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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(22 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 61, 22 August 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A much needed move to avoid the plague of jurisdictional fights within the AFL here was made last week under the impetus of the teamsters unions.

Powerful AFL building and construction unions joined with the teamsters to set up a special committee to handle threatened jurisdictional disputes.

Storm Center

A sore point in the labor movement here is the encroachment of the Operating Engineers union on building trades unions. A showdown was threatened last week because of the stubbornness of Frank Converse, czar of the engineers unions, on the points of dispute. Converse long has been a storm center of jurisdictional raids.

Keystone of the plan to end costly intra-union fights lies in the establishment of this authoritative committee which would function as a high tribunal with decision-making power.

The jurisdictional committee, it was announced following a conference of influential labor leaders, consists of Ed Murphy, president of the teamsters district council, William Finnegan, president of the Cleveland Federation of Labor, Thomas Lenahan, secretary of the federation, and Albert Dalton, business agent of the building trades.

Procedure Established

Procedure to be followed is first for the unions involved to send representatives to a special conference to iron out the problem.

If a deadlock is reached, appeal must be made to the committee of four which would hold hearings and suggest a solution. If the unions still disagreed, the committee would have the power to render a final and binding decision.

In event the committee of four was divided evenly on a question, it would unanimously select a fifth labor leader to participate and cast the deciding vote.

Cleveland labor leaders said they expect formation of similar committees on a nationwide scale as part of the solution to the jurisdictional problems in the AFL.

Answers CIO

It frankly is a counter-move to the CIO threat of organizing in the building trades fields in opposition to the AFL.

In the current dispute in Cleveland, the six unions which already have accepted the plan are the firemen and oilers, excavating drivers, structural iron workers, stone cutters, cement finishers and operating engineers.

Because the plan was sponsored by the most powerful leaders in the labor movement here there is considerable hope that other unions will go along with the plan. Among those not yet in the agreement are the carpenters, bricklayers and lathers unions.

The plan was made at an emergency conference called under the auspices of the teamsters last week.

It was a counter-move to Converse’s open threat to fight other craft unions which refused to allow encroachments by the operating engineers. Converse retreated from his position after the conference was held and he announced he would subscribe to the net setup.

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