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Hugo Oehler

Outlawing Strikes

The Wagner Bill Dispute

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 23, 9 June 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The much talked of Wagner “Labor” Bill has been finally remoulded to the satisfaction of the class collaboration section of the exploiters, and is to be rushed through this session of the House and the Senate in order that it may become law and a part of the NRA structure before Congress adjourns. The attempt to speed up the Bill is entirely due to the rising wave of strike struggles that are sweeping the country. It is due, to the increasing militancy displayed by the workers in resisting the violence of the bosses’ agencies.

The Wagner Bill, when introduced, was heralded as a means to settle the disputed questions over interpretations of Section 7a of the NRA. Under this Bill labor would be placed in its highest status. On the other hand, it was designed to outlaw company unions. The final draft of the Bill, as it will be presented for consideration and vote contains none of these objectives attributed to it. What additional reactionary amendments will be tacked on before it gets through the House and Senate no one can predict now. It is vicious enough as it stands. In reality, the Bill is just the opposite of what it was proclaimed to be.

Under the cloak of checking company unions the Wagner Bill will legalize the company unions. The Labor Board to be established will define the difference between “good” and “bad” company unions. Section 7a stands as it did before with President Roosevelt’s interpretation, in relation to the Auto Strike settlement, as the main guiding line for the revised Wagner Bill.

Most Sinister Aspect of the Bill The Wagner Bill presents nothing new to the American way of handling class warfare. It only extends the methods that have been used by the employers for some time. The advanced section of the capitalists find that the NRA apparatus as now constituted does not have a satisfactory machinery to stifle, and to prevent strikes. It is not sufficient to hold in check the rising militancy of the working class. The Wagner Bill is to make up for this defect. It will establish Labor Boards fully in control of the capitalist monopoly owners and their agents that will handle all labor disputes. In whose interests the disputes will be decided should be obvious from the experiences of the Labor Board so far. The Board to be created by this Bill is to be appointed wholly by the President, three representing the so-called public, and one each representing capital and labor. It is to have power to prevent anyone from engaging in what is called “unfair labor practices ... that has led, or threatens to lead to a labor dispute that might effect commerce or obstruct the free flow of commerce.” When put into plain language, what is here somewhat concealed will stand out very clearly. It means that the Board will have powers to outlaw strikes. The Board will be a national institution fully backed up by the forces of the State, the courts, the police, the army and the navy.

Why Labor Leaders Support Bill

While it is true that a large section of the advanced capitalists are in favor of the Wagner Bill, it is equally true that a very large section are opposed to the Bill. The latter represent chiefly the monopoly concerns in which trades unions have the least foothold. Their main opposition was expressed to the Bill in its original form. Now that it has been revised the opposition will be less, but there will continue the opposition from the open shoppers who as yet rule undisputed and have no need of arbitration Their kind of class peace is no different in content from the class peace desired by the others. The difference is in the method. One uses bullets to crush strikes while the other thinks there is a more humane way of killing.

The Wagner Bill aims to satisfy as large a section of the exploiters as possible. It aims also to corral the A.F. of L. leaders. This is not so difficult because both accept the principles of class collaboration. Only the Bill must have a face that will be possible for the labor leaders to hide behind. What differences exist can mainly be explained in the fact that the A.F. of L. leaders are holding out for as much as they can get in the new set-up of Labor Boards against the working class. The labor leaders will do their share and give their services, but they are holding out for a price. Yet before this class collaboration machinery is set up these labor fakers will be on the band wagon. They have their special interests in outlawing strikes.

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