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Taft-Hartley Act Incites
Inter-Union Warfare

(16 August 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 33, 16 August 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One of the deadliest booby-traps in the Taft-Hartley Slave Labor Law is now spreading havoc among the trade unions. This is the “yellow dog” affidavit, a device cleverly designed to split the unions along “communist” and “anti-communist” lines. It has touched off virtual civil war within the labor movement at a time when all organized labor is under the heaviest assault in decades.

Employers and government, acting in collusion, are employing the refusal of unions to sign “yellow dog” oaths as the chief legal pretext to break strikes and deny collective bargaining rights to previously recognized unions. The union-busters are effectively using this weapon because of the connivance of many unscrupulous union officials who are working hand-in-glove with anti-labor employers to raid established unions and even scab-herd in strikes.

These scavengers – some of whom have shown exceptional ineptness in organizing workers within their own jurisdiction and in defending the interests of their own members – swarm down like vultures on unions made vulnerable by their refusal to submit to the Taft-Hartley Act.

A flagrant example of how employers, government and scavenging union raiders combine to try to destroy an established union is shown in the case of Oppenheim, Collins & Co., a large Manhattan department store, which refused to renew the contract of Local 1250, CIO United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Employees.

Several weeks before the old contract was to expire, the company announced it would not renew the Local 1250 contract on the grounds that the union was “run by Communists” who had refused to sign Taft-Hartley affidavits. In response to an appeal from Oppenheim Collins and other big department stores, the House Labor and Education Committee sent a sub-committee to New York to “investigate” the “Communists” in New York department store unions.

This committee hauled the local union leaders before a typical inquisition. Naturally, the company loudly proclaimed it would have no dealings with “enemies of our government.”

At- the same time, scenting prey, officials of the AFL Retail Clerks claimed jurisdiction. The NLRB ordered an election – with the CIO union kept off the ballot because it had not signed a “yellow dog” oath. On the day the old contract ended and the CIO union went on strike, the NLRB held its “Ja” election, which the AFL union naturally “won.” The latter began to scab-herd for the company, which obtained an injunction limiting pickets of the striking union and placed a huge sign over its entrance:.“The Issue is COMMUNISM!”

Final Touch

The final touch was added when national officials of the CIO union itself, opponents Of the Stalinist leaders of the New York locals, gave aid and comfort to the employers, government witchhunters and AFL raiders. URWD-SE-CIO President Samuel Wolchok, on Aug. 9, stated: “The Taft-Hartley law is the law of the land and it must be obeyed. There is no reason why officers of locals should not sign the non-com-munist affidavits.”

The type of jurisdictional warfare now being carried out under cover of the Taft-Hartley Act is far from limited to AFL raids on CIO unions. In fact, the Philip Murray machine in the CIO – which howls the loudest about “raiding” by the AFL – has turned the CIO itself into a battlefield of warring unions seeking to dismember and steal dues-payers away from other CIO unions – chiefly Stalinist-led – -which are under Taft-Hartley attack.

The Walter Reuther leadership in the auto union is trying to tear the large CIO United Electrical Workers to pieces, rushing in to grab off locals through direct raiding, or cooperating with the Taft-Hartley Board in government-run elections from which UE locals are excluded. Reuther is also conducting raids on the Farm Equipment Workers and Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. Murray’s catch-all set-up, the Shipyard Workers beaded by John Green, is splitting off sections of the Public Workers, Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, and other unions as remote from the shipyard industry as the North Pole is from the South Pole.

One. of the latest developments of this disruptive internal warfare is the move of the CIO paper workers to raid the CIO Office and Professional Workers, where the sole similarity between the two occupations is that one manufactures paper and the other uses it.

Ugly Picture

That is the ugly picture we see today. AFL unions raiding other AFL unions and CIO unions; CIO unions rushing in to tear apart other CIO unions; the top leaderships of both completely indifferent to the fate of the labor movement.

We saw a similar situation in the AFL during the Twenties. Then the great need was for industrial Organization. But the narrow-minded AFL leaders refused to take this necessary step. They turned inward, engaged in jurisdictional squabbles, forced the unions to devour themselves.

The present. situation flows from the fact that the top union leaders again are drawing back from the next great forward step demanded by the times. Unable to advance a step further because they reject genuine independent labor political action through the formation of a labor party, having no program to advance the interests of the workers or to defend them from government assault, these union leaders are trying to protect their own narrow interests and salvage a little for themselves no matter if the rest of the union movement goes to hell in a high-speed elevator.

New Leadership

So long as the narrow outlook and primitive aims of these union leaders continue to dominate the labor movement, the unions will be torn with internal strife and dissension. Only a new leadership, with a broad and fundamental understanding of the great class issues and with will and courage to lead the unions into a new political avenue, can save the labor movement, restore its unity and inspire the workers to successful struggle against their enemies.

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