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The Militant, 21 September 1946

Biggest Maritime Strike Forces
Government to Rescind Wage-Cut

CIO Pickets Tie Up Ports to Follow Up AFL Victory

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 38, 21 September 1946, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Maritime labor’s militancy and solidarity tied up every port in the United States so completely that the AFL seamen have won a smashing victory against the government.

Within eight days the Truman Administration was forced to capitulate. The AFL seamen won their demands – a pay increase of $22.50 a month on the West Coast; $27.50 a month on the East Coast and Gulf.

The AFL’s victory was assured when the CIO maritime unions supported the strike. Now, the Committee for National Maritime unity, representing six CIO unions and one independent, is following up with a strike to bring CIO seamen’s pay to parity with the AFL rates.

Last June, the CIO’s strike threat won a gain of $17.50 a month. The AFL unions then negotiated for still higher pay. Truman’s Wage Stabilization Board disapproved the higher rates, thus provoking the AFL strike.

Danger Remains

But the seamen still face a great danger.

After every great upsurge of the seamen, the capitalist government has opened up a counter-offensive. In 1921 the government spearheaded a union-smashing drive that broke the backbone of organized maritime labor for years. After the great strikes of 1934 and 1936 the government introduced the Copeland fink book in an attempt to cripple the maritime unions.

Wall Street’s politicians will now redouble their efforts to whittle away maritime labor’s latest gains. Washington will push price-boosting measures and repressive legislation.

It has become crystal clear that the government has largely replaced the ship operators in dealing with the seamen. In every matter, great and small, the government confronts the maritime unions and wields the club for the ship operators.

This means that the battle to safeguard the seamen’s gains and their unions has become a daily political battle.

But Wall Street monopolizes the political field today. Labor has no effective independent political weapon – no party that is really its own.

If the tremendous power, the magnificent solidarity demonstrated in the maritime strike by all labor were extended to the political field, labor could crush its Big Business enemies in Washington.

What Is Needed

The maritime workers in particular need an independent Labor Party. Organization on the political field, free of all capitalist ties, is the only effective means of combatting the government’s anti-labor moves. The need to organize an independent Labor Party at once is the main lesson to be drawn from the maritime strike.

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