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B.J. Widick

In the Trade Unions

(12 May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 32, 12 May 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two mergers involving four C.I.O. unions are taking place this month.

After a long campaign by the Fur Workers union, the National Leather Workers Association recently voted to join with the furriers in a proposed International Fur and Leather Workers Union of the United States and Canada.

This week-end the fur workers, opened their convention in Atlantic City. Approval of the amalgamation which its executive board recommends is considered a foregone conclusion.

The Fur Workers convention is openly and flagrantly dominated by the Stalinists, headed by the notorious Ben Gold, president of the union.

Factional Capital

Gold expects to make much factional capital out of the merger. The Daily Worker informs the unsuspecting world that this merger, according to Mr. Gold, will join 100,000 workers together. Convention delegates are being told the same thing.

The C.I.O. News, however, claims no more than 50,000 members for the furriers and 4,500 for the leather workers. Gold’s exaggerations are designed to bolster his fading prestige in his own union.

This beloved leader of the masses obtained a measly vote of 252 out of 3,500 members in his own local union as delegate to the convention!

His whole administration is so utterly bankrupt that only a tragic mistake in tactics by progressive forces returned his clique to power. Gold’s election maneuvers were so revolting (ruling members out of voting rights, denial of impartial watchers at election booths, etc.) that the progressives decided to boycott the election.

Less than 1,400 members in the New York area out of 15,000 voted in this election. Progressives within the leather workers know these facts. They realize that within the proposed International Fur and Leather Workers Union, Gold and his Stalinist machine will seek to gain complete domination over the leather division.

On the other hand, the merger enables the progressive forces within both divisions to unite and oust the bankrupt Stalinist misleadership.

Another Merger

A merger between the United Textile Workers Union and the Textile Workers Organizing Committee is scheduled at the five-day national conventions of these organizations in Philadelphia on May 15.

Motive behind the sudden display of democracy on the part of the Hillman machine is the attempt to offset the reactionary split from the C.I.O. of Francis J. Gorman, former vice-president of the U.T.W.U. with a small group of locals.

Since the hosiery workers federation and the dyers federation, both strongly entrenched in their respective industries, will participate in the convention of the T.W.O.C., it should be lively. It will take a lot of patching up behind the scenes to remove some of the antagonism we’ve heard expressed against the Hillman machine.

Under present plans, the textile union and the T.W.O.C. locals will each hold a separate convention for a few days, until the proposed merger is approved. Then they will unite into a single convention.

Chief bone of contention at the textile convention will be the scramble for paid jobs. Lack of finances prevents Hillman from settling such problems the easy way: a job for every official.

Among the other tragedies of the C.T.O. is the fact that the textile industry drive didn’t live up to advance expectations. Out of 1,250,000 workers the T.W.O.C. now claims 200,000 under contract (a year ago, the figure of 500,000 used to be tossed around blandly.) Another 176,000 workers will be covered under contracts now being negotiated, the union claims.

Planning of a serious organizing drive should be one of the big jobs of the merged unions. Over 120,000 textile workers will get wage increases under the wages and hours law in July. An aggressive campaign centering around the fact that C.I.O. pressure brought this benefit could bring these workers into the fold.

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