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Jack Wilson

Red Scare Proves Dud

(December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 34, 2 December 1940, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LOS ANGELES, Calif., Nov. 23 – War department efforts to break the 9 day Vultee aircraft strike suffered a severe setback today when the U.S. Army was forced to withdraw, in disgrace, its brass hat. Major Sidney Simpson, from the negotiations between the CIO and the Vultee management.

Sensational headlines in local newspapers today screamed out the story to the general public, although unionists in touch with the negotiations knew all along what role the U.S. Army was playing in this strike. Simpson forgot he didn’t have the cover of Army censorship over the press and that he wasn’t dealing with inexperienced conscriptees under military discipline. He continually demanded that the CIO give up its right to strike. When the union leaders refused to be intimidated, he would leave the conference room for an adjacent bar and start drinking in despair.

His activities became so utterly intolerable that even the company officials agreed with the CIO statement that Major Simpson’s drunkness and his attitude were an obstacle to settlement of the strike.

Picket Lines Hold

Speeches by putrid Congressmen this week seeking to frighten the strikers by talk of “treason” had little effect on the local situation. Another threat by Martin Dies, notorious red-baiter, to expose “radicalism” among the strikers and the usual quota of strikebreaking editorials, and a petty frame-up on “violence” failed to budge the unionists one inch. Picket lines held firmly, although there was some justified beefing on the part of strikers against the secrecy that cloaked the first few days of negotiations.

Concessions Seen

Preliminary reports on the progress of the negotiations indicated that the CIO was obtaining some real concessions for the contract, and a union contract could have been signed but for Major Simpson’s sudden insistence on a two-year no-strike clause.

Chief gain of the union in the unfinished negotiations was agreement for a $0.62½ minimum hourly pay after a brief apprenticeship, and the tentative acceptance of a sliding scale of wages based on rising living costs. Negotiations continued today directly between the union and the company with John Steelman, chief of the federal labor department conciliation service, flying here to represent the government.

Last week one of the few scabs claimed to have been the victim of “strikers’ violence” but it was revealed that he gotten into a fight at a football game while drunk. Of course, the newspapers played up the first “violence” story and buried the true facts later revealed, FBI agents were circulating among the strikers and were supposed to give Martin Dies a report on “subversive” activities which is due any time now as an attempt to conceal the real issue of the strike: low wages.

As we foretold in last week’s story, Sidney Hillman, member of the National Defense Advisory Commission, did his bit to help the employers against the union. His strike-breaking statement that it was “very, very unfortunate” that the strike was called without giving him a 48 hour notice was the basis of all the propaganda against the union this week.

Hillman’s contribution to the bosses was shoved back into his teeth by the union, which pointed out that he had been notified for seven weeks about the negotiations and had done nothing to see that labor got a square deal.

“Talk of The Town”

Meanwhile, the strike continued to be the talk of this open shop town, an amazing display of labor strength, in the city which openly brags via billboards, “Los Angeles, open shop center of the West Coast.”

In the past, strikes were more easily broken since the city did not have large industrial plants with powerful groups of workers employed in them.

Now Los Angeles is becoming “proletarianized” at a rapid pace due to the expansion of the aircraft industry. And there is a shortage of labor for these plants. The Vultee strikers do not have the problem of worrying about scabs replacing them on the job.

The Vultee strikers are indispensable to the operation of that plant. Only a division among themselves created by the raising of a red scare, and the subsequent confusion, could bust up the picket lines.

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