Hal Draper

Movie Strikers Hurl Back Attacks

(22 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 43, 22 October 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14 – The battle lines were drawn in the Hollywood studio strike this past week. The producers and their government puppets have thrown almost everything in the book at the strikers in the dirtiest open shop drive against labor that this city has seen in a decade.

But this eye-witness is proud to report that not only have the strikers’ ranks, held firm as a rock but in fact they have been reinforced by other sections of the labor movement, both AFL and CIO, in and out of the movie industry.

This week has seen the Battle of Warner Brothers Studio. Beginning Friday, October 5, the striking Conference of Studio Unions chose this studio for a showdown and started mass picketing.

It was a good choice. For one thing Warners has tried to give itself a reputation for “liberalism.” The strikers and pickets have learned plenty about liberal Hollywood phonies who make with the mouth.

Several hundred pickets closed the gate on Friday. The sheriff’s deputies present in force broke out cans of tear, gas labeled “Federal” (from the “Arsenal of Democracy”). But a peaceful picket line wasn’t in the Warners’ scenario.

Picket Line Formed

That morning, without provocation, Sheriff Biscailuz ordered the attack on the picket ranks with tear gas bombs and high-pressure hoses. But on Saturday the picket line was back in force with even greater numbers and determination.

On Monday, when I went on the picket line at 4:15 in the morning, there were over 200 pickets on the spot. An attempt by the scabs to enter the studio before the regular 6 o’clock shift was expected, and the picket ranks swelled as workers arrived. Warners had a different plan. A sinister crew began to assemble across the street at “Scab’s Corner.” It consisted of about 200 goons gathered from all studios and professional out-of-state finks including hired strikebreakers from Arizona and Chicago.

The pickets were unarmed. But at that very moment, the presses of the Los Angeles Times and Examiner were running off a front page-story lying that the strikers’ ranks were bristling with clubs!

The Attack on the Workers

At six o’clock Warners’ private goon army rushed the line swinging chains, pipes, clubs and bottles. They hit the west flank of the picket line and reeled back. The line held. A fellow next 40 me, wearing the white armband of the strikers, picked up a club dropped by a fallen goon, and returned it to a scab a couple of yards away. The scab failed to catch it. Bloody fighting lasted only a couple of minutes. Then from inside the studio, a squad of sheriff’s deputies attacked on the other side with swinging billies. The picket line was split and pushed back to the sides while the goons ducked through the gate. A cordon of sheriffs and cops kept a lane open into the studio. But even so not enough scabs took advantage of it for Warners to start production. Each hired fink got his fifty dollars of Warners’ blood money but the film factory remained closed.

No attempt to break the line, was made on Tuesday. The producers turned another leaf in the book of strikebreaking. On Wednesday morning a small army of sheriff’s deputies marched up in military formation with tear gas and submachine guns, and a mass arrest of the picket line was ordered. The strikers’ loudspeaker told them not to resist arrest, and it was carried through.

Arrests of Picketers

With over 300 other picketers I was brought inside the studio and we were herded into a sound stage. While Warners’ studio was turned into a public calaboose by the cops, the strikers’ attorney was refused admittance on the ground that it was “private property.”

From Warners’ concentration camp we were taken to the Burbank city jail and backed into the basement cellar without water, sanitary facilities or even a place to sit down, until late in the day. The local judge fixed bail at $500 a head but since the overwhelming majority of the men and girls elected to stay in jail rather than have the union pay off, they were forced to release us all without bail before evening.

The fighting spirit of the pickets was absolutely unbroken. For one thing it was while we were in the Warners’ bastille that the announcement came through of the NLRB decision that meant victory for the studio unions. It came in the middle of an impromptu singing program. A tremendous cheer broke out. The producers were going to be licked.

On Thursday the mass picket line was swollen. Two thousand IAM men from nearby Lockheed marched down the street at seven o’clock with banners flying and the entire street was filled by a picket line that was now a monster parade of the Los Angeles labor movement. For the first time, mass picketing was extended to two other studios, Universal and Columbia. As this is written, the studio strikers see victory in sight. On Saturday evening 10,000 people jammed the Olympic Auditorium in a great city rally in support of the strike. Labor solidarity is winning.

Fighting for Unionism

The issues in the Hollywood studio strike are now much clearer to the people of the city of Los Angeles. The alliance of the producers and the metropolitan newspapers has not succeeded in maintaining the lie that this is only a jurisdictional dispute between AFL unions. As Labor Action has pointed out, it is not. It is a struggle by the Conference of Studio Unions (AFL) to achieve recognition for bona-fide labor organizations to represent the workers – as against the company-sponsored strikebreaking IATSE, whose affiliation to the AFL is one of the many black marks against the federation.

After seven months of stalling following an NLRB election, the workers’ militancy has forced Washington to quit waiting for the producers to break the strike. They have had to come out with their long-delayed decision on that election. Voting by both the strikers and the scabs (“replacements”) was permitted in that election. For seven months the NLRB has been supposed to decide WHOSE votes were going to be counted. The producers wanted them to count the votes of the scabs ONLY, an unprecedented practice which would have made an OPEN farce of the whole NLRB machinery.

The NLRB should have counted the votes of the strikers only. They dug up one precedent for counting the votes of the scabs in addition to counting the strikers’. Even so this has meant the strikers’ victory in the election by 55 to 45. But next time any employer can make an NLRB meaningless merely by firing enough strikers. The decision is a victory for the strike in this particular case, but it stores up an anti-labor blow, for the future.

The striking Conference of Studio Unions is now certified as the bar-herding IATSE. But the strike will not be won until all the strikers have gotten their jobs back. That is why the struggle is still going on.

Last updated on 29 January 2017