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Expulsions from A.F.L. Setback for Unity Drive

Reactionary Move by Executive Council Widens Chasm in Labor Movement;
Campaign for Unity Must Be Intensified

(February 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 7, 12 February 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A damaging blow to the cause of unity in the labor movement was dealt this week by the reactionary executive council of the A.F. of L. when it expelled the United Mine Workers of America, backbone of the C.I.O., from the Federation.

President William Green of the A.F. of L. implied that the revocation of the miners’ charter, and two other smaller C.I.O. unions, was a compromise between the civil war policy advocated by the “diehards” and the policy of “moderates” in the executive council.

The Federation of Flat Glass workers and the Mine, Mill and Smelter workers were the other two international unions whose charter were revoked.

Leadership Divided

The action of the executive council came after two weeks of indecision which reflected the division within the top A.F. of L, leadership. Dan Tobin, of the Teamsters, and George Harrison, of the Railroad Brotherhoods, were for moderation. Bill Hutcheson, of the Carpenters, headed the “civil war” group.

The strategy of the A.F. of L. executive board in expelling the miners’ union is obvious. It hopes to “isolate” the John L. Lewis-controlled section of the C.I.O., and cause a split in C.I.O. ranks.

David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, indirectly played a part in determining this strategy by his recent public attack on Lewis.

Hope in Dubinsky

Louis Stark, of the New York Times, pointed out in his article of February 6 that the A.F. of L. was placing hope in winning Dubinsky away from the C.I.O., and having him, “carry the ball across the C.I.O. goal line.” It was this difference between Dubinsky and Lewis that gave the A.F. of L. council new vigor and aided in determining the policy of continued hostility to the C.I.O.

Surprise was expressed in many labor circles that of the major C.I.O. Unions only the miner’s union was expelled. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers was “slated to go,” too, according to the “civil war” theory. The very fact that this demand of the “diehards” was not voted by the council indicates that open warfare on too wide a front is not yet the plan of the A.F. of L. leaders.

The revocation of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union charter was part of the plan to “isolate” the miners, since this international is closely tied up with the Lewis-controlled U.M.W.A.

Raid Plan Seen

The bitter internal dispute in the Flat Glass Workers Union which led to the ousting of Glen McCabe as international president, offered the A.F. of L. the hope of “raiding” that industry. McCabe turned against the C.I.O. following his overthrow and probably expects to capture some locals for the A.F. of L. McCabe was originally suspended when charges were placed against him in regard to use of the C.I.O. union funds.

The executive council did not vote on the appeal of the Pennsylvania State Federation of Labor against the Green order to purge itself of C.I.O. affiliates. If the State Federation of Labor is forced to cause a split of Pennsylvania labor, it means that the A.F. of L. leaders will intensify hostilities against the C.I.O. on the political field.

A split in the ranks of Pennsylvania unions would seriously affect the political perspectives of the Lewis machine, which intends to run Thomas Kennedy, secretary-treasurer of the miner’s union, for governor.

Green Hits League

Green repeated his blast of last fall, against Labor’s Non-Partisan League in a special report to the council. He termed it a “mere tool and mouthpiece of the C.I.O.” His previous attack was ignored in many labor centers but today it might mean further action against the. C.I.O. in the political sphere.

These recent developments delay the possibility of peace in the labor movement. In his study of the situation, Stark aptly summed up the prospect and perspectives by writing:

“If for the present hostilities do not cease, it will not mean an end to peace hopes nor an end of striving toward renewal of peace parleys. Resumption of peace negotiations will be made more difficult by these hostilities, but forces both inside and outside labor will continue to work for unity in labor.”

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