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Susan Green

Labor Fights Union-Busting Laws

(17 April 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 16, 17 April 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

While the eyes of all of us are focused on national and international affairs centered in Washington, our information as to what transpires in the capitals of the states of these United States is none too plentiful. Our attention was sharply called to the fact that state legislatures exist and function – for good or bad – by the recent adoption by the House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina of a Hitler-model race-supremacy resolution – though it would be more accurate to say that the South Carolina brand of race-supremacy existed before Hitler’s model.

In this resolution that reads like a product of the Dark Ages, these poll-tax “representatives of the people of the state” reaffirmed “our belief in and our allegiance to established white supremacy as now prevailing in the South, and we solemnly pledge our lives and our sacred honor to maintaining it, whatever the cost, in war and in peace.”

We know what this language means in actual practice – intimidation, brow-beating, KKK violence, lynching. And the resolution warns “the damned agitators of the North” to leave “the South alone” in the enforcement of “race supremacy.”

What else is going on in the sovereign states of the Union while “democracy” is being made safe on the battlefields of the globe?

Laws to Break Unions

In the state of Arkansas the Christian American Association – a fascistic, KKK type of organization subsidized by anti-union employers – is engaged in a vicious campaign to break the unions in that state. They maintain a powerful legislative lobby. Combining with that a petition campaign, they hope to have passed a so-called “freedom to work” amendment to the Constitution. The amendment aims to abolish the closed shop.

The lying propaganda carried on by the CAA is to fool people into believing that the amendment will “guarantee these fighting sons and daughters of yours and ours an equal opportunity to earn when they return – the right to work, regardless of membership in some labor union ...”

The unions of Arkansas have organized, to resist the passage of this boss-supported amendment. Its passage would mean that both workers and returning soldiers would be without the indispensable protection of the unions and at the complete mercy of the capitalists. The Arkansas Voters. League has been organized to defeat the proposition.

In Alabama, the Bradford law was recently passed, requiring all of the local unions to file with the state, union by-laws, names and salaries of officers, union receipts and expenditures. This is equivalent to giving the employers detailed information on all union affairs. The fact that the law was passed during a series of coal strikes indicates its strike-breaking purpose.

Four hundred of the five hundred AFL locals in Alabama have served notice of non-compliance with the law, which they designate as “a labor baiting law designed to destroy labor unions in Alabama.” The law provides the penalty of jailing leaders and stopping the collection of dues if the unions fail to file reports. The latter could easily be accomplished by ordering accommodating employers to halt the check-off.

The same Christian American Association – which is neither Christian nor American but just pro-capitalist – was the force behind this Alabama law. W.O. Hare, executive secretary of the State Federation of Labor, defiantly says: “It would be worth a couple of years in jail to win out in this fight.”

More of the Same

In the state of Mississippi the Legislature is considering a law to outlaw the union shop and to prohibit referral of men to jobs through unions, thus giving the employers’ unrestricted rights of exploitation of labor in that state.

In the state of Washington a labor-baiting organization with the innocuous name “Citizens Committee for Industrial Peace,” is – like the Christian American Association – carrying on a petition campaign. The petition is for a referendum on a law prohibiting “closed shop” agreements, curbing picketing and giving the employers the right to dictate union internal affairs through their politicians.

Powers Behind Politics

It is important to note that the “Citizens Committee for Industrial Peace” is a front organization for the notorious “Associated Farmers” – the organization of big business farmers that has won itself a reputation for unequalled ruthlessness in fighting labor in the West. Also noteworthy is the fact that Vance Muse, leader of the Christian American Association, was formerly secretary-treasurer of “American Taxpayers Association,” financed by du Ponts, Mellons, Insull and others, for carrying on lobbies to reduce income taxes on the rich. John Henry Kirby, another backer of the CAA, is a millionaire lumberman, in whose edifice, the Kirby Building, the CAA is housed.

These are the forces labor is pitted against. Labor is putting up a legal fight at present in at least half a dozen states, contesting the constitutionality of anti-labor laws already on the books. Among the states are Colorado, Texas and Florida. In most cases the enforcement of the law is

held in abeyance until the decision of the case. However, in sunny Florida, the “attorney general is in a hurry and is trying to compel union organizers to register with the state and unions to open their books for inspection – even though a suit is pending on the question of constitutionality.

The Virginia bourbons, not content with poll-tax control of politics, are backing legislation requiring any person coming into the state after January 1, 1945, “who desires to gain residence as to right of suffrage,” to file a declaration of intention to vote ONE FULL YEAR BEFORE HE WILL BE ALLOWED TO EXERCISE THIS RIGHT. This, plainly, is another method of disfranchising the common people.

Here’s the Point

It is no accident that the anti-labor and reactionary legislation reported above is in poll-tax states, i.e., Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – though the battle against labor and progress is not confined to these states, as witness the State of Washington.

Free franchise must, of course, be given to all the black and white population of the nation, in every state of the Union, to break the power of the poll-taxers. Labor is vigorously supporting the anti-poll-tax bill which is due soon in Congress. What will happen, however, if the Southern bloc stages another filibuster?

The cardinal point brought out by. the die-hard fight against labor and progress both in Washington and in the state capitals, is as clear as crystal. The political machinery of the country is rotten to the core. It is becoming infected with the poison of capitalist KKK-fascist combines. The gangrene is impartial to both the Democratic and Republican parties.

What is plainer than that labor needs above all else its own class political party? What is more necessary than to have as candidates of such a party well known and reliable union men and women to sit in the places of government, instead of the elements now in control?

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