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Miners Defy Federal

Ignore Injunction Order; Lewis Threatened
with Citation for “Contempt”

(6 April 1924)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 15, 12 April 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

APRIL 6 – True to their fighting traditions, the country’s 400,000 soft coal miners have defied the government’s Taft-Hartley injunction commanding them to “cease” their pension strike and “immediately” return to work, Instead, thousands of hard coal miners have also walked out in support of their fellow members.

A compliant federal judge, Justice Matthew F. McGuire of the United States District Court in Washington, issued the strikebreaking order on April 3, within a few hours after Truman directed Attorney General Clark to seek and anti-strike restraining order under the Taft-Hartley Slave Labor Law.

The order not only bans the strike until April 13, when hearings on a permanent injunction will be completed, but demands that Lewis “instruct forthwith” the miners to go back to the pits.

Stands Firm

To date, Lewis has not complied. He has consistently maintained that he did not call the strike. He repeated this in a letter to the mine locals on the day the injunction was issued, stating further that “any action or decision which you may now care to take continues to be entirely of your own determination.”

Even the Taft-Hartley Act specifically says that “nothing in this act shall be construed to require an individual employee to render labor or service without his consent ... nor shall any court issue any process to compel performance by an individual employee of such labor or service without his consent.”

The government, however, has another ace – the same one it pulled from its sleeve in the 1946 injunction case – “contempt of court” action. In that former case, it was claimed that a union must obey a federal court injunction – even an illegal one – or be subject to “contempt” charges. The judge who issues the injunction, acting as his own prosecutor and jury, can rule the union and its officers in “contempt” and throw the book at them.

Attorney General Clark has already initiated “contempt” proceedings against the union and Lewis. The miners and their officers face the threat of harsh penalties, such as the $3,500,000 fine ordered by Federal Judge Goldsborough in 1946, later reduced to $710,000.

There is not a shred of evidence that Lewis or the union have violated even the existing Slave Law or the contract in any meaning within the law. The sole contention of Truman’s “fact-finding’’ committee, which “found” against the miners, is that Lewis “induced’’ the miners to strike by the fact of writing them a letter which stated that the operators had “dishonored” the contract by sabotaging the use of the welfare fund.

It is, of course, true that the miners have a binding tradition, “No contract, no work.” For them a dishonored contract is no contract at all.

What infuriates the employers and their government stooges is the iron-clad solidarity of the miners, their unshakable discipline in action – a magnificent example for the whole labor movement. The government is bringing all its power to bear on tile miners to destroy that solidarity.

Once again, and in the clearest fashion, the government has revealed its capitalist class nature. The courts are shown once more to be mere tools of the employing class. The entire course of the government and its agencies has been crudely biased in favor of the operators, at whose nod the federal strikebreaking machinery was set in motion.

But the miners’ struggle now far transcends the immediate issues involved. They are spearheading the fight of the whole labor movement against the deadly menace of the Taft-Hartley Law and government by injunction. They are battling for the most precious right of labor – the right to strike.

Everyone – that is, everyone but the narrow-minded top leaders of the CIO and AFL – understands that the miners are engaged in a struggle whose outcome will have far-reaching implications for every union and every worker.

Yet, because of their organizational conflicts with Lewis, the CIO and AFL leaders haven’t said one word against this infamous government strikebreaking. They have not uttered one protest while the government sharpens the Taft-Hartley knife on the miners to make it keener for the throat of the whole labor movement.

It was shameful that the CIO and AFL leadership offered nothing more than token protests when the AFL International Typographical Union was clubbed by the Taft-Hartley Law and. a federal injunction. In the face of the further and even more venomous attack on the miners, their silence and inaction is downright criminal.

Every local union should immediately adopt resolutions of support for the miners. The union ranks everywhere should vigorously demand that their national leaders call an immediate conference of the CIO, AFL and mine unions to map out a joint program of action to stop government by injunction and smash the Slave Labor Law.

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