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Gertrude Shaw

Milk Drivers Get “Sick” of WLB Firing Decision

(18 October 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 42, 18 October 1943, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The week of October 4 most of the capitalist press of New York City and vicinity slobbered all over itself, weeping crocodile tears for the mothers, children, old people and invalids who did not get their regular milk deliveries.

The New York Times wrote an editorial entitled A Shameful Strike. The New York Post called the mild drivers’ action proof – no less – that a labor draft is called for. That’s the kind of “labor” paper the New York Post is.

The big business Sheffield Farms Company – whose employees became “sick” on receiving the War Labor Board decision that 959 of them were to be fired – bought advertising space in the metropolitan press to assure its customers that it was oh, so sorry; but it wasn’t their fault, don’t you know? At the same time, the news columns contained long statements by F. J, Andre, president of Sheffield, about how “TREASONABLE” their employees are. On the second day of the suspension of milk deliveries – when the

Borden employees caught the “sickness” which got their fellow workers in Sheffield – the papers tried the tear-jerking stunt of printing lerge pictures of women, with baby carriages, buying milk direct from the Sheffield depots for their little ones. Sob, sob!

Besides all this, the WLB issued ultimatums to the workers and their leaders unfaithfully opposed them in their action.

Job Security Involved

This gives some idea of the batteries of propaganda that were opened up against the employees of Sheffield and Borden when they refused to take lying down the decision of the WLB that job insecurity is the accepted principle of “American democracy.”

For that is exactly what is involved.

After eighteen months of dispute as to whether or not the powerful dairy trust had the right to fire its employees wholesale – on the excuse, of course, of “war necessity” – the WLB decided in favor of the trust.

“Freedom from Fear” – those empty words written in the Atlantic Charter and babbled about so much – does not apply to fear of losing a

job, The WLB decision means that 959 milk drivers will be out on their ears. How or where they will earn a living for themselves and their families was not the concern of the WLB!

No wonder drivers were suddenly afflicted with “asthma,” “sore arms” “sore backs,” “bad colds” – and called up that they could not come to work.

No wonder pasteurizers and platform men – when they heard of the afflictions of the drivers – caught the “germs,” became “ill” and went home.

No wonder the Borden employees an the second day got the contagion from the 3,500 Sheffield workers. They understood mat for any workers to be deprived of their bread and oleomargarine is a threat to all workers. That was enough to make them very sick indeed.

It is no joke to be turned out of a job that a worker has learned, where he has joined the union, where he has hoped to be able to continue making a living for himself, his wife and children.

Milk Trust Benefits

The pretext for this anti-labor and anti-human decision is that the war situation demands the skip-a-day delivery of milk. Ostensibly the purpose is to save rubber and gasoline. But —

For some time now milk deliveries in and around the metropolitan area have been made by horse and wagon.

So how much rubber and gas will be saved by throwing 959 drivers out of jobs?

However, the milk trust will save on its labor costs, It will make more profits at the expense of these jobless workers.

Here is a case that should be fought in the finish. It involves the vital issue of whether the bosses shall be allowed to use so-called “war necessity” as the pretext for curtailing their working staffs, for piling more work on fewer workers – for adding to their own profits by taking the bread out of the mouth of labor.

This question is so very important because once the bosses reorganize their operations on the basis of the curtailed working staff, that will be the set-up for the post-war period also. Then what? The Shame of It

The housewives and other working class elements inconvenienced by the milk drivers’ “illness” should turn their wrath against the War Labor Board and the milk trust, who have acted on the capitalist principle of each one for himself and the devil (of a milkman) take the hindmost.

The shame about the milk drivers’ action is not that some of the community suffered inconvenience, but that the whole working class community did not rise up in sympathy with the men robbed of their jobs for the benefit of the milk trust.

Yes, the whole working class population should, with one voice, have demanded the immediate restoration of these workers.

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