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E.R. Frank

Lewis Playing with Dynamite
in Building Trades Drive

(13 January 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 2, 13 January 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The CIO drive in the building industry, started with so much noise and fanfare by John L. Lewis and his brother, A.D. Lewis, Chairman of the United Construction Workers Organizing Committee, may yet end as a minor disaster for the CIO.

Lewis is playing with dynamite.

First, because he is invading an industry that is organized by the building trades unions, the most powerful and richest group of International unions in the AFL.

Secondly, because he is attempting to sign contracts with the building trades bosses by establishing lower hourly wages and poorer working conditions than prevail in the organized section of the industry at the present time.

Third, because he is enlisting the aid of and cooperating in the reactionary anti-union drive of Thurman Arnold and the Department of Justice.

FBI Snooper Hired

In last week’s issue of the Socialist Appeal, we pointed out that Russell Turner Sr., an aide of Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold, was appointed by Lewis to the staff of the UCWOC and pointed out that this short sighted move constituted “a shameful violation of union solidarity.”

The CIO News of January 8 seems to be all puffed up about this marvelous new acquisition to its organizing staff and with great pride points out that “for the past year Mr. Turner has been on the staff of the Justice Department where he took part in anti-trust law inquiries into the building trades.”

CIO Features Prosecution

The same issue of the CIO News carries the following story in connection with the Construction committees organization work in Washington, D.C.:

“Several indictments of AFL officials are pending in Washington as a result of jurisdictional disputes and Justice Department agents are reported investigating the current tie-up. [A strike of AFL laborers on the 12-story RFC building structure.] The Department’s theory is that these disputes are in restraint of trade and hence illegal under the anti-trust statutes.

”Government officials have recently recognized jurisdictional strikes and craft union, restrictions as a major factor in retarding the construction industry. Witnesses before the anti-monopoly Committee have offered sensational testimony showing the extent of craft union abuses in this industry ...”

A Suicidal Policy

The CIO News gives the unmistakable impression that it favors the insidious union busting campaign of the Department of Justice. It is either passively tolerating or actively cooperating in this campaign, which if successful would not only weaken and eventually destroy the AFL building trades unions, but the whole trade union movement of this country, CIO included.

It is the duty of all progressives in the CIO today to demand that Lewis call a halt to these suicidal policies and devote his time and energies to uniting both wings of the trade union movement, not pushing them further apart.

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