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Jack Wilson

West Coast Labor Resists Jingo Attack on Strikes

Timber Workers, Machinists, Aircraft Workers Put up a Magnificent Fight
for Decent Wages and Conditions

(June 1931)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 23, 9 June 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LOS ANGELES – West Coast labor is putting up a magnificent fight on every front against the attempts of the Roosevelt war machine to roller over the rights and conditions earned through many years of struggle here.

  1. 12,000 timber workers rejected an arbitrary order of Roosevelt’s mediation board to give up their fight for a decent contract in the Washington lumber area, despite the highest pressure possible on the union leaders and the strikers.
  2. The AFL and CIO machinists in San Francisco are still holding picket lines solid and even the capitalist press admits that over 14,000 other workers are respecting the picket lines.
  3. Over 11,000 North American Aircraft workers in Los Angeles told their negotiating committee to go back to Washington and stick to the basic demands of 75 cents an hour minimum and a ten cent general raise at Mediation Board hearings.

    The strike call for Tuesday was postponed since it was agreed to make any concessions retroactive to May 1.
  4. More than 3,000 CIO warehousemen in San Francisco were ready to hit the pavement to protect the rights of women workers and get them equal pay with men on the same jobs. (The employers agreed to a ten cent raise for men but discriminated against the nearly 1,000 women employed.)

Unions on Firm Ground

In each of these major struggles – there are many others too – the union has a clear cut case which can’t be answered.

The lumber companies, the aircraft corporations, the shipyards and the warehouses are making a big pile of dough. This is common public knowledge and the companies have not dared try deny these facts.

The workers are very dissatisfied with present wage scales since the rapidly mounting cost of living is squeezing them dry. so they demand what justly belongs to them.

Ordinarily, victory would be a cinch.

But now the employers have a powerful open ally in the Roosevelt regime which joins the bosses in yelling “national defense” and hiding all direct attacks on labor under this guise.

Today Roosevelt declared all war industries to be so in name. The purpose of this is to scare labor out of fighting for its just demands. The pattern of tricks runs like this:

The press of economic insecurity is forcing the workers to battle despite all the torrent of abuse and lies hurled at them. And they are becoming increasingly bitter about the raw deal of the Roosevelt regime.

So the strikers are remaining solid.

Fancy maneuvers, calls to Washington, phony peace announcements, delays, etc., are used to weaken or break these strikes. In each case the unionists are standing firm because they haven’t got what they must have in order to live.

The propaganda about “national defense” isn’t catching much hold. That is why the unions and the Roosevelt regime are in a head-on collision.

Showdowns in lumber, the shipyards and aircraft are unavoidable this week.

The unionists are learning through painful experience that they have no friends except themselves. That what they get depends on their own strength.

Terrific Pressure

The pressure on union leaders is simply terrific. FBI men shadow them continuously. Now the trick is to call them to Washington where all sorts of heat is put on them by various government officials. Meanwhile on the picket lines rumors and lies are spread to divide the men.

The resistance of the strikers up and down the coast to these kinds of tactics is a good demonstration of the remarkable power of the union.

Over the week end, all the aircraft plants, the shipyards and other major industrial points were placed under military surveillance, again primarily as a means of intimidating the workers from fighting against attempts to enslave them.

Pursuit planes fly overhead, anti-aircraft and machine guns have been mounted, “unlimited emergency” has been proclaimed, all to terrorize labor.

But thus far labor stands solid. Roosevelt strike-breaking hasn’t succeeded yet. This is the big week.

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