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Union Brothers Solidly Behind Wm. Patterson

(3 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 23, 9 June 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

RICHEYVILLE, Pa., June 3 – Part of the frame-up against William Patterson, union miner from Daisytown and first imprisoned victim of the Smith-Connally anti-strike bill, was the story spread by the corporation-dominated daily press that his union wasn’t in back of him.

This afternoon I attended the meeting of United Mine Workers Local 2399 here in Richeyville’s recreation hall. That’s the local to which Bill Patterson belongs and which he has served loyally for many years.

Members Outraged

No one was more indignant and outraged by the press reports than Bill’s fellow union members. The 1,400 union men who worked along with him in the Vesta No. 4 mine are back of him solid – to a man. Their actions on his behalf at the union meeting were a conclusive and inspiring demonstration of union brotherhood and labor solidarity.

When I arrived at the hall, the meeting was already in session. I inquired for one of the officers from the sergeant at arms. To my great pleasure, several of the workers who came out to examine my credentials were men I had met during the July 1943 strike and whose activities I had then reported in The Militant. Among those who remembered me and the support The Militant gave them two years ago were Steve Panak, president; John Harris, vice-president; Emil Maslow and a number of others.

They welcomed me warmly and were particularly glad I had come to them to get the truth about the frame-up against Bill Patterson. They were so eager to tell the facts and so indignant that they all seemed to talk at once. I caught one sentence that told what they all felt. “Bill Patterson? Why that’s the dirtiest, rawest deal ever pulled – a goddam frame-up just to make him an example.”

Militant Welcomed

As they invited me in to attend their meeting, a privilege not accorded to reporters of the capitalist press, they let me know that The Militant is its own best credential. One of the leading members stated with genuine enthusiasm as he greeted me, “Your paper’s all right. I read it right along. At first I thought you were just coming out strong for labor before the election. But now I see your paper comes out strong every week.”

There were a couple of hundred workers at the meeting. As I took my seat on a bench along the wall, I noticed a red and gold service flag hung behind the chairman. It recorded 469 members of Local 2399 in the armed forces. Noticing that I was observing the service flag, a worker next to me said: “That’s out of date. We now have 550 men in service. We’re down to 1,400 in the mine from 2,100.” This is one of the locals that the yellow press has been howling is “against the interests of the soldiers.”

The main business of the meeting was devoted to the William Patterson case. As soon as the meeting concluded its preliminary business, John Harris took the floor and gave a full report on the persecution of their union brother and the action so far taken by the union. This was the first chance the local had to meet since Patterson’s hurried trial and imprisonment just two days before.

Miners Testified

Every man sat still and tense in his seat as Harris told in simple words the background of the case and all the moves that were made to hound Bill Patterson to prison. The silence was so great you could almost reach out and touch it. You could read on the faces of every one present the deep feeling of anger and outrage they felt.

Harris told with special indignation how he and 23 others went to Pittsburgh to testify in the trial. He told how the judge refused to let them speak and how Patterson was “railroaded right through to prison.” He concluded with an appeal for every member to sign the petition on which over 600 names had been secured the day before.

“The way things are going on around here,” he warned, “we don’t know who’s going to be next!” The silence was suddenly broken by an explosive shout from a score of throats: “That’s right!”

One after another the workers took the floor and told their feelings about the case and what they knew of the deliberate efforts to frame Bill Patterson.

Caught Either Way

“We’ve got to do everything we can to get Bill out,” stated one member. “I was at that trial – and I’ve been at many a trial – but I never saw anybody rushed through like they did to Bill. They never even showed that he had violated his parole. If ever a man got a hooking, it was Bill.”

Another declared:

“He was caught either way, if he went to work or if he didn’t go to work during the strikes. He was framed in advance no matter what he did. They just wanted one man to be the goat. Then if the rest don’t keep in line, they can go after them.”

But the Local 2399 members didn’t express their sentiments in mere words. Every man felt his responsibility to Bill Patterson’s family to continue the legal fight on his behalf. One worker declared:

“He’s taken the rap for you and me. He was on the mine committee and he put up a fight for us. We got to raise one dollar apiece from every man in the local for a fund to take care of Bill’s family and to see that they get the same money coming in as if he were on the job.”

That motion was passed with a resounding, unanimous “Aye!” Another motion that was also enthusiastically endorsed was that “each and every pay day the officers of the local shall go up to the Uniontown jail and personally give Bill Patterson the money to send his wife.”

As the maker of the motion explained:

“He’s big enough to take the rap for us, and we have to be big enough to visit him personally every two weeks, and give him the money personally, and let him know that we’re behind him and going to do everything we can for him and his family.”

That’s the kind of union men Bill Patterson represents. That’s the kind of solid, loyal union he fought to build. It is for their sake, as well as his, that American labor must fight against the frame-up of Bill Patterson and the vicious law that threatens to put other good union men behind prison bars.

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