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Jack Wilson

Conscription Threat Fails To Balk Ryan Strike Plans

(January 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 4, 27 January 1941, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – If you go on strike, we’ll conscript you immediately!

This strike-breaking threat was hurled at Ryan Aeronautical Co. workers by the local draft board here under advice of U.S. Army officials when the CIO union announced the results of a strike vote to enforce wage demands.

It was such an open exposé of the role of the U.S. Army and the conscription laws that national draft headquarters was forced to repudiate, at least in words, the stand of the Army officials and the draft board.

The attempted intimidation failed to budge the workers one inch. It incensed the labor movement greatly.

For the Ryan workers have a real issue. Average wages at the plant are 9½ cents less per hour than the national standard in aircraft, in organized and unorganized plants.

The big majority of Ryan men work 56 hours a week in order to make a total weekly pay of $25. They are able to eke out an existence only by slaving seven days a week.

The arrogance of the company is almost unbelievable. They are bucking the union all the way down the line, when everyone knows that the company is making huge profits. It has $10,000,000 in orders from the U.S. Government and England.

In the furious publicity campaign waged between the company and the CIO, the union has exposed the false wage claims of the company at every turn.

Threat Boomerangs

The company’s arrogance came from their belief that with the aid of the threats from U.S. Army officials and the draft board they could force the workers to submit to their present lousy wages and hours.

San Diego newspapers proclaimed the threats of the officials as though that would settle the matter.

The Army officials explained in detail how they would apply to strikers the clause which says that not working changes one’s deferment status. This possible move, incidentally, was exposed two months ago by Labor Action in its analysis of the conscription law.

CIO officials wired protests to President Roosevelt and the national draft headquarters in order to get public attention to the attempted strike-breaking.

Antagonism against the Army flared in the whole labor movement here because of these threats. It was pulled too crudely and too quickly. In fact il boomeranged. That is why the national draft headquarters repudiated the local board.

Since that day the CIO and Ryan management have been meeting without any break in the deadlock. So the CIO was forced to set a deadline of Jan. 21 for the strike.

Richard Frankensteen, autoworkers’ international representative sent out by President R.J. Thomas especially to handle this situation, has notified the national CIO, the defense commission and other agencies of each step in the situation.

It will be difficult for Sidney Hillman or anyone else to yell that the strike was called without proper notification, etc. in the event it is called.

Meanwhile all plans were made for the strike. A soup kitchen has been set up, picket cards issued, etc.

While the CIO is trying to obtain a 75 cent hourly minimum for the 1,500 Ryan workers, it is expected that they would accept a compromise similar to the one in the Vultee contract. So far, however, the company has refused to budge from a 50 cent minimum.

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