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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(7 October 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 26, 7 October 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Point Raised by Jimmy Walker’s New Job

The appointment of ex-Mayor Walker as “impartial chairman” of the garment industry in New York brings up the whole question of trades unions and arbitration. Walker is to get $20,000 a year. No announcement was made on this point but if the usual practice is followed the salary will be met jointly by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the industry. The steel workers union follows this same procedure whenever “arbitrators are appointed;” the unions meeting one half of the bill.

Unions should get rid of this business of “impartial chairmen and arbitrators.” There ain’t no such animal as an impartial chairman in the conflict between the workers and the boss. The “impartial chairman” is always a member of the ruling class and therefore a stooge for the bosses. It makes no difference whether the so-called impartial chairman is a shyster with a shady past like Walker or some lily pure “liberal” outside the labor movement. The workers’ representative will be outvoted 2 to 1. This for the reason that the two things just don’t mix: the interests of the workers and the interests of the employers. They are two different camps and cannot be reconciled. The workers must deal directly with the bosses through committees of their own choosing. They must present their own demands to the boss. If the negotiations break down, then they must decide themselves what to do next. They may decide to strike. They may decide that the time is not right for a strike. Whichever is the decision it should be made by the union without the assistance of any alleged impartial arbitrator from the ruling class.

The unions cannot delegate this decision to anyone outside their ranks, not even to the government. If the workers had not pursued this independent course in the past they would not even have the right to organize today. Because at one time they were jailed for the terrible crime of “conspiring to raise their own wages.” In New York City it is becoming increasingly customary to call in Mayor La Guardia to settle disputes between the workers and the employers. The “Little-Flower” “settled” the painters strike, the latest bus strike and is now busy with several disputes involving the electricians.

Whether the workers realize it or not, all this feverish haste to get strikes “settled” is tied up with the “defense” program. The government and all the ruling class leaders want to keep the workers quiet and at work. The workers want to keep steadily employed also, but there is another item they are interested in: WAGES AND HOURS. The workers want more wages and shorter hours. The bosses don’t want to pay more wages and they are against shortening the hours. The workers can win these demands however if they quit monkeying around with arbitration boards and “impartial chairmen.” We must never forget that we are the majority and it is we who man the mines, mills, factories, trains and ships. Not a wheel can turn without us.

Got Sick When He Was Caught

Howard Hopson, former big shot of the billion-dollar Associated Gas and Electric System has been sent to Bellevue Hospital for ten days for mental observation. Hopson is the guy who faces trial for stealing $20,000,000 from Associated Gas and Electric. He has bought up a bunch of high priced lawyers and six medical fakers. These “professional” men claim that Hopson is “mentally unfit” to stand trial at present.

We would not attempt to say that Hopson is not sick. He may be insane. But he didn’t get sick or crazy until he was caught. Perhaps the fine cigars he bought with money stolen from Associated Gas made him dizzy. After all, a man can buy a big batch of Corona Coronas for $20,000,000.

If a worker steals a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes for a barefoot child he’ll land in the hoosegow without benefit of big lawyers or six doctors. A worker steals because he is a thief and has no respect for private property. A big shot industrialist or financier steals because he is mentally unbalanced.

When The Shoe Began To Pinch

Having received permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission to work drivers up to sixty hours a week, the bus companies are now trying to get the sixty hour week extended to mechanics and other non-driver classifications. The International Association of Machinists and the Amalgamated Association of Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees are opposing this step. They have the 42 hour week under the Wages and Hours Act and they want to keep it.

It seems that the IAM and the ASERMCE did not get heated up over this matter until the shoe began to pinch them. The way for the non-driver crafts to protect themselves is to make a vigorous fight for the drivers to come under the maximum Wages and Hours 42 hour week. This will protect all workers in the industry.

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Last updated: 22.10.2012