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Susan Green

Rankin’s Union-Busting Bill

(30 July 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 31, 30 July 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Not only does the capitalist system inevitably cause wars with all their horrors; it benefits the capitalists with enormous war profits. Even that is not enough. When the soldiers return home, certain sections of the ruling class begin to think up ways and means for using those soldiers to break unions and to weaken the working people. In this category is the Rankin bill, sneaked through the House Veterans Committee on July 6th in the absence of a majority of the members.

The union-busting bill is proposed “to help veterans get jobs.” It would exempt them from union member-ship, regardless of contract conditions in the plant, regardless of closed shop agreements. One would think that what is keeping the returning GI’s from jobs is union dues that they can’t afford to pay.

The fact is that pretty nearly every union has special provisions for returning GI’s. The fact is that if veterans can’t get jobs it’s because the private profit system hasn’t got them to offer. But the ranking, panting member of the House, Rankin, cares nothing about these facts. He speaks for the capitalist contingent wanting to make scabs and union-busters out of soldiers.

No bones are being made that this is the purpose of Rankin and those with him and behind him. The New York Sun’s Washington reporter started his piece of July 9th: “A bill to use veterans for breaking defense plant strikes was being pushed rapidly toward congressional consideration today.” Rankin himself has openly labelled his measure “a blow at closed shops.”

The strong opposition of organized labor has produced a minority report. But this minority report is by the majority of the House Veterans Committee, the majority having been absent when the Rankin measure slipped through. The minority report considers the Rankin recommendation premature; it says the necessity for such a measure to get jobs for GI’s is not established; it says that the measure as not shown to be in the best interests of the veterans; it calls for hearings on the subject.

What Bill Would Do

Now there are before the House both the Rankin union-busting bill and the minority report of the majority. There is also in the offing the Knutson bill dealing with returned GI’s. The latter has not received too much publicity as yet. But it also has a provision exempting veterans from union membership, however limiting the time to one year. Except for the time limit, this is like the Rankin provision. It is the nub of the whole question.

There you have it. Rankin, Democrat from Mississippi, and Knutson, Republican from Minnesota. Both would like the soldiers to act as scabs and union-busters. The capitalist press, notably such sheets asThe Daily News raises its voice for the cause of “helping the veterans.”

However, the Rankins will have to go some to fool the veterans. There are in the armed forces several million union men. Many more are unorganized workers either of hand or brain. Millions of army young men would have gone into the mines, mills, factories and offices of the country, if the army had not got them first. Any weakening of the unions would hurt these men in the armed forces as much as the workers who remained home on the job. All workers are helpless without their unions.

The fact that workers are ex-servicemen will not stop the profit-seeking employers from exploiting them ruthlessly.

What colossal gall on the part of the industrial barons of this country to call on the ex-servicemen to help break up the organizations which alone can give them protection against unrestricted exploitation!

What lying hypocrites to claim they are doing, this to help the GI’s!

Insults Veteran

What these “friends” of the soldiers really think of them was demonstrated by Rankin. When a veteran, Reuben Schafer, of Long Island City, who served three and a half years in the infantry, called at Rankin’s office to talk to him about the bill, Rankin had the veteran arrested, after first insulting him by calling him insane.

Rankin is reported to have shouted at Schafer, “Get out of here – this is private property.” In answer to Schafer’s request for a polite conversation, Rankin exploded:“I’m taking care of veterans’ legislation, not you.”

Schafer reminded Rankin that pushing people around was OK in Nazi Germany, but not here. Whereupon Rankin called the cops: “Take this man away – he’s insane.” We’ll let our readers judge who was insane.

The veterans are hard-headed enough to see through the Rankins. The unions – not the Rankins – are the protectors of their interests.

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Last updated: 16 December 2017