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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(30 June 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 26, 30 June 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Labor Should Serve Notice on Anti-Labor Bills

The war between Russia and Germany may get Congress into such a dither that the lawmakers will shift their attention from such pet items as the Vinson Bill to certain aspects of the Lend-Lease Bill and “unfreezing Russian credits.” We should not, however, let up in our vigilance in connection with the anti-labor legislation, especially the Vinson Bill. This vicious proposal imposes compulsory arbitration, a 30 day or longer “cooling off” period while a dispute is before the “Mediation” Board, revival of the court injunction and criminal penalties for violation of Board decisions. All Board decisions are final and binding.

Also, there is the Connally amendment to the Draft Act which makes striking in a “defense” industry a criminal offense. The Vinson Bill and the Connally amendment taken together would wreck every union in the country that is in any way militant. Labor would be faced with the alternatives of accept or enter into a head-on clash with the government. Every strike in “defense” industries would be “a strike against the government” with all the usual demagogy, flag-waving and hysteria. These bills would give the government and the bosses three strikes on labor and there would be no way out except open defiance of the “law.” Workers should make no mistake about this: They would have only two alternatives: shut up, or oppose the government. AND WE CAN NOT AFFORD TO SHUT UP.

The renewal of power of judges to grant injunctions is in itself enough to liquidate any effective union action. If judges had had such authority at the Ford strike, they could have killed the strike completely if the workers decided to abide by the injunction. All some judge would have had to say was that there must not be more than 25 pickets at each gate. An assault on these few pickets by thugs hidden inside the plant would have broken the strike.

Not only should the bills be defeated but labor must serve notice on Congress that the unions will not be hamstrung by any such strike-breaking devices as the Vinson Bill and the Connally amendment.

”Necessary?” – We Want to Know for What

The press reports that the Pacific Coast Bay Area shipyards strike may be settled this week. This is the strike that John Frey attempted to break by inviting the marines to drive through the picket lines. Frey rode through on a navy truck under the protection of the marines. Since this heroic adventure Frey has faded out and has not been heard from Since. We presume that he is vacationing in Canada.

The commandant of the 12th Naval District, one Greenslade, issued a statement saying that the navy is opposed to the use of force “unless it becomes absolutely necessary.” And so was Roosevelt in the case of the North American strikers. He only sent the army in because the workers refused to return to work until the company had come across with a wage increase. The army forced these workers back into the plant with bayonets that presumably had been given to these soldiers to use against the undemocratic Germany and other enemies of civilization.

No Bayonet Charge on Robber Barons

Charlie Schwab, who died a couple of years back and departed for the place reserved for pillars of the republic, is steadily and progressively being revealed for what he really was: a boss class bandit of the old school. It has just been discovered that this fine, upstanding citizen, sterling example to American youth of the successful business man, had defrauded a small Catholic college in Pennsylvania of the tiny sum of $25,000. The head of the school reports that Schwab asked the school to borrow the $25.000 for him. He never repaid the money, so now the school is stuck with the debt plus $2,000 interest.

The trustees of Schwab’s estate say that he died flat broke and that everything he left will not pay the expenses of liquidation. If this is true, it is very revealing. We seem to have another Insull and Van Sweringen affair. All this is part of the rottenness of capitalism. The workers labor and toil for the benefit of the crooks and gamblers in high places.

The Insull mines are still producing coal; his public utilities still provide heat, light and transportation. The Van Sweringen railroads still carry passengers and freight. The vast Bethlehem Steel Co. is turning out steel and ships. The workers created these things, and they are enduring. Labor could create a great deal more if it had the opportunity and was not frustrated by the boss class that uses its position to exploit, rob and steal for private profit.

Like many another “robber baron,” Schwab was always a crook. He lashed the workers to produce more and more for less and loss. He was also one of the country’s leading pay-triots during the last war. We have a poster used in that conflict which pictures Schwab standing among some of his workers and saying: “Men, you are not working for me, you are working with me.”

Early in his career, as one of the darlings of Carnegie, Schwab took some condemned armor plate, filled blowholes with putty and sold this rejuvenated plate to the navy while obliging government inspectors were out for a glass of beer. Some of the navy’s first line battleships were “protected” by this putty filled armor plate. Even after this. Schwab was placed at the head of the government shipbuilding program during the last war. In this post Schwab renewed his looting activities.

Government auditors reported that as a $1.00 a year head of the shipbuilding program Schwab cashed personal expense vouchers amounting to as much as $250,000 a month. But this wasn’t enough: Schwab’s Bethlehem Steel Co. had to get some of the government gravy also. There is a suit before the Supreme Court in which Schwab’s government seeks to recover millions of excess profits taxes withheld by the company during the First World War. Schwab gave big contracts to his own company and then cheated his government out of the excess profits taxes.

This happened during the First World Imperialist War but similar things are happening today. The bosses with the big “defense” contracts are exploiting, stealing and robbing as of old. In most instances they are not using the older and cruder methods but the results will be the same. And up to now there has been no threat to use the army against these bosses. The bayonets are reserved for workers who are asking for only a few dollars more in the weekly pay envelope.

Goodyear Signs Union Agreement

The Goodyear Rubber Co. has signed its first agreement with the United Rubber Workers. This is an important victory but was overshadowed by the signing of the Ford contract. The agreement provides an increase of 8 cents an hour for all workers getting less than $1.01 per hour and 7 cents for those getting over $1.01 per hour. Piece work rates are boosted 7 cents.

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