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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(16 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 36, 16 December 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Jim-Crow Attends The AFL Convention

A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters made an eloquent appeal to the recent AFL convention to wipe out discrimination against. Negroes in AFL Unions. But Randolph would have been just as successful if he had been asking these fat bellies of the labor movement to pass a resolution supporting Hitler. We are sure that they would have listened more intently if some AFL klansmen had been asking for the total exclusion of Negroes from the AFL.

It was a disgraceful scene in these days of aid to Great Britain and the democracy which the AFL is so tearfully championing. Randolph is an excellent and eloquent speaker. He has done a magnificent and difficult job in organizing the Pullman Porters. In intelligence, he is head and shoulders above Bill Green and other AFL leaders. He spoke for forty minutes and then moved the adoption of his simple motion for the appointment of an inter-racial committee to investigate the problem of Jim-Crow in AFL unions. Randolph sat down amid a silence as thick as a London fog. Not a delegate or leader rose to speak. Woll moved the previous question. Debate was closed with a shout of “aye.” The resolution was defeated.

Randolph was lucky. He got off easier than Dubinsky with his anti-racketeering resolution. He didn’t get his face punched. Perhaps this was in part due to the fact that Negro delegates to the AFL convention were jim-crowed in all affairs; outside the convention proper, and therefore the Fays did not make contact with them.

Of course, the AFL did not make Randolph one of its 17 vice-presidents. They preferred Browne, of the theatrical stage employees who has a certain Willie Bioff as his first lieutenant.

Lieberson Acted According to Type

A local of the Retail Clerks International Protective Association (AFL) in Pittsburgh, signed an agreement with an automobile equipment company permitting the company to fire, without notice, any employee carrying out “subversive” or “unAmerican” activities. The business agent of the local is a Robert Lieberson, long known to us. Lieberson is a loud-mouthed, roaring shyster who at one time was a member of the Socialist Party. Later he was in the Social Democratic Federation. Once upon a time he was a leader in the unemployed movement, and from his record there we can understand the ease with which he could make such an agreement as that mentioned above.

Such “Praise” Calls For Investigation

The Kiplinger Washington Letter, “Circulated Privately to Business Men,” has a few comments on the AFL and CIO.

“AFL leaders are older, more experienced, more conservative, more solid, often stodgy ... self-satisfied, confident of their rightness in craft union movement. Proceedings are slow, smooth, steamrollered. CIO leaders are younger, more fiery, much fuller of hot zeal, alert, on their toes, more ‘political,’ ‘broadly social,’ ‘more radical’.”

“AFL insists on RIGHT to STRIKE, despite defense, despite everything, but we get the distinct impression that AFL actually WILL be effective in discouraging MOST strikes.”

“Cussing of employers: Not much of this in the AFL convention, not much emotionalism. (Certainly less ranting than in CIO convention.)”

“As for racketeers and criminals, the AFL frankly straddles. It talks against them, but does little, to depose them from leadership.”

“Poll tax: AFL is opposed to it, but in a perfunctory way, not aggressively like CIO which hopes to lift the status of negroes.”

On Pay-triotism and Scoundrels

John G. Pew, president of the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company is worried stiff about the “defense” program. The NLRB has filed a complaint against his company and Pew wants the hearing postponed at least until June so that he and his corporation can do their patriotic duty in the great moral and democratic crusade that is wasting millions of dollars and thousands of lives daily. Pew says that his company can not expand its plant to build ships unless it can get loose from the NLRB and the CIO shipbuilding workers. The Sun company is charged with company unionism, espionage, coercion and discrimination. In a statement to. the Navy Department Pew asks the question: “which is more important, that the national defense program go forward on schedule or the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America be given an immediate hearing?”

What Pew really means is: which is more important, that his company go forward with fat profits aided by his company union, spies and thugs, or that the shipyard workers should get decent wages and hours. Obviously it is more important to Pew to get the profits without having to bother with the CIO or the NLRB. Old Samuel Johnson was correct; “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”


A large trucking company in Newark, N.J., has gone out of business for the reason, says the company, that labor charges are “excessive.” After the teamsters strike, wages were raised $2.00 to $6.00 a week. then the company closed shop. This is as it should be. Any business that can’t pay decent wages is a plain racket and has no reason to exist. Workers should not pay any attention to employers who make veiled threats about closing down if they insist on higher wages.

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