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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(19 May 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 20, 19 May 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There Are Plenty of Strikes in England

Employers in the United States and their representatives are always anxious to make workers believe that there are no strikes in England; the British government, they say, has taken care of this by law or regulations of some sort. The idea behind these lies, of course, is to hasten legislation “outlawing” strikes in the United States.

Of course, it isn’t true that there are no strikes in England. There are plenty of strikes and many of them are won by the workers. Papers in the United States, especially the press outside of New York City, refuse to carry stories of these strikes. They don’t want the workers here to know that all the British workers are not “taking it” lying down.

Eight thousand young engineering apprentices in 18 plants in Lancashire stopped work on a demand for increases in wages. In order to break this strike the government sent the boys “calling-up notices” for military service. The Ministry of Labor, headed by Ernest Bevin, Labor party Leader, said that “if these men will not work in the engineering sheds, they must be made to aid in the national effort elsewhere.”

Six of the boys who were the leaders of the strike were arrested and “bound over” for 12 months. The government charged them with “taking part in a strike in a dispute not reported to the Ministry of Labor and National Service.” The magistrate who heard the case said that he was impressed with the way the boys had conducted the strike but that they had been “ill-advised.”

The coal diggers in Britain are demanding a guaranteed weekly wage and a share in the control of the mining industry. The owners are resisting such a demand, of course, even refusing recognition to the union on a national scale. The British miners have learned that the only way to get anything even approaching a guaranteed weekly wage is to have some measure of control in the industry. The worker can’t even keep a job, to say nothing of guaranteed wages, so long as industry is under the complete control and domination of the bosses.

Camp Scandals Here and in England

They are having training camp scandals in England, too, the same as in this country. some members of Parliament have the feeling that the government is hushing up the scandal. The Select Committee on National Expenditure reported that private firms had been paid $400,000,000 for building camps that had been estimated to cost only $84,000,000.

The U.S. Senate committee investigating profiteering in the building of army camps, reports that the actual cost of building Camp Meade will be 22 million dollars. The estimate by the War Department was $10,000,000.

The J.E. Greiner Co. drew up plans for Meade for which they were paid a fee of $55,000. It seems that the army officers in charge changed these plans and went ahead with their own ideas. The army idea was to build the camp on some good, tough, sticky clay land away from good roads which were already built. This would mean building more roads, which would give business to the cement companies. Major-General Parsons took full responsibility for the site selected, saying that it was the best area for training troops. Senator Truman, of the committee, said that the reason Parsons vetoed the engineers’ plans was because they put the camp hospital on the officers’ golf course. We suppose that some of the sites in England had to be changed because they were planned for the officers’ fox-hunting course.

There Are Finks All Over the World

The London Daily Herald (organ of the British Labor Party) has been carrying stories about strikes in the United States. The Daily Herald has suggested to its readers that the resentment of the United States public against the strikes is justifiable and that public support of congressional anti-strike legislation would be warranted. The British New Leader (Independent Labor Party) informs its readers: “... that the workers of America have ample justification for their present direct action, irrespective of any political considerations. The Daily Herald correspondent’s attempt to whitewash the employers is a crime against organized labour in america and a slander against decent workers losing the only means at their disposal to defend elementary trade union rights won against overwhelming odds in a long and bloody struggle against American big business.” The British Daily Herald is a paper similar to the New Leader published in New York City. This rag, which pretends to be a labor paper, is as viciously anti-labor as the New York Times. The New York New Leader is the organ .of the Social Democratic Federation. This outfit is for the war and was for U.S. entry even before John D. Rockefeller and Thomas Lamont.

Bevin’s Union Gives Bevin a Jolt

A clerk in South Wales was fired and 23,000 clerks walked out on strike. They returned to work after the management had agreed to restore the clerk to his job and meet with the union representatives. The striking workers belonged to the National Association of Clerical and Supervisory Staffs, a subsidiary of the Transport and General Workers. Aside from the fact that this was a war-time walk-out in England, the strike had interest due to the fact that the union was the one that Ernest Bevin belongs to. Bevin is Labor minister in the war cabinet and the chief labor lieutenant of Prime Minister Churchill.

For Aid to the Unions, Not to the Bosses

The shop steward movement is so strong in England that some bosses have devised a scheme to break their influence among the workers in the plants. They are trying out the trick of transferring shop stewards to other plants as soon as they have built up influence and prestige.

In one plant the convener of the shop stewards, who was in this post for seven years, was transferred. The secretary of the shop stewards’ conference was also transferred.

These accounts of what is going on in England demonstrate that the bosses are the same all over the capitalist world. capitalism is the same wherever you find it. The capitalists of the United States have decided on “all out aid to Britain.” Trade union leaders in the United States are asking the workers to give aid to England. This can only mean that they are asking the workers in this country to aid the British bosses so that these bosses can continue their oppression and exploitation of the English workers.

The workers in this country should aid the British workers, but not the British bosses. Money and supplies of all kinds collected by workers in this country should go to the British workers only. The distribution of these supplies should be under the direct control of the English trade unions, it should go direct to the unions and to them alone.

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