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Arne Swabeck

Steel Election Called

Carnegie Corporation Will Rely on Government And Courts

(January 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 4, 5 January 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The National Steel Labor Relations Board has ordered – “reluctantly and after long hesitation” – that an election be held in the plants of the Carnegie Steel Company, subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation. Almost a year ago such an election was ordered by the National Labor Board in the Weirton steel mills, but the Weirton magnates snapped their fingers at this decision. They had previously held an election – in their own way – making sure in advance that the returns would show an overwhelming indorsement for the company union.

Of course, the Weirton steel workers, who had amply proven by their strike in September 1933 that they were in favor of a union of their own and ready to fight for it, got nothing out of the sham maneuvers between the labor boards and the owners of the industry. It is reported that the workers in the Carnegie mills had asked the Wagner National Labor Board last February for an election and on May 2 it was ruled that such an election should be held. Nothing happened.

It is reported also that the Carnegie Corporation had expressed a willingness to bargain with the steel workers union as a concession to them but remained adamant in its demand to negotiate similarly with other groups, meaning the company union through which it feels sure of its powers of coercion and intimidation to control the men in the mills.

It has already been strongly intimated that the corporation will refuse to furnish its payroll for the elections ordered and carry the case up to the United States Supreme Court. A fight in this manner is a fight on the corporation’s own front. It knows how to deal with the courts and how to make the influence of its money powers bear fruit. The steel corporation does not mind spending a little time with the courts for it knows it can rely on any branch of the capitalist government to carry out its wishes. In this sense it relies on its own powers, a lesson that the steel workers union has not yet learned.

These are so far the results of the demoralizing practices instituted by the proposals of William Green and Mike Tighe at the steel workers union convention in Pittsburgh last June when it faced the momentous question of striking the mills to compel recognition of the union.

Green asked for the creation of the National Steel Labor Relations Board and got it. The workers paid the price of the resulting disintegrating influence just at a time when an aggressive policy of organization and action was required. Green and Tighe on the other hand are pursuing their victory and forging ahead for an industrial truce of no strikes with monopoly capital.

To challenge the steel corporation to a plant election to determine the sentiment of the workers may have had its time. Now that is not the issue and in view of the special powers of coercion in the hands of the corporation in such a procedure it will result only in disorganization of the workers’ ranks. Actual union organization means to fight it out.

Prospects for organization were excellent last summer. The Amalgamated Association of Iron Steel and Tin Workers had gained a new Impulse and experienced a splendid revival despite the sabotage of its reactionary officials. The steel workers genuinely hated the company union and they still do. New progressive elements came forward in the union but they could not stand up against the reactionary barrage. However, an opportunity does not wait forever.

It is reported that the progressives are planning a rank and file convention to be held in Pittsburgh the first week of February to consider “ways and means of forcing union recognition from the steel companies”. The call was issued at a meeting of 500 representatives from ten districts of the union at which speakers said that “strike is our only weapon left now”. Of course, this convention has already been declared outlawed by the Tighe administration.

Unquestionably the rank and file discontent with the reactionary union administration is deep seated and its demand for action widespread. Its real need is progressive leadership that will stand up and make the fight; but to provide that the progressives themselves need organization and a clear cut policy of action. In this respect the steel workers union is no exception from many others and this is only one more reason for the necessity and speedy realization of a new national progressive movement in the trade unions.

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