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C. Thomas

Workers Oppose WMC Draft Plan in New Bedford

(10 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 10, 10 March 1945, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The textile community of New Bedford, Mass., has been up in arms against the attempt of the War Manpower Commission to apply the forced-labor “Allentown Plan’’ to the workers of that city. Several weeks ago, the WMC ordered the discharge of over 100 textile workers with the announced intention of forcing them to take jobs in the Fisk and Firestone tire fabric plants.

Under the “Allentown Plan” employment ceilings on certain “non-essential” industries are reduced. The workers discharged are directed to the U.S. Employment Service for assignment to other jobs. “If the workers refuse the jobs,” explained one WMC official, “the USES bars them from any employment by refusing them job referrals.” The “plan” is a work-where-you’re-told-or-starve scheme based on the compulsory labor decrees of the Roosevelt administration.

With one or two exceptions, the workers discharged from the New Bedford textile mills have refused to accept jobs in the tire fabric plants. Antonio England, New Bedford director of the CIO Textile Workers Union, declared they refused because “of exhaustive stretchouts in both plants and because of exhaustive speed-ups.” The workers of the Fisk and Firestone plants have been trying to better their working conditions but the War Labor Board has pigeon-holed their grievances.

“Now when others who know about these disputes,” added England, “are asked to go towork in the fabric mills anyway, they resent it. To them it appears that the government, by means of the manpower ceilings and the offer of jobs in the tire fabric plants only, is coming to the aid of the management in this controversy.”

“The WMC,” comments a Scripps-Howard reporter, “as well as the Army (which is behind the scenes), doesn’t look at it that way.” Their attitude is that’ “the workers should gladly give up their jobs in the civilian goods mills and accept employment in the fabric plants, even if it should mean a temporary hardship.”

These political and military agents of the employers never hesitate to call for additional sacrifices from the workers. But when George Baldanzi, executive vice-president of the Textile Workers Union, offered to supply all the workers needed if the “tire cord plants were taken over and operated by the government without profit,” the professional patriots shut up like a clam!

Because of the vigorous opposition of the unions, supported in this case by the city administration and the local textile manufacturers, the government agents are determined to make a test case in New Bedford. They have refused any concessions.

The Kilgore-Wagner bill, now before the Senate, is designed to “legalize” the “Allentown Plan." In presenting it, Senator Thomas, chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, declared that the bill aims “to enact a statutory basis for two basic types of regulation: First, employment ceilings under which employers could be required to release workers, and second, hiring controls under which workers so released or otherwise available for new jobs could be channeled to suitable jobs where they were most needed.”

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