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David Coolidge & Mike Stevens

The Coal Miners Are Right!

(3 May 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 18, 3 May 1943, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As this issue of Labor Action goes to press, the miners give no sign of weakening or of giving up their just demands made on the government and the coal operators. So far they have stood their ground, and the latest announcement coming from the meeting of the Policy Committee is to the effect that if their just and fair demands are not met they will lay down their tools at the zero hour and “will not trespass upon the properties of the coal operators in the absence of a contract.”

The miners ore correct, they are right. They are leading the fight of labor all over the country for relief from the Little Steel formula and the “hold the line” decree of Roosevelt. They need and should have the full and complete support of organized labor and of every single working man and working woman. There can be no question about this. When Lewis says that “the mine workers are hungry,” we know exactly what he is talking about. Every worker knows from his own experience with taxes and profiteering prices what Lewis is talking about. Furthermore, Roosevelt, the WLB and the employers know what Lewis is talking about.

Perhaps Green, Murray, some other CIO leaders and the Stalinists don’t understand. The Stalinists don’t want to understand. They are busy helpin<g the bosses get more production, and helping the WLB get its “incentive pay” plan across.

We mustn’t be deterred from giving full support to the miners just because Green, Murray, R.J. Thomas and the Stalinists are attempting to becloud the issue by flag-waving and heroic but feeble gestures. The Little Steel formula and the Roosevelt wage decree have the workers bound. If they submit, they will be bound even tighter in the days to come.

This is what the miners are fighting against: the Little Steel formula and the Roosevelt wage decree. All unions and workers who are opposed to these attacks on labor must support the UMWA. The miners have a right to expect this; it is they who are leading this struggle.

The coal operators have rejected every proposal made by the mine workers. These mine operators who are merely tools of the House of Morgan, the House of Mellon and the anthracite coal-carrying railroads, are counting on the WLB, the WPB, the OPA and Byrnes to win a victory for them while they lurk in the background but, as the miners charge, remain “in constant communication with certain political figures in Washington and from them receive encouragement to deny the coal miners of the country an increase in wages.” We agree, and the workers of the country should know that the miners speak the truth when they say of the War Labor Board that it “wields the headsman’s axe against the workers of the country. It has fallen to a low estate. It has breached its agreement with labor when it publicly substituted political expediency for equity in the settlement of disputes. The board is malignant in its prejudice against the United Mine Workers of America and its members. The board has already rendered a decision in the mine workers’ case. Its chief headsman so announced again on Saturday, April 24, when he said that the board would follow its ritualistic limitations in deciding the mine workers’ case.”

This is a correct statement of the case except it must be pointed out that this WLB really never had any “agreement with labor.” How could this outfit of big business men, lawyers and college professors (“the public”) have a genuine agreement with labor? The labor members of the board have no influence. The majority of them have only been captives of the board majority, which was composed of the business men and their stooges, the college professors.

It was a tragic situation which developed when labor permitted its leaders to drag the whole labor movement into the web of the WLB, this “discredited political agency” as it is called in the statement of the UMWA Policy Committee.

For at least six months the leaders of the AFL and the CIO have been expressing mild objections to the policy and procedure of the WLB. Such stink surrounds this outfit that even Murray and Green have had to hold their noses. And yet they have been telling labor that they must hold on to the WLB. The AFL and CIO leaders retained their back row seats on the board.

Why should labor hold on to the WLB? All that the CIO and AFL leaders can answer is that “it is the best we’ve got.” This should make any militant worker sick enough to vomit. Because it is a lie. This capitalist board isn’t all that labor’s got. In fact, it isn’t anything that labor’s got. This board belongs to the bosses and the Democratic Party. (If the Republican Party were the government, it would belong to the bosses and the Republican Party. There’s no difference.) Are Murray, Green and the other AFL-CIO bureaucrats too stupid to understand this?

The miners have some understanding of this matter. That’s why they press their demands in the manner they do. They insist on collective bargaining with the employers and not with the WLB. They don’t work for the WLB. Thirty thousand or more miners have already demonstrated their understanding of these questions by laying down their picks and shovels and refraining from trespassing on their employers’ property.

The outcome of the first phase of this struggle may be determined before Labor Action appears again. We say the first phase because if the miners do not win this time they will not surrender. They will surely try again. We do not believe the Little Steel formula will stand. We do not believe that the Rooesvelt wage decree will stand. The final decision must and will be rendered by the working class.

The mine workers have taken the lead. Murray, Green and the AFL-CIO leadership are wrong. Labor must march around and past this leadership, and give full support to the mine workers. THE MINERS ARE RIGHT!

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