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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(16 September 1930)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 23, 16 September 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A “Blessing” We’d Rather Not Have

Speaking to the American Federation of Teachers, Bill Green is reported to have delivered himself of the following bright remark: “we are not opposed to compulsory industrial service, registration and training, if that becomes necessary to protect our lives and our homeland.”

We are not certain of what Green means by “compulsory industrial service” but the statement is certainly not a good one. It is of a kind with Green’s former outburst at the graduation exercises of the FBI police training school. Here he called on the police to clean the racketeers from the union and remarked that “we (the AFL and the police) can be friends and we want to be friends.”

One day Green is against the conscription act and the next day he is in favor of compulsory industrial service for the workers. The workers don’t have a tough enough time with the boss now under the system of work for what you get or starve. Green evidently is ready to accept a system that puts workers under the complete control of the government and the bosses without any say in the matter, or any opportunity for organized action for better conditions. Green thinks that such a step may be necessary to “protect our lives and our homeland.” What kind of “homeland” is it that needs labor conscription to protect it? We are against military conscription for imperialist war. How much stronger would we be against labor conscription for the Wall Street War. We would like to inform brother Green that “compulsory industrial service” is one of the “blessings” that has been bestowed on the German workers by Herr Hitler.

Where the Boss Can’t, the Government Tries

One of New Jersey’s vice-chancellors has delivered a “judicial” opinion of the kind that comes out of Hague’s state quite often. The vice-chancellor, one Sooey, voided the closed shop provisions in the contracts of the New Jersey oyster industry. Some little oyster company appealed to the court against the United Oystermen’s Union that had forced closed shop agreements from the oyster companies. The union controls 95% of the 2,200 oystermen in New Jersey and required workers to join the union or get permits before going to work.

The vice-chancellor held that this practice was “monopolistic” and tended to deny employment to persons who might otherwise be employed.

This incident has some important lessons. Here was a union that was strong enough to force a closed shop contract from the bosses. Scabs, stool pigeons, and union busters would have great difficulty operating. The union could force increases in wages and better working conditions. The bosses were forced to deal with the union and grant their demands. But the bosses knew they had an ace in the hole. This was the government; their government. What the bosses could not do. the government, the state, stepped in and did for them. If the workers fail to abide by the state’s decision, the boss can call in the police and the courts to throw them into jail.

Despite all this the workers must have their unions, they must have the closed shop and they must remain prepared to drag concessions from the boss. they didn’t build their unions by accepting such decisions as this one by Sooey.

A Taste of a Not So “Democratic Process”

We stated some time back that the fools in the Capitol at Washington evidently think they can stamp out the class struggle by some such act as sending the Stalinist Harry Bridges back to Australia. They passed a law naming Bridges specifically for deportation. Attorney-General Jackson objected to this bill as not in keeping with “American practice and tradition.”

The men on Capitol Hill later took a tip from Jackson to the effect that he could proceed against Bridges, or any other alien under the new Alien Registration Act. Dean Landis who conducted the Bridges deportation hearing had decided that Bridges was not deportable because at the time of the proceedings he was not a member of a “subversive organization.” This was based on the Supreme Court decision in the Strecker Case.

They couldn’t get Bridges under any existing law and because of Supreme Court decisions. And so shat did they do? They passed a law calling for the registration of aliens and included in this act provisions for getting around the constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court. Jackson proudly announced that “since that time (the Landis decision on Bridges) however, in the Alien Registration Act of 1940, Congress enacted legislation specifically designed to alter the rule of the Strecker decision and to make deportable an alien who at any time in the past has been a member of a subversive organization.”

What we want to impress on workers especially is the way that this thing was done. The whole business was a frame-up procedure perpetrated by the government in league with the bosses, particularly the shipping interests of the Pacific Coast. Now it is “aliens.” Later it will be any worker who dares raise his head and utter a complaint against the bosses or the government. If you are an “alien” and belonged to a “legal” working class party five years ago and later left that party you can be deported today if some government outfit decides that that party is “subversive.” This is what is known to Fourth of July orators, the White House, and to chambers of commerce as “the democratic process.” it was this same process that kept Mooney in jail 20 years and that murdered Sacco and Vanzetti.

The only way out for the workers against this sort of “democratic process” is a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT, A WORKERS’ CONGRESS, A WORKERS’ DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

Remember The Queen’s “Let ’Em Eat Cake!”

An official of the British Ministry of Agriculture has been pandering the question of feeding the English workers this winter. Tourists who had seen the fish farms of Scandinavia suggested that England establish fish farms and pay special attention to the breeding of trout. The official replied that trout would cost about fifty cents to farm and would take three years to grow. He then said that the public should turn to catching eels.

“Millions of them are just waiting to be caught and eaten,” he said. “In East Anglia, the Fens, Sussex, Kent and many other parts of the country. In the Autumn they will be making their way to the sea. They should not be allowed to get away. They are first-class food.” The Ministry plans to organize eel catching demonstrations.

We would like to remind the Ministry of Agriculture that a short time before she was beheaded by the French revolutionaries. Queen Marie Antoinette had remarked that if the workers had no bread they could eat cake.

The Lithographers Have an Argument

The International Printing Pressmen’s Union (AFL) is preparing to hold its first convention in 12 years on September 9. One important issue before the convention is the 27 year old feud between the pressmen and and the Amalgamated Lithographers (AFL). The 1918 AFL convention ordered the lithographers to disband and join the pressmen and photo-engravers.

The lithographers refused on the ground that as long as the AFL is on a craft basis there is no reason for them not to have their own craft international. The lithographers said that if there was one union for the printing field they would join. They were not expelled from the AFL but are not officially recognized.

It seems to us that the lithographers have something here. They are willing to join a printing trades industrial union but so long as the industry is divided and based on craft. then the lithographers want the customary craft autonomy. The simple solution to these problems is unification of the AFL and CIO with the perspective of the complete organization of industry into industrial unions.

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