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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(25 December 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 52, 25 December 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Fine ’Em or Fire ’Em” Dal, Again

Sherman Dalrymple, president of the United Rubber Workers, has decided that the way to run a union is to adopt the tactics of a dictator. Dalrymple is a second-rate and ignorant bureaucrat, but h. is something more. He is a strong-arm man. After 1,000 members of Local 101 in Detroit went on strike against a cut in piecework rates the great Dalrymple fined each of them $12.50. The men refused to pay the fine. Of course they were outraged at such a brutal and bureaucratic imposition from the president of their international.

There has been some talk from many of the fined workers of leaving the URW and going to the Mechanics Educational Society (MESA). They are militant workers who are sick to their stomachs over the kind of treatment they and others have received from Dalrymple. They are correct to oppose Dalrymple. It is a pity that the workers from Local 101 did not join in the fight against Dalrymple at the last URW convention. If this fight had been carried through, this little dictator might be out looking for a job today.

There is one mistake, however, that these workers should not be provoked into making. They should not leave the URW. The URW does not belong to Dalrymple, even though he acts that way. The URW belongs to its members. And even if it does not, the membership should take their union back. This goes for the 1,000 who were fined and all the other URW rank and file members.

The place to fight against Dalrymple is inside the URW. Fight in Local 101 against him and his stooge, Marmon. Prepare for the next URW convention and kick Dalrymple downstairs. He isn’t fit to be the leader of workers. Reactionary, stupid, arrogant and bureaucratic – that’s Dalrymple. By all means the 1,000 and all the URW militants should fight this little bully. But inside the URW and Local 101, the URW and the CIO. The fight against Dalrymple cannot be carried on from inside the MESA. Should these militants leave Local 101 and the URW, the local and the international will be weakened. Then Dalryniple will have a field day. Nothing would please this bureaucrat more than to have these militants pull out. It is their union and they should not let Dalrymple take it away from them or force them out. The next URW convention is not years away. These fines can be made into a mighty weapon to fight Dalrymple with at the next convention.

Here is another instance of the havoc wrought in the labor movement by the no-strike pledge. Dalrymple will claim that what he did was “legal.” There isn’t but one way out for the URW, the UAW and all the unions: kick out the no-strike pledge. Bury it and forget it.


Mont’y Ward and No-Strike Pledge

That strike-breaking scab sheet of the Communist Party, known as the Daily Worker, has an article in the December 15 issue on the Montgomery Ward strike in Detroit. “The principal issue highlighting the Detroit Montgomery Ward strike,” says the Daily Worker, “is whether labor can leave even a crack open for exceptions to its no-strike pledge.” Stalin’s crew can always be depended on to shove new anti-labor ideas and new reactionary advice into the trade union movement.

It has been an accepted opinion for a long time that the principal issues in a strike have to do with improving the conditions of the workers who are on strike: better wages or working conditions, shorter hours, the right to organize or to bargain collectively. These are the issues at bottom in the Montgomery Ward strike. The principal issue is whether or not the workers at Montgomery Ward are to permit their union to be kicked to pieces, their standard of living reduced and their fundamental rights to be tramped on daily.

The No-Strike Pledge Is Involved

“The issue is not Sewell Avery,” says the Daily Worker. That is correct. The issue is the attitude of the Montgomery Ward corporation in its attempt to take advantage of the no-strike pledge to the disadvantage of its employees and for the destruction of their union. The Daily Worker goes on to say that “the conduct of an employer obviously cannot be a condition for maintaining the no-strike pledge.” What is so obvious about this? Wasn’t the statement made by Murray, Thomas and others that the no-strike pledge was given in return for the promise from Roosevelt that the employers would not be permitted to harass the unions, that collective bargaining would be protected, that the cost of living would be pegged as of a certain date?

If the labor leaders lied about this, then even worse, those workers who are inclined to accept the no-strike pledge would have an extremely difficult time convincing even the most stupid that the pledge should be kept.

If the labor leaders did not lie, and Roosevelt actually made these promises, it is a fact that they have not been kept. They have been violated both by the government and the employers. This alone, if there were no other reasons, releases labor from any obligation to maintain the no-strike pledge. This alone is sufficient reason for every worker to vote in the UAW referendum for rescinding the no-strike pledge.

Why the Pledge Should Be Rescinded

There is a further and more important reason for voting against the no-Strike pledge or for acting against it. That is the fact that it has become a huge millstone about the neck and body of labor. Even the leaders of the AFL and CIO admit this in effect when they say that the WLB has destroyed collective bargaining, or when Thomas at the CIO convention, found it necessary to apologize for the membership on the WLB, or when Murray and the other labor leaders whine and whimper about the rise in the cost of living and the failure of the government to give up the Little Steel formula.

The conduct of an employer has everything to do with what decisions the unions make. If employers or the government grant the demands of Workers, obviously they will remain on the job. Workers don’t strike just for practice in walking the picket line. The worker has his primary relation to the employer for whom he toils. If the government steps into the picture and acts precisely as does the employer, then the government is obviously acting against the workers and in the interests of the employers. That is the case today, yesterday, and will be the case tomorrow: the government will protect the interests of the capitalist employers. Under these conditions, where Will labor get by coming together annually to reaffirm a no-strike pledge?

The Daily Worker says that employers like Avery “are doing everything they can to provoke strikes.” Let us assume that this is true. Why do Avery and other employers act in this manner? Because labor is tied to a no-strike pledge. Because Avery and other employers know that the leaders of the labor movement and the Communist Party will agree with him that there should he no strikes. Because he knows that Murray, Thomas, Green and the Daily Worker will howl for the workers to stay on the job and be kicked around by the Sewell Averys, General Motors, U.S. Steel, Congress, the WLB and Roosevelt.

No employer today would dare “provoke strikes” if labor rescinded the no-strike pledge. The mere act of getting up from its knees would scare the pants off the employers, the WLB and Roosevelt.

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