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Steel Workers Union in Meeting
to Decide Action

Mike Tighe Is Conniving to Surrender Demands

(June 1936)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 24, 16 June 1934, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the first round of feverish attempts to avert the nation-wide steel strike the union has stood its ground. But the powerful combination of capital in steel is just beginning to show its teeth. At this moment delegates from the union lodges, now established throughout the important steel centers, are meeting again in convention in Pittsburgh to hear reports of the reception given by the American Iron and Steel Institute to the union demands. Will the outcome lead to another presidential settlement like in the automobile industry or will the: union feel sufficiently strong and determined to fight it out? That remains to be answered at this convention. The action it takes will be decisive for the future of the union.

From the Steel Institute the union has received what its rank and file committee spokesmen characterize as a “brazen company union proposition” and “an insult to every worker in the country”. That is about what could be expected from the rulers of the steel domain. It is accepted as a challenge. But to what extent will the union be ready to take up this challenge and fling it hack into their teeth? Undoubtedly if has a strong foothold in the industry and can speak authoritatively for the workers. Moreover, the steel workers have before them the glorious example of Minneapolis and Toledo.

Steel Trust Names Its Own Board

The Steel Institute made a proposal to the NRA administration declaring its readiness to accept the establishment of an industrial relations board similar to the one created for the automobile industry. But it specified that on that board, of the men representing labor, one would have to be a company union designate. The other, to be appointed by President Roosevelt, could not be a member of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers. The steel masters are definitely committed to the maintenance of the company union, they declare, and they will not yield an inch on this point which they consider a vital point.

Meanwhile the steel trust is rushing its preparations to meet a strike situation. No reports are forthcoming from the Steel Institute as to what these preparations are. It remains silent. But the underlings, the professional strike-breakers, the armed guard hirelings and the steel trust appointees, who in the most brazen and high-handed fashion rule the little towns clustered around the mills, know what to do. They have their orders.

One Mr. Bergoff, with offices at 2 Columbus Circle, New York, proclaiming himself to be the dean of strike-breakers, brazenly announces that he is now working for three or four big steel companies. His preparations include, according to his own statements, selection of 10,000 extra armed guards, purchase of arms and ammunition, erection of barriers, purchase of searchlights, erection of commissaries, buying of cots – all the preparations for regular warfare, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“As to those 10,000 armed guards”, he declares, “most will be sworn in by local sheriffs. We have a tentative understanding with local sheriffs, as has any large agency like ours that knows its business.”

Yes, the steel trust has the forces of the State at its command.

But this is only one aspect of the employers’ strike preparations. For them works also the government, its NRA administration and their own agents within the union ranks. President Roosevelt and leaders of both branches of Congress have gotten their heads together and devised a new scheme. A substitute for the Wagner Bill, to be rushed through Congress immediately. It provides for arbitration in all disputes under the direct supervision of the President. Well, the President handled the automobile workers’ situation and what came out of that the steel workers’ rank and file spokesmen have already declared is what they do not want.

Reactionaries Prepare Treachery

Mike Tighe on the other hand, is moving all the forces at his feeble command to find some ways of a compromise which he hopes will save his face. At the sell-out game he is an old hand. He is working in two directions. One of his ways is to win the rank and file spokesmen to his ideas of what is acceptable – that is, a presidential settlement like the auto workers got. The other method is to denounce these rank and file spokesmen as irresponsible and representing nobody but themselves, so as to prepare the ground for treachery and to take matters entirely out of their hands. It is ominous that no word has been spoken in this greatest of impending conflicts for union recognition and living working conditions by the upper A.F. of L. hierarchy. The truth is that all of them fear a test of strength in the steel industry, as they fear any strike which brings forward, the powerful latent forces of American labor.

That the American workers will fight has been shown in Minneapolis, in Toledo and in many other places. Their great reservoir of strength has not been tapped. It to hardly touched. The hundreds of thousands in the steel industry – not to speak of those) other thousands who would possibly make common cause with them – form a mighty army whose challenge strikes fear into the hearts of exploiters and labor reactionaries alike. But it is necessary to say to this mighty army beware. There are many danger signals on the horizon. The cunning and conniving from the bigger and lesser Tighes in their ranks who represent the steel workers as divided la preparation for treachery.

Rely Only on Your Own Mass Power

Nothing would suit them better than to be able to make an about face and retreat like John L. Lewis did in 1919, when he declared that he could not fight the government. When pressed hard from their union membership they have often resorted to their favorite method of declaring strikes to be outlaw. That is one of: the serious dangers facing the steel workers. But by now, even though their union is new and has not yet received its baptism of lire, they should! have learned that in the final analysis there is nothing else they can rely upon but their own mass power. They constitute a mighty battalion of labor. Theirs is a key position in heavy industry. A retreat, or a surrender, would be a serious setback. The stabilization of a steel workers’ union, its recognition as an actual fact and as the sole representative of all the workers in the industry, vigilant, determined and ready to secure their demands for living conditions would be an enormous gain for the whole of the American working class.

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