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Labor Faces Deadly Peril
of Goverment by Injunction

CIO and AFL Heads Follow Do-Nothing Policy in Crisis

(5 April 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 14, 5 April 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Government by Taft-Hartley injunction threatens the American labor movement with the greatest menace in decades – although the CIO and AFL leaders are lost in a fog of indifference, disunity and inaction.

The ugly face of the Slave Labor Law has been revealed in the sweeping strikebreaking injunction issued by a federal court on March 27 against the AFL international Typographical Union and its officers.

Machinery for invoking similar injunctions against the striking soft coal miners and CIO meat packing workers has been set in motion by Truman.

Far-reaching precedents that can and will be used against the entire union movement have been established in the ITU case.

Drastic Rulings

In language that covered every conceivable action of the ITU by deed or word, Federal Judge Luther M. Swygert ruled in effect that:

  1. ITU and its local unions cannot strike or take any other form of action to enforce demands which might be in violation of the Taft-Hartley Act, even though these are the subject of an unresolved dispute before the National Labor Relations Board.
  2. The ITU and its officers may give no aid or encouragement in any form to local unions on strike for demands that might be prohibited by the Taft-Hartley Act.
  3. The court, in a further unprecedented move, arrogated to itself the authority of deciding what can and what cannot go into the union contract.

Under peril of imprisonment and ruinous fines, the ITU officials, headed by Woodruff Randolph, are in effect, ordered to negotiate contracts that will eliminate the traditional closed shop.

Now, the United Mine Workers’ representatives, whose union has already felt the weight of one federal injunction and a $710,000 fine for “contempt,” have been ordered by a federal judge to appear at hearings of Truman’s hand-picked, pro-employer “fact-finding” committee.

At the hearing, Lewis insisted that he had not ordered a strike, that the men had walked out spontaneously under the “able and willing” clause of the contract which the mine operators have “dishonored.” The miners, he said, are angry because they have been “goldbricked” by the operators in the matter of the union’s health and welfare fund, from which they have not drawn a penny.

While another Truman “fact-finding” committee is clearing the legal path for an injunction against the CIO Packinghouse Workers, local judges are mass-producing anti-picketing restraining orders at the behest of the “Big Four” meat packers. Such injunctions have already been issued in Omaha; St. Paul; Fargo, N.D.; St. Joseph, Mo.; Tifton, Ga.; and Mason City, Iowa.

In this hour of deadly peril for labor, the leaders of the CIO and AFL are displaying a criminally sluggish attitude. Not only as between the CIO and AFL, but within these two major organizations there is a total lack of unity of purpose and action.

The AFL top hierarchy has hardly lifted a finger in the ITU case. The CIO chieftains are permitting the packinghouse union to stand isolated. Neither group has so much as said a word against the government’s intervention in the miners’ strike.

Two Years Ago

Only two years ago, organized labor was aggressively on the march, battling on a hundred picket lines. Today, the government is contemptuously clubbing the unions around while the union leaders sit passive and paralyzed, watching labor’s most cherished rights being trampled upon. They are too busy carrying out State Department chores to bother about mobilizing the workers to defend the very life of their unions.

These leaders thought they could “come to terms” with the Taft-Hartley Act. They thought by capitulating to the Taft-Hartley “yellow dog” oaths and playing deaf and dumb maybe the unions could ignore the Taft-Hartley Law. But it isn’t ignoring them.

Great Danger

Unless the whole labor movement joins forces in action around a unified program of struggle, the unions are in great danger. The injunction against the ITU, the government’s moves against the miners and packinghouse workers, are a LATE warning. There is no time to lose.

A Congress of Labor, with full rank and file representation of the CIO, AFL, Railroad Brotherhoods and independents, must be summoned as speedily as possible. A unified program and strategy of action to fight the Taft-Hartley Law, to halt government by injunction for a unified wage fight must be mapped out. The union ranks must demand that their leaders stop peddling the Marshall Plan patent medicine and get on the job of leading labor’s fight for existence.

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