever perpetrated on the people of the country. You can see I have rather positive opinions of this, but I firmly believe that if we had not had about half of the things of the New Deal, the New Deal proposed, the country would have been better off in the years that followed. Roosevelt had his good points. His actions during the World War crisis were commendable. He was a good leader during the war years, but as far as his relationships with the, the labor union as opposed to the management of the industry of this country, he was—

[camera cuts, audio continues]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

—a disaster. Let's stop it at that.

INTERVIEWER:

Are we out?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Yeah.

[cut]
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QUESTION 13
[slate][change to camera roll 315:76] [sound roll 315:42]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

[coughs]

INTERVIEWER:

You're great, you go right on cue. It's great.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Any time.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

You asked about father's opinion of the LaFollette hearings and similar hearings, I guess there were others, I'm not sure. Father told me that, in his opinion, the LaFollette Committee was the most unfair committee he ever appeared before in Washington. The hearings were slanted in favor of the union, and all the questioning by the government questioners were [sic] slanted in favor of the union, and that if the company tried to get anything in to their advantage, it was squelched, or thrown out, and that it was always conducted in such a way that, if the Union had a big point to make or a big topic to present, it was always presented at the end of the hearing, in such a way that they could rush to the evening news deadline and get it published in time for the papers that night. There wasn't much television in those days. His opinion of LaFollette was not high, let's put it that way.

INTERVIEWER:

Now, do you have any thoughts on why the committee was so one-sided?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Sure. It was the tenor of the whole Roosevelt Administration...the people involved in the administration and the people involved in the hearings were out, all out looking for votes, and they were looking to support Roosevelt, and Roosevelt was doing everything he can [sic] to favor them. It was uncalled for, but it happened. That's one of the reasons I'm not a Roosevelt fan.

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QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

Do you remember how your father reacted when the National Labor Relations Act was passed?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

No, I wasn't around.

INTERVIEWER:

Do you know what he thought about it?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

He thought about it as little as possible. I can't answer that, honestly, that's something that we never discussed. The National Labor Relations Act was one-sided, as was all, almost all of the labor... most of which, in my opinion, was unneccessary. They were trying to cure the ills of a few misguided people who were abusing their employees by putting an onus on all employers, and that's about what turned out to be the case. I, I'm skating on thin memory here, because I really don't know too much about it anymore, I hadn't thought of it in twenty years.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, say, generally, among people like your father, do you know what the reaction was when the Supreme Court upheld the NLRA?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, I'm sure I know what it was, but I don't know that I have any reason, any concrete reason to have it expressed it to me. I'm sure it was one of utter disgust and dismay, but, how they expressed it or what they said about it, I don't know. I never found out that the National Labor Relations Board was any more unbiased than the LaFollette Committee, or the rest of them, and I dealt with them indirectly or had dealings with them over the results of some of their rulings several times in the course of my career in this business. It was always the same.

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QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

Now, how about when U.S. Steel gave in, can you tell me how your father responded to that?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, my father, and all the heads of the small steel companies, little steel, Bethlehem, Weirton, were all utterly disgusted and dismayed that Myron Taylor would sign a contract with the CIO,
** United Steel Workers, when they all were, most of the people in U.S. Steel, as we understand it now or at that time, were opposed to the signing of the contract, but Myron Taylor thought he'd make himself a big name by signing the contract. He took it upon himself to do that, as I remember. It was not popular.

INTERVIEWER:

And what did your father think should happen?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, Little Steel decided to oppose it. They knew they were facing a strike if they opposed it, they figured they could win the strike, which they did, but that didn't help very much. The government was on the side of the unions, specifically and thoroughly, and it didn't last.

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QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

And the sit-downs that happened at the beginning of 1937, what effect do you think that had on organizing?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, to my knowledge, there was no sit-down strike in the steel business...

