"The Chrysler-CIO Strike"; "Priest Answers Father Coughlin"; "Father Coughlin's Errors"


Father Charles E. Coughlin

Courtesy of the University of Detroit-Mercy Archives





Chrysler management picked Dodge Main in Detroit as the battlefield on which to fight the United Auto Workers of America (UAW) about who could determine how quickly automobiles were produced. It chose wisely: not only was UAW engaged in a severe factional struggle, but the plant was still divided, less so than previously, between opponents and supporters of Father Charles Coughlin. Into this unsettled situation at Dodge Main, Chrysler, in Steve Jeffery's words, "introduced a major speed-up." The company fired the workers who refused to cooperate: the UAW followed with a Chrysler-wide strike vote, which was favored by 90 percent of the membership. 



The Chrysler-CIO Industrial Strike

The walkout began on Oct. 18, 1939, and ended more than a month later. Coughlin, who vociferously attacked the strike in a radio address on November 12, urged the Dodge Main workers to return to work. Three days later, Father Raymond S. Clancy, secretary of the Archdiocesan Labor Institute, responded in a radio talk. A day after that, the Michigan Catholic, the Archdiocese of Detroit's newspaper, replied in a front-page editorial. The American Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU), which had never supported Coughlin, stepped up its attacks. A back-to-work movement, which hoped to capitalize on racism and conservative Catholic workers, failed miserably.


As you read these documents, reflect on the following questions:

1. Upon what authorities does Coughlin call upon in his opposition to the strike? Clancy and the Michigan Catholic?

2. What is at stake in this debate?


Michigan Catholic on Father Coughlin