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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(23 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 37, 23 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

$1-an-Hour Minimum—That’s the Demand!

The Textile Workers Union is preparing demands on the worsted mills for substantial increases in pay for 90,000 worsted workers. The demand is to be based on the increase in business and profits flowing from government contracts. Emil Rieve, president of the Textile Workers Union (CIO), said that “the worsted industry is profitable and becoming more profitable. We will not permit employers either in the guise of patriotism or national defense to reap huge profits from lucrative government contracts without distribution of some of the profits to the workers in the form of wage increases.”

This is not only the case with the textile industry, but of all the war industries; especially the metal and aircraft industries, They are all making huge profits. The unions in every one of these industries .should be demanding wage increases. Not just a few cents an hour, but large increases in line with the large increase in profits. Workers should not be so modest when they are asking the bosses for more wages.

Profits in the war industries justify a minimum wage of $1.00 an hour. This is what the unions should demand. Technological advance and unemployment justify the demand for a maximum work week of 30 hours, a maximum of 30 hours and a minimum weekly wage of $30. The war industries can do this and still pay dividends and interests to a bunch of loafers who go by the name of members of the board, stockholders and bondholders.

Craft Unionism Proves Itself Outmoded

An AFL jurisdictional dispute between the carpenters and machinists was argued in the Supreme Court recently. Assistant attorney-general Arnold argued that jurisdictional disputes and strikes “suppressed competition” and were a conspiracy in restraint of trade within the meaning of the Sherman anti-trust act.

We are not so much interested in Arnold’s opinions as in the friction between two workers’ organizations, and especially two workers’ organizations in the same federation of labor. We are further interested in the fact that the AFL could not settle this dispute in its own ranks without the intervention of the Supreme Court.

The case arose over a strike called by the Brotherhood of Carpenters against the Anheuser-Busch Brewery of St. Louis. The carpenters demanded jurisdiction over mill-wright work that was being done by the International Association of Machinists.

This is an old story in the AFL. They haven’t learned yet that the advance in technology makes it impossible to clearly define in every instance, what is the province of this, that or the other craft union. This dispute is further evidence of the outmoded character of craft unionism. It is possible for a half dozen AFL craft unions to be involved in a dispute over jurisdiction. We saw this happen in the building of a vocational high school in Pittsburgh. There was a dispute about every two weeks, not over a disagreement with the boss but with each other. There wasn’t enough unity between the AFL unions to have a real fight against the contractors.

The industrial union structure is the only means of solving these jurisdictional disputes. The bosses know this and that is one of the reasons why they oppose industrial unionism. As long as the workers remain divided into two or more dozen crafts in every plant the bosses can play off one against the other.

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