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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions on the Picket Line

(29 July 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 16, 29 July 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two Peas in a Pod

Many political commentators have been saying that there is no fundamental difference between the Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy and national defense. Certainly there is no fundamental difference on these questions. How can there be? Both parties are operated and controlled by millionaires or their stooges, for the benefit of and in the interest of the rich. Right now foreign policy and “national defense” have a definite and close relationship to profits and opportunities for increasing profits in the next year or two. Both parties are interested primarily in the preservation of capitalism and capitalist private profit. We have already pointed out how even the patriotism of the big bankers and industrialists grows hot or cold depending on the size of profit permitted by the government.

Furthermore one party will be just an anxious, as the other to protect the investments of U.S. millionaires in Europe and Asia and to protect and help extend their investments in South America. Both parties are willing to give business a little more freedom to exploit workers and thereby increase profits. That’s the chief reason for the existence of both parties.

Eye to Eye on NLRB

One interesting instance of seeing eye to eye is the fact that both parties favor amending the National Labor Relations Act. The only difference between them is that the Republicans are more outspoken, while the Democrats pussy-foot. The Republicans want the Act “amended in fairness to employers and all groups of employees so as to provide true freedom for, and orderliness in, self-organization and collective bargaining.” The Democrats pledge themselves “to maintain the principles of the National Labor Relations Act.” This means of course that they favor its amendment. They too want an act fair to employers and “all groups of employees.” Both parties are prepared to open the door for the extension of company unions. The AFL should note this while they are fighting to have this Act changed. Bill Green seems to be of the opinion that all he has to fight is the CIO. He forgets that all of the big employers are not as stupid and open as Weir and others in their company union procedure. They are learning new tricks.

Last but by no means least the Democrats will “work always for a just distribution of our national income among those who labor.” To get the full flavor of this workers should think it over in connection with the Republican claim that “the Republican Party has always protected the American worker.”

From time to time we hazard a guess on how long the U.S. workers will continue to fall for this Republican and Democratic tripe. Always protected the American workers! Work for a just distribution of the national income among the workers! This is what Morgan, Rockefeller, Ford, Girdler, Weir, Young, DuPont are aiming at when they hurl their thugs and gunmen at the workers. This is what Roosevelt, Willkie and all the other Morgan-Rockefeller-Young deputies are aiming at when they agree that wages shall be as low as $15 a week while the big shots may go as high as $10,000 a week. This is what they mean by “just distribution.”

In the midst of all this one remembers with a shock that the first labor party (Working Men’s Party) in the world was formed right in this country, in Philadelphia, 112 years ago this month. Despite the fact that over a century ago the workers of the United States began realizing that the parties of the bosses did not and could not represent them, they are still jumping back and forth from one boss party to the other.

And Again – Patriotism Pays Dividends

All workers who are satisfied with their wages, the wages system and capitalism would probably get mad as hell if they took a little time off to read more about what is really going on. For instance let’s look again at corporation profits for this year: the grand year of national defense and patriotism. The New York Times reports that 100 corporations increased their earnings by 60% over the first half of 1939. These 100 Corporations had total net income of $113,658,828 for six months, an increase of $70,818,876 over the first six months of 1939. Republic Steel (Tom Girdler) increased from $1,083,311 to $6,449,453 or 495%! General Electric (Morgan, Young) from $16,370,192 to $25,871,572, or 58%. Atlantic Refining, (Rockefeller) $1,353,000 to $5,266,000 or 289%.

American Telephone and Telegraph (Bell Telephone Companies, Morgan) net income for 12 months ended, May 31 was $203,549,917, an increase of $35,446,093 over 1939.

This is the huge corporation which advertises that no one person owns as much as 1% of its stock. This is just as much a sucker advertisement as the old gold mine “ads” or the patent medicine stuff. AT.&T. has 18,686,794 shares of stock outstanding. Each share of this stock “earned” $10.89 a share the past year. (This doesn’t mean of course that dividends are $10.89 a share). However any stockholder who owned even one half of 1% of A.T.&T. stock would have 93,433 shares. The real situation in 1928 (according to Berle and Means: The Modern Corporation and Private Property) was that the 20 largest stockholders held 515,485 shares; George Baker leading individual owners with 53,522 shares.

