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Jack Wilson

Strike Wave Sweeps Over Los Angeles

(August 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 31, 4 August 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LOS ANGELES – A wave of 22 strikes swept through this city in the past two weeks, highlighted by the walkout of 3,200 members of the International Ladies Garment Workers.

Eighteen of the strikes quickly brought at least partial victories for the workers involved.

Fifty thousand aircraft workers here expect to obtain higher wages and much better conditions, soon as a result of the North American Aviation strike victory that achieved a 75 cent minimum and a ten per cent general pay raise.

While the North American victory served as an inspiration, behind this fresh wave of strikes is an even more potent force: the skyrocketing rise in the cost of living.

Discontent Deep

How deep-seated the discontent has become is shown by the ILGWU strike where the workers, after remaining dormant for a long-time under the burden of a bureaucratic leadership, have rallied into militant action.

Downtown Los Angeles gives an impression of a general strike going on, since every street corner is dotted with picket signs. In the garment center, mass picket lines hold sway. Minor skirmishes with scabs added zest to the militancy of the ILGWU strikers while nearby 500 employees of the Owl Drug Stores paced up and down in front of the many chain stores located downtown.

And there is the threat of 1,900 workers at the Aluminum Corporation of America plant here to strike under the CIO banner unless the company comes through with a real contract – signed, sealed and delivered.

On to Union Town

Each strike or threatened strike serves to expose the horrible conditions for employees in this once open-shop center.

The wage-hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor issued a blast against the garment manufacturers for violating the low minimums set up under the law.

Many of the women employees are working for $12 and $14 a week in the sweatshops here, when the law provides for at least a miserable $16 weekly. And the hours are long, six days a week. The ILGWU is demanding a 15 to 20 percent wage increase for unionized shops. It is also trying to organize many non-union shops, especially in sportswear, which employs 5,000 workers. Failure of the ILGWU top leadership to create a real strike organization jeopardizes the possibility of winning a total victory.

An important factor aiding these strikers and other workers is that the war boom has created enough of a competition for labor among the bosses. Raiding between plants, promises of higher wages, etc., are used to, get workers.

Los Angeles is moving rapidly toward becoming a union town.

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