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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(18 July 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 51, 18 July 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The National Labor Relations Board took: a long step backward this week when it announced that hereafter it would permit elections in plants upon an employer’s request.

In the past this is a right which the employers have not had and which they sought keenly because it gave them another weapon with which to harass the unions.

Plenty of trouble lies ahead for the union movement under the new ruling. Take the current C.I.O.-U.A.W.A. strike in General Motors. How will the new N.L.R.B, ruling that goes into effect July 14 effect the strike? The strikers are asking, according to press releases, for a contract covering only their own members. Will the new ruling give General Motors a loophole?

Fortunately, in the auto strike, the stories of the militancy of the workers, reminiscent of the glorious days of the 1937 General Motors strike, give promise that the N.L.R.B. or anyone else will have a hard time turning back the boys.

The auto workers certainly are on the march again. And this serves simply to emphasize the capitulation of the N.R.L.B.

Scab Roosevelt

Any doubt that the present reduction in the W.P.A. wages that caused the nation-wide strike was a deliberate move on the part of the Roosevelt administration to bring labor into line for war should be removed in every worker’s mind by two events of this week.

President Roosevelt endorsed the wage reduction and the strike-breaking policies of Colonel Harrington, W.P.A. administrator.

Another despicable blow at the W.P.A. workers was hurled by the administration in announcing that 3,500 theatre workers of the Federal Theatre project would be laid off this month although Congress, in cutting out this project, allowed funds for it to continue until Sept. 1. Since Broadway already has hit its low summer ebb, the W.P.A. ruling is an out- [some text seems to be missing here] order of starvation to the workers involved.

A.F.L. Conference

A spectator at the A.F.L. conference in Washington to map out a fight against the Roosevelt administration wage cutting policy on W.P.A. would hardly believe this could be an A.F.L. gathering.

There was some pretty strong language used against the Roosevelt administration. Richard Gray, secretary of the International Bricklayers Union, bluntly blamed Roosevelt for the wage reduction.

Another speaker said Roosevelt had given the A.F.L. the run around and had even refused to see a committee to talk over the matter.

Speakers urged a nation-wide strike on W.P.A. until Congress rectified its error.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania delegates said their members would never go back to work until the wage cuts were rescinded. They urged all other states to pursue a similar policy.

Of course, Bill Green tried to divert the sentiment from direct action channels into purely parliamentary pressure. Both are necessary – especially strike action.

When the most conservative section of the American labor movement is thus aroused it is a hint of the days of struggle to come.

Bloody Harlan

“Bloody Harlan” came into its own again this week.

One man was killed and six wounded in a day of shooting involving United Mine Worker pickets, National Guardsmen and scabs.

Garbled press reports fail to say on what side the dead and wounded belonged. Two of the six wounded were strike-breaking guardsmen.

First result of the shooting was to give the guardsmen an “excuse” for rounding up strikers, 250 were hurled in jail.

A reign of terror against the U.M.W.U. has ensued.

Here is a real job for the C.I.O. The Harlan strike must be won.

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