876.062/1–1350: Telegram

The Ambassador in Liberia ( Dudley ) to the Secretary of State


8. Deptel 5, January 10.1 In discussion Firestone strike with Tubman his position as follows:

Settlement depends upon: (1) Whether present standard living worker is adequate; (2) ability to meet wage increases; (3) over all impact on economy of country. These are questions Commission was to look into. Its final report will be submitted shortly.

Tubman promised give Wilson hearing early next week indicating that if they arrive at any reasonable position he will personally go to Firestone in effort obtain full cooperation employees.

[Page 1708]

Tubman stated he agrees private companies should retain business secrets but does not consider profits or employee wage scales business secrets. States this is what Communism desires.

Embassy believes Tubman purposely permitting strike drag along without his intervention in order soften Firestone at negotiation table. Tubman believes Firestone has missed boat in labor relations over period of years. Feels strike may give him chance become stronger politically if he can obtain and announce any positive concessions from Firestone. Situation now depends upon degree to which Wilson willing meet demands. Tubman not at all unreasonable personally and can be won over with logic and fairness.

Embassy does not regard Tubman’s letter to Wilson as serious but a summation of Liberian attitude over period years toward Firestone, hence tactical move in present difficulty.2

If Wilson remains adamant it may become serious.

Tubman further stated he appreciated Department’s observation and agreed with all except question of business secrets (above). He assured he would do best get matter settled next week.3

  1. Supra.
  2. On December 31, 1949, the secretary to President Tubman sent a letter to Firestone General Manager Wilson accusing him of bad faith, disrespect for Liberian authority, libeling Liberian Government officials, refusing to bargain, and disparaging Liberian ability. The letter concluded with a threat of expulsion from the country unless Wilson changed his methods and approach to problems in general. The text of this letter was included as enclosure 2 to despatch 85, March 17, from Monrovia, not printed (876.062/3–1750).
  3. The Presidential Special Commission looking into the Firestone Plantations strike situation on about January 16 recommended to President Tubman a 60 percent wage increase for labor and a 50 percent increase for salaried employees. President Tubman and Firestone General Manager Wilson met on January 18 to discuss the strike situation. Wilson was prepared to offer a 15 percent wage increase for labor. Following further discussions on January 31 between President Tubman and Byron H. Larabee, Executive Vice President of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, who had meanwhile arrived in Liberia from the United States, a compromise wage increase was announced by the Firestone Plantations. On February 4 rioting led by a small native group armed with clubs and cutlasses broke out on the Firestone Plantations. There was some vandalism and property damage but no American personnel were attacked. President Tubman promptly despatched a force of troops to the area, order was restored, strike leaders were arrested, and by February 8 all operations at the plantations had been resumed. A detailed report on events attending the strike at the Firestone Plantations was transmitted as despatch 85, cited in footnote 2 above.