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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(9 June 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 23, 9 June 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We’ve Got Our Own Idea, Mr. Roosevelt

In his speech last week threatening to start a real “shooting war” President Roosevelt gave a warning to “labor”. He said:

“The actual production and transportation of machinery of defense must not be interrupted by disputes between capital and capital, labor and labor, or capital and labor. A nation-wide machinery for conciliation and mediation of industrial disputes has bean set up. The machinery must be used promptly – and without stoppage of work. Collective bargaining will be retained, but the American people expect that government conciliation and mediation services will be followed, both by capital and labor.”

The capitalist press, the bosses and the labor haters in Congress were especially “impressed” by this part of Roosevelt’s speech. They should be, because the sentiment expressed by Roosevelt was right up their alley. That is what the bosses and their stooges have been saying for months. We will leave to Roosevelt the settlement of disputes between “capital and capital.” That’s a quarrel inside his own family. We don’t want to interfere there. But the disputes between “labor and labor, or capital and labor,” that’s our business and we don’t grant Roosevelt and the bosses the right to say the deciding word. Disputes within the working class and its organizations must be settled by the workers without the “assistance” of the bosses or the bosses’ capitalist government. This includes the disputes between the AFL and CIO, as well as the jurisdictional disputes that arise inside organized labor.

Roosevelt said that the mediation machinery must be used without stoppage of work. That is, Roosevelt demands and attempts to enforce a “cooling off” period. If the workers have grievances that have not been adjusted with the employer, they must automatically be submitted to the Mediation Board before a strike is called. This, of course is a plain strike-breaking attitude. Workers should reject this procedure completely.

The primary relationship of the workers is to the employer, not to the Mediation Board. If a union cannot reach an agreement with the boss and its demands are rejected, then the union should call a strike and go through with it. Of course production should be stopped. That is the basic method for labor to win its demands; stop production, which means stopping the bosses’ profits.

All the hokus-pocus about “defense” production is only a trick to fool labor. The bulk of the profits of the bosses now are coming from this so-called defense production; this production of war materials is for the imperialist war. Capitalist profits leap to the skies but the workers are told that they should make sacrifices. A worker making guns, airplanes and bullets gets just as hungry as one making paper novelties and silk hats. If there is to be sacrificing; let the bosses do it. They’re the one getting the big profits from the war.

Roosevelt says that “collective bargaining will be retained.” Collective bargaining will be retained if the workers insist. It wont be retained just because Roosevelt says so. Labor will “retain collective bargaining” by the use of the same methods used to get it: organization, militancy and the strike. Roosevelt didn’t give labor collective bargaining, and he cannot take it away unless labor goes to sleep and puts its case in the hands of some phony outfit such as the Mediation Board.

Bill Green Wields The “Big Stick”

Roosevelt showed labor the mailed fist and following his speech the Executive Council of the AFL fell in line with its own Big Stick. Against the bosses? Not on your life; not Green, Wall, Frey and Hutchinson. Green and the Council pledged the support of the AFL for aid to Britain, and as a measure of “sacrifice for the national defense” agreed to the President’s command for submitting disputes to mediation before striking.

The Council said that it would discipline all directly-chartered organizations and would urge internationals to take similar action. this is an interesting decision by the Council. No one has been able to get such positive action from Green and the others in connection with racketeering in the AFL. According to Green, the Council and the convention were helpless. Green went so far as to ask the FBI to assist the Council in cleaning out the racketeers from the AFL. The Council couldn’t rid the organization of Scalise and the other racketeers who infest the AFL. We suppose too that George A. Browne was present at the Council meeting that passed this resolution, calling off strikes in the AFL. Browne is a member of the Council and president of the Theatrical Stage Employees. He is a racketeer who has recently been indicted by a federal court for extorting $550,000 from the movie industry. That great labor statesman and incorruptible citizen, Willie Bioff was also indicted along with Browne. Willie has just completed a six months jail sentence for pandering.

Green and his Executive Council can’t clean out the racketeers, crooks and panderers from the AFL but they can get tough with the militant workers who want to raise their wages. Of course Green, the Executive Council and the racketeers in the AFL don’t need to raise their wages and shorten their hours. They are fat and well-dressed.

Green and his friends have sold out completely to the bosses on the question of supporting the imperialist war. AFL workers must be prepared for the rankest type of betrayal from this gang. They have been sold down the river. Any efforts of militant AFL workers to better their condition during the war, will have to be carried on with the full knowledge that Bill Green will be against them.

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