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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GIRDLER, TOM MERCER - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GIRDLER, TOM MERCER (19 May 1877 - 4 Feb. 1965), steel industrialist and labor and New Deal critic, was born in Silver Creek Twp., Clark County, Ind., to Lewis and Elizabeth Mercer Girdler. graduating from Lehigh University (1901) in mechanical engineering. Girdler worked for Buffalo Forge (1901-02), Oliver Iron & Steel (1902-05), Colorado Fuel (1905-07), Atlantic Steel (1908-14), and Jones & Laughlin Steel (1914-29) before accepting an offer from CYRUS S. EATON† and Wm. G. Mather to assist negotiations leading to the formation of the REPUBLIC STEEL CORP. in Cleveland in 1929, then become the company's first president and board chairman. Republic became a major producer of light alloys, with profits exceeding $87 million between 1936-43. Girdler first supported Pres. Roosevelt's Natl. Industrial Recovery Act, establishing a representation plan for Republic's employees, but when the Wagner Act outlawed such plans and promoted negotiations with regular unions, Girdler lost all affinity for the New Deal. He refused to bargain with the CIO; though conceding the need for collective bargaining, Girdler refused to do so by government edict. Republic's refusal to bargain and allow union elections resulted in the LITTLE STEEL STRIKE in May 1937. In 1942, under order of the War Labor Board, elections were held and the CIO organized Republic. Girdler resigned from Republic's presidency in 1937 but continued as board chairman, later becoming board chairman and chief executive officer of Vultee and Consolidated, engineering their merger in 1943. He retired from Republic in 1956. Girdler was married four times: first to Bessie (Mary Elizabeth) Hayes (d. 1917) in 1903; Clara Astley; Lillian Snowden in 1924; and Helen Brennan in 1942. Girdler had two sons: Tom M., Jr. and Joseph; and two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Jane. He died at his estate in Easton, Md.

Girdler, Tom M. Boot Straps (1943).

Last Modified: 16 Jul 1997 01:51:45 PM

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