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Mary Bell

Congress Threatens
Anti-Labor Legislation

(11 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 6, 11 February 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Anyone who still clings to a shred of the myth of the impartiality of the government – the belief that President Truman, the senators and representatives are non-partisan mediators sitting in toplofty judgment above the moil and toil of the struggle between capital and labor – needs only to take a sidelong glance at the labor legislation now up before Congress.

The most sensational and drastic bill to curb strikes and weaken the organized labor movement is the Case bill. This bill was sired by the Republicans and the Bourbon wing of the Democrats. Another, less drastic and in a sense more insidious strike-curbing measure, is Truman’s own bill (HR 4908).

Both bills limit the right to strike by enforcing a “cooling off” period while an impartial government board takes charge of the dispute. Truman’s bill makes a hypocritical concession to the open-the-books demand of the United Auto Workers Union by calling for fact-finding boards. But, as Labor Action has reported before, the secrets of profits and production are to be revealed not to labor and the public, but only to the government agents on the fact-finding board.

Murray’s Indictment

Philip Murray, CIO president, correctly nailed the anti-labor provisions of the Case bill:

“The bill imposes compulsory arbitration.

“It carries an enforced ‘cooling-off’ period of 35 days before a strike can be legally called.

“It makes any form of assistance to a strike illegal.

“It revives the hated labor injunction, outlawed fourteen years ago by the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

“It robs workers of the protection of the National Labor Relations Act.

“The manner of introduction to the House betrays its real purposes, despite the loud protestations of its sponsors. The bill was not studied in committee. Instead, it was jammed through a packed group in the Rules Committee, which functions only to delay beneficial legislation and to hasten reactionary measures.”

One of the main features of the Case bill is to loosen up the injunctive restrictions of the courts so that they may be used against labor. Of the many injunctions now being used against the struggle of organized labor on the picket lines to secure a living wage, that employed against the Homestead steel strikers illustrates best the use to which this technique is put. The pickets had been massing by hundreds to prevent scabs, foremen and supervisory agents whom the company wants to use as a back-to-work movement, from entering the plant and breaking the solidarity of their strike. The writ, issued by Republican Judge Soffel, who ought, if he isn’t, to be in the pay of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co., forbids strikers to bar anyone from the mill and limits the pickets to ten, paced ten feet apart. This use of the courts in strikes is in the classic style.

As the CIO-PAC News Service states, although “the bill purports to deal with violence in labor disputes, it says nothing about the use of tear gas by employers to break strikes, about the resort to terror by employers, about the notorious Mohawk Valley formula, etc.” Or,

“Similarly, the bill exposes labor organizations to the novel sanction of suits in the federal courts for breach of contract, but says nothing about the widespread flouting of War Labor Board directives by employers which today has resulted in the denial to workers of back pay awards of over $20 million.”

A Struggle of Classes

The CIO-PAC limits its criticism of the Case bill to calling it “one-sided, punitive, irresponsible.”

But if you accept the basic premises of the CIO’s Political Action Committee, which is the premise of Truman, the Democratic Party and also of the gang of Republicans and Democrats who authored the Case bill, you cannot call this proposed legislation of Truman’s bill “one-sided.” These basic premises are: the capitalist system is the best system ever; the capitalist government is the best form of government; the interests of labor and capital are fundamentally identical – “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” capital and labor alike.

It is on this basis that Congress and Truman propose their legislation for labor and capital. However, this concept, basic to capitalism (although the capitalists and Truman know better) pretends to ignore the classes that exist in society and proceeds to equate unequal things. In every capitalist country there are two nations – the capitalists and the workers, the exploiters and the exploited, those who own the wealth of the country and those who have only their ability to Work. Hence the struggle of the exploited, impoverished workers against the wealthy capitalist exploiters to better their lot. Hence the impossibility of any government which represents the dominant, ruling class in society of passing impartial legislation.

The struggle of the working class, which has as its only economic weapon the right to strike, to withdraw its ability to work, cannot be squeezed in the vise of “impartial” labor legislation. The CIO and AFL instinctively recognize and oppose the threat in this anti-strike legislation to the simple struggle to gain a better living, to get what Reuther of the UAW calls a “down payment” on what is owed labor.

What the CIO and AFL leaderships do not recognize is the fundamental nature of the class struggle and the necessity to replace the capitalist ruling class with a government of the working class, in order to erase exploitation and ultimately to wipe out the class struggle in society by the elimination of classes altogether. Philip Murray, as president of the PAC can oppose Truman’s anti-strike bill; immediately after his declaration, his cohort, Sidney Hillman, chairman of the PAC, can state his approval of Truman’s wage recommendations.

But in order that the gains of the rank and file of organized labor which are won on the picket lines are not defeated in Washington, labor must undertake independent labor political action. The PAC must be detached from the capitalist parties. The Sixty Families who own and control the wealth of the country must be expropriated and their industries, mines, mills and farmlands turned over to democratic committees of the workers. The hands that do the work of the country must manage production and run the government in the interests of all.

This is the only way to guarantee an end to all anti-strike bills, whether of the drastic Case or the mild Truman variety.

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