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B.J. Widick

Slants on the News in the Unions

(December 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 52, 3 December 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Pins and Needles

The session of the Executive Board of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, where it was voted not to participate in the founding convention of the C.I.O., brought into the open a serious difference of opinion in the top leadership of that union.

It is a well-known fact that Isadore Nagler heads the pro-A.F. of L. group within the board. David Dubinsky, International President, favors a more cautious policy. Unfortunately, there is no strong pro-C.I.O. group in the board. Charles Zimmerman, Lovestoneite follower, ventured only to make a cautious “statement” to the resolution passed against participating in the C.I.O. convention. Of course, in line with the Lovestoneite policy of playing around with union bureaucracies and depending on them, Zimmerman has not and will not play any independent role.

Nagler and company carried the day. They make no bones about their A.F. of L. sympathies. In remarkable contrast to the policies and program of the I.L.G.W.U. leadership are the sentiments and sympathies of the rank and file, according to a private survey conducted by C.I.O. leaders, which were reported to John L. Lewis. It is claimed that the overwhelming bulk of the members are pro-C.I.O. and want to be part of that movement.

One of the highest C.I.O. leaders in New York went so far as to predict a split in the I.L.G.W.U. if the A.F. of L.-minded group won and took the union back into the William Green organization.

It is a tragedy that the I.L.G.W.U. is slowly but surely moving in the direction of the A.F. of L. It means a blow at industrial unionism symbolized in the C.I.O. and it strengthens the hand of the A.F. of L. “diehard” clique.

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C.P.-oison for Militant

The Akron Beacon-Journal carries the news item that Charles Collins, president of General Local, United Rubber Workers of America, was defeated in re-election by Ray Sullivan, a prominent young unionist. Behind this defeat lies an interesting story. Collins was an up-and-coming militant leader until the soft-words of Jim Keller, Stalinist party organizer, seduced him. Collins became a stooge, and this quickly antagonized the large body of members of the union which is the fourth largest U.R.W.A. local in Akron, Sullivan was and still remains an independent militant. He has devoted much time to constructive union-building. Collins was too busy playing Stalinist politics in the C.I.O. council to give enough attention to his own union. Result: Another militant ruined by his association with the Stalinists.

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Tobin’s Prompter

It is generally understood in labor circles that the strong stand of Dan Tobin, president of the teamsters’ international, for labor unity against the reactionary position of the A.F. of L. “die-hard” clique was mainly influenced by President Roosevelt with whom Tobin is on very friendly terms. Pressure from his own ranks, it is said, was a secondary consideration.

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Won’t Pay for Pie

C.I.O. leaders in New Jersey will have a little explaining to do to the next state convention because L. Goldsmith, a Stalinist from New York, was made executive secretary of the state C.I.O. council after the first convention was over and despite a promise that an “impartial non-political New Jersey unionist” would be chosen for the post.

Already the action has antagonized large sections of the C.I.O. movement in New Jersey who went along with the convention only because they felt it would be possible to exclude the Stalinists. The rank and file isn’t very interested in paying hard-earned money to support another Stalinist pie-card artist whose chief work will consist in tearing down the militancy of the unions and slandering all opposition.

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Leg-Work ...

The marked trend within the C.I.O. of large and militant unions staying away from state C.I.O. councils because Stalinists automatically control them through paper unions was again noted in the Connecticut C.I.O. state convention. Since the C.I.O. constitution does not make participation compulsory, the non-Stalinists are more and more voting against the Lewis-Stalinist bloc with their feet, i.e., walking out, or staying out.

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A worker writes in that he wants information on the truck-building plants. Facts on wages, hours and working conditions. We would appreciate hearing from the field on this matter.

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Back to Normal

Have you noticed the sharp increase in militancy among the rank and file of the C.I.O. since they returned to their jobs recently as a result of the little upswing in business? The auto workers are a good case in point. Reports from a couple of steel areas give the same indication.

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Bread or Bullets?

Armaments vs. WPA? Bread or bullets? These are some of the main problems posed by the Roosevelt program of building a super-war machine by starving the unemployed through relief cuts. This is an issue around which great support can be obtained in unemployed and union organizations. Here is a real job for progressive unionists.

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