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C. Thomas

Sailors Spike F.D.R. Order on Fink-Halls

Tie Up Two Ships on West Coast –
Journal of Commerce Reveals Presidential Order

(July 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 49, 11 July 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Sailors Union of the Pacific has put the finger on the Little White Father at Washington, D.C. And thereon, my friends, hangs a tale.

Two U.S. Maritime Commission ships, the Satartia and the Coldbrook, have been tied up in Seattle for a number of weeks because the Commission refused to hire crews from the union hiring hall. The Maritime Commission was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and is responsible to the President.

The Chairman of the Commission, Admiral Land, was appointed over the objections of the seamen and of the organized labor movement. Recently, one of the commissioners, Truitt, a vigorous opponent of union hiring halls, was reappointed by the President, again over the strenuous objections of organized labor.

President Ordered Finking

In a recent article in the Journal of Commerce dealing with the dispute in Seattle, the following statement appeared:

“The Commission, according to L.L. Bates, general manager of the Pacific Northwest Oriental Line, which has been engaged as managing agent for the new service, is acting under a presidential order ... that employment of crews through the shipping commissioner is required by law.”

In other words, the Maritime Commission is acting under direct orders from Roosevelt to hire crews through fink-halls.

Meanwhile, the partisans of the “third term for Roosevelt” movement, among whom the Stalinists are the most vociferous, have been telling the seamen that Roosevelt was their friend. It was the tories, the economic royalists, that were the main, nay, the only enemy. At the recent convention of the C.P.-controlled Maritime Federation of the Pacific, the convention went on record to support the third term for Roosevelt movement. The National Maritime Union now meeting in convention, will undoubtedly do likewise.

Roosevelt Called to Act

Very good! If it is true that Roosevelt is our friend, we the seamen will appeal directly to him to speak out in our behalf against the tories. Could anything be fairer than that? Since he appears to be reluctant to speak, we will make that request. If he is really our friend, he will presumably grasp the opportunity of at least saying something in our behalf.

In a statement issued by Harry Lundeberg, Secretary of the Sailors Union of the Pacific, he makes this request on behalf of the seamen of the west coast and says:

“As the situation now stands (in Seattle) there is only one out to settle this entire matter and that is that the President of the United States is the only man who can change the attitude of the Maritime Commission and it is entirely up to him ... we will see in the next day or two whether Roosevelt thinks more of the Maritime Commission or whether he has any feeling at all for the demands of the thousands of seamen of the Pacific Coast.

“On behalf of the membership of the Sailors Union of the Pacific, we told the Maritime Commission that the crumby tubs could stay tied up alongside of the dock until such time that the Maritime Commission was willing to use the same methods of employment as practiced by private shipowners on the Pacific Coast.”

A.F.L. Acts

The Houston convention of the American Federation of Labor went on record to support the position taken by the Sailors Union of the Pacific in this hiring hall dispute. In accord with the mandate of that convention and in reply to a request by Lundeberg, President Green wired the sailors that:

“I regret unyielding position which Maritime Commission has assumed regarding hiring seamen for government ships Pacific Coast. I have repeatedly appealed to Chairman Land to hire unlicensed personnel through union hiring halls. I will call on Secretary of Commerce Hopkins and at my earliest opportunity upon the President and urge action at earliest possible moment as you suggest.”

Franklin “I love labor” Roosevelt now has the opportunity of proving his devotion. Those drum beaters for the third term for Roosevelt, “our friend”, should rejoice that this opportunity has been provided.

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