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Gertrude Shaw

Florida Ku Klux Klan Uses Rickenbacker
in Terror Campaign Against Citrus Workers

(8 March 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 10, 8 March 1943, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s name is spread in screeching letters on a leaflet being, used by the Ku Klux Klan in its terroristic campaign to keep the citrus workers of Florida from joining; the United Cannery Agricultural & Allied Workers, CIO.

Rickenbacker is as anti-labor as the KKK – which is now adopting the Rickenbacker angle. These vile enemies of everything even smelling of progress are trying to make the public believe that they are “protecting” the men in the armed forces. Actually they are out to bust the unions so that when the soldiers return home they will become an army of unorganized workers at the complete mercy of the organized bosses.

Here is the Rickenbacker leaflet in full:


SOLDIERS SAILORS MARINES are now working, fighting and dying every hour in the day and night that this country will be saved and that all AMERICANS can remain FREE. They work any place and at any hour and many die in a fox hole for $50 a month.

Some so-called AMERICANS won’t work at all or demand higher wages, then loaf on the job or try to browbeat LOYAL MEN and WOMEN. CAPT. EDDIE RICKENBACKER in a speech on February 2, 1943, said: “Men returning from this war do not want and will not accept regimentation of their lives or planned economy; it is time now that Congress should provide legislation that upon release or discharge any member of our armed forces could be employed by any employer without joining any organized labor union,” and that all men found stalling on the job and not working at all should take the place of a man at the front and maybe die in a fox hole fighting the Japs and Germans. WE THINK SO TOO.



These leaflets are distributed not only to intimidate sharecroppers and farm and orchard workers – but to rouse the KKK rabble to its sadistic orgies. As is well known, the KKK’s anti-Negro, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic program is also a way of mobilizing race and religious hatred into mob violence against labor. For the KKK is the “secret weapon” of the big landlords and big corporations of the South to their unrelenting opposition to the organization of factory and farm labor.

The tie-up between Rickenbacker and the KKK is not confined to a leaflet. The ownership of all big business, industrial and farming, Southern and Northern, meshes in with finance capital centered in the money strongholds of the North, This is where Rickenbacker, president of the big Eastern Airlines, comes in – along with the bosses behind the KKK.

The present vicious thrust of the KKK is concentrated at Orlando, Fla., where the Florida Citrus & Allied Workers, Local 4, UCAPAWA has organized 80,000 citrus workers The union is about to have a National Labor Relations Board vote and the KKK is out to squash the union by terrorizing its members.

The KKK has to its credit innumerable murders, many more floggings, tar-and-featherings and vicious assaults upon innocent people. But this does not prevent the boss-owned radio stations and newspapers from accepting the “patronage” of the KKK to further its mob-rule. On January 30 the KKK issued a mobilization call to its gangs over the Orlando radio. On January 31 the Orlando Sentinel-Star had the ad:

“WANTED – 4,000 or more of the 8,000 KLANSMEN from Orange, Seminole and Oceola Counties. There is work to do! Write P.O. Box 1212, Orlando, Fla.”

Needless to say, the most innocent of the activities of these Klansmen is the distribution of the Rickenbacker leaflet, pasting them on billboards, etc. They are told: There is work to do! They understand that!

The KKK in Orlando is directed by KKK Kleagle Fred Bass. It is interesting to note that this Bass is also chairman of the Americanization Committee of the American Legion, indicating how closely interwoven are the reactionary organizations and leaders – from Rickenbacker to the KKK to the American Legion!

In 1935 Fred Bass was accused of complicity in the murder of Frank Norman, a union organizer – but not by any court of “justice” in the bourbon South. At that time Bass said:

“I broke up the Unemployment Council and anyone in Orlando can tell you Fred Bass gets the credit ... The sheriff knows any time he needs men, all he has to do is ring up Fred Bass and inside an hour he has five hundred men. ‘Course, sometimes it’s necessary to take the law into our hands. We string up a n—r now and then – f’r example like. Not officially, but it comes to the same thing.

“Over in Lakeland, a fellow named No’man – Frank No’man – he got foolin’ around with n—rs and unions and he got the works. I don’t think he’s dead ... But this No’man was a red. I ran honestly say that. Sometimes we gotta show people what we think of those stinkin’ troublemakers.’’

Bass very eloquently summed up the code of ethics and justice and government – the American way of life as carried out by the KKK – on behalf of the Southern bosses. The KKK finds itself in complete accord with Captain Eddie Rickenbacker – hero.

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