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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

Stalinist Finks in the Ward Strikes

(6 January 1945))

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 1, 6 January 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

During the past three weeks through their press and union stooges, the Stalinists have been conducting their most virulent strikebreaking campaign to date. These rats have been busily trailing their slime across the magnificent strike struggle of the Montgomery Ward workers which has won staunch support in the ranks of the labor movement.

One of the most shameful acts of treachery perpetrated by the Stalinists was the stab in the back dealt the Detroit Ward Workers by the Stalinist officials of Local 65, CIO United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Employes in New York. They belong to the very same international union which has been directing the strikes in Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago.

The Stalinist stooges in this local, headed by Local 65 President Arthur Osman, issued a public denunciation of the Ward strikes. In their statement opposing the struggle of the Ward workers for a union contract and increases beyond their 39 cents an hour wages, these finks slanderously linked the Ward workers with the “treasonous activities” of Sewell L. Avery, the open-shop plutocrat who for four years has been successfully defying scores of WLB and other government agencies’ orders.

These deliberate strikebreaking moves of the Stalinist stooges have of course been applauded by the Daily Worker. But these finks have become so brazen that they even boast of the praise of the bosses for their activities. In the December 24 issue of the Local 65 paper, New Voices, right next to a double-banner, double- cross headline attacking the Ward strikers, was “proudly” displayed a letter declaring “we are in complete accord with the views set forth by Mr. Osman” against the Ward workers. This statement was signed by Sidney B. Felsenfeld, Executive Secretary of the Shoe Wholesalers Employers’ Association!

* * *

While the Stalinists have joined with the open-shoppers against the Ward workers, almost every other section of the labor movement, including the bulk of the URWDSE-CIO members throughout the country, are giving tacit or open support to the strike. The infamous conduct of the Stalinists has aroused so much indignation that over 30 leading locals of the URWDSE-CIO have issued public statements condemning their strikebreaking in the Ward situation.

* * *

Anger against the Stalinists has been simmering ever since the Chicago Ward strike last May when Harry Bridges, head of the CIO Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, ordered the members of his organization in the company’s St. Paul branch to handle “hot goods” from the struck Chicago mail-order headquarters. At the start of the Ward strike in Detroit Bridges’ attorney, Douglas Hall, appeared before WLB hearings in Washington to boast that “there is no strike at St. Paul” despite Avery’s “non-compliance with every directive of the Board,” including directives affecting the St. Paul members of the ILWU.

While Bridges and his henchmen were pursuing their servile policies of surrender to the open-shoppers, the Roosevelt administration was prodded by the militancy of the Detroit Ward strike into issuing another WLB “last warning” compliance order to Avery. This order also included Ward’s St. Paul establishment along with those in several other cities.

Thereupon the Daily Worker had the gall to bray in a headline on Dec. 16: “Bridges Wins Order on Ward Without Strike.” To be sure, Bridges didn’t call any strike; he did his damndest to break the strike that was going on in Detroit. But that didn’t prevent him and his pack of Stalinized scabs from trying to steal a little credit for themselves by cashing in on the very Detroit strike he assailed.

* * *

The officers of Local 327, URWDSE, have filed formal charges against Harry Bridges’ ILWU lieutenants accusing them of direct collusion with the Ward management in an attempt to sabotage an impending strike at the Baltimore Ward plant. These charges were filed with the national CIO last week. In a letter to Secretary-Treasurer James B. Carey, Maurice J. Niestadt, assistant business manager of Local 327, urged the CIO to take action against the strikebreaking Stalinist union officials.

Niestadt declared that on December 20 a committee of workers from Ward’s retail store in Baltimore solicited the aid of Local 327 in a strike planned for December 22. This committee also asked assistance in securing the backing of other CIO unions in the area.

The strike had to be postponed a day because of bad weather. On the originally scheduled day, an ILWU international representative, Jas. More, “with management assistance made a personal survey throughout the entire plant questioning the workers on their attitude toward a strike.” Also, that same day, the company sent an individual letter to each employee with intimidating propaganda against the projected strike.

“This act of collusion on the part of the ILWU and management completely destroyed the morale and terrorized the people in the retail store where our people had been working,” Niestadt stated. He also declared that the action of the ILWU officials who were carrying out Bridges’ strikebreaking policy, constituted interference with the internal affairs of another CIO union.

* * *

A final note. Last week Washington correspondents, including members of the CIO American Newspaper Guild which backed the Ward strike, interviewed a committee of Stalinists and their front men from the Stalinist-dominated, Wayne County (Detroit) CIO Council. This committee had hot-footed to Washington to beg the government to halt the strike.

The committee boasted of “emphasizing” unyielding devotion to the no-strike pledge. “Do you regard the Ward strike as a breach of that pledge?” a reporter asked. W.G. Grant, Ford UAW Local 600 president, replied, “Yes.”

“Did you notice,” a reporter shot back, “that the WLB made an exception when it did not order the Ward strikers back to work?” Grant was taken aback. “Are you sure?” Several reporters, who had covered the WLB hearings, replied, “Absolutely.” Grant could only answer feebly, “I think I’d check to make doubly sure.”

As the reporters were clearly intimating, the Stalinists display a new low in finkery when they attack a strike WHICH NOT EVEN THE CORPORATION-DOMINATED WLB DARED TO CONDEMN OPENLY!

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