Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

David Coolidge

Mass Action

(29 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 5, 29 January 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The FEPC has recently directed the United States Cartridge Co. in St. Louis to reinstate two Negro workers who were laid off by the company in accordance with its “seniority plan. “ An interesting feature of the cartridge company’s “plan “ was that a separate seniority set-up is maintained for Negroes. This plan is based on the company’s Jim Crow policy in the hiring of Negroes and their segregation policy in the placing of Negroes in the plant. This is not a genuine departmental seniority system, but out-and-out practice of Jim Crow.

In defense of the layoff of the two Negro workers, the company claimed that its separate seniority plan for Negroes sometimes gave Negro workers the advantage over white workers. While this might happen sometimes and in the case of some Negro workers, such results are not the function and aim of union seniority procedure. Seniority is not for the purpose of giving advantage to any racial or national group over another but to give the union an instrument with which to protect itself against disruptive attacks from employers. In this way the union protects all its members irrespective of their race or nationality.

In its directive the FEPC makes the statement that its function is to protect all workers from discrimination: “white as well as ... colored employees. “ In the concrete situation which exists in the United States this sounds like nonsense. It is true that white workers are discriminated against but the discrimination against white workers is not identical with nor even similar to the discrimination suffered by Negro workers. Discrimination against white workers is usually in connection with union activity or for political belief or for personal reasons.

Discrimination against the Negro workers takes place prior to union activity and without concern with his or her political beliefs. Usually it is discrimination against Negroes as Negroes. The only white workers who suffer this type of discrimination are those discriminated against as members of white racial minorities: Jews, Italians, Slavs, etc.


When the UAW convention voted that the international apparatus was not to be used in any partisan way in the matter of the referendum on the no-strike pledge, one might have assumed that such injunction would apply also to the official organ of the CIO, the CIO News. But we know now that this is not the case.

In the January 8 number of the national edition of the CIO News, seven pages of a total of twelve are devoted to propaganda for the retention of the no-strike pledge. On the front page FDR Hails UAW No-Strike Pledge, GIs Meet Bloody Death in Germany; Army Needs 100% Backing at Home. At the bottom of the page is the picture of a dead soldier. The editorial page carries an editorial on the no-strike pledge: Let’s Meet the Challenge and the column by Stalinist Len De Caux calling for the retention of the pledge. The back page carries on from page one. There is a four-page insert: Our Pledge to the Nation, Don’t Let GIs Down and a quotation from Murray’s speech at the CIO, convention beginning with the sentence: “The no-strike pledge is a sacred obligation ... “

This number of the CIO News is certainly a support of the no-strike pledge of the most lurid sort. Most of the material is irrelevant and dishonest in connection with the issue. There is no discussion of the fact that the workers have grievances. From reading the CIO News, one would think that all those workers who are opposed to the pledge are a group of irresponsible, wild men and not the loyal and militant trade unionists who know that labor has been gypped, mulcted and threatened by the government and the employers since labor was sold down the river by its leadership.

Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 17 April 2016