INTERVIEWER:

It was in other—

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

In the automotive business. Well, it was just the tenor of the times. You got, the radical heads of the unions decided that was one way to beat the employers into submission, and if they had the support of the government and the local authorities, why, they could do it. Nobody looked very kindly at it, but it was something that happened, that was all. Ford Motor Company was the first one that it happened, you probably know about that. But Ford Motor Company had a lot of trouble. We've supplied Ford Motor Company, father was a friend of Henry Ford's. They talked about it, but I don't know what they talked about, and if I did, I wouldn't say.

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QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

Sort of a general question, how do you think the Great Depression changed this country?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

[coughs] That's a hard question to answer. The upshot of the results of the Great Depression, brought unionization into being, which I don't think was a very good thing. I'm probably in the minority there. But, I think that a lot of the social legislation that came out of it was good. Some of it was bad. The worst thing that happened, in my opinion, was the fact that the Great Depression, due to union pressures, and everything, very much accentuated the adversarial relationships between industry and labor. It killed the incentive to excel. The immigrants that came over to this country came over to work, and they did a great job. They found some great industries and some great fortunes, and some great companies were built up. You don't see that anymore. There are very few, in my opinion, titans, in American industry as there was in the early '30s and '20s, and I think a lot of the reason for that is due to the labor atmosphere that was created by the Depression. The Great Depression was not a desirable thing by any manner of means, I mean, I don't mean to say I was in favor of what caused all this problem. I mean, I think the need for corrective action in some of the labor relation practices between company and unions, or employees, I don't say unions, I think there was need for that, I think some good came out of it. I think, I think I spent thirty years dealing with the unions, and during that time I was successful all the time to get along with them. But it was harder than the devil at times on account of the so-called radical element that still exists in certain portions of the Union. I can't go on beyond that.

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QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

So what did your father think of John Lewis?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

He thought he was a louse.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you say, "My father thought John Lewis"?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

My father made the famous statement that before he'd sign a contract with John L. Lewis, he'd go back to raising apples on the farm, and he lived up to his word, he never signed the contract. He had somebody else sign it. John L. Lewis, in my opinion, was a louse, and in his opinion, the same thing.

[camera cuts, audio continues]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Philip Murray wasn't much better.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

[unintelligible]

INTERVIEWER:

Oh, so rude of you,  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] 

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

 [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  there wasn't much—

[cut][slate][change to camera roll 315:78] [sound roll 315:43]
INTERVIEWER:

OK.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

All right. Father's opinion of John L. Lewis was not the highest. In fact, he thought he was a louse.
** I'd stress that a little bit, put it in stronger terms, if possible. Father said that, before he would sign a contract with John L. Lewis, he'd go back to raising apples in Indiana.
** He lived up to his word, he never signed the contract, he had the Industrial Relations men sign it for him when they finally signed up in 19—the late '30s, early '40s. Philip Murray,
** who was the Steelworkers head under John L. Lewis, was just as bad.
** They were, I don't think father's definition of them as being Communist-influenced is probably a hundred percent correct, but they were certainly radical in their approach, and they were ruthless in their methods of obtaining, laws meant nothing to them. They would shut down a plant and barricade it, cut off all facilities to it they could, all at the drop of a hat. Those things were all un-American, in my opinion, but at the same time, they happened. So I, I don't look with much favor on the early leaders of the Steelworkers. I think today they have more, as I know it, they have more enlightened management, they're not as militant, they're facing the realities of the day better. Where today, you can't force something on people that make you non-competitive with the world, which is part of our problem. Things that were forced on us, contracts made us non-competitive with the Japanese and have caused a lot of our troubles. Those are just thoughts I have.

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QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

Now, in terms of the Wagner Act, going back to that for a minute, it did not include farm-workers, specifically. Do you know why that happened?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

No, I have no idea.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you say anything about agricultural workers and the Wagner Act, or what, what the rural sector was up against that was different from what was happening in cities?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

I don't have any comments on that, I'm afraid.

