Hal Draper

Motion Picture Strike Analyzed

(8 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 41, 8 October 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

LOS ANGELES. Sept. 22 – The Hollywood strike of 14 trade unions working in the motion picture studios, which spread to include picketing of theatres in Los Angeles, and is now spreading to eastern cities, deserves not only the support of all union men in the country but also merits closer attention. The issues involved are important.

Although the trade unions involved are all AFL, the CIO has come out in support of them and has been aiding in the picketing. This alone would make it outstanding as an example of inter-federation unity.

The press here (including the “liberal” Daily News, which pretends to be pro-labor when its advertising revenue is not involved), has been representing the strike to the public as a jurisdictional dispute between AFL unions engaged in a hair-pulling match. This is the script as written by the producers themselves. The producers say:

“We have a contract with the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees) which covers practically the whole industry. These other unions claim jurisdiction. That is something for them to settle among themselves. We are in the middle.”

There is as much pure fakery in this as in the recently released film biography glorifying “Captain Eddie” Rickenbacker, labor-hater No. 1.


In the first place, the IATSE (behind which the producers are hiding) is a leading contender for the title of the most corrupt union in the country. It happens to be the union in which the notorious Browne and Bioff (now in jail) ran their racket. After these two Chicago gangsters took hold of the national machinery of this AFL affiliate, they mysteriously secured a closed-shop agreement with the producers though there was virtually no membership on their books, and then levied a 2 per cent tax on the membership that the producers herded in, to be disposed of by Browne.

The present head of the IATSE, a character named Walsh, was a member of Bioff’s executive board. Cappy Duval, a strong-arm man sent in at that time toy Bioff to collect the 2 per cent, is still around as Walsh’s henchman in Local 44. It is this IATSE which is now being used by the producers to break the strike and forestall real collective bargaining. The original impetus to the strike was thus the desire of the studio workers to gain real union representation, democratic unions of their own, and a house-cleaning of the producer-sponsored gangsterism in the movie industry.

That was the set-up: the producers stake out the IATSE, and then Westbrook Pegler goes to work to smear the whole union movement with the Bioffs and Walshes.

The initiative in this movement was taken by Local 1421, the Set Designers and Decorators, affiliated with the Brotherhood of Painters. The others of the 14 cooperating unions are not technically on strike, but are observing the picket lines. The strike started back on March 12 with the 360 members of Local 1421. It now involves 7,000 workers in the Hollywood unions. And although it has been going on for six months, it has not weakened but gained in strength. The men and officers of Local 1421 deserve a round of applause for the record. Special credit goes to Herbert Sorrell, dynamic business agent of the Painters, and Frank Drdlik, president of Local 1421.

Government’s Actions

The studio workers have found out what the Washington run-around means. Way back in February, a WLB arbitrator’s award, favorable to the unions now on strike, was rejected by the producers and just ignored. It wis their refusal to abide by the ruling that brought on the strike action, in an immediate sense.

Way back in May, an NLRB election was held to settle the “jurisdictional” angle. But before this election took place, the producers had declared many of the strikers fired, in direct violation of the law. Their jobs were given to “replacements” – otherwise known as scabs. These scabs were allowed to vote in the NLRB election. Even so, the results of the election have STILL not been made known, at this time of writing! They are promising the news “any day now,” now that the strike has not been killed but is extending.

The firing of the strikers has made the struggle in reality a lockout.

The studio workers have also been treated to a liberal education in strike-breaking tactics of the dirtiest variety by the associated producers working hand-in-glove with the police. The nine million dollars appropriated by he Motion Picture Producers Association to break the strike is reaching the end, as a matter of fact. Samuel Goldwyn and MGM applied for and got injunctions’ to limit the number of picketers; but these injunctions, obligingly handed down by judges who know which side their bread is buttered on, have been cleverly and legally sidestepped by the unions.

The Cops

The producers have hired cops from all over southern California to do “guard duty” for them on their days off – at $3.50 an hour. Any fights provoked at the studio gates find these officers of the law earning their pay by swearing to the “right” evidence. Three to four hundred police are thus being used – while a crime wave is running rampant and the police department moans that it is undermanned. Still there were no less than six police on hand at one spot on Hollywood Boulevard to arrest a lone picketer who was provoked to step off the curb to hand a leaflet to an “innocent gentleman in an automobile,” such action off the sidewalk being against the law.

Meanwhile, while this fight has been going on, the great “friends of labor” among the Hollywood stars have so far distinguished themselves by walking through all the studio picket lines in sight. The various “big names” who corns to speak at Stalinist-sponsored rallies every now and then are included, only exceptions being individuals not working on any picture and therefore uninhibited.

Last updated on 29 January 2017