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C. Thomas

Cops of ‘Labor Friend’ O’Dwyer
Assault Western Union Pickets

(4 February 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 6, 9 February 1946, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEW YORK, Feb. 4 – The temperature was freezing cold as a mass picket line rallied by the Joint CIO Strike Support Committee marched up and down the pavement in front of the main office of the Western Union building this morning in New York City.

A solid phalanx of cops, standing shoulder to shoulder, extended the entire length of the block forming a barrier between the pickets and the building entrance.

Armed with clubs, the cops stood facing the marching pickets. At their back, between the police barrier and the building, a block-long passage remained open for the passage of scabs.

Cops swarmed all around the block. They were across the street in archways and building entrances. Squads of mounted police occupied the four corners and others rode their horses menacingly up and down the picket line. There were teams of cops in motorcycle and sidecar. There were cops of every size, shape and variety, provocatively swinging their clubs, itching for trouble. Suddenly it came!

A group of scabs slank through the passage behind the police line on their way to the building entrance. The pickets booed. A cop resented the attitude of the pickets and began pushing them around. Without warning, the mounted Cossacks charged into the line. Men and women were set upon by club-swinging, uniformed thugs bent on cracking workers’ heads.

The workers were completely unprepared for this brutal assault. They had been told by their Stalinist leaders that Mayor O’Dwyer was a “friend of labor,” and were led to believe that they were going to get the “cooperation” of the police.

At the very moment of the police-incited “incident” one of the Stalinist leaders of the striking CIO American Communications Association stood on top of the sound truck and boomed over the loud speaker:

“Reform the line and keep moving. Don’t cause any trouble. If the police don’t lose their heads there won’t be any trouble, etc., etc.”

The cold, calculating brutality of O’Dwyer’s police, who had massed for the express purpose of provoking an incident that would give them an excuse for clubbing pickets, was palmed off as the work of “hotheads.”

Workers Enraged

It was much easier for the Stalinists to paint O’Dwyer as the “labor-progressive-coalition” candidate during the recent mayoralty election than it is to conceal his present strike-breaking role from the pickets’ on the Western Union line. More than one picket questioned through gritted teeth: “Is this what we elected him for?” Others cursed in anger: “Unless we stop the scabs from going in, O’Dwyer’s cops will break our strike.”

“Unless we stop the scabs from going in the cops will break the strike.” This has become so obvious that it has found expression in the Stalinist-controlled Joint CIO Strike Support Committee. At a special emergency meeting of the committee one delegate declared that the workers are getting fed up with being pushed around by the cops, and that only the militant action of an aroused labor movement can halt the strikebreakers.

But the Stalinists, who had concluded a political deal in the recent mayoralty election with the Democratic Party and its candidate O’Dwyer, still cling to their foul-smelling alliance with Tammany.

Instead of mapping a militant program designed to really stop the scabs from crossing the picket line the Stalinists have planned another brief protest demonstration “to meet the labor injunction threat in the Western Union strike.”

Only One Way

The main purpose of such labor injunctions, however, is to give the cops a pretext to use violence against effective picketing. O’Dwyer’s cops have resorted to violence on a number of occasions even before the courts have given them the injunction pretext. There is only one way to meet such threats. That is the way of militant mass picket line resistance to all strikebreaking actions.

The outcome of the Western Union strike is of the utmost importance to the entire labor movement in the New York area. If the cops are permitted to break the strike, a precedent will have been established and a pattern laid down for police strikebreaking against other unions.

It is necessary to arouse the entire organized labor movement to the danger that threatens, to reveal its true source and to rally the unions for a fighting showdown with the corporation and its political agents in the city administration.

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