University o f ' p f-nt
Workers Library Publishers, Inc.
0. Box 148, Station D, New York City
First edition April. 1936
Second edition August, 1936
by william z, foster
PRESIDENT William. Green and the entire Executive Council
of the American Federation of Labor, with the exception of
David Dubinsky, have sallied forth on a holy crusade to block the
development of the industrial union form of organization.
These men, whose principles of trade union organization were
reactionary even as far back as 1903, insist, yes, fight militantly
to maintain backivardness in the American labor movement. The
craft union, paragon of backwardness in unionism, ivhich divides
the workers against themselves, is what Green and his followers
William Green not only advocates the moss-covered craft-union
form; he and his cronies have acted in undemocratic drum-
head, court-martial fashion against the Committee for Industrial
Organization, suspending ten of its affiliated unions, menacing
two others, and threatening to split the whole American labor
movement at a time wlien unity of labor is needed to uplift the
conditions of the workmen.
The great mass of unorganized workers are in favor of indus-
trial unionism. The Green policy in no sense represents their
opinions and interests.
Out of 18 recently held conventions of state federations of
labor, 16 have gone on record as opposed to the suspension order
of the Executive Council. The national conventions of the Hotel
and Restaurant Employees' International Union, and the Ameri-
can Federation of Teachers, have done likewise. Similar action
ivas taken by Central Trades and Labor Councils in more than
a score of cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Birmingliam,
Detroit, Seattle, Hartford, New Haven, New Orleans, Newark,
jersey City, Chattanooga, Tampa, Louisville, Ky., Columbus, O.,
and Coshocton, Ohio.
All forces of labor throughout the trade union movement
should be united to reject the suspension order and preserve the
unity and progress of the trade union movement.
The Committee for Industrial Organization is fighting on the
side of trade union progress. John L. Lewis and other leaders of
the C.I.O. see thai for successful unionizing of steel, auto, rubber,
electrical, printing and other industries, different methods than
have been used in the craft unions of the building trades, service
trades and railroads, are necessary — the industrial method.
William Green aims to saddle this obsolete craft form of
organization on the American workers even at tlie expense of
unity of the labor movement, and at the price of keeping twenty-
five million ivorkers unorganized. He wants to put a bustle on
labor and drive it around in yesteryear's horse and carriage.
The fight of the Committee for Industrial Organization against
horse-and-carriage unionism and for industrial unionism has
drawn sharp lines in the American labor movement. It goes on with
the progressives lining up on the side of the C.I.O.
What this fight means and the forces involved in it have never
been so clearly revealed as they are by William Z. Foster in this
pamphlet which is noiv being published in its second edition.
No man living today can speak with more authority on the
industrial union question than Foster. He ivas a pioneer in the
fight for the industrial form of organization since 1900. In the
Carmen s Union in Chicago, among the packing-house workers
and as leader of the Great 1919 Steel Strike and hundreds of labor
struggles throughout the country during his years of courageous
and militant organizing, Foster ivm always the leader in the
industrial union fight.
This pamphlet presents a shrewd and clear analysis of the big
issue facing the labor movement today.
A hardboiled literary critic, reviewing Foster's book "The
Great Steel Strike" several years ago, said: "Here's a man who
knows labor and he also know how to write."
What the critic said of "The Great Steel Strike" holds true for
this pamphlet. It not only tells what it's all about but it's mighty
HI <•! li
By WILLIAM Z. FOSTER
THEY TELL THE STORY of a sparrow who fell out of a
tree, and while falling, lightly brushed against the tail of
an elephant. "Oh, excuse me, sir," the sparrow apologized,
"did I hurt you?"
That covers the situation of the weak, powerless craft union,
up against a powerful group of industrial and financial barons
in control of any important American industry today. This old
yarn is all the more apt when you look at a typical craft union
head and his painful eagerness to avoid offending any big em-
ployer. But it's not so funny to the three and a half million mem-
bers of the American Federation of Labor. Nor is it funny to the
almost two score million unorganized workers, anxious for unioni-
zation, but left out in the cold, to fight the employers' attacks
as best they can, because at present, the American Federation of
Labor, hog-tied by policies that might, have fitted back in the
horse-and-buggy days, is not able to organize these desperate
millions of workers.
