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Gertrude Shaw

Now It Can Be Told

Navy Suppresses Facts on General Cable
Profiteering Until Bayonne Strike Is Broken

(7 September 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No No. 36, 7 September 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Now it can be told – the full story of the General Cable Co. strike. And it is a hair-raiser.

Every worker by this time knows how the Navy moved into the Bayonne plant to break the strike of the General Cable Co. workers who refused to abide by the decision of the War Labor Board denying a pay increase.

It is also common knowledge that as soon as the strike was broken, the government walked out again, turning the plant back to the company – the workers having been “put in their place” and “shown where they get off” asking for a wage increase to meet the scandalously high cost of living.

It was not only fixed bayonets that did the trick. There was also the occult threat that workers who refused to toe the line would forfeit their draft exemption status, or at least would be fired and blackballed from a job in any other war production plant – which would result in the same thing.

This was indeed “noble” service that the Navy performed for the General Cable Co. But that is not all. Now the rest can be told.

All the time that the Navy was so busy breaking the strike, a sealed indictment was outstanding against the General Cable Co. for defrauding the Navy on war contracts. GET IT?

Criminal charges had been brought against the General Cable Co. and its president, Dwight R.G. Palmer, for conspiring to fix prices – along with other companies – at an artificially high level on more than $55,000,000 worth of cable the Navy has bought since 1940.

The indictment was returned by a grand jury in Newark A WEEK BEFORE IT WAS ANNOUNCED BY ATTORNEY GENERAL BIDDLE. However, fearing that if the indictment were made public during the strike, the workers would be rip-roaring mad and refuse to return to work, the Navy requested that the indictment be sealed and its announcement delayed. THE GRAND JURY AND MR. BIDDLE OBLIGED, COOPERATING WITH THE NAVY AND THE GENERAL CABLE CO. TO BREAK THE STRIKE.

On the $55,000,000 Navy contracts involved, the indicted companies made profits ranging from 35 per rent to 70 per cent. But the WLB did not see fit to grant to the General Cable Co. workers a moderate pay increase.

Besides the General Cable Co., the companies indicted are: General Electric, Rockbestos Products, Okonite Co., Collyer Insulated Wire, National Electric Products, American Steel & Wire, Anaconda Wire & Cable and Phelps Dodge Copper Products.

Over a period of YEARS this conspirative combine of cable manufacturers submitted identical bids on the cable bought by the Navy. On twenty sets of bids opened between 1939 and 1942, the nine companies made bids which conformed to each other to a penny. In this way prices were up – and profits likewise.

The Navy certainly found a queer way of “retaliating.” It helped the General Cable Co. force the workers back to the grind at the same wage – presumably so that the company can keep for itself all the fraudulent profits it made.

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Last updated: 13 September 2014