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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded.” – Karl Marx.

(30 November 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 48, 30 November 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Hillman Ignores Jim Crow

It is not only on the question of awards to corporations guilty of refusing to recognize the rights of trade unions that Sidney Hillman is being attacked nowadays. It is also because he has taken no steps to do anything about the war production industries’ almost universal policy to refuse to hire colored workers at all, or to hire them only as porters, etc.

One instance after another has been widely publicized in the Negro press, giving names of scores of the largest corporations receiving contracts from the federal government, that openly announce their Jim Crow hiring policies.

Hillman has not done a thing about it to date, any more than he has done anything else generally for the working class in his post of Labor Commissioner of the National Defense Council.

His announced intention of resigning as vice-president of the CIO in order to devote himself fully to protecting the bosses’ interests in the labor field should produce no tears from workers, Negro and white, for whose interests he has shown by his actions he has no intention of fighting.

Harrison Appointment Protested

Vigorous protests were entered this week against the rumored appointment of George M. Harrison as next Secretary of Labor by both the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Harrison is the grand president of the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, and his policies and record in the labor movement with regard to Negro workers were offered as more than adequate reasons why he should not be permitted to receive a post where he would have wider jurisdiction for his Jim Crow policies.

Harrison, according to the Urban League, has as head of this union concurred in its membership policies which shunt colored railway clerks off into “auxiliary locals” where they pay the same dues as the white workers but have no voice in the determination of union policy and no representation on the policy-making bodies, or conventions.

It was also pointed out that Harrison had played a prominent smelly role in the fight against colored freight-handlers (reported in the article below.) The NAACP telegram to Roosevelt said, “Negro Americans and their white fellow workers who are seeking full democracy in the labor movement view with justified alarm possibility of having as Secretary of Labor a man who believes that Negroes are not entitled to full membership in organized unions.

Both organizations also objected to the “trade union segregationist” who is already in the Department of Labor, Dan Tracy, head of the AFL Electrical Workers Union.

Seek Showdown at AFL Convention

Efforts were being made this week to bring to the floor of the AFL convention the story of a fight being conducted by the colored National Council of Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees, representing about 50 federal union locals and 2,000 workers throughout the country, to protect their rights as union members.

After six years of struggle to establish these federal locals, during which they received no help whatever from the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, and during which, they obtained contracts from a number of important railroads, they were ordered last September by William Green to comply with the order of Harrison, head of the BRC, to turn in their charters and their treasuries and join powerless, Jim Crow auxiliaries.

Meeting in Cincinnati at that time, delegates from these locals voted not to abide by Green’s order. They demanded either a separate international charter from the AFL or the right to join the BRC with the same rights that other members enjoyed. In the meantime they decided to continue their work under the National Council plan.

Harrison has indicated that “we will not surrender jurisdiction over these workers” in his letter to Arthur Williams, head of the Council. Green is backing him, of course, in spite of the fact that the AFL’s official position, as written down on paper at several conventions, condemns all forms of discrimination on account of race or color.

Jim Crow Women Too

It’s not only men who get Jim-Crowed by the Army. Women are eligible for this treatment too. An example will show that women can be hurt pretty hard by this kind of treatment too.

Mrs. Burmeda Coleman and Miss Hattie Combre, employed by the Louisiana Industrial Insurance Company in New Orleans, took a civil service examination for tabulating machine operators at Camp Beauregard, near Alexandria, La.

On November 7 they received telegrams from the Camp to report for work. They then quit their jobs, which were relatively quite good ones, and spent a bit of money travelling from New Orleans to Alexandria.

When they got there on November 11, however, they were met by Major Dupont, commanding officer in charge of the camp, who told them that it was not known that they were Negroes, and that Negroes could not be used in that capacity at the camp.

So there they were, Jim Crowed as hard as any private in a separate regiment, without any reimbursement for the expenses they had incurred, and no jobs. It’s a great country!/p>

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