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Shipyard Workers Defy Jingo Intimidation
in Coast Strike

AFL and CIO Ranks Work Together, with Aid of Other Workers,
in Resisting Sell Out Efforts of Top Union Officialdom

(May 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 20, 19 May 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SAN FRANCISCO – Rank and file machinists here refused to swallow the sell-out contract which Sidney Hillman, John P. Frey and other CIO and AFL leaders tried to shove down their throats.

Monday 1,500 AFL machinists and 700 CIO machinists in the Bay area hit the pavement to prevent wage cuts foisted on them by Hilfman et al. through a so-called “master contract.”

In this area, most machinists get $1.15 cents an hour. The Hillman Contract provided for $1.12 an hour.

For almost five years machinists have been getting double time for overtime. The Hillman contract provides for time and a half.

The present contract was signed by shipyard owners, Hillman’s direct representative and some top AFL leaders. Nobody asked Hillman to do this “service” for the rank and file. When the referendum was taken to vote on the contract, many of the local unions rejected it, as Labor Action reported.

Ranks Are Solid

The AFL got together the metal trades council in this region and by a majority vote they decided to accept it, announcing that local unions would have to go along.

But the solidarity of the ranks, both AFL and CIO, and their determination not to be buffaloed by national “defense” baloney, brought results different from those expected by the trade union officialdom.

The shipyards are shut down. Sixteen thousand other union men employed there have refused to walk through the picket lines.

The combined efforts of the AFL top leadership, and Sidney Hillman and the bosses failed to break the determination of the ranks.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox sent a wire saying a strike was sabotage of national defense. The workers hurled the lie back into his teeth.

John L. Frey, president of the AFL building trades department, said the strike was unauthorized. The local AFL business agents who are running the strike pointed out that Frey had nothing to do with the situation. It wasn’t under his jurisdiction. Besides, he is a colonel in the U.S. military intelligence and his heart belongs to the military machine, if he has one ...

William Green, president of the AFL, did his penny’s worth to try to break the strike. He called it an “outlaw strike.”

John Green, president of the CIO Shipyard Workers Union, also did his bit through a telegram to the shipyard owners, saying it was a strike in violation of the contract signed.

And you should have heard the newspapers scream.

All of them sang a song of sell-out. Nobody talked about the real issues. The fact that the workers have a right, to the higher pay and the right to strike.

A Real Showdown

It’s bothering the reactionaries no end to see the CIO and the AFL locally work together on this strike. Since the machinists are vital and there is a shortage of them, the union

is in a powerful position to win, despite. all the hysteria whipped up against them.

Huge police cordons were placed at the yards to try to intimidate the strikers. So far to no avail.

This is a real showdown between the ranks and the union bureaucrats doing their job for the Roosevelt Administration by trying to sell labor down the river.

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Last updated: 26.12.2012