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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(1 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 551, 1 August 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio – The 55th annual convention of the Ohio Federation of Labor, just concluded, reflected the changing trends in the A.F.L. movement in this country.

Of major importance was the fact that the teamsters union assumed domination of the Ohio A.F.L. in Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton and Youngstown, the truck drivers union already had replaced the building trades unions as controlling factor in the central labor unions. This was extended to the Ohio Federation of Labor.

All this was shown definitely by the elections. The slate drawn up by the teamsters and backed by the meat-cutters and miscellaneous unions won without much effort.

Only by the grace of the teamsters were John E. Breidenbach, Dayton Republican labor boss, and Albert Dalton, Cleveland Republican “man within the labor movement” re-elected to the state executive board. Both were very unpopular, but their connections with the Governor Bricker Republican machine, the cause of their unpopularity, saved them. The teamsters felt they wanted an “inside” to the present state administration.

Green’s Role

Resolutions demanding unity with the C.I.O. which went so far as to openly criticize the A.F.L. top leadership were introduced to the resolutions committee and backed by a large section of the delegates, including most of the teamsters.

Fearing that the convention would get out of line on this problem. Mike Lyden, president of the Ohio Federation of Labor, sent for William Green, A.F.L. president.

Green gave one of his typical demagogic speeches with emphasis on the “no compromise” attitude towards the C.I.O. And he brought along a renegade from the C.I.O., Homer Martin, to help him. Martin followed up Green’s speech with a red-baiting talk in which, among other things, he washed a lot of dirty linen of the C.I.O.

Despite this barrage, the convention adopted a resolution urging unity with the C.I.O., although some of the teeth were taken out of the original resolutions.

If this represents the convention attitude, predominantly composed of A.F.L. officials, one can well imagine what the sentiments of the rank and file of the A.F.L. Are.

Beal Case

Very seldom does an A.F.L. convention reject the unanimous recommendation of a key committee, such as the resolutions committee. A highlight of this convention was the reversal of the resolutions committee on the Fred Beal case.

After a brilliant short speech by Sam Pollock of Akron, state secretary-treasurer of the butchers union, the convention voted to demand freedom for Beal, although the resolutions committee was against it.

So effective was the talk of the Akron labor leader that a prominent member of the resolutions committee was overheard later congratulating Pollock on the victory.

Incidentally, Mike Lyden, the state president, tried to assist the resolutions committee by refusing to call the vote against the resolutions committee recommendation. This flagrant trick was quickly called to order by the delegates, and on a standing vote freedom for Beal was demanded.

Is it necessary to add that a handful of Stalinist delegates voted against the Beal freedom resolution?

Workers’ Control

The convention almost passed a resolution which called for labor to prepare itself for control of all production. It was introduced by a Cleveland delegate who said he’d been thinking things over and felt that a real crisis was coming and labor would have to take power.

Thomas Donelly, state federation secretary-treasurer, rushed to the microphone when he saw that no opposition was being voiced to the resolution.

He picked up the key clauses in the resolution and pointed out that it called for a revolution and workers control of production. “It’s pure communism,” he exclaimed. This chagrined the convention and the delegates who signed the resolution.

They were amazed at the political implications of the resolution. The delegate who had written up the resolution votes Democrat, and is one. He was puzzled by the situation and resented being called a revolutionary, what we thought was important was this trend of thought unconsciously creeping into the labor movement, even the A.F.L. section of it.

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