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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(22 September 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 38, 22 September 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On Ways and Means of Pauperizing Labor

Leon Henderson, “price administrator,” and Henry Morgenthau. Secretary of the Treasury, during the past week have announced some plans they have for labor. Henderson wants to be given some authority in the settlement of wage disputes and Morgenthau wants Congress to adopt a plan for “forced savings” by the workers. Under this plan every worker would turn over two months’ wages to the government for the promotion of “defense.”

It is assumed that Henderson wants to become a wage fixer as well as a price fixer. He talks about the price of wages along with the price of meat, bread and shoes. To be sure, Henderson has done nothing effective about the rising cost of living to labor, but he perhaps believes that he can be more successful setting a ceiling for workers’ wages.

For 66 consecutive weeks retail prices have advanced. The rise week before last was 1.2 per cent over the week before. The Labor Department reports that during the last year the buying power of the dollar has DECREASED 15 per cent in industrial centers. During the past two weeks the retail price of bread, beef, pork, coffee and shortening has gone up all over the country. Butter, eggs and fruits are now real luxuries to the thousands of families with low incomes. Added to this, the increase in clothing, household articles and rent must be taken into account.

This ten year high for the cost of the necessities is what Henderson should be giving attention to. He hasn’t been successful in the tasks that he was assigned. And so now he pretends that if he can meddle a little in the wages question he will be able to get the commercial capitalists to stop the hiking of commodities. This is nonsense, of course. Wholesalers, retailers and landlords are going to squeeze every cent they can get from labor. If they can help it, they don’t intend to let the manufacturers take all the gravy flowing from the “defense” spending. All the capitalists, great and small, are out for profits and they, won’t let any small fry like Henderson stand in the way.

Morgenthau doesn’t believe in any small-time stuff when he is ready to rob the working class. He is a big-lime highwayman. According to the new tax bill, a worker earning $65 a month must give part of that to the government in income taxes. Now Morgenthau wants to take an additional $130 from that same worker for “defense.” All the while, prices will continue to rise. Next, the employers will decide it is about time to lengthen the work-week without increase in pay. A few more opportunities of this kind offered the workers to demonstrate their patriotism and loyalty while the bosses are increasing profits 100 per cent, will, we are sure, add to the joy of living for every single worker.

Organized labor is taking all these plans for its pauperization entirely too calmly. The unions certainly would not let the bosses have such a field day in the factories. Why do they permit these same bosses to accomplish their wage cutting plans through control of the government? What’s the difference between being starved out by a direct wage cut from the boss and being taxed into starvation by the bosses’ government? Also, what’s the difference between starving in peace time and starving in war time? The bosses don’t starve at any time. In fact, if there is any difference, they are in position to eat better during war time because they make more profits then. It is only the working class that becomes so damned patriotic in war time that it is willing to undergo all manner of hardships and misery. Roosevelt says, “You can’t strike against the government.” Why not? If we can strike against the boss, then why can’t we strike against the boss government? At one time, even strikes against the boss were “illegal”.

What to Do About Hodcarriers Situation

Bill Green’s International Hodcarriers and Building Laborers Union is a queer labor outfit. It’s a sort of unlimited monarchy. This international has not had an election of officers for 30 years. Nobody seems to know why no elections have been held and by what authority officers elected 30 years ago continue in office. All that one can say is that the ways of this international and its officers are inscrutable. However, these things don’t seem to worry Green and his brother officers on the executive council of the AFL.

At least there will be an election conducted by one local of this international, No. 17 of New York. Some members of the local went to court to compel the officers to hold an election and account for union funds. The officers were put on trial, ordered to hold an election and give an accounting for some rather suspicious actions in the expenditure of the local’s money.

It was brought out at the trial that the officers of the local had taken in $200,000 in dues and fees from 1933 to 1940. At the time of the trial, the local’s bank balance was less than $108. The money had not been used in strikes or in benefits paid to the members. It went for “administrative expenses.”

It might be said that the members of this international have just about the kind of international they deserve. There are many things they could have done to cure this situation. They could have formed a committee to present their case to the AFL convention. We don’t pretend to believe that this would accomplish much, but it is a correct first step. There are many other steps to be taken inside their own AFL body. If none of these worked, there is nothing that can force them to remain within the AFL. After all, there is an organization known as the CIO United Construction Workers.

Feeding Boss Propaganda to the Soldiers

A New York preacher, Roelif H. Brooks, pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, has been giving the soldiers at Camp Stewart, Ga., some anti-labor education. Speaking to members of a New York regiment at the camp he said: “We find men refusing to work unless their wages are increased, or there is a closed shop, or there is a recognition of one union opposed to another. What care they if men like you are prevented from receiving complete training because you have no equipment.”

First we want to dispose of the not very subtle lie uttered by this preacher. The men in the army are not training with broomsticks, stovepipe and other play-yard substitutes on account of strikes and union disputes. They lack equipment for the sole reason that the government is administered by a bunch of stupid, ignorant and out-of-date generals who don’t know how to prepare and equip an army for modern technological warfare. Next come the bosses who refused to turn a wheel until their stooges in the government had granted the demands of the employers for higher profits and lower taxes.

Brooks knew he was lying when he made this speech. He is the pastor of a fashionable church in New York. His fine salary is paid by the wealthy bosses and he has to make the kind of speeches they want made or he’ll get fired. This parasite and mouthpiece for his capitalist pewholders who performs no useful work and holds no necessary place in society, was attempting to create a rift between the workers in the camps and those in the factories. That has been tried before and didn’t work. There are workers and trade unionists in the army and they are not falling for the boss propaganda of a paid agent like Brooks.

A Gasoline “Pipeline” To Greater Profits

It has been revealed that there is no gasoline shortage in the U.S., and that all this business of closing gasoline stations at night is at bottom a scheme of the big oil companies to put over a pipe-line project financed by the government. The program for the night-time gasoline blackout was formulated by Interior Secretary Ickes’ advisory committee, made up of 100 oil company officials.

After Ickes had made an agreement with the oil companies for the closing of stations at 7 p.m. he agreed with seven of the big oil companies to build a pipeline from the Gulf to the Atlantic seaboard. The line was to cost $80,000,000 and the government would supply the money. Nearly a million tons of steel would be required as well as tons and tons of cement and other materials.

Railroad officials told the Senate committee investigating the alleged gasoline shortage that the roads could take care of any real Atlantic Coast shortage that might develop by delivering 200,000 gallons daily by tank cars. When the committee inquired why this wasn’t being done, they were told that it was cheaper to deliver oil by pipeline. That is, of course, if the government supplies the $80,000,000 to build the pipeline. The oil companies are broke; they only increased their profits 200 per cent the first six months of this year.

When the investigating committee expressed indignation, the oil companies decided to use all available tank cars and the roads reduced rates 50 per cent.

There is one other factor that motivated the oil companies in scheming with Ickes to close the gasoline stations at night. This would throw 90,000 workers out of jobs and save the big oil companies $1,000,000 a day. Thus boss patriotism winds its profit-making way.

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