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C. Thomas

Forced Labor Plan Advanced
by Senate Military Committee

(3 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 9, 3 March 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Senate Military Affairs Committee concluded closed hearings on the May-Bailey slave labor bill last week by reporting out a “substitute” measure incorporating the principle of compulsory labor for private profit. The Kilgore-Wagner “substitute” was adopted by a vote of 13 to 4 shortly after the committee had received a memorandum from Roosevelt stating: “I hope that legislation embracing the principle of the May bill can be speedily enacted.”

Under this prodding from the “Commander-in-Chief” the Kilgore-Wagner substitute was amended to make it conform to the type of legislation demanded by Roosevelt and his brass hats.

“These changes, committeemen agreed, brought the substitute bill sponsored by Senators O’Mahoney, Kilgore, Wagner, Chandler, Ferguson and Ball, closer to the principles of the May-Bailey measure.” (N.Y. Times, Feb. 22)

One of the amendments provides that “violators of WMC regulations and orders would be liable to fines up to $10,000 or jail sentences up to a year.” Another provides that workers “who quit essential agricultural jobs without draft board permission would be subject, to fines ranging to $10,000 and prison terms up to five years.”

CIO Endorses Bill

In its original form, the Kilgore-Wagner bill would concentrate control over hiring in the hands of the War Manpower Commission. The WMC would be given authority to establish manpower ceilings in industry, to move workers from one plant or one area to another, to keep workers tied to their jobs at frozen wages. Employers would be forbidden to hire a worker unless he could show a certificate of availability. By its power to refuse to grant certificates to “recalcitrant” workers, the WMC would exercise “work-where-you’re-told-or-starve” compulsion over labor.

The additional amendments add the “work-where-you’re-told-or- go-to-jail” penalties of the May- Bailey bill to the Kilgore-Wagner substitute. As announced in The Militant last week, the latter measure was endorsed by the heads of the AFL and CIO in a “compromise” deal with the employers. “This (Kilgore-Wagner) bill is a long step in the right direction,” declared Philip Murray in a statement to the Senate Military Affairs Committee.

An editorial in the CIO News “explains” that the CIO officialdom

“... supports the bill introduced by Senators Kilgore, Wagner and Ferguson because, as Pres. Philip Murray states, ‘this bill reinforces the methods and machinery which have proven effective during the war, and proposes means for strengthening them,’ and because it is ‘designed to mobilize the entire civilian manpower and womanpower of the United States immediately, and not merely males between the ages of 18 and 45’.”

Roosevelt’s Strategy

Murray’s statement is an open endorsement of the principle of forced labor for private profit. The “methods and machinery” which he urges be, “strengthened” are the instruments of labor compulsion embodied in the drastic manpower decrees issued by Roosevelt and administered by the WMC. Under these decrees the WMC recently initiated the infamous “Allentown Plan” which has since been spread to other areas.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the “plan” originated, the WMC ordered the discharge of hundreds of workers who were then instructed to apply to the U.S. Employment Service for assignment to other jobs. Those failing to obey “would be denied employment for the duration of the war.” In a majority of cases, workers were forced to accept employment at lower wages.

Will Allen, Washington correspondent of Justice, official organ of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, who has closely followed the development of the forced labor campaign, contends “that the real labor conscription threat is embodied in the Allentown Plan rather than the May-Bailey bill.” He states that the strategy of the Roosevelt administration is to use the threat of the “more drastic” May- Bailey bill to jam through a “compromise” measure. This “compromise” worked out in secret in a behind-the-scenes deal is incorporated in the “substitute” Kilgore-Wagner bill. Allen discloses what the forced labor advocates are after by declaring:

“What they’re after – in terms of administration strategy – is a Congressional act legalizing the Allentown Plan. Why is that? Because the Allentown Plan draws its authority from an Executive Order which went into effect July 1, and not from an Act of Congress. The Allentown Plan interferes with the rights of private citizens engaged in pursuits having no connection with the war. The Allentown Plan enforces involuntary servitude ... which is a direct violation of the Constitution of the United States.”

“The Administration,” Allen continues, “is anxious to find a legal cover – to be provided by Congress – to sanction the dubious legality of its previous efforts to force labor conscription on the country. The Administration has known for a long time that labor conscription by Executive Order is on legally shaky ground ... as witness how long it has waited since July 1 to put it into effect in the Allentown Plan.” (For information on the origin and development of the Allentown Plan, see The Militant, Feb. 24, 1945).

This is the treacherous “compromise” that Murray, Green and Company are urging the workers to support. “Urge your Senator,” pleads the CIO News editorial, “to vote for the Kilgore-Wagner-Ferguson bill.” The union militants must arouse the workers to reject this injunction. Urge the workers to adopt resolutions, organize demonstrations, utilize every means, to make known labor’s uncompromising opposition to any and all forms of forced labor.

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