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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(4 July 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 47, 4 July 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

For years the bosses in the milk industry have used two obvious tricks when dealing with organized labor. One is to play off the farmers against the workers, and the second is to play off either the farmers or workers against the consumers.

The Borden and Sheffield companies are using trick two in an effort to stave off the milk drivers union, representing 20,000 workers, in current negotiations in the New York area.

Before any contract has even been settled, these big milk companies announced a raise in the price of milk of one cent per quart and they threaten another increase shortly.

Of course, company propaganda says that the increase became necessary because of the demands of the union movement.

The companies claim that union demands for wage increases, limitation of production, a five day week, and other standard concessions make a higher cost of production and milk prices must go up.

There is an obvious answer to this propaganda. It is a brief analysis of the profits made by these companies. Borden’s and Sheffield make millions yearly.

Public Support

Labor has a right to more than it has been getting in this industry. And labor can get public support if it shows up the company’s huge profits.

We remember very well a similar experience in Ohio in which the milk drivers union around the Akron area fought and obtained better conditions and wage increases, etc., despite the usual hue and cry of the companies on increased costs.

But after the union won, the companies refused to deal with the farmers and rejected their demands for an increase in the price of milk sold to the companies. “We’ve had to give it all to labor, “ the bosses cried.

That kind of propaganda is dynamite. It plays off the farmers against the workers, and too often in the past succeeded in accomplishing this reactionary aim.

In particular, the Ohio farmers were at first enraged at this argument and tended to blame the union for the company refusal to $2.00 per hundredweight instead of $1.50, if our memory serves us correctly.

Here, the C.I.O. movement intervened to straighten out the mess, in cooperation with the milk drivers union.

A joint committee of organized labor and the farmers’ milk association took up the battle of the farmers.

Labor put picket lines around the milk companies. Farmers came into town for miles around to help. Milk supplies were cut off.

But above all, labor organized a first class publicity campaign and explained the whole matter to the workers and the farmers and the consumers.

Analyzing Profits

Analysis of the Borden Company profits proved that they could pay the farmers and the workers more. This was emphasized over and over again.

A brief history of how the bosses used labor against the farmer and vice versa was related. All this was done on radio programs which were well publicized and thus received wide hearings.

The result has been that both the milk drivers and the farmers have benefited. A more harmonious relationship between them has resulted.

Of course, in many localities like Minneapolis where organized labor has a shrewd leadership with a progressive outlook, the old stunts don’t work so easy.

The new gag is to organize an “Associated Farmers “ organization, a fake business-inspired, boss-paid strike breaking outfit. This phoney outfit ostensibly speaks for the farmers ... and always goes after the union movement.

Its final and complete exposure came recently before the wages and hours hearings on minimum standards in Washington. This outfit spends all its time explaining why the poorer farmers, the agricultural workers and sharecroppers should be exempt from minimum rates, that is, should continue to work for slave wages.

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