From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 2, 13 January 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Aircraft union news takes the lead again this week.
A significant straw in the wind on union organization trends was the result of the National Labor Relations Board election this week at the Haverill Aircraft Casting Corp., a small company located here.
The CIO won the election with 162 votes against the 47 cast for the AFL machinists union. Forty nine workers failed to vote for either union. The Vultee strike victory and the militant organization methods of the CIO in this election campaign clinched the victory.
President Roosevelt’s well-timed blow at the eight hour day and union standards, via his announcement on the recently obtained naval bases from England, was hailed with glee by aircraft manufacturers here.
It coincided perfectly with moves at Lockheed and other plants announcing a 56 hour week in many departments, thus following the example set at the Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington.
An eight hour day, seven days a week, is planned for some production workers. Others will toil ten hours a day for five days and put in six hours on Saturday.
Looks like the bosses want to teach the workers once again that under capitalism they live to work rather than work to live. Since the union contracts force payment of overtime, there will not be serious objection at first to the long schedule of work. Many of the aircraft workers here have not had jobs for a long time, and want a chance to catch up on their debts.
But this feeling won’t last long. First, it becomes very monotonous to just work eat and sleep for seven days a week. Second, the wife or girl friend will soon begin to kick when husband or boy friend makes her a workers’ widow.
And more important, the rising price level will tend to offset the extra earnings, and the boys will find themselves working the long hours and getting no more in REAL wages than at present!
How many jobs would be created in Southern California aircraft industry if a five-day forty hour week were established? Union officials estimate at least 30,000 more jobs!
In the light of this fact, one can appreciate more thoroughly how little concerned the government and industry are to solve the problem of unemployment. It’s a job for the union movement!
In our previous column we spoke of the tremendous expansion of the aircraft industry. Everyone has read about this in one newspaper or another. Now we have obtained some partial figures on expansion that give more details.
This expansion occurred during the past year!
Efforts of the Boeing management in Seattle, Washington, and the international officers of the AFL machinists union, to turn the powerful local union there into a semi-company union by way of a red purge appeared to be boomeranging on them.
Newspapers throughout the country carried the story of the vote of expulsion against Don Keppler, vice president of the local, and the presentation of charges against other union officials. Very few of the papers, however, pointed out that the trial board which maneuvered this union-dividing stunt was headed by a well-known police spy.
And even fewer newspapers’ carried the story of subsequent developments which are a credit to the progressive tendencies of the aircraft workers.
Keppler and his associates in the union demanded a vote by ballot on the trial board recommendations that he be fined $5,000 for Communist activities and also be expelled from the union.
In the balloting the vote was 1,635 to 1,160 in favor of the trial board’s report. But this fell far short of the 2/3 majority needed to carry the recommendations. This was a victory against the stool pigeons.
The trial board had also found Hugo Lundquist, young business agent of the local, “guilty of red activities.” But the rank and file was wise to the scheme behind this red scare. They voted 1,336 to 921 to exonerate Lundquist of all the charges made against him! They rejected the proposition that he be fined $10,000 and be expelled from the union!
And the pay off came when the union membership by a vote of 1,174 to 820 found Cliff Stone, Lundquist’s accuser, and the police spy on the trial board, guilty of “spreading false and malicious statements.”
The affair is by no means settled yet. The AFL machinists international office sent a warning to the local to rid itself of red influences or else it would take a hand. Of course this move played into the hands of the trial board.
It should be remembered in this connection that over a year ago in Liberty magazine, officials of the AFL machinists pointed out that they had an espionage system throughout the union cooperating with the FBI in “ferreting out reds, agitators, etc., etc.”
While all the internal trouble was occupying the attention of the Boeing unionists, the company not only instituted an extra day’s work in some departments, but also laid off men in other departments. By putting up a strong fight against these blows at the workers, the Lundquist-Keppler group were able to gain enough prestige to swing the tide towards them.
We would not be surprised if the Boeing situation ended up with the local going into the CIO since Lundquist and company are friends of Wyndham Mortimer and his associates in the auto workers.
Last updated: 22.11.2012