From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 39, 29 September 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The International Hodcarriers, Building and Common Laborers Union held its first convention in thirty years in St. Louis last week. The president, Moreschi, was re-elected in the first election held since 1926. The main issues that came before the convention were the matter of holding conventions more frequently, stricter accounting for union funds and racketeering. On all of these important matters the convention acted as though they were of no importance and that everything derogatory said about the union and its officers was nothing more than slander and an attempt by unnamed evil forces to destroy the international. Of course anyone who knows anything about this international is well aware that this is not the case.
To begin with, any union that holds a convention only once every third of a century has something very fundamentally wrong with it. Why do the officers of this international refuse to give the members the opportunity to review the stewardship of the leadership oftener than once in 31 years? Why do these same international officers refuse to give the membership indubitable proof that the funds of the organization are conserved and properly disbursed? Why did these same leaders refuse to take steps to clean the racketeers out of the international?
It was Bill Green who clapped the lid on tight and made it impossible for the insurgents in the convention to get to first base. Green praised the officers of the international for cooperating with him and for raising wages, but was silent on the 30 years. Also, Green wasn’t interested in the charges that the officers were not as “efficient” as they might be in the handling of the international’s funds.
Green made the astounding statement that of 5,000,000 members of the AFL, “4,999,999 are honest and law-abiding men.” If we understand simple arithmetic this means that there is only ONE dishonest member of the AFL. Who is he, Bill?
Perhaps we don’t understand what Green means by “honest.” There are AFL unions shot through with racketeers, gangsters, thieves and crooks. This has been proved again and again. Green knows this and he knew that he was lying when he made the statement he did to the hodcarriers. But racketeering seems to be all right with Bill so long as the officers of his internationals turn in their per capita taxes to the AFL.
It made no difference to Green and the officers of the Hodcarriers International that the officers of one of its locals had squandered $200,000 of the local’s funds from 1933 to 1940 and now has a bank balance of less than $108. Furthermore the financial report to the convention gives only two items, receipts and expenditures. The receipts for the 30 year period were $1,062,575.34 and the expenditures were $534,539.65. The delegates and the membership were given no hint as to how the $528,000 was spent and what for. And this was a report covering 30 years of the administration of the present officers! Some of the delegates wanted a decision by the convention to hold regular conventions every five years. But the officers and their machine beat the proposal back and defeated it. They submitted the provision that a referendum be held every five years to determine whether or not a convention should be held. It is easy to guess what would happen in a referendum if conducted by the present administration. They had such an easy time in this convention that the officers will probably decide not to hold a convention until the year 2000. They don’t want to report on finances every five years; thirty-year reports are better. Even if you get kicked out at the end of 30 years you are sure to be pretty well heeled by that time.
Under the whip of the Moreschi machine the convention voted against barring from office those found guilty of racketeering, embezzlement or larceny of funds. Moreschi generously agreed to a resolution CONDEMNING racketeering. The racketeers and thieves in the international are therefore free to go on plying their trade as before. They can steal from the union, embezzle its funds or racketeer to their hearts’ content, and yet remain eligible to ran for office even though, as in the case of Scalise, they have been proved guilty and sent to the penitentiary.
The delegates who came in for a real raking were not the racketeers and crooks, but those who wanted to democratize the union, establish an honest system of accounting and make a real working class union of the organization. They were accused of “insubordination.” The New York Sandhogs Local will be brought to trial for “constitutional irregularities.” This local, along with a West Coast local, wanted to bar the racketeers and have more frequent conventions. This, to the Moreschi machine, is “insubordination” and “constitutional irregularities.” As far as we know, this convention was the lowest point reached in any labor convention this year. Compared to the UAW convention one would never know that both of them were conventions of workers’ organizations and that both are integral parts of the labor movement in the United States. In no CIO convention has even the faintest whisper of racketeering, embezzlement or larceny been heard. The UAW delegates unanimously voted down a proposal for biennial conventions. Their convention was run in a democratic manner and no strong-arm tactics or procedure were in evidence. No officer of that international would have dared, even if he had been inclined, to conduct himself in such a manner.
The hodcarriers and building laborers should think about this. If they can’t get a democratic union, an honest union in Bill Green’s outfit, they don’t have to stay there and neither do they have to remain “independent.”
The six conventions taking place this week are the United Rubber Workers at Indianapolis, the Marine and Shipbuilding Workers at Atlantic City, the Oil Workers International Union at Baton Rouge, the Transport Workers Union at New York City and the County, State and Municipal Workers at Lansing, Mich.
