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Jack Wilson

Aircraft Worker Sees Victory for CIO in Douglas Drive

Union Wages 24-Hour Campaign to Organize 20,000 Employees of Douglas Aircraft

(January 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 3, 20 January 1941, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SANTA MONICA. Calif. – The CIO is waging an intensive 24-hour a day campaign to organize the 20,000 employees of the Douglas Aircraft Corp.

Each day, and at every shift, the CIO has distributors at the gales, passing out CIO papers, the Aircraft Organizer and special messages to the aircraft workers explaining the value and need of industrial unionism.

Soon this company will open another plant in Long Beach and bring its total employment up to 40,000 workers. It is now hiring men at the rate of 300 a week.

It was this company which broke the 1937 sit-down strike and stopped the CIO organizing drive.

We asked a worker to help us tell the story of the situation at Douglas; of the prospects of union organization. Here is how it stacks up:

“It is, I think, the general feeling that with the past experience at Vultee that a union such as the CIO would strongly help our cause,” he said.

“Certainly many of us would express that opinion openly if it were not for the fear of immediate dismissal. There are a good number of unionists in the plant so we do have a base for an organization.”

He was bitter about the huge private army that Douglas, the Henry Ford of aircraft, has to intimidate the workers.

“The Protective Police is spread out everywhere. When the CIO passes out stuff the blue-coats and the plain clothes dicks stand around. But the men take all the papers, and read them too.

“From the mighty chief Davis with his chief stooge Fitzsimons down to the lousy stool-pigeons there is always a burden upon us through fear of expulsion because of a slip of the tongue or a natural mistake which will be interpreted as espionage.

“Why should we honest working men be subjugated to such a policy? Are we all spies?

“Donald Douglas and the Chase National Bank of New York are responsible for this situation.

“With National Defense and the Espionage Act to induce fear into the minds of the workers they want to make it appear as though we must give our labor, work long hours at low pay as a gift for democracy.

“They do not mention their guaranteed 12 per cent.

“They have built us a fine arena, and given us a fine band to make us believe that these small tokens of generosity will smother our desires to advance our standard of living with better pay.”

He added sarcastically,

“Their generosity was so great that Christmas and New Year’s they gave us two days off, having us work the Saturdays previous without the customary time and a half.”

Speed-up and wages are the burning issues, according to him.

“I make more money than some guys that have been there a lot longer. We are all getting hooked.

“Many of the men try to get jobs in other plants like Vultee because there they have a union.”

How about the AFL campaign?

“They come out once in a while with their stuff. The CIO is always here. At noons when the band plays, the CIO has its sound truck going. The organizers make small speeches about unionism.

“Sure I am joining the CIO. It’s going to be a long grind. Douglas is a tough guy. But I think the CIO will win.”

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