No, the old-fogy, craft union, pals-with-the-boss policies of the
Executive Council of the A. F. of L. are not funny to the masses
of workers in the United States, but on the contrary, a serious
tragedy. They are tragic because they have left the American
workers divided and wide open to any attacks the employers have
chosen to make. And the employers have grabbed every advantage
that the policies of the A. F. of L. Executive Council have given
them. It's only necessary to realize that wages have been jacked
down to 50 per cent of what they were in 1929.
Because the result of such policies is so plain to the American
working class, there has been a great seething going on in the
ranks of the American Federation of Labor, affecting a growing
section of the A. F. of L. leadership too. A struggle of the greatest
importance to the whole American working class is taking place
inside the A. F. of L. around the issues of industrial unionism.
The struggle for industrial unionism reached a sharp point at
the 1935 A. F. of L. Convention in Atlantic City, under the lead-
ership of the John L. Lewis bloc, which later formed the Com-
mittee for Industrial Organization. The Communist Party sup-
ports that struggle, as it has always supported all progressive
struggles aiming at the unity of the working class and the organi-
zation of the unorganized.
Among the rank and file and many of the lower A. F. of L.
officials, the struggle isn't just being confined to the fight for
industrial unionism, that is, to a change in the structure of the
A. F. of L. It's also shaping up as a question of displacing the
whole rotten gang of reactionary leaders playing ball with the
employers, as well as a fight on the part of the membership of
the A. F. of L. to run their unions in a democratic way, without
bossism and strong-arm rule. The membership of the A. F. of L.
have sacrificed much for their unions; they've even been willing
to buck up against machine guns for the unions, on the picket-
line. They want to see their unions ship-shape in every way. The
membership of the A. F. of L., and the two score million who
want to be organized into the A. F. of L., realize that these three
things — industrial unionism, meaning the unity of the workers
in each given industry; a policy of fighting against the bosses
(class struggle), instead of smoking cigars with them over the
conference table (class-collaboration) ; and third, trade union
democracy, can go together to make the powerful kind of or-
ganization that could stop the bosses, as strongly united as they
are, from taking it out of the hides of the workers through wage
cuts, increasing speedup, firing and blacklisting workers for
joining a union, etc.
The A. F. of L. Membership Takes Stock
It's just because the employers have been getting away with
such tricks that the A. F. of L. membership has begun to take
stock and to realize that the blame must be put on policies that
might have fitted in when the Civil War was still a fresh memory.
That's why the masses of workers in the A. F. of L. and the
many times greater masses outside, who want to be inside the
A. F. of L., are raising the demand and taking very active steps
for industrial unionism. One shop, one industry, one union, is the
demand — one union for each mass-production industry, like auto-
mobiles, steel, chemicals, rubber, etc. And as for the industries
which are not mass-production in character, and where the policy
of anywhere from a half-dozen to two dozen or more craft unions
in an industry has played hell with the unity and the conditions
of the workers, the demand is rising more and more for unity,
and steps toward industrial unionism in the shape of closely
knit federations (like the Pacific Coast Maritime Federation,
which unites every marine craft), the commencing and expiring of
agreements of all crafts in the industry on the same date; or
in the shape of amalgamation, between a few trades, or on a
general scale in given industries.
The carrying through of such steps in every industry with the
object of finally bringing about industrial unions not only in the
mass production industries, but in the old time craft-ridden in-
dustries like building, railroad, etc., together with a fighting,
class struggle policy, and rank-and-file control in the A. F. of L.,
will find the employers facing a Rock of Gibraltar of working
class solidarity and joint action whenever they dare plan a wage
cut, an attack on conditions or a blacklisting campaign against
How did it start, the present day A. F. of L. horse-and-buggy
system of craft unionism, and why does it cripple the workers
in this modern day and age? When trade unionism was young,
there were no industries as we know them today. Shops were
small and far between. Each shop employed one kind of trades-
man only. Blacksmiths worked only in blacksmith shops, and
only blacksmiths worked there; molders worked only in mold-
ing shops; wood-turners worked only in shops that did wood-
turning. The craft unions served a real purpose then. The craft
unions in those days were able to cope with the employers who
were for the most part small shopowners. Those were the days
when the employees usually called the boss Frank, or Tom — by
his first name. Imagine a man on a Ford belt today walking up
to Ford and saying: "Hello, Hank, how's the wife and kids."
Times have changed.
