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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(20 March 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 12, 20 March 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Court Decision Favors Negro Shipyard Workers

A Superior Court judge in San Rafael, Calif., recently granted a rather sweeping injunction against the Boilermakers Union in favor of Negro shipyard workers who have been Jim Crowed into separate locals by the Boilermakers International. The injunction related to the 1,500 Negro workers in Marinship at San Rafael. The court said, in granting the injunction, that the Boilermakers are enjoined from “directly or indirectly refusing to admit into Local 6 on the same terms and conditions as white persons, or refusing to accept tendered initiation fees and dues ... from plaintiff and other Negro workers similarly located.”

The injunction furthermore restrains the union from forcing Negroes to become members of, or remain in, or pay dues to, Auxiliary Local A-41. Local A-4l is the Jim Crow local established at Marinship for Negro workers.

The injunction forbids pressure on the company by the union to compel firing of Negroes who refuse to join A-41. The agreement between the company and the union which provides for union clearance of all workers was declared void by the injunction so far as it concerns Negro workers. The closed shop agreement will remain in effect, if the union indicates it’s willing to, and does, accept “Negro workers into full membership in the same organizations and upon the same terms and conditions and upon equal basis with white persons.”

The company was enjoined from “directly or indirectly discharging or refusing to employ ... Negro workers” because they do not present job clearances from the union or are said by the Boilermakers Union not to be in good standing because they have refused to submit to the Jim Crow practices of the union.

It is unfortunate that Negro workers or any other workers are forced to go into the capitalist courts to get relief from the vicious anti-union and anti-working class practices of trade unions or trade union officials. But the Boilermakers Union is in the AFL of Bill Green, Dan Tobin and Bill Hutchinson. The AFL is distinguished for its anti-labor attitudes toward Negroes, white workers from Slav areas and Chinese workers. (These are known as “foreigners” and “coolie labor” in the AFL). The machinists, other AFL unions and the railway “brotherhoods” can be added to this disgraceful list.

There was nothing else for these Negro workers to do, and no blame attaches to them for taking this step. The War Manpower Commission and the FEPC knew about the situation as far back as last July and did nothing more than get off some gibberish and empty advice about not doing anything rash. Bill Green and the AFL top leadership did nothing but whine and utter empty platitudes.

If the labor movement wants to keep its dirty linen out of the capitalist courts, then the unions must prepare to do away with this slime and filth inside the councils of the labor movement.

The Importance of Union Seniority

An extremely serious situation is being faced by the unions in connection with the status of servicemen who have been discharged from the Army and Navy, and who were not union members when drafted. Seventy veterans were laid off by the Ranger Aircraft Co. in New York. The company says that the men were laid off “temporarily” because the plant is retooling preparatory to the manufacture of parts for a different plane.

The reactionary American Legion is demanding that discharged veteran have precedence over employees “without service records,” irrespective of seniority standing. The union in the plant, Local 661 of the UAW (CIO), takes the position that the layoffs should be done on a seniority basis.

The local is correct and should stick to its guns. The CIO unions have provided for the return to their jobs of its members, who have left for the military service – without loss of seniority. There are hundreds of thousands of union men serving in the armed forces. Thousands of them have been wounded in action and many have been discharged because of other disabilities incurred. They will return to their jobs and to their union locals. They will not lose their seniority ranking but will resume the status they had when drafted.

Furthermore. the UAW provided at its last convention that discharged veterans may join the union without the payment of initiation fees,

Virtually all workers had the opportunity to join a union before they were called to the army or navy. That they were careless about this elementary duty of a worker or that they were anti-union (as some workers are), certainly gives them no right to demand that the seniority provisions, made by organized labor be set aside for them. Such procedure could be used by such reactionary and anti-labor outfits as the American Legion to disrupt the unions.

Non-union workers discharged from the military service should not allow themselves to be used by the American Legion or other anti-labor organizations for their own reactionary purposes. These workers should join the unions now and become good union men. Those who were members but who had less seniority than others who remained in the plants should resume their places in their locals and build up their seniority rating.

Discharged service men should demand that the government which drafted them should provide for the upkeep of themselves and their families until they are employed or while employed at wages below the amount necessary for decent living.

They should not permit themselves to become a club in the hands of anti-labor groups like the American Legion, bent on union-wrecking.

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Last updated: 11 August 2015