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Harry Strang

F.W.I.U. “Fortress” Collapses

New Yorker Men Vote Solid for Amalgamated

(January 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 5, 31 January 1934, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The 18th St Food Workers’ Industrial “Union” (Stalinists), has received a decisive setback in its efforts to sow discord in the strike and to make political capital at the expense of the strike. As a result of meetings held Monday by the striking workers of the Hotel New Yorker, the entire house joined the ranks of the Amalgamated Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union, thus becoming an integral part of the general strike called by the only mass union in the industry.

Some time ago, the F.W.I.U., which had no following in the hotel industry of the city, set out to gain one in order to compete with the rapidly-growing A.H.&R.W.U. After a demagogic campaign and various tricks, they lined up a minority of the New Yorker workers. When the strike was called, the house, including A.H.&R.W.U. members, F.W.I.U. members and unorganized workers, came out. Although the general strike was called and led by the A.H.&R.W.U., and all other strikers were enrolled in its ranks or held its strike cards, the Stalinists in the New Yorker led their fellow-workers down to Stalinist headquarters.

Stalinists Create Confusion

Many refused to sign up until they could find out more about both unions. As a result there was confusion which caused a neglect of the business of the strike while meeting after meeting was held, the Stalinists struggling to corral the New Yorker workers. While this went on, the Stalinist “union” tried to bargain for a phony united front. Representing in reality only a handful of New Yorker workers, they hoped to dictate terms to the tens of thousands of strikers.

As each day went by, the strikers became more and more restless, anxious to close ranks, end organizational disputes and take part in driving home blows against the bosses. It became ever clearer to them that in the H.&R.W.U. they could find unity on a militant, industrial union basis, while the Stalinist “union” offered them only words and disunity. On Monday they held meetings at the headquarters of the Stalinist “union”, and at the Hellenic Center.

At the last meeting, only four workers – the professional Stalinists who started the disharmony – rose to speak on behalf of the 18th Street “union”. By this time even these four did not dare oppose joining out the Union of the general strike, and by unanimous vote the strikers decided to join the H.&R.W.U. The four Stalinists asked whether they could keep their books of the Stalinist “union”, saying that 150 of the New Yorker strikers have such books. When a show of hands was asked, it was discovered that of the organized workers present 41 already had H.&R.W.U. books and only 19 had Stalinist books.

Most of the latter signified their intention of turning in their books in exchange for H.&R.W.U. membership.

Flock to Amalgamated

At this point a worker arrived at the Hellenic Center from union headquarters with a pile of strikers’ cards. The strikers sent up a loud cheer, grabbed the cards and filled them out. The Stalinists sank quietly into their seats. The meeting ended with the election from the floor of shop delegates. Then the strikers marched out for a mass picket line of the New Yorker, thus for the first time becoming an integral part of the general strike.

There may still be another peep or two from representatives of the F.W.I.U., but the action of the New Yorker rank-and-file, pushing their way over all obstacles into the H.&R.W.U. because of their desire for militant, unified action, has cut the ground from under the Stalinist splitters’ feet. Already several of the tiny handful of holders of F.W.I.U. books outside the New Yorker, have asked union officials whether they can exchange for H.&R.W.U. books. They have been accepted. The F.W.I.U. has collapsed, as far as the hotel industry is concerned.

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