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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(23 June 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 25, 23 June 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Rockefeller Expects a Return on His Investment

John D. Rockefeller, who is all for United States entry into the war, has given $100,000 to the United Service Organizations. This is the organization that has as its function the providing of recreation for the army and navy. Mr. Rockefeller, speaking at a dinner in New York to raise funds for the drive, said that he had always considered giving to charity and social service organizations an “investment.” That is, such giving brings a return to the giver. Mr. Rockefeller said that the return was satisfaction in knowing that some service had been rendered to those who had missed many of the good things of life.

There is adequate basis for the belief that this is not all the returns that Rockefeller and others receive from such investments. Rockefeller came out for the war right at the time when Hitler’s troops were approaching Iraq, Asiatic country where Standard Oil owns 90,000 square miles of oil lands. Of course, therefore, Rockefeller wants to raise the morale of the troops. Morale to him means the willingness to go docilely to their death fighting to keep that oil land from falling into the hands of the German imperialists.

This must be a very pleasing outlook for the workers in the various Standard Oil plants scattered all over the United States. These workers have a fight right here to win better working conditions, union organization and the defeat of the company unions maintained by Standard Oil.

All that Rockefeller has done is give a hundred thousand dollars for checkers, dominoes and pool tables for the soldiers so that they will play instead of sit around wondering whether or not they will be sent to Asia to protect that 90,000 square miles of oil lands.

Another Symptom of What’s Happening in the AFL

The scrap between the Brewery Workers International and the executive council of the AFL is about to be brought to some sort of conclusion in the courts. The fight has been going on since 1933. The Brewery Workers, before the coming of the CIO, along with the Miners, was the only industrial international in the AFL. They included all the workers in and around the breweries. In 1933 the AFL executive council ordered the Brewery Workers International to transfer all drivers to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the brewery engineers to the Union of Operating Engineers. The brewery union refused and was suspended. The union then went to court and won. The AFL appealed to a higher court and the lower court was reversed. The brewery workers later got a stay of action. They are holding on today under that stay of action when the final court order is issued they, will be out of the AFL unless they give up the teamsters and engineers.

Should the Brewery Workers International abide by the decision of the AFL and the court their union will be smashed. That is, if they lose the drivers and engineers the union will be so weakened that the remains will be ineffective against the brewery owners: It is fairly certain that they will not submit. This means that either they will remain independent or go to the CIO.

Significant things are happening in the AFL. The International Typographical Union voted to remain independent. Local 544 of the teamsters in Minneapolis has bolted to the CIO. The brewery union will in all probability get out. AFL and CIO machinists are acting in unison in the San Francisco shipyard strike. They have just voted to remain on strike against the demands of the “Mediation” Board.

”Law” Makers in a Lather Against Labor

The two houses of Congress got on their white horses last week and. dashed off in all directions against the unions. The “law” makers worked themselves up into a white heat on the sins of the unions. Holman of Oregon wanted all strikers put into the army and forced to work in the plants under military command. Byrd of Virginia threw in an amendment saying that strikes during the “defense” emergency are “contrary to sound public policy and are condemned by the Senate.” This amendment passed after a little softening. It was rewritten to include lockouts and refusal by employers to accept collective bargaining. The Connally amendment then was put through. This amendment is a “rider” to the new $10,000,000,000 army appropriation bill. It directs Roosevelt to take over all plants in which strikes occur or are threatened. Even if the President suspects that labor trouble is about to occur he can take over the plant.

The final result would have been far worse if some of the congressmen with at least a minimum of common sense and decency had not interposed vigorous objection to the amendments offered by such sterling stooges as Joe Starns of Alabama and Howard Smith of Virginia. Starns wanted to bar all workers who had been on strike for ten days from receiving any portion of the appropriation. Even Hatton Sumners of Texas got scared and refused to support the Starns amendment. Sumners is the poll tax congressman who suggested electrocution for strikers. Hatton has probably discovered that the workers are not afraid of his threats.

There is no doubt that the militancy of labor had a great deal to do with the “defense” of labor put up during this debate by its “friends” in Congress. The workers must not put too much dependence on the continuation of this “support:” The bosses and of course many of their stooges are worried today. There is division in their ranks. They were heartened when Roosevelt ordered out the army but they are not certain what the reaction of labor will be. The bosses have no taste for the kind of picket lines the workers have thrown around their plants. They fear that these picket lines will swell. And, too, the workers might begin devising ways and means for dealing with the army of strikebreakers.

FTC Catches Ford on a Fast One

Not only has Ford been gypping the workers in his factories but the car buying public also. The Federal Trade Commission ordered the old scoundrel to stop telling lies in his advertising about the low interest rate charged purchasers of his automobiles. Ford advertised that buyers paid only 6 per cent interest when they bought one of his jalopies on the time payment plan. The FTC found that Ford really charged 11½ per cent interest. Ford appealed to the federal court but the FTC was upheld. Of course the capitalist press did not feature this. It was afraid of losing the fat Ford advertising contracts.

And the Cannery Workers Got Gypped Too

The canners have been holding up their government by refusing to bid on army orders for canned foods unless they- were released from the provisions of the Walsh-Healy Act. Then the government decided to buy supplies in the open market. But the jobbers were good “pay-triots” also: They ran up the prices. Then the braided stuffed shirts in the War Department decided that the only way out was to ask the cannery workers to consent to the demands of the canners.

The cannery unions, both CIO and AFL, foolishly decided to yield to the War Department generals. They keep the basic 40-hour week but give up time and a half for overtime. This really means giving up the 40-hour week. There will be overtime but it will be paid for at the straight 40-hour rate. The unions, also stipulated that this should last only during the 1941 canning season.

These unions say they are doing something to aid the “defense” program. All they have done is give the canners the opportunity to increase their profits at the expense of labor. These workers are among the most exploited in the country. Their wages are extremely low and the work is seasonal. What do the canners care today about the 1942 season? They are looking out for the season of 1941. That is what the worker’s and their unions should have done. The workers can’t eat in 1941 on what they think they are going to get in 1942.

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