Gradually, the employers piled up more and more wealth,
and combined their capital and factories into larger industrial
units. A fellow like Andrew Carnegie would begin to buy out
all the little iron works or tool shops he could lay his hands on,
and pretty soon, the giant United States Steel Corporation took
shape as a great trust, with competition narrowing down to the
point where there were only two or three huge trusts instead of
thousands of little shops in a big industry. These are the sort of
great trusts which now dominate all American industry.
Employers also began to form employers' associations — great
unions of capitalists — to control output and prices ; to fix wages —
that is, to cut them jointly; to fight the trade unions; to estab-
lish industry-wide blacklists and spy systems against workers
who joined unions, or those who tried to organize unions. Billions
of dollars are behind these employers' associations, in the fight
against unionization of the industries.
Here are just a few of these Goliaths of the open shop whom
the workers are expected to face with the sling shot of old time
craft unionism: the Iron and Steel Institute; the National Electric
Manufacturers' Association; the National Metal Trades Asso-
ciation; the National Association of Manufacturers; the National
Founders' Association ; the National Industrial Conference Board ;
the California Merchants and Manufacturers Association; the
Associated Employers of Seattle, Indianapolis and a host of
other cities; the Waterfront Employers' Union of San Francisco;
the so-called "Citizens Committee" of cities like Detroit, Cleve-
land, Chicago and many others. Just because David was sup-
posed to have slain a giant with a sling shot in biblical times, it
can be done now, the A. F. of L. Executive Council figures.
These are some of the changes that have come about in industry
since the early days of American trade unionism. (In a few mo-
ments we'll see some more startling ones, which apparently the
craft union leaders haven't yet learned about.) Did the tactics,
the strategy, and the structure of the A. F. of L. change to keep
step with the great strengthening of industrial and finance capital-
ism, in such a way that these powerful trusts could be balked in
their attacks on the working class? They did not.
There were more than a dozen metal craft unions in the A. F.
of L. back in the days when shops were small and trusts un-
dreamed of. There are the same number today, even though lined
up against the workers in the metal industries there is a powerful
National Metal Trades Association and a still more powerful Iron
and Steel Institute. Blacksmiths, boilermakers, coopers, sheet
metal workers, molders, machinists unions and the rest— they're
like a bunch of birchbark canoes against a superdreadnought.
The worst of it is that they're usually sent up against the dread-
nought, one canoe at a time-
Asbestos workers, bricklayers, carpenters, operating engineers,
and the rest of the building trades craft unions— it's like facing
sixteen-inch guns with bows and arrows, when you consider the
powerful building trades employers' associations, the powerful
real estate interests tied up with Wall Street. And now the A. F.
of L. Executive Council proposes to take the auto workers who
face Ford and General Motors, the chemical workers who face
du Pont; the rubber workers who face Goodyear, Goodrich and
Firestone; the aluminum workers who face Andrew Mellon, and
separate them into so many canoes against battleships.
What's Happening to Skilled Trades?
There are other strong reasons which show that craft unionism
no longer fills the bill, and must give way to industrial union-
ism. Machinery and super-machinery in modern industry have
largely done away with skill. This is not only true in the mass
production industries, as we shall soon see; it is becoming more
and more true even in industries where the craft unions have
always dominated; which seemed the very stronghold of the
skilled craftsmen. The International Molders' Union, once one of
the strongest of the A. F. of L. craft unions, when molded cast-
ings required skilled hand work, has lost nearly all its ground
because new molding machines have been introduced into foun-
dries and today handymen aided by machines produce castings
by methods of mass production. Machines, application of elec-
tricity, press steel plates, mass production, specialization have
dried up the sources from which this antiquated craft union was
once able to draw its membership. The skilled man in this and
numerous other once skilled crafts is headed where the cigar
store Indian went.
Let's take a look at the building trades industry. The Building
Trades Department of the A. F. of L. may try to ignore it, but
changes have been going on in their industry affecting at the
same time, tools, processes and materials. Structural steel, elec-
tricity, imitation stone, displacement of wood, changes in decora-
tion and architecture, the assembling of factory-made housing
units on the job, the cement and plaster gun, paint spray guns,
and other innovations, have knocked into a cocked hat the
old craft boundary lines, the skills that it took long years
of apprenticeship and experience to acquire, and with them,
the wage scales.
That's what's happening to skill in the old craft union strong-
holds. Now let's look at a few of the mass production industries,
which the craft union leaders want to divide up among them-
selves on the basis of "skilled trades."
