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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(12 August 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 18, 12 August 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Labor Must Fight for More Wages

For the first half of 1940 the United States Steel Corporation has announced a net profit of $36,315,443. For the first half of 1939 the net profit was $1,970.312. This means that Big Steel’s profits increased $34,344,691 over the first six months of 1939. Think of it; a jump from a little under two million to more than thirty-six million! These are certainly war times and war time profits for America’s 60 Families are here.

It is interesting that the big papers and the financial commentators did not make much fuss about the success of Morgan and Stettinius in making millions for themselves and their friends in the steel industry. It isn’t good to let the steel workers know that “their” company “earned” more than thirty-six million dollars in six months this year. Furthermore the company declared a $1.00 dividend on the common stock. this means that a bunch of big shoots grabbed all the way from $5,000 to $75,000 and over just sitting around waiting for the steel workers to produce the necessary wealth and income for the corporation. These huge profits were sweated out of the men who labor in the ore mines and the mills of the steel company.

These profits too, are the income from capitalist war. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were murdered on or around the battlefields of Europe in order that those millions might go into the pockets of the rich. They are blood profits.

The workers in Big Steel have received no increase in wages. They produced the wealth but they didn’t get it. They toiled like hell to make people rich who don’t work. They risk their lives daily in the ore mines; they drudge away before the furnaces and are expected to be thankful for any crumbs the bosses see fit to throw their way.

The steel workers can get at least some of this thirty-six million which the bosses have just taken from them. They can demand an increase in wages. The CIO can organize every steel worker in the country and demand higher wages. If this isn’t granted the workers can strike.

The workers should not be scared by any boloney about holding up the defense program. All they need emphasize and talk about is the profits the bosses are raking in. If any big shot faker begins foaming at the mouth about patriotism the workers can talk long and loud about the patriotism of the manufacturers and the bankers: how they are refusing to sign contracts until the government assure them that patriotism will be rewarded in the form of big profits.

Letting “Nature Take Its Course”

Roger Babson, who heads some sort of business statistical organization and who also has a service for supplying churches with mottoes and beautiful sayings for their outside announcement boards, has found a cure for unemployment. The President should have “let nature take its course.” Also the unemployed should be helped temporarily but “solution of the unemployment problem lay with the jobless themselves” and “if they can’t climb out after being helped, they should fail – that is nature’s method of showing them they are wrong.”

The unemployed should not get too heated over the asininities of a nit-wit like Babson. There are plenty of people who hold the same views; some with more sense than Babson. The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial expressing the same viewpoint as long ago as 1933. Also we have the opinion that the New Deal, which Babson dislikes, had just a bit of the let nature takes its course philosophy. There are still around ten million unemployed and many of them are starving.

When Babson says that the unemployed must solve their own problems, we are at least in partial agreement. All workers have to solve their own problem with such help as they can round up. In the days of the militancy of the unemployed organizations, they were on their way. But after the merger of the three national unemployed organizations under Lasser and the Stalinists things went from bad to worse. Lasser was “trying to make capitalism work” and the Stalinists were busy with the Peoples Front, the Star Spangled Banner and Thomas Jefferson. Of course, none of this helped feed, clothe and house the unemployed.

A Revival of the “Old Times”

The papers report that 400 unemployed workers took over the California State Relief Administration offices and held staff prisoners for more than five hours last week. This sounds like old times. We can remember instances of this kind happening daily and weekly in the earlier days of the depression. When unemployed workers seized a relief station and held it for 59 days, when they stormed the relief warehouses and carried away food and clothing, when thousands of the unemployed planted themselves on the lawn of the state capitol and forced the governor to see their representatives.

This was the Golden Age of the unemployed movement and it was the battles of those days that makes it possible for the unemployed to get even the meagre relief they receive today.

This and That in Labor’s Struggle

The CIO Oil Workers International announces a drive to organize the oil workers in Texas in the region between the Rio Grande and the Mississippi. The drive will center around the Humble Oil Refinery.


The North Georgia Mfg. Co., makers of pants and overalls has been ordered to pay $2,067 in back wages to several employees, abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act and pay the thirty cents hourly minimum wage. The company was violating the Act by the “kick-back” and by claiming that although the employees remained at the plant longer than the maximum hours, they “were free to utilize such time as they saw fit.”


The officers of the Fitzgerald Georgia Cotton mills have been acquitted of charges that they conspired to violate the Wagner Act. This despite the fact that the workers were intimidated, had their wages cut and kicked out of their jobs by the closing of the mill to defeat union organization.

The company had relief stopped and company thugs beat a Congregational minister who took the side of the workers. We suppose the point is that the company did not “conspire” to do any of these things, they just went ahead and did them. The law is a wonderful thing.


The electrical workers local at the Crosley Corporation, in Cincinnati,. makers of radios and refrigerators, has discovered a very questionable method of keeping the men folks in work. They are not going to let married women work in the shops. There is a clause in the new agreement stipulating that married women shall not be employed and should any of the female employees get married it is understood that she resign at once.

We can sympathise a little with the aims of these men workers but their fancied solution to unemployment is thoroughly reactionary. It is cut from the same piece of cloth as agreements to keep Negroes out of the union and to deny them employment. These workers do not mean it that way, but it smacks of Hitler’s motto for women, “church, kitchen and children.” If all the employed married women in the U.S. should quit their jobs and men should take them, there would be no appreciable change in family security and welfare, except that many families would experience an increase in misery and want. The only way for these workers to get relief is to get higher wages and shorter hours. Sending the women home won’t help.

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