B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Jack Wilson

News From Our West Coast Correspondent

(December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 35, 9 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

West Coast labor is stirring in a manner reminiscent of the good old days of the CIO drives in 1936–1937.

Coming at a time when Roosevelt is doing his darndest to keep the labor movement in control, and to outlaw strikes for higher wages and better conditions, the present upsurge testifies that the last word has not yet been heard by a long shot from the union ranks.

In the Northwest, AFL and CIO lumber workers unions got together for a joint drive against the timber barons for higher wages.

Representatives from the AFL Lumber and Sawmill workers union and the CIO Woodworkers of America met with 360 delegates from 76 local unions last night and pledged to do everything necessary to effect as broad a tie of the northwest lumber industry as possible.

Read that again. The AFL and the CIO ranks uniting in a fight against their common enemy, the bosses. That’s the kind of unity the labor movement needs. That’s the kind we support.

Plans of the lumberjacks include a strike to begin at five Everett, Washington, lumber mills, involving 2.000 workers. This is to help effect an industry-wide tie-up already in process by virtue of a strike at Seattle, and the shut down of ten mills at Tacoma. The AFL union controls the Everett workers.


Unless you’ve tried to organize in the deep South or some of the towns of the mid-west, it is difficult to appreciate really what a tremendous victory the CIO achieved at Vultee, in Los Angeles.

Ever since the McNamara bombing case in 1910 at the Los Angeles Times building, this city has proudly boasted of its open shop tradition. Yes, a few craft unions were organized, and the CIO made some headway in the past, but essentially the city was open shop. Its posters still brag of this advantage to manufacturers.

The rapid expansion of the aircraft industry brings an almost inevitable change in this condition. 65,000 proletarian workers in this area are a different force than the craft unions, or the small needle trades shop workers, or the small rubber plants.

Vultee strikers, for example, didn’t have to worry about scabs. The industry is having a problem hiring qualified men. They couldn’t find 3,800 production workers if they searched the whole country. Not experienced aircraft workers.

This contributed greatly to the power of the strikers. And to their confidence.

Since 1,400 of them went from 50 and 52½ cents an hour to 62½ cents an hour, besides getting vacations with pay and other usual demands, the Vultee workers were jubilant upon returning to work.

Now this city has 3,800 workers who, unconsciously perhaps, are all CIO organizers. The strike, as is every first strike to a worker, was a real experience in life. It is something one talks about to friends and neighbors. The extra money coming in helps a lot.

Labor learned it could strike and win. Many workers here didn’t believe you could even strike, let alone win. That’s the way the newspapers put it. And too many people believe what they read in newspapers, especially about what they say about the union movement.


The SWOC announced the signing of two contracts here which names the CIO union as the exclusive bargaining agency and bring substantial gains to the workers.

Over 1,000 employees at the Consolidated Steel Corp. plant are effected by the union contract which includes: preferential union hiring, a 65 cent minimum wages and the automatic five cent an hour increase in the hiring rate after six months. Also there is provision for an 8-hour day, five days a week, with time and a half for overtime, and vacations with pay. Grievance and arbitration procedure was also agreed to.

The other contract was signed with the Pacific Gas Radiator Co., and contains substantially the same provisions as the consolidated agreement.


A last minute compromise derailed a threatened strike of 1,000 ship yard workers at San Pedro this week over a wage dispute. The ship yards involved are engaged in building small craft for the Navy’s war program.


Filipino workers in the celery fields were just given an AFL charter and are pressing for a union agreement which will give them more adequate compensation for their back-breaking toil at starvation wages. Very unfortunately, however, the Filipinos include in their demands the replacement of all Japanese workers by their own countrymen. Apparently they have learned little about the need tor class solidarity from their own many years of racial persecution.

There will be a real upswing in union activity among the agricultural workers in California in the coming season. The war boom with its hiring of many men in California cities slackens off the huge surplus of labor for agricultural work. The much higher wages and better conditions in industrial plants has opened the eyes of the migratory workers too, already bitter about their miserable existence. Employers are plenty worried already.


Emil Ludwig, pot-boiler biographer of great men, is contributing his two cents worth of ignorance to Hollywood’s mental blankness tonight with a lecture on the future of Europe.

Mr. Ludwig hints that there will be a revolution in Europe sometime during or after the war, and that society might take “some sort of collectivist form.” Translated from the confusion in his fat skull, this simply means that Europe faces the revolution of the proletariat against capitalism. It means our day is coming. And that now is the best time to build the revolutionary party. Mr. Ludwig, to be sure, will be silent on these questions. You can’t earn $500 telling the people the truth.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 22.11.2012