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Jack Wilson

Labor Taken for a Ride at Capital Conference

(December 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 52, 29 December 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

When the widely heralded industry-labor conference concluded its deliberations this week by accepting a three-point “peace” program outlined by Senator Thomas, and backed by President Roosevelt, three salient fact’s stood out:

  1. The industrialist bloc showed on every occasion; including their half-hearted acceptance, under protest, of the Roosevelt decision, that they intend to carry on their war against organized labor whenever and wherever possible!
  2. Organized labor was pledged to bind itself to a War Labor Board similar to the National Defense Mediation Board from which its CIO representatives recently resigned because the board revealed itself during the captive coal mine, dispute to be a stooge for the union-hating steel barons.
  3. But this time, in entering another mediation board set-up, organized labor gave up in advance the one weapon which enabled it to block the reactionary decision of the National Defense Mediation Board and win a real victory for unionism in the captive coal dispute. This weapon is the strike.

So labor, because of the shortsighted leadership of its top officials in the CIO and the AFL who are operating on a theory of “national unity at any cost,” finds itself back on the merry-go-round of mediation boards.

While the industrialists, knowing they conceded nothing at the conference, see a chance to stall off labor, over and over again, always trying to strangle the unions, and yelling that labor is breaking “national unity” if labor doesn’t submit to this treatment.

And the main factor which will keep the industrialists and their allies in the government from succeeding in their union-busting plans, is the inevitable growth of rank and file pressure, as in England during wartime, when conditions become oppressive in the plants.

A Patch-work

Thus, as we pointed out last week, any decisions of this conference, in fact the whole Labor Board which Roosevelt is creating, is essentially a patch-work to seek a compromise on the inevitable and conflicting interests of labor and industry.

The industrialists at the conference understood this basic fact better than the CIO and AFL leaders, who have a utopian pipe dream that labor and capital can live together in peace.

That is why the industrialists fought bitterly against any War, Labor Board even having the right to consider a union demand for a closed shop. Not to grant it, but just to consider it would be a crime, as far as the industrialists were concerned.

Such flagrant union-hating was too similar to the technique of a Girdler or the labor-baiting congressmen from the poll-tax districts of the South, for Roosevelt or his supporters to permit because it would expose the fakery in the war aims.

Instead, Roosevelt, sought to appear as the Great White Father of Labor by denying the industrialists their most extreme demand, which, to be sure, they haven’t given up hope yet of achieving.

The labor bloc at the conference felt it achieved a victory when the industrialists were unable to remove completely the question of the closed shop from the issues to be included for mediation by the new War Labor Board.

However, the next experience they have will again demonstrate to them what the captive coal mine strike taught many workers. That the only way they’ll obtain a union or closed shop is by exercising their economic power, or being in a position to do so, if the occasion warrants it.

Perhaps the first major test of the War Labor Board, whose personnel is expected to be announced shortly, will be its mediation of the SWOC demand for a union shop in the steel industry, a demand which is on the agenda when the present contracts run out in February.

It can be said in advance that in those cases where the pressure of the rank and file in the unions is so great that it is felt even in the highest government circles, the War Labor Board will find it expedient to grant some concessions.

Under the War Labor Board, labor will get what it fights for. Nothing else.

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