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Jurisdictional Disputes Disrupt
A.F.L. Building Trades Dept.

(October 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 27 (Whole No. 86), 17 October 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If the corpulent gentlemen, who met in Vancouver, B.C., recently, have their way, there will be a more intense jurisdictional war within the building trades unions than ever before. At least that much was decided by the A.F. of L. Building Trades Department convention. Speaking virulently and with much gusto, that is, in between chewing on fat cigars, one after another of there “labor” representatives denounced the “triple alliance” of the carpenters, bricklayers and electricians unions. Times are hard, most union members are out of jobs and some sort of militancy had to be shown.

The “defensive” alliance of the three unions was described as having been formed “to take work away from other people.” The carpenters particularly came in for the unanimous wrath. They were called “pirates” and “ruthless”, having the intention of fostering an organization to “create turmoil and industrial discontent”. One expressed the opinion that until all locals affiliated with the “triple alliance” were ousted from existing building trades councils “we are simply wasting our time talking”. And this became the unanimous sentiment expressed in a resolution, that “this building trades department of the A.F. of L. direct the national presidents of the affiliated unions to support to the fullest extent of their resources any affiliated union when an attack is being made upon them by unions not affiliated with the building trades department of the A.F. of L.” The three unions mentioned are not affiliated because of jurisdictional disputes.

For the rank and file membership, however, this is an ominous sign rather disquieting for the future prospects. It has become a well established practise among this type of “leaders” to intensify the jurisdictional conflicts as a prelude to attacks coming from the bosses.

The general wage cut campaign is already in full swing. That it has not yet to any great degree officially hit the building trades is perhaps only due to the fact that by the conditions of large scale unemployment and the extreme weakness of the craft union position the bosses find themselves able, in the main, to enlist the labor needed at a price way below the officially established wage scale. That itself, of course, carries with it only further weakness and seriously undermines the organizational basis. For the large contractors in the building industry this undermining serves well as a prelude to an open attack which is sure not to be long delayed.

The well-fed officials of the nineteen building trades unions, those within as well as those outside of the building trades department, surely know what is coming. They have not a scrap of a program for organized resistance and have no such intentions. The intensification of jurisdictional squabbles in their hands serves as a means of preparing the way for the bosses and makes their task an easier one. In this manner do they prove themselves as efficient servants of capitalism.

The slogan and demand for amalgamation of all building trades unions correctly advanced by the militant workers a few years ago should now again be put on the top of the agenda. An effective campaign for amalgamation and its ultimate accomplishment, plus the replacement of class struggle for class collaboration, would make short shrift of all these present designs of dissension and division promulgated by the officials. It would become the most practical and effective way of making an end to jurisdictional squabbles and really help to unify the ranks of the building trades workers for resistance to the coming attacks.

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