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QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Do you think, not necessarily in the steel industy, but do you think that there were violations of civil liberties, workers' civil liberties in certain places?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

I'm sure there were, in certain instances. I think a lot of the cause of the labor movement was due to the fact that there were people who abused their employee [sic]. There was definitely some of that, but not to the extent that it was publicized, pushed, or empha—stressed by the union. I think that more good was done for the employees than bad, although there was definitely reasons for improvement. I think that the healthcare provisions that have come out of all this, even though it's breaking the country today, were a step forward and in the right direction. I'm not so sure that some of the retirement functions are as good as they were. The world changes, and I don't know that I've changed as much as I might, so I don't know if my word is as good as it might be.

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QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

Now, do you know, did your father fear a CIO takeover?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, I don't know what you mean by that...

INTERVIEWER:

Was he, I mean, he, I mean, he still had this very adversarial relationship between the company and the union. Was he, was he worried that the union was going to crush the management, or the business?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

No, I don't think so. I don't think that ever occurred to him, but I believe father felt that the cost of some of the things that were taking place as a result of the union contract was such as to seriously hamper the ability of industry to survive as it had survived. The productivity of the average worker went down, considerably, which made it harder to compete, and a lot of our problems in the world since that time have been generated by that lack of ability to work for a living. I know that, employees I had working for me in the '40s and '50s always felt that they were guaranteed a job. We had, not all of them, but that was the tenor of the Union approach, and I don't know, it dismays me to think of it that way.

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QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

Now, back in Aliquippa, I know that J and L didn't, you were telling me that J and L didn't want the Union to form, and some of what I've read is that, J and L prevented workers from meeting. Do you know how that happened?

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

No. I have no comments on that.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

I don't know.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. Can we cut for a minute?

[cut][slate]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

[coughs] Now where are we?

INTERVIEWER:

You were saying, can you start with, J and L may have prevented people from meeting?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

EP, take seven.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Meeting on company property, but I don't know that they ever did anything to prevent a meeting on property that wasn't company property. I don't know that that ever happened. I'm sure that, if it did happen, there was [sic] meetings on company property, that J and L probably had somebody listening at the meeting. I know that during several strikes in the '40s that I was involved in, Wildcat strikes, they'd have meetings and we'd have somebody there to inform us what was what, but we never did anything vicious or uncalled-for or out of order to circumvent the meeting, we were always in favor of the people getting together and discussing their problems, and deciding what they wanted to do about them. There always was a hope that some cooler head would appear and talk a little sense into some of the people, but that very rarely happened.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, let me ask you this, you say they would not let them necessarily meet on J and L property, but J and L also, from what you told me, owned a lot of the town, so would that—

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

They, I'm talking about the mill property, I'm not talking about the town itself. J and L may have owned a house or two, which they did, they owned a lot of houses, but I don't think they ever prevented anybody from meeting in those houses. I'm talking about mill property.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. Can we cut for a minute?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Yeah.

[cut]
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QUESTION 23
[slate]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

You ask about father, about what kind of an executive he was. As I said before, I think he was the best business executive I ever met. One of the reasons I say that is, there are few men in this world who have ever had the job of taking a bunch of illogically-mated companies and putting them together in the midst of a depression, and then bringing them through successfully, to the third-largest steel company in the world, which he was successful to do. He did it by perseverance, by smart management, and by, as much as anything else, picking good people to work with him. He was horrified to think that the government felt they could run things better than industry, the industry itself, and I believe he was justified in his belief. He worked hard. He was a hard-working man. He had very little time for his four children during the 1930s. Because of the demands of business he was constantly on the go, but to bring Republic through to a successful company, which it was when he was there, through the times and through the conditions they were in, was a major accomplishment, and I've had people tell me, that they doubt that many people could have done that job as well as he did it. So I think I'm justified in being very proud of my father, very grateful for what he did for the country.

[camera cuts, audio continues]
TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

During the War, he—are you done?

INTERVIEWER:

OK. That was wonderful.

TOM GIRDLER, JR.:

Well, that's all, I—

INTERVIEWER:

Yes, thank you so—

[audio cuts]
[end of interview]