Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Morris Wright, Guardian Bay Area Bureau

’Leftist’ scabs in Chinatown strike

First Published: Guardian, August 28, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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San Francisco – The Communist League (CL) has issued a strikebreaking leaflet as its contribution to a hard-fought battle for union recognition here.

Workers at the Great Chinese American Sewing Co., who are Chinese and mostly women, had asked the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) to help them get organized to improve $2-an-hour wages and intolerable working conditions. They struck when a union leader within the plant was fired. CL’s leaflet is an attack on the ILGWU and its organizers. The leaflet was also signed by the League for Proletarian Revolution.

“Let us state one thing flatly,” says CL’s strikebreaking leaflet, “the union leaders from the ILGWU want to lose this strike . . . When conferences are held it is with capitalist exploiters like Mayor (Joseph) Alioto . . . and other enemies of our class. Who is fool enough to think that the police are impartial and don’t always work for the capitalist class? Ask Mattie Jackson or Phil Russo who enjoy rapping with police more than talking to workers.”

Mattie Jackson, an international vice president of ILGWU, told the Guardian that she had led delegations of strikers to talk with Alioto and a police captain about police harassment of the pickets after 40 had been arrested and jailed in one day and 15 another day.

The leaflet also charged that ILGWU had called “an extremely long and sickening meeting” at union headquarters “through prior collusion” with the employer so that workers would not see the employer and other sweatshop operators going into conference.

In response to this ridiculous charge, Jackson said the union meeting was held at the regularly scheduled weekly time and that the ILGWU wants the workers to know about collusion among the employers.

The leaflet tried to turn the strikers against ILGWU leaders by citing alleged high salaries paid to them. The figures cited were within the wage range of many workers, and incidentally were inaccurate. A Chinese union representative was said to be paid a lower wage than two other organizers, when the truth is that all three receive the same wage.

Since the parent company of the struck plant, Esprit de Corp, owns another plant which is still operating, the union transferred picketing to that plant after the first one was closed following the start of the strike. CL carefully distributed its anti-union leaflet to workers in the second plant, keeping it away from people on the picketline and union representatives.

The Esprit de Corp strike is an extremely important one for the workers of San Francisco’s Chinatown. As a woman on the picketline put it, “This strike is important not only for us but for all the other garment workers in Chinatown.”

It is at this crucial moment that CL has chosen to attack the union through which the garment workers of Chinatown are trying to break out of the decades-long grip of the sweatshop owners. This is the same CL that is planning to establish a new “communist” party this year. Whatever effects their leaflets may have will be to weaken the strike, delay the long-overdue union organization of Chinese garment workers and discredit communist leadership in the labor movement.