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Iowa Time Machine: Maytag Strike - May 9, 1938

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On May 9, 1938, union workers at the Maytag Washing Machine plant in Newton went on strike in protest of a posted 10% pay cut as the Great Depression raged across America. The strike lasted throughout the summer of 1938 as escalating violence eventually led Governor Nathan G. Kraschel to call out the National Guard.

During early May, Maytag posted a notice informing employees of the impending pay cut before workers organized a sit-down strike. A relatively new strike strategy, the workers planned to occupy the facility in order to prevent the company from bringing in strike-breakers. In response, the police arrested several union leaders and charged them with the kidnapping of several employees kept in the facility who didn’t want to partake in the strike. 

As the weeks unfolded and Maytag continued to operate on a limited basis, the area around the factory grew tense as striking workers often clashed with people continuing to work in the plant. By July 21, Governor Kraschel sent out the National Guard. With bayonets fixed the troops took to the streets in armored trucks. A night of intense fighting resulted in at least 34 injuries. 

The next two weeks saw a crack-down as the National Guard protected the plant. Events throughout Newton ranging from recreational softball games to club meetings were outlawed as officials sought to get control of the situation. Finally, on August 3 the strike ended when workers accepted the pay cut with a stipulation tied to a return to previous levels should profits recover within two years. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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