Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(14 July 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 28, 14 July 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Stalinists and the Trade Union Bureaucracy

Numerous trade unions in the United States are anxious to let it be known that although they accept the policy of the Roosevelt-Churchill governments to grant all aid possible to the Stalinist government, these unions have not changed their attitude toward the Stalinists. This is the reasons for opposition to the Stalinists by some of these unions.

The AFL for instance: Bill Green & Co. are against the Stalinists. They are also against the CIO, and they are against the CIO for other reasons than the fact that the Stalinists have some influence in the CIO. The AFL would be against the CIO if there were not a single Stalinist around. The AFL is opposed to industrial unionism. They were against the steel workers before the CIO came along and organized them. One high AFL official said that the reason the AFL had not organized the steel workers was that these workers did not want to be organized. Many of the mass production workers were always scum to the AFL leadership. They preferred the “aristocracy” of labor, the skilled craftsmen.

In the last number of Justice, the ILGWU reaffirms its years-old opposition to the Stalinists. Many other unions are taking a similar position. They are ready to follow the government but they want to make it clear that this must not mean any collaboration with the American Stalinists. They just want to give material aid to the Russian government. Their attitude is the same as the position of the ruling class: anybody who is fighting against Hitler is entitled to material support. Hitler is the main enemy because it is he who is the raging enemy of “democracy.”

These trade union leaders say that the Stalinists twist and turn and change their “line” in accordance with the dictates of Stalin. This is true, but these trade union leaders ignore or suppress one important fact: they change their line in accordance with the suggestions and plans of the Roosevelt-Churchill governments. The Stalinists seek to drag the working class in the U.S. along behind Stalin while these trade behind Roosevelt-Churchill and tie the workers to the imperialist war chariot.

The Stalinists jump through the hoop in either direction at Stalin’s command, and Dubinsky, Tobin and others dance to the Roosevelt-Churchill music. Both Roosevelt-Churchill and Stalin are enemies of labor. Both sides ore engaged in the imperialist war, and the workers will catch hell no matter which side they line up with.

There are valid reasons for the workers to refuse to support the Stalinists. We have recited these reasons many times. There are just as valid reasons for labor to refuse to support the Roosevelt-Churchill imperialist war outfit. Dubinsky & Co. charge the Stalinists with being against “democracy. Well, we didn’t know that Dubinsky, Tobin, Murray, Green and most of the trade union big shots were such great democrats. They may be for democracy at large, but they haven’t made very hot records in the unions which they head. It’s a real joke to hear the strike-breaker Tobin shooting off his mouth about democracy.

These fellows are all for the war. They will drag the workers in any direction that Roosevelt tells them. They subordinate the genuine interests of labor to the demands of the bosses who are going to war to save capitalism in the United States. That means the right to keep the system of exploitation, low wages, long hours and union busting. The Stalinists are a filthy, treacherous, union-wrecking crew but they are not the main enemy of labor in this country. the main enemy is the boss class and the Roosevelt boss government.

Tobin “Keeps Healthy” at Workers’ Expense

While we have Dan Tobin in mind it will be well to show how great he is and what a great sacrifice it is for him to be president of the Teamsters Union. Tobin had the following inserted in the IBT constitution:

“The general president, for the purpose of promoting the interests and welfare of the International and the making of diplomatic contacts with other organizations and institutions, and FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONSERVING HIS HEALTH, may, IN HIS DISCRETION, travel in this country and abroad and MAY TAKE PERIOD RESTS. The GEB shall PROVIDE FOR ALL EXPENSES of the general president when performing the services mentioned herein or WHEN TAKING PERIOD RESTS; the said expenses shall include travel in this country and abroad, the full and complete maintenance of his wife so that she can accompany the general president, and all secretarial help and services which he deems necessary while engaged as afore referred to. The expenses provided for herein are in addition to all other constitutional compensation and allowances.”

The last sentence means in addition to Tobin’s $30,000 a year salary, $12 a day hotel expenses when away from home and $5 a day incidental expenses. Tobin also has a $20,000 a year “assistant” paid by the union.

Tobin really lives in the style of an East Indian potentate while he makes his “diplomatic contacts,” and while “conserving his health” through “periodic rests.” All that one can say of such an arrangement is that it is a plain racket. No wonder the AFL can’t get rid of racketeers. What argument can they make?

Closed Shop Is a Mighty Important Weapon

The National Association of Manufacturers wants the “closed shop” outlawed. If this can not be accomplished, then they are asking employers to refuse to sign “closed shop” agreements. The action of the UAW-CIO in winning a closed shop agreement from Ford was too much for the big boys at the top of industry. The NAM urges employers “not to discriminate against either union or non-union workers.” This lets the cat out of the bag. What employers discriminate against non-union workers and scabs? The NAM further says that “within the last week ... American workers in defense industries” have been coerced by the government “into joining labor organizations not of their own choice ...” We suppose that the NAM is talking about the election at Ford’s, where the CIO won a victory in an open contest with the AFL. The NAM’s hypocritical position means that it is wrong even to hold an election to determine the bargaining agent for workers in a particular industry. The NAM says that the government has no right to compel employees to belong to any “private organizations.” The NAM hides the fact that whether or not there is a closed shop does not really rest with the government but with the workers themselves. There were closed shops and closed shop agreements long before the Wagner Act and the New Deal administration. Whether or not a union gets a closed shop is dependent on the strength and determination of the union membership. To say that a union which has received the majority of the votes in an election should represent all the workers in the industry is no more discriminatory than to say Roosevelt shall be President of all the people when he got more votes than Willkie. Of course Lindbergh does not accept this; he wants a new leadership in Washington; he doesn’t believe in accepting the decision of the majority. Neither does Hitler. The closed shop is a device forced on the bosses by labor. Workers must learn to accept it and not be fooled by boss blarney. The bosses of the NAM believe that every worker should bargain individually with the boss, that the boss should have the right to hire whom he pleases and to fire at will. The bosses would like to have half a dozen unions in every industry, including one or two company unions. That is, if there is to be any unionism. The real preference of the NAM is no unions at all. the closed shop following a majority vote of the workers is a guarantee that the workers have a bona fide union of their own choosing. Nobody is discriminated against. The losing side joins the winners and presents a solid front against the boss. The NAM is always yelling for the workers to close ranks with the bosses. What’s wrong with workers closing ranks with each other for a change?

Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5.1.2013