It is very easy to see that with its tremendous monopoly earnings the dividends of A.T.&T. are large. Furthermore they are regular and constant. This means that there is a small group of individuals and corporations, such as the Sun Life Insurance Co. with over 70,000 shares in 1928. that have nothing else to do but sit and wait for telephone workers to create wealth for them to pocket. We leave out of consideration here any discussion of the fact that the control of the company is in the hands of a very few large shareholders. The main point is not the per cent of stock owned by any one person, but the total number of shares owned, and the fact that these shares are concentrated in the hands of a few powerful corporations and individuals.

Here are a few newspaper headlines for the past week: “EARNINGS AT RECORD LEVEL, Eaton Manufacturing Company Clears $1,008,348 in 6 months.” “RECORD CHRYSLER WEEK.” “21% GAIN IS SHOWN BY DUPONT: SECOND QUARTER TOTAL PUT AT 484,514,779.” “OLDSMOBILE SALES RISE 105%.” “PACKARD SALES JUMP 222%.” “100 CONCERNS SHOW EARNINGS UP 60.5%.”

But What Are the Workers Doing?

We have said before that patriotism pays the ruling class. It is paying handsome dividends today in real dollars to the owners of the factories mines, mills and the land. And what are the workers doing while the bosses are grabbing millions of dollars? Well, out in Pittsburgh some steel workers are hunting for “un-American” workers in their own ranks while the bosses give the witch hunt their blessings. One section of the labor movement is fighting to have the Wagner Act changed so that it will be fair to the bosses and company unions. That isn’t the way they put it but that is what the AFL fight against the Act means. John L. Lewis is attempting to assume the role of president maker, just as though it made any real difference to workers whether Roosevelt or Willkie is president. Dubinsky at the last convention of the ILGWU, in addition to flag-waving and war-mongering, had the constitution of his union changed so that any militant paid officer can be kicked out by the top leadership of the union. All candidates for a paid office in a local union must deposit duplicate resignations in blank with the G.S.T. of the ILGWU and the local before they take office.

Now is the time for unity among the workers, all of them, the AFL, CIO, railroad unions and the numerous other independent unions; unity for more wages, shorter hours and complete organization of all industrial and agricultural workers.

Cockroaches and Chiselers

The State Labor Department of New Jersey reports a “disturbing” disregard of the state labor laws by Atlantic City employers. In one day seven inspectors found 193 violations in 69 restaurants, hotels and other business places.

Fashion Lane Dress Company admitted in court that it had falsified its books to conceal its practice of scab production. Furthermore the company paid wages under the legal minimum and jumbled its records to keep this fact from being discovered.

Signal Knitting Mills of Chattanooga, Tenn. has granted a closed shop to its workers. After the NLEB had ordered the Company to disband its company union the outfit organized another company union and announced that it had signed a “closed shop contract” with the new union. Justice (ILGWU paper) reports that the “closed shop” was in effect before the union was formed.

John L. Martin writing in Justice on Union News From Dixie has the following juicy morsel: “The war fever has hit the chamber of commerce boys in Dixie with the factory bug, and every little crossroad town is whooping it up for a bigger and better war so they can get a ‘new industry’.”

Charles Hardy, president of the American Car and Foundry Co. had a little difficulty at the last stockholders meeting. Last year Hardy’s salary was $73,695. It was also revealed that a law firm headed by Hardy got $112,825 in fees from the company. One stockholder felt that $30,000 a year salary should be enough for their president. He was defeated however when the president announced that he had been successful in getting an order from the government for 900 army tanks. $73,695 a year is about $1,400 dollars a week or nearly $30 an hour for a 48 hour week. Hardy is probably one of the boys who believe that his workers should be satisfied with 30 cents an hour. If they want more money let them work more hours.

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