This year’s URW convention is the biggest ever held by this union. The international increased its membership by 28,000 during the past year and the membership now numbers 82,000. The first sessions of the convention were consumed listening to war speeches by Sidney Hillman, who is getting around to all the CIO conventions which will admit him, Allan Haywood and President Dalrymple.
Haywood told the convention that “the “CIO is for defense – absolutely.” The industrialists, he said, “have taken advantage of the nation’s effort to defend themselves” and pile up huge profits. Haywood told the convention: “There’s got to be organized planning for national defense. It can’t be done by the employers alone – they will commit hari-kari and take the nation with them.”
Haywood’s idea is that since the employers can’t win the war it is the business of labor to pitch in and win it for them. This is what his statement means although he doesn’t put it that way. The bosses will commit suicide and this means the death of the “nation.”
Therefore, according to Haywood. the workers must step in and save the “nation.” But Haywood doesn’t say to the rubber workers that to save the present “nation” is to save the employers and the capitalists. That’s exactly what the bosses want from the workers. That’s why they passed the conscription act and forced the workers into their imperialist army.
Labor should save the nation from Hitler. But IT SHOULD ALSO SAVE THE NATION FROM ITS PRESENT OWNERS; that is, the workers should take the nation away from the present owners and then defend the nation against Hitler. The working class should possess the land, mines, mills, factories, power houses and banks. They should save what is good in capitalist democracy and incorporate this into real workers’ democracy based on the ownership and control of the wealth and the machines that produce wealth.
Vice-president Thomas Burns, who has the big title of “senior labor consultant” in the OPM, announced that he would not be a candidate for re-election. Presumably he will give all his time to OPM. This is a correct step. All the labor leaders should either resign from government boards that deal with labor questions or resign from their union posts.
The UAW organized Ford and voted at the last convention to begin a real drive on aircraft. The Oil Workers International voted to tackle its biggest boss, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. President Knight told the convention that the No. 1 job is the organization of the 65.000 Standard Oil workers. Michael Widman, who led the Ford drive, has been appointed to head the Rockefeller drive.
Union officers reported that the main accomplishment of the international, aside from raising wages $156,000,000, was defeat of a plan by the oil companies to increase the work week from 36 to 40 hours. On the matter of the Ickes oil shortage, Knight told the delegates that the union would not hamper “national defense in order to promote our own welfare” but by the same token “we are determined that the industry shall not take advantage of the national defense program to retard our progress ...”
The report also took up the alleged oil shortage. Knight said that behind the alleged shortage was a scheme of Standard Oil to get permission for a refused pipe line from the Gulf to Norfolk, Va. He also told the convention that while the U.S. is transferring tank ships to the British Empire, England has 500 tankers, many of which are being used by the British oil companies to carry on “business as usual” for private profit.
Sidney Hillman didn’t get to the oil workers convention, but according to announcements he will be on hand to urge the shipyard workers to whoop it up fervently for the imperialist war. These workers certainly have something more important to attend to than listening to Hillman tell them that he has the full confidence of Roosevelt. The delegates might concede that and turn their attention immediately to the pressing problems of their industry.
The most important of these is the situation at the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. at Kearny, N.J. This situation is not clear yet. Secretary Knox announced in a Navy Department statement that “the government has not yet decided on the course it will pursue ...” In the meantime, however, according to the statement, should any dispute arise over the status of any worker the matter is to be referred to the “Mediation” Board for action. The union considers this a victory, since this board had already made such a recommendation before the government took over the plant.
Roosevelt expressed doubt that the granting of the “maintenance of membership” is in accord with provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. He wrote to the board chairman, William H. Davis, expressing such doubts. The reply of Davis was that there was no violation of the National Labor Relations Act and this was concurred by the general counsel for the NLRB.
The officers of the IUMSW do not seem to consider this one of the pressing problems to come before the convention. They evidently think the matter settled and want lo forget it. But obviously this is not the case. The question arises and may come up for discussion in the convention, on the correctness of a union inviting the government to take over plants as a means of settling a dispute the union is having with the bosses. What is the difference between negotiating with the government and negotiating with the owners of the plant? Does the union believe the government will be softer and more pliant, more reasonably than the bosses7 That wasn’t true in the North American affair. The union officers may escape from the Kearny trap but they bad better think it through the next time they face a similar situation.
Last updated: 27.1.2013