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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(17 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 79, 17 October 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Alarmed by the remarkable progress of the powerful teamsters unions despite stiff opposition of the employers, the federal government has begun a nationwide drive against the truck drivers in the hope of curbing them.

Not satisfied with trying to persecute the Minneapolis labor movement and its spearhead, the teamsters union, the Department of Justice this week obtained indictments against the teamsters union in Washington, D.C. and St. Louis.

Indications were that this procedure would be followed in other key cities as special grand juries were convened in Cleveland, New York and elsewhere.

Move Against AFL

Ostensibly, the Department of Justice campaign is part of a “trust-busting” campaign in the building industry. Actually, it is a crudely concealed maneuver to smash the AFL unions in this field.

The frame-up of the Minneapolis strikers was the first major move in this carefully laid plan of the G-men.

The brazen impudence of the strike-breaking G-men in Minneapolis, their vicious arrests in the vain hope of intimidating the workers, and the whole slew of phoney charges against the strikers is a hint of how they will proceed on a national scale.

Attorney General Frank Murphy, self-styled “friend of labor” had all his high-powered talent find legal loopholes so that the G-men could give an excuse to muscle into the unions.

The Sherman anti-trust law,which was supposed to be against big monopolies and their restraints of trade, was given as the legal basis for the government persecution of the unions.

Local 639 of the IBT in Washington and five union officials were indicted under the Sherman Act on charges of obstructing and delaying work on government and private buildings by strikes, boycotts and violence.

Object Is Clear

The intent of the federal government is clear. The G-men hope to establish through the present indictments that strikes, boycotts, and “violence” (instituted by strike-breakers but blamed on unionists) constitute a violation of the Sherman anti-trust law.

This would provide a legal basis then for curbing all militant action of the teamsters and other unions. It would paralyze the union movement, and make possible chiseling, breaking of contracts, reduction of wages, and a return to the open shop in the trucking industry.

However, a powerful union movement of 400,000 organized truck drivers surging forward with gain after gain is hardly going to take this lying down.

The AFL building trades unions are also going to be subject to a heavy battery of government persecution. It will not be the purpose of the G-men to clean up any bad situation in the building trades unions but rather to use any mistakes made by union officials to crack down on the whole labor movement.

Behind the present moves of the federal government to harass and intimidate the union movement if possible, is Roosevelt’s desire to whip labor into line with his pro-war policies.

In the campaign to hogtie the labor movement into the military machine, every possible stick has to be picked up and thrown at the unions. The present G-man drive against the AFL unions is a major part of this campaign, and Roosevelt is handling the “Big Stick.”

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Last updated: 17 February 2018