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Ernest Lund

Cutbacks Threaten Philadelphia Labor

(April 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 18, 30 April 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

PHILADELPHIA – May Day, 1945, finds workers in this area thinking more of the security of their jobs than of any other one question. The news from Europe that the war is drawing to a close, in that part of the world at least, is cause for joy to the hundreds of thousands who have brothers, husbands, friends and fellow workers in the armed services. But at the same time it causes grave concern about cutbacks in war contracts and layoffs.

Few realize that Philadelphia is the No. 2 war production center of the country. It ranks second only to the Detroit region in size of war contracts. The war production is mainly centered in the heavy industries that will not immediately, if ever, find a stimulus from consumer purchases to take up the slack.

The prospects of post-war operation of the shipyards, which represent the biggest single war industry in the area, are very slim. Though the Navy Yard, Sun Ship and New York Ship will probably remain in operation as they did since the last War, their employment rolls will probably be cut to around ten per cent of the present peak.

Industry Will Cut Back

Heavy industries like Baldwin Locomotive, General Electric, Westinghouse, Brill (railroad cars), Budd (automobile bodies), the Army Arsenal, the steel mills, etc., will at best go back to 1939 production figures, resulting in hundreds of thousands of workers being thrown out of jobs. The radio industry, represented mainly by RCA, Philco and Atwater Kent, have been working at top production on war orders. The most optimistic estimates for peacetime demand for new radios and televisions could not come near maintaining this production schedule.

The machine tool industry, SKF ball bearings, and the airplane plants will take a tremendous drop in production. Many will shut down completely. The ordnance and fine instrument industry which appeared out of nowhere since 1940 will likewise disappear.

The hosiery and textile industry, one of Philadelphia’s old mainstays, has been working at top speed to fill war contracts and a limited consumer quota. The end of the war will certainly not see an increase in employment. Likewise with industrial giants which produce for the consumer trade, like Campbell Soup.

Employment on the waterfront and on the railroads, two great sources of wartime employment, will again return to pre-war figures. The special use of the Port of Philadelphia for war purposes will end and the waterfront will again become dead.

Unemployment Looms

With declining payrolls in local heavy industries, the present employment shortages in department stores, Sears, cafeterias, PTC (trolley and bus transportation) and other commercial and service industries will change into surpluses of help.

All this will be the tendency even before any great number of the several hundred thousand men and women from Philadelphia, Camden, and the surrounding area now in the armed forces return home to again seek civilian employment.

Despite what they may read daily in the Inquirer and Bulletin about “free enterprise” solving all job problems, and despite what they may read in the Record about the employment plans of the Administration and the New Deal tinkerers, the workers refuse to feel reassured about the post-war employment situation. The facts are too plain and too plentiful.

Meanwhile the same corrupt gang of Republican politicians sit in the City Hall and siphon off the wage tax from the workers’ pay envelopes (or what is left of it after federal income tax deductions.) Meanwhile the Democratic politicians, who can only carry the city in a national election when they have the support of organized labor, sit in their appointed jobs in the federal bureaus and figure out their chances of staying on after 1948.

For Labor Political Action

Meanwhile the labor leaders do. nothing except look around among the capitalist politicians for some “good friend of labor” they can support in 1946. The 1944 crop of “good friends of labor” have already gone the way of all such people in the ruling parties. Most of the New Deal congressmen from here voted for the labor draft.

Philadelphia, Camden and Delaware counties have, one of the greatest concentrations of industry in the United States. The overwhelming majority of the people who live here are wage workers. The majority of them are members of the CIO, the AFL, and the Railroad Brotherhoods. With a working class political party of their own they could sweep into power in city and state and send a solid bloc of labor congressmen to Washington.

This is what the labor movement should be doing instead of chasing, hat in hand, after Senator Myers, Congressman Bradley, Mayor Samuels and Governor Martin, and begging for a few favors.

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