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David Coolidge

Mass Action

Labor Notes Written on a Cross-Country Tour

(12 February 1945)1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 7, 12 February 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

All-Round Jim Crow

A Negro civilian and a white soldier went into a Negro restaurant in Denver to eat. The proprietor of the restaurant consulted some Negro MP’s present and then came to the table to ask the white soldier if he was a white man. On receiving an affirmative reply the proprietor said: “I can’t serve you in here. It’s Army orders. White soldiers can’t eat in restaurants in this neighborhood and Negro soldiers are not to be served in restaurants downtown.”

The white soldier sat it out hungry while the Negro civilian finished his meal which he had already been served.

The MP’s said that these were their orders from the commanding officer the camp. The only exception to that rule is that the white MP’s in this area may eat in Negro restaurants. I did not learn whether or not Negro MP’s may eat in downtown restaurants. The excuse given for this particularly obnoxious Jim Crow practice by the Army bureaucrats is that there have been fights between Negro and white soldiers in public places.

This, of course, is only one small part of the general practice of Jim Crow in the Army and Navy. Of course it would not occur to Roosevelt, Congress, the Army and Navy that the best way to stop white and Negro soldiers from fighting each other when they meet is to get rid of Jim Crow. If Negro and white soldiers and sailors are in the same organization, eating together, sleeping together, working together and playing together in camp, they will not fight each other when they meet in cities outside the camps.

If the government stops heaping insult and degradation on Negroes in the armed forces, then there will be less tendency for white and Negro soldiers to fight among themselves when they meet. It is the Jim Crow Roosevelt government which is solely responsible for this situation.


A Cop Negotiator

While I was in Chicago there was a strike of 500 machinists at the plant of the Goss Printing Press Co. The company charged that the men struck because ten women had been hired to perform an operation which the strikers claimed should be men’s jobs. The union officials say that the strike was not called against the women because of their sex but because the company was paying the women below the top scale for the work. The women were paid $1.25 an hour for work which was below the rate paid men for the same work.

What interested me about this strike was the fact that Capt. George Burns, head of the “police labor detail,” sat in on the negotiations along with a federal labor conciliator. It wasn’t reported just what this cop was there for. I suppose [1] he was representing “law and order” or the “public.” Chicago has an international reputation for “law and order.”

The press did record that Capt. Burns did submit a plan for settlement of the strike. He suggested that the women be kept but that they be given jobs outside of those units claimed by the men. The captain perhaps feels that women should confine their machinist activities to the family washing machine.

There was a time when workers understood that the place for a cop during a labor dispute was pounding the pavement and not in the negotiations going on between the union and the company. That is, if he could find nothing more lucrative, such as collecting graft from dives or shaking down gangsters.


Denver and Wallace

I have just read in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News that the Wallace supporters have switched their tactics. They will support the George amendment and submit to the demand of the “foes” of Wallace that the RFC be divorced from the Commerce Department.

Wallace says new and small businesses are “the lifeblood of free enterprise.” His opponents say that Wallace wants to use the Commerce Department to introduce socialism into the United States.

This would certainly be an easy way to get socialism. It might be called socialism without tears. It might even appeal to Norman Thomas and get his full support. Presumably Philip Murray, Hillman and the other CIO Wallace devotees would be for the socialism which Wallace would cause to sprout in the Department of Commerce. This probably has something to do with the decision of the friends of Wallace to agree to take the RFC out of the department. If they can only get Wallace confirmed this will be proof that God’s in His heaven and all’s, right with the world. The 60,000,000 jobs will be guaranteed. The war will end sooner and eternal peace will reign throughout the earth. Price rises will be curbed. The Little Steel formula will go into Henry’s Commerce waste basket. The Smith-Connally Act will be revoked and the National Service Act will be defeated. Wallace is the key to the situation today since Roosevelt has already been elected. That was what Roosevelt had in mind when he refrained from supporting Wallace for Vice-President. He was holding him for the Commerce Department post, the 60,000,000 jobs, little business and 1948.

Labor should understand these things before it is too late. First thing we know, Wallace will get mad and go back to his Iowa pigs and corn. There where will the labor movement be?

Note by ETOL

1. In the printed version “support” but from the context this is obviously a typesetting error.

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