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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(30 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 38, 30 December 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Girdler Plays Santa – Unwillingly

Tom Girdler, tough guy of Republic Steel, “played Santa Claus to 7,000 workers who had been fired during the ‘little steel’ strike of 1937 ...” says the railroad workers paper, Labor. The NLRB ordered dirty-mouth-Tom to pay $7,000,000 in back pay to these discharged workers. As is the custom with the industrial big shots. Girdler appealed the decision of the Board all the way up to the Supreme Court. He lost.

Last week Tough Tom sent out $373,000 in checks covering vacation pay which the fired workers would have gotten the past three years if they had been slaving away in Tom’s mills. There will be more later, just as quickly as the NLRB accountants cam figure out how much is coming to each of the 7,000 discharged men. Girdler is the guy who said during the days of the NIRA that he would quit and grow potatoes before he would abide by that act. Now we find him paying out $375,000 and ordered to hand over millions more to men he fired because they dared join a union and fight against his thugs and company union. Tom doesn’t mind the money so much, he just hates like hell to be forced to give anything to his workers.

A Kick in the Pants for Company Unionism

John Pew’s Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company is presumably a business for the building of ships. But it was brought out at an NLRB hearing last week that the company shops were used also for the manufacturer of blackjacks, nine inches long, and made of rubber covered wire with a lead head. These “hand-andys” as they are called, were used by Pew’s gorillas to club union men on strike in his shipyard.. Besides the plug-uglies that Pew hired, he had a company union. All this was revealed at the hearing by a “Aggie” Campbell who at one time was the commanding officer of the Sun gorillas.

Campbell said that he was employed at the yard as a boiler maker but all that he ever made was blackjacks. He also served as chairman of the “grievance committee” he said. For this “work” “Aggie” was paid $7.30 a day and expenses.

Shipbuilding Pew is the brother of the other Pew who is a leader and boss in the Republican Party in Pennsylvania. He is also the person who wanted this NLRB hearing postponed because to have the hearing now would interfere with the “defense” program. Pew doesn’t want any worker’s rights mixed up with his patriotism. The real truth is that Pew knew that what would be interfered with was his thugs, gorillas and company union. That’s why he didn’t want the hearing.

Blackjacks For “National Defense?”

Two more company unions have been knocked out on the railroads. The Boilermakers, Sheet Metal Workers and Blacksmiths unions, by a vote of 303 to 121, kicked the pants off a company union on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. This makes the Lehigh Valley shops 100% organized. The Brotherhood of Railway Clerks cleaned out an 18 year old company union on the Norfolk and Western. It’s really funny how the workers keep voting for real unions every time they get the chance unmolested and where they understand the value of trade unionism. The bosses try to make us believe that to join a union is to waste our money and give it to a gang of “outsiders” whose only interest in the workers is the wages they draw. The argument of the bosses is that the workers should let the boss form and finance a nice “employers association” that will take care of all our interests without any cost or inconvenience to us. They will appoint the chairman of the grievance committee, the secretary and the company treasurer will be the finance officers of the “union.” Then all the workers have to do is to remain at their machines and not waste time running to the office complaining about hours and wages. All of this will be taken care of by the bosses’ man in the company union.

Was There a Workers’ Son Among Them?

High School YMCA students, organized into what is called “Hi-Y” clubs, held an assembly recently at Albany, New York. This assembly, and the things it did, are an illustration of just how reactionary middle class youth can be when under the influence of such a conservative and reactionary organization as the YMCA.

The assembly had several “bills” up for consideration. By a vote of 95 to 30 the assembly adopted a “bill” to “prohibit” strikes in New York state rearmament plants used by the federal government in the “defense program.” According to these high school youths the government should appoint a mediation board to take the place of the State Labor Relations Board. This board would assume charge within two weeks of the outbreak of a dispute and render a decision within 60 days.

These youth evidently do not understand that such a proposal eliminates not only the SLRB, but the unions also. But perhaps like their leaders in the YMCA. they are against unions. The mediation board will take “charge” and “render a decision.” This evidently means that the workers will remain at work, wait for the board’s decision and abide by it no matter what that decision may be.

Not satisfied with this, the “Hi-Y” youth went further. They passed a “bill” calling for the fingerprinting of everyone past 8 years old; the prints to be filed with the state Bureau of Fingerprinting and the FBI.

It is clear that the majority of these youth do not come from trade union families or even workers’ families that are not in trade unions. They are the sons and daughters of little businessmen and other middle class parents. If they were workers’ sons and daughters they would have more intelligence and would not be playing around with serious questions in such nonsensical and stupid fashion.

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