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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(2 September 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 21, 2 September 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We Want More Than We Have Now

Mr. Roosevelt and Mr, Willkie, the twins who are running for president on virtually twin political platforms, have been saying a few encouraging words to labor. Mr. Roosevelt wrote to Bill Green to reassure him that he need have no worries because the New Deal “shall hold steadfastly to every advance gained, and not permit present safeguards to be whittled away by yielding to the specious arguments of those whose lip service to labor is loud and eloquent before election, but whose ears are deaf to all appeals to justice the rest of the time.”

We suspect that Bill Green feels better now and can urge the AFL to throw its support and votes to FDR. Labor will not lose a thing that has been gained. Suppose this turns out to be true, which of course we doubt. But let’s assume that it will be true. So what? Labor doesn’t lose any gains during the course of preparation for war and during the war. How about further advances? Are the trade unions and the workers going to allow themselves to be trapped by sweet talk about not having a single gain taken from them? Are the workers going to adopt the policy of fight-gained? There is certainly a tendency in this direction: a tendency to pose the question of keeping what we have and not allowing it to be taken from us.

It is correct for the workers to fight like hell to hold their gains but they cannot stop there. Not only must they fight to keep the Wagner Act, the Walsh-Healy Act, the Public Contracts Act and all other legislation that benefits the workers, but right now it is necessary to make the main trade union fight the demand for higher wages and shorter hours. Standing on the advances already made the workers must gird themselves for even greater advances.

When the 12 hour day was under attack by those who wanted to return to the “sunrise to sunset” day, what simpletons the workers would have been to stop with a simple demand for holding on to the 12 hour day. Suppose in 1885 the workers had been satisfied with such an advance as the 10 hour day. Such docility would never have produced the 8-hour day.

Why should the workers of U.S. Steel and other steel corporations be satisfied merely to hold on to the 8 hour day and a $5.00 daily wage? Why not a 6 hour day at a $5.00 minimum? And if an 8 hour day why not a six or seven dollar minimum? And how about all the millions of workers who are below a five dollar minimum and who work a ten hour day. Why shouldn’t these workers organize and strike if necessary for more wages and shorter hours? This is the time for both the AFL and the CIO to demand a national six hour day and five day week with a $30 minimum wage. All time above 30 hours a week should be paid for at time and one half and double for Sundays and holidays.

There is no argument which can be made against this that any worker or workers’ organization should accept. There are millions of unemployed and part time workers. The War Preparations Program will create more work. It is necessary to continue and expand the production of consumer goods along with military planes and bombs. Shortening the hours will give every worker a job and there is ample money to raise wages and still give the bosses a bigger slice than they deserve.

This is the time for the trade unions to make these demands. Profits are going higher and higher. The bosses will surely take care of themselves and their class. Every board of directors will be raising the salaries, bonuses and dividends of the big shots.

Heads or Tails – It’s All the Same to Us

Mr. Willkie finds it difficult to conceal his open shop company union position even while campaigning for office. He says that “every man and woman in America must be protected in his or her constitutional right of free choice in joining or not joining a union” and “for my part I pledge myself to help the principle of free unions.”

In these two expressions is wrapped all of the union busting scab-herding philosophy of the big industrialists and bankers. What does Willkie mean by the right not to join a union? He means that he is against closed shop agreements and for company unions. What does he mean by unions being free from government control? He would favor Roosevelt sending the army to break a strike at one of his power plants. What he means by unions being free from government control is free from and [a line appears to be missing here] of the Wagner Act and the Wages and Hours Act.

Both Roosevelt and Willkie want to get the workers’ votes. Roosevelt hands out a few sugar pills. “We” (me and the workers) will not give up . our gains. Willkie posing as one just down from Sinai hopes to get votes by promising to lead “the people” out of the New Deal wilderness.

Just two “slickers” battling for the right to be front man for the 60 Families. Perhaps a few weeks before election day old J.P. with a few of his cronies will gather at the Harvard Club. Lamont will flip a coin: “heads it’s Roosevelt, tails it’s Willkie.”

Refuge for Rubbish in the United States?

One again the United States is about to become the land of refuge from political oppression. Of course, we are not talking about English hunting dogs or blooded stallions or the cows of Jersey. Sure these aristocrats are finding refuge here but we are talking about human beings. Not the children of the British fish peddlers of Billingsgate, of the dock workers of London, the miners of Wales or the bar maids of Southampton, but the broken down, run out ex-kings, queens, dukes, princes, countesses and pretenders from every country of Europe. The latest arrival is Prince Wladyslaw Sapieha of Poland and his helpmate Princess Mathylda. All of this horde of royalty is fleeing from Hitler. They are scattered all over the Atlantic seaboard and most of them seem to be loaded with money. Those that don’t have any are being picked up and wined and dined by our own rich at Newport and other loafing places of the bosses. The 60 Families have a few spare dollars these days because the workers here produced many millions of dollars in wealth the past six months, that went to the boss class in big salaries, dividends and interest. They have enough to feed, house and clothe all of Europe’s royalty; their children, flunkies, dogs, horses, and cats.

The workers in the U.S. have been generous enough to provide the goods out of their own sweat and blood.

Some of the workers whose toil produced the wealth that this European royal rubbish will consume, came to this country to escape oppression and terror instituted by this same royalty that is now fleeing before Hitler.

They are coming from Hungary, what was Austria, czarist Russia, Poland and all the other hell holes of Europe and Asia. It was these people, who are seeking asylum here today, and their ancestors who set up the ghetto, the pale, the yellow ticket, the pogrom. These royal cattle that are flocking into the U.S. today are the people who rode their horses over the workers, who lashed out at the workers with their royal sabers; who tortured the old women of the working class and raped their daughters. These are the gilded morons and near imbeciles who for centuries have kept the workers of Europe and Asia in ignorance, misery and degradation.

It will be a great day when these people have to run again. Not from their present hosts but from the working class of the U.S.: they and their present hosts together.

Beware of Falling Into the Bosses’ Trap

The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen has joined hands with the Maintenance of Way and other unions in passing resolutions barring “Communists, Nazis and Fascists” from membership. Anyone now in the union belonging to “either of the subversive groups” may be expelled. The resolution was passed at the recent convention in Denver. Labor reports that sentiment was unanimous for the action taken.

We suppose that all the Coughlinites, Christian Fronters, Christian Mobilizers, Knights of the White Camelia, Klansmen and unionists who are members of other native near fascist organizations vote for these resolutions barring “communists, nazis and fascists.”

What are the union leaders going to say to members in New Jersey who belong to the Klan that just held a united front meeting with the German-American Bund? What is the attitude of the union leaders toward the Klan with its black record of flogging and murder right here in the U.S.? Do these resolutions cover the Coughlinite members of the unions?

We don’t advocate expelling any worker from the unions except for anti-union activity. We are opposed to these resolutions and all that they mean. they are not union resolutions. They are FBI-Employer resolutions. In the long run they will benefit no one but the bosses, police, and a few thousand scabs, strike-breakers and private detective agencies. Union leaders in attempting to be good patriots are leading their organizations into a trap set for them by the employers.

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