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Harry Allen

Labor Legionnaires Unite in Chicago

(August 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 31, 2 August 1943, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CHICAGO – Twenty American Legion Posts in Chicago have just formed the Chicago Council of Union Legionaires. These pro-union labor Legionaires, while remaining members of the American Legion, aim to counteract its anti-labor policy and practices. They condemn, the anti-labor fulminations of Roane Waring, national commander of the Legion and corporation boss of the Memphis, Tenn., street railways.

Oppose Legion’s Anti-Labor Policy

The Chicago Council of Union Legionaires has further declared itself in strong opposition to the open shop proposal adopted by the national executive committee at its recent sessions in Indianapolis.

The NEC also called for the adoption of the Wassworth-Austin resolution for compulsory military service, now before Congress. Such a law, declared the NEC, “would settle any crisis [strikes] anywhere,” since it would prevent any strike “against the government.” In avowing again its open shop policy, the Legion declares that no ex-soldier of the present war “shall be forced to join any trade union ... to gain employment.” Thus the American Legion consistently maintains its scabbing policy.

In fact, for nearly twenty-five years the American Legion, organized and continuously backed ever since by big business, has been the biggest single strike-breaking force in the country. Many worker ex-servicemen, duped into joining this outfit, soon became disgusted with the vicious anti-labor policy of the American Legion leadership and got out of the organization. Those who remained have been more and more aroused at the increasing insolence of the Legion’s program and leadership. More and more this program and leadership have expressed themselves along fascist lines, American style.

Big Dough Comes from Corporations

If anyone in labor’s ranks still has illusions concerning the American Legion, let it be noted that the National Executive Committee also adopted an “Americanism Program”; that is, an anti-labor program.

To remove any doubts about this, the NEC voted to accept $20,000,000 from “business sources,” that is, from the big corporations of America, in order to finance this “Americanism program.”

Recently, William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, advised working men war veterans to join the American Legion today in order to combat the fascist and anti-labor elements of the Legion. This proposal is at least two decades too late. For today, Green’s advice is no good. Big business controls the Legion, hook, line and sinker. The ranks have never held office in it.

Labor Must Organize Veterans

Here and there, it is true, there have been evidences of resentment and opposition to the American Legion’s policy; Thus the South Fork, Pa., Post of the Legion sent an apology to John L. Lewis for Waring’s speeches against the United Mine Workers Union in recent months. The commander of the American Legion Post in Minneapolis, Jack Carrier, sharply attacked Waring, declaring his speeches “sound like Hitler and Goebbeels.” He advises Waring to “take off your Legion cap and put on the uniform of the National Association of Manufacturers.”

The Chicago Council of Union Legionnaires represents the best and most widely organized opposition to the Legion policies and leadership.

The fact that they have organized into a special group to defend labor’s interests: inside the Legion is to be welcomed heartily. Their action is tantamount to recognition of the Legion’s anti-labor policy and leadership, and of the need to fight them both in an organised way. But if they think they can convert the hidebound, reaction-ruled and boss-controlled Legion into an aid to labor, they will find themselves sadly mistaken. The bosses have their veterans’ organization. Labor ought to have one of its own.

However, apart from the worker ex-servicemen of World War I, there are already eleven million future veterans of World War II whom the American Legion is now endeavoring to enroll in the Legion.

As a first measure, the American labor movement (CIO, AFL, independent unions) must warn all worker-soldiers to steer clear of the American Legion. Moreover, the labor movement must now give serious attention to the integration of the worker ex-servicemen into the labor unions after the war. At the same time, labor must start working on the idea of forming a war veterans’ organization of workingmen.

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