James P. Cannon

Omaha Truckmen in Key Battle
Against Bosses

Cannon Sees a Gain for Whole Country

(January 1939)

Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 2, 14 January 1939, p. 2.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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MINNEAPOLIS – As the Omaha teamsters’ strike goes into its nineteenth week, and it becomes apparent that this extraordinarily long struggle will soon culminate in a victory for the workers, it is in point to describe the national significance of this great fight.

That the strike was limited to the area around Omaha – roughly including Lincoln and Sioux City, Iowa – is itself a remarkable fact and a tribute to the generalship provided by the North Central Area Negotiating Committee of the teamsters. This committee, backed by the teamsters unions in eleven states, has brilliantly conducted a general campaign which has established uniform minimum conditions under a signed closed-shop contract for some 800,000 highway drivers in the 11-state area.

An Iron King

Bold action drove the bosses into line so that the one strike which has had to be conducted is being waged under conditions favorable to the workers. The strike area is entirely surrounded by unionized terminals which do not handle scab-transported goods, and the strikers are fighting with the financial backing of their brothers throughout the area and with funds provided by the International.

Victory in Omaha means final assurance that the 11-state uniform contract is a permanent achievement. Meanwhile the area covered is already growing; the essential elements of the contract have now been applied to the main sections of Texas and Oklahoma, thereby creating an entering wedge for all unions into the deep South. As the movement grows in strength, it secures superior conditions; the last regional contract signed, covering Detroit, secured the best advances as yet made.

It is already taken for granted in the Teamsters International that what began as a modest five-state venture some two years ago in Minneapolis (the old North Central Drivers Council) and blossomed a year ago into an 11-state set-up, will shortly extend to the rest of the country.

Composition Changed

In the process, the actual composition of the teamsters’ movement has undergone a profound change. It is already no longer a movement based on driver-salesmen (milk, bread, ice, laundry), but a really proletarian movement of transport drivers and warehousemen, and will become so increasingly. This signifies that the Teamsters International, already with some 500,000 members, the largest single union in the country and rapidly growing, will by its significant social composition play a role even greater than that indicated by its sheer numbers.

Tobin’s break with his old colleagues at the A.F.L. convention was a reflection of this process. The teamsters’ movement is undoubtedly scheduled to play a major role in the progressive unification of the labor movement. The contrast between its growth – under conditions of scope given to fresh and vital forces within !t and coupled with a policy of amicable relations with the C.I.O. mass unions – and the ossification of the die-hard unions like Wharton’s machinists and Frey’s moulders, is a real sign of the times. Far from strengthening the old A.F.L.’s discredited program, the onward march of the teamsters is hastening the victory of industrial unionism.

Last updated on 10 March 2016