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Susan Green

TWU Battles with Facts against Fakes

The “Little Flower” Is Trying to Act Like a “Little Ford”

(9 June 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 23, 9 June 1941, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEW YORK – Continuing its fight for recognition by Mayor LaGuardia as representing the 32,000 subway workers of the city of New York, the Transport Workers Union will hold street corner meetings in all the boroughs of the city. In the next two weeks it will use this means to intensify its drive for full public support. That the TWU already has wide public support in its struggle was amply attested by the enormous turn-out of tens of thousands at its Madison Square rally on May 21.

So reasonable is the TWU demand that the Board of Transportation enter into collective bargaining agreements covering wages, hours and conditions of employment on the subway lines that only the rankest reactionaries can withhold sympathy and support.

Answer Union-Busters

In the meantime the battle of facts against fakes rages. The union’s weapons are the facts – the union busters’ weapons are fakes.

Thus a report of the executive committee of the New York Civil Service Reform Association, on the union-busting side, states that the transit workers brought into civil service through unification of the subways have lost the right to strike and to engage in collective bargaining.

Harry Sacher, attorney for the TWU, retorts:

“Why this loss occurred was not explained. This action was taken notwithstanding that other government agencies engaged in similar enterprises not only have recognized the right of collective bargaining, but have accepted other procedures, including impartial arbitration of grievances, which exclude employer absolutism from, industry.”

“These practices,” continued Mr. Sacher, “have not commended themselves to the three commissioners who comprise New York City’s Board of Transportation, who, appointed by the mayor for six-year terms, constitute an autonomous body responsible to nobody. The board’s powers over the transit facilities and employees who operate them are virtually absolute.”

The crux of the whole matter Mr. Sacher stated very well in the following:

“The board is vitally concerned with operating the transit lines at a profit. This aspiration necessarily must come into conflict with the ambitions of its employees for better wages, shorter working hours and improved working conditions.”

Thus the TWU gives notice that the class struggle between the bosses and the bossed must continue – even if the boss happens to be the government.

In the CIO Way

Labor Action has compared the anti-union position of Mayor La Guardia with that of Ford – before the Automobile Workers Union picket line made him change his mind. This comparison is more than justified by a letter just released by the TWU, sent by La Guardia on March 16, 1940, to the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

The mayor wrote:

“The right of employees to genuine collective bargaining has not, is not and will not be denied ... I expect to confer with representatives of all labor organizations having membership among the employees of the operating companies coming into city operation under the unification plan. Therefore, I cannot understand why an issue which does not exist is continually made the subject of discussion.”

Ford also “could not understand” the issue. He also was willing to “bargain collectively” – with his own jerry-built, phony union, but not with the Automobile Workers Union, which truly represents the Ford workers. Ford now UNDERSTANDS.

LaGuardia also “expected to confer” – but not to make an agreement with the TWU, which truly represents the 32,000 transit workers of the city. LaGuardia can also be made to understand – in the CIO way.

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Last updated: 19 August 2014