Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(21 July 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 29, 21 July 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What the Figures Show on Profits and Wages

AFL economists have reported something about corporation profits and wages that Labor Action has been pointing out for several months. That is the fact that the war industries and others could pay far higher wages than at present and still retain tremendous sums for top salaries, dividends and interest. In discussing the Mellon aluminum trust (Alcoa), the AFL reports that out of the 1940 profits of $44,146,000, the Aluminum Co. could have given its 28,000 workers a pay increase of 45 cents an hour and still have paid its stockholders $l6,000,000 or 8 per cent on their investment.

This is something for workers to think about. Just think, each of the Aluminum Corporation workers could get an increase of 45 cents an hour and leave the company stockholders 8 per cent. The company hated like hell to give its workers even a 10 cents an hour boost. Workers should understand too that the stockholders have no business even with the $16,000,000. They did absolutely nothing to create this wealth. All of it was taken from the earth by labor as raw material and then made into a usable product by the labor of the workers in the factories. The stockholders and bondholders should be glad that they are permitted to take anything. They should be highly pleased to get 16 million; but they actually took 44 million.

The AFL report also cites the airplane companies. Ten leading aircraft manufacturers which make nine-tenths of the planes could have increased the wage of each worker $544 in 1940 and have 8 per cent earnings left. Instead of this, these vultures put that &544 in their own pockets. Not only this, they tried to peg wages and give no increase at all.

Roosevelt and the New Deal are doing what they can to keep things rosy for the big bosses: even to sending in the army to stick bayonets into workers who strike to get some of that $544.

It is funny to see the AFL putting out such a report. They say the corporations can pay more, yet they say at the same time, that they will not make a fight to help the workers get it. John Frey called in the Navy to help him break a strike where workers were trying to get some of this money that the AFL says is available for them. You can’t get higher wages from the war industries simply by publishing some figures to show how much money they make. It is correct to publish the figures and establish the facts. After this, however, it is necessary to make demands on the corporations. If the demands are not granted the only sensible thing is to strike and throw the biggest possible picket line around the plant. And the picket line should not be delayed waiting for the “Mediation” Board. The grievance of the workers is against the boss; they don’t work for the Mediation Board. If this board of business men and simple minded labor leaders wants to help, all right: but they should not be permitted to obstruct and retard the fight for higher wages.

The Stalinists and the Basis of Union Membership

At the convention of the National Maritime Union in Cleveland, one of the delegates presented a resolution calling for an outside trial board to investigate charges that the union president, Joseph Curran, is a communist. The resolution was rejected with only two dissenting votes.

This resolution should have been rejected. We don’t know what were the reasons that the delegates voted against the resolution, but we can give sound reasons against accepting such a proposal. In the first place, a trade union should not reject and expel members for political belief and affiliation. Trade unions must be open on equal terms to all workers irrespective of the political party to which they belong. Not only this, but the unions must disregard race, color, creed, sex and nationality. Membership in the trade unions must not be denied to aliens. The only aliens that the working class must exclude from its organizations are members of the boss class; never workers for the reason that they are not citizens.

Workers of every country are members of the working class; that is our basic citizenship. If the boss government wants to set up some national basis of citizenship, that is their business. We, however, must not accept this boss standard as a determining factor for admission to our unions.

Labor must accept into its ranks and organizations Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Protestants, Jews, Negroes, and all other workers without discrimination. The working class ground for rejection or expulsion is the commission of anti-working class or anti-union acts. This would hold for a Republican or Democrat the same as for a Communist or a Socialist. Anti-union acts are such activity as strike-breaking, scabbing, refusal lo pay dues or to function in the union, being a stool-pigeon for the boss or the government.

The AFL wants to oust communists but it keeps a strike-breaker like Frey in. Amalgamated kicks out communists, but it lets Hillman stay while engaged in stool-pigeon activities for the government and the bosses. The AFL tries to frame the leaders of Teamsters Local 544 but it keeps racketeers like Browne of the Theatrical Union as a vice-president. The machinists and other AFL unions bar Negroes from membership just because they are Negroes. They too will kick out communists if they find any.

The Workers Party has said many times that the workers should not follow the Stalinists nor let them acquire any power at all in the labor movement. We have given reasons.

This does not mean that members of the Communist Party should be barred or expelled from the unions. It only means that they should not be permitted to acquire influence or power in unions. When Stalinists are rejected or expelled from the unions it should be for the same reasons that Republican or Democrat workers are rejected or expelled: for anti-union actions. If this procedure is followed, many of the top leaders, particularly of the AFL, would be expelled.

The top leaders of the unions are not against the Stalinists because the Stalinists are anti-union in the sense that we have defined anti-union. They are not against the Stalinists because this outfit violates all the principles of trade union democracy, because it attempts to drag the unions from pillar to post every time the chief bureaucrat, Stalin, orders a change in line; because they are ready to kill the militancy of labor whenever this step fits in with the interests of the gang of murderers in the Kremlin. These are the reasons the Workers Party is against the Stalinists. That is why we tell the workers not to vote for Stalinists for union officers, nor allow them to have any prestige whatsoever in the labor movement. This does not mean, however, that Stalinist party members should be barred from union membership, nor that they should not have the right to run for office. All we say is that the workers should not vote for them for office. As individual workers in industry, however, they have the some right as every worker to union membership. Expulsions should follow only after a democratic trial of the individual member of members for overt acts against the union and the working class, not for political affiliation.

Another reason that the resolution should have been rejected is the provision for an OUTSIDE TRIAL BOARD. Trial boards for union affairs should be INSIDE trial boards, that is, INSIDE THE LABOR MOVEMENT. This trial board was to be composed of one member each from the Daily Worker, Federated Press, Communist Party, CIO, Civil Liberties Union, Associated Press, United Press, AFL, Department of Justice and American Legion, Quite a board, we say. Some formal validity might be given to having labor organizations, parties and papers, but none whatever for the capitalist press associations, the Department of Justice and the anti-labor, strike-breaking American Legion.

This resolution was an excellent example of how the bosses and the government try to worm their way into labor organizations by inducing some worker to act for them.

If Union Bureaucrats Got a Wage Cut ...

The NMU convention also decided not to increase the wages of the three leading union officers. At present Curran gets $100 a week and the secretary and treasurer get $75 each. This was a correct decision. No trade union official, local, national or international, should be paid more than $100 a week. This goes for the big shots at the top: Green, Murray, Tobin, Lewis and the rest of them. Most trade union top salaries are far too high and are a disgrace to the labor movement. If the trade unions have money enough to pay these fabulous salaries, such as Tobin’s $30,000 a year with his “rest periods” and foreign travel racket, they can use this money to reduce initiation fees and dues and for the accumulation of strike funds and benefits. Also, it might not be a bad thing to use more of this money for educational work in the unions.

It would be a real stunt for the unions to reduce the big salaries real drastically. Then we would discover just how loyal some of the labor big shots are to the labor movement and just how self-sacrificing they are. We are of the opinion that if some of them were forced to live on an income somewhere near that of the highest paid workers they would scamper out of the labor movement and go over to business.

Some of them, like the strike-breaker Frey, the racketeer Browne and others might join the boss spy agencies and strike-breaking outfits. That’s really where they belong.

Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5.1.2013