Timed to 154/1,000 of a Minute
Let's peep, for a moment, into the big General Electric plant
in Schenectady, with its 350 buildings, covering 645 acres, em-
ploying eighteen to twenty-five thousand workers. Let's see what
the Micromotion System — one of the many speedup systems — is
doing to "skill." We see the General Electric efficiency experts
measuring the movements of the employees' hands down to one-
two thousandth of a minute, by means of a clock, which has a
hand revolving at the rate of twenty revolutions a minute. The
clock has a face graduated into 100 divisions; it is placed where
it will appear in a moving picture taken of the man at work.
Let's take a glance at a chart of "Micromotion Study," of a man
screwing studs in a threaded plate and then "swaging" them by
means of a die and punch press (a study of just the motions of
the left hand of this worker).
Time (in minutes) :
.0155 Gets plate and carries it to meet stud held in right hand.
.0650 Holds plate while right hand screws in stud.
.0280 Places the assembly in die.
.0120 Trips the press.
.0335 Removes finished piece and drops it in box at left.
Entire job completed in 154/1,000 of a minute, but the speed up
experts found the man's right hand was idle 735/1,000 of a min-
ute, while the left hand was doing the above, so they "re-edu-
cated" the worker in the use of his hands so he could screw a stud
into a plate while his left hand was busy on the above motions.
That's what's been happening to machinists, blacksmiths, elec-
tricians, molders, etc. The gentlemen who are the head of craft
unions ought to be told to take their bat-wing collars off; they're
living in 1936!
Nineteenth Century Unionism and the Automobile Industry
A little look in at the automobile industry, one of the most
highly specialized, will give us a further sidelight into how
futile the craft union system, the "nineteenth century" trade
unionism, is, when up against modern industry. Henry Ford, him-
self, says in My Life and Work, that 43 per cent of all jobs in
his plant require not over one day's training; 36 per cent from
one day to one week; 6 per cent from one to two weeks; 14 per
cent from one month to a year — and only 1 per cent of all jobs
need over a year to learn. And still an A. F. of L. official like
Frey of the Metal Trades Department, or Matthew Woll, will tell
you that "union organization can only be based on craft skill."
What a laugh, if it weren't so tragic for the workers of the
United States! What such "leaders" of labor really mean is that
they don't want to organize the approximately 30,000,000 un-
organized workers, for if they come into a Ford or a Chevrolet
plant, where there are hundreds of different special jobs, some
requiring but one or two simple movements, others several or
more complicated movements, and propose to put this man into
the boilermakers, this man into the molders, this one into the
machinists, and this one into the painters, they're simply not
going to organize these workers.
It is easy to see how it would be impossible to fight the em-
ployers in such industries by pitting one craft union today, an-
other one some other time, and so on down the line, against a
man with the power of Henry Ford; or let's say against the House
of Morgan, which directly, or through subsidiaries like the First
National Bank and the Bonbright brokerage house or through
its members on boards of directors, has its fingers in such pies
as General Motors, General Electric, American Telephone and
University of Tex*£
Telegraph. Baldwin Locomotive, Firestone Tire and Rubber,
U. S. Rubber, Radio Corporation of America, International Har-
vester, Kennecott and Phelps-Dodge Copper, U. S. Steel, etc., etc.
Or against Rockefeller, with his finger in American Smelting and
Refining, General Foods Corp., White Motors, as well as the
various Standard Oil Companies, to name but a few.
Pebbles Against Machine Guns
Only fools can think of facing machine guns with a hatful of
pebbles, thrown sparingly as they are under the craft union
separate agreement system. If a fight against companies like the
above is to be won, it can only be fought on a basis which can
paralyze the whole industry — and that means industrial unionism,
together with a fighting policy and trade union democracy in
the A. F. of L. Imagine trying to organize and win better con-
ditions in such industries on the basis of anywhere from a dozen
to two dozen different craft unions, each with different initiation
fees, different dues, different headquarters, agreements expiring
at different dates, different sets of officials, each trying to advance
their own cause at the expense of others, making raids on one
another's membership. To come to workers, who are faced by
such conditions as above, imposed by such powerful interests as
mentioned above, with craft unionism, is, to call a spade a spade,
not to want to organize these workers at all. And the A. F. of L.
top leadership has neither organized the vast majority of work-
ers in these basic, mass production industries, nor made any
serious attempt to do so. The records will show this.
A. F. of L. Hasn't Organized Mass Production Industries
There are 98,087 workers in the rubber products