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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions on the Picket Line

(15 July 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 14, 15 July 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Patriot’s Progress

The anti-trust division of the Justice Department has charged the American Pulpwood Association and 12 corporations with conspiracy to keep down the wages of 70,000 workers. The Association and the 12 corporations were indicted for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The forest workers, one half of whom are Negroes, should have been paid at least 25 cents an hour but they got no more than 19 cents. This means that some probably got less.

The indicted companies control 80% of the kraft paper industry. The Association is the boss and tells the woodcutting companies just how they are to operate and how much to pay the forest workers. There are producing companies and sub-producing companies and all have plants in the South.

It is clear that the labor base of these big chiselers is southern Negro and poor white labor. It is unorganized and frightfully exploited and oppressed. If the true story were known we would have a tale of Negro-hating, labor-baiting, brutal and ignorant foremen; and workers living in shacks and existing on a half starvation diet.

Even if these workers had a sixty hour week at the set minimum of 25 cents they would get only $15.00. When the company deliberately steals six cents an hour, they pay these forest workers only $11.40 and rob them of $3.60 every week.

The indictment talks of a “conspiracy” to keep workers wages down. This is alright as far as it goes, but all workers must remember that capitalism itself is one vast “legal” conspiracy to keep all workers wages down. It was not just a nice sounding phrase when Karl Marx warned the working class many years ago that “they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘abolition of the wages system.’”

Some Get Caught ... Stealing

Another big patrioteer is Howard Hopson of the huge Associated Gas and Electric system. Hopson of course is one of the Willkie-men. He is charged with stealing $20,000,000 from his own company and then defrauding “his government” to the tune of nearly two million dollars in income taxes.

This is the usual practice among the big shot bankers and manufacturers. They steal from everything and anybody; their own companies, the workers and the government. Some of them are not as slick as others and get caught. If Hopson had not been in the clutches of the courts on July 4 he would probably have been on some D.A.R. or American Legion platform wrapped in the flag and bellowing for the workers to kick back a part of their low wages for national defense.

National Defense Measured by $ Sign

All of the Hopsons are supporters of the National Defense Tax Bill. This is the bill that forces’ the workers to pay proportionately more for national defense than their bosses will pay. It hits the single worker making $65 a month and the married worker getting $163. Then there is a special levy of 10%. Then come the taxes on beer, plug tobacco, movies and gasoline. There will be 2,000,000 new income taxpayers all from the group of workers whose living standards are already far too low.

There are lots of things for workers to pay attention to and remember in these days of billion dollar congressional appropriations. Nearly all of this money will go to manufacturers and bankers. Millions will go for profits and dividends. Love of country for the overwhelming majority of the big boys is determined by the size of profits and dividends. The shipbuilders have demonstrated this quite openly. Their patriotism is determined by the per cent of profit. If the profit for aiding in national defense is to be 10% above “cost” then their patriotism will glow with a pure white heat. However, if the profit is to be only 7% the shipbuilders may not be so patriotic. In fact, Captain Krause, of the Defense Advisory Commission, in testifying before the Naval Affairs Committee, said that if the profits problem is attacked too vigorously, the attitude of the shipbuilders might become one of “hesitancy or resistance.” Let every worker think this over when he is about to decide that this is not the time to strike for higher wages.

Here and There

Workers in the Mellon Aluminum Co. are threatening strike. The union is demanding a flat increase of ten cents an hour for 15,000 workers. The Aluminum Co. of course is one of the outfits that will cash in on the war. Just last week the company got an order from the War Department for cooking utensils and other equipment for feeding 1,000,000 soldiers ...

Remington-Rand, Inc., makers of typewriters and office equipment has agreed to demobilize its nine company unions. Also to “cease urging and warning its employees not to become or remain members” of the machinists union. The company must also post a notice telling the employees that they may join any union they wish without fear of discrimination.

The CIO and the United Rubber Workers have started a drive for the complete organization of the Akron plants of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. At the same time the union is carrying on an organizing drive in the Goodyear plants in Jackson, Mich., Gadsden, Ala. and Los Angeles. The union will demand a written contract in all these Goodyear plants.

West Coast Marine Strike Cancelled

Two and one half hours after the deadline for ending negotiations and beginning the strike, the west coast marine cooks and stewards decided to call the strike off. Negotiations had been going on for ten months. Secretary Perkins wired the union urging them not to strike and Hillman asked Bridges, CIO leader, to intervene. It is not clear from newspaper reports just what the union gained. They won a ten per cent wage “adjustment.” Does this mean a blanket 10% wage increase? From the reports it seems that the union gave up its demand for the rotation principle in hiring. The shipping; companies claimed the right to hire “key employees” in place of someone that might be next in line,

All along the line there is a great deal of stirring in the ranks of the organized workers. This is correct. Now while capitalism is organizing for more profits is the time for the workers to organize tor more wages and shorter hours.

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