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Harry Allen

Phila. Food Workers Strike

Fight Against Heavy Odds to Organize Industry

(January 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 1, 4 January 1934, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Philadelphia. – During the last couple of weeks a wave of strikes has been sweeping Philadelphia. We had the Taxicab strike, the strike at B.G. Budd Wheel Company and a number of minor labor affair. Comrade Goodman mentioned the above strikes in the issue of the Militant of December 30. But he failed to mention the strike which hit the food industry. During the last four weeks the recently organized Transit clerks union, which is in the A.F. of L., has been putting up a militant fight to organize this industry. Up until now it has not been touched by organized labor.

The Fruit Clerks Union has been putting up a magnificent battle against odds. The Penn Fruit Company which this union has been fighting for union recognition has the backing of the Retail Fruit dealers association in its fight to smash the union. They are spending thousands of dollars, telling the workers the union is a racket, etc. Also they have tried to frame the leaden of the strike, in particular the organizer, Eddie Greene, who is the real backbone of the strike.

Four weeks ago before they went on strike the Fruit Clerks union came to the meeting of the Philadelphia Meat Cutters association, also a newly organized union, Independent of the A.F. of L., and asked their support of the strike. The organizer made a speech to the effect that since the meat cutters, who also worked for this concern, would in the future also have to fight the Penn Fruit Company for recognition, where the fruit clerks walked out the meat men should also walk out. After the fruit men left the hall the fakers at the head of the meat union said: “Why do we have to go and back them up? We are the strongest union, all they want is to use us for a front.”

Federation of Unions After the strike had gone four weeks they finally came to some agreement. Last week the fruit clerks, the grocery and delicatessen clerks, and also the truckers all came out for a federated union. This was last Wednesday. The Teamsters Union’s business agent said that they had their agreement before Mr. Sam Cooke the head of Penn Fruit for the last month and he promised the fruit men that the next day, Thursday, his men would not deliver to the stores which the union was battling and that when they signed they would sign for three.

The meat cutters who worked for Penn Fruit now took a vote as to whether they should go out on strike. Unanimous to strike. Thursday, out of 30 men in the union, four walked out from the store at 52 Market St. The other men refused to come out. Pickets were posted at all the six Penn Fruit stores.

Saturday the head of the meat union, a shyster lawyer by the name of John Auspitz, made a deal with Sam Cooke from the Penn Fruit Co. to call the strike off without consulting the other unions for their opinion. Probably he was bought off. Auspitz called the fruit men the trouble makers and claimed that he was a good fellow. The fruit union was asked to go back to work by the Regional Labor Board pending arbitration. They refused to call the strike off until their union is given recognition by the Penn Fruit Company, which they refused to do. Although many of their men have gone back to work they still refuse to call off their pickets as the meat cutters union did.

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Last updated: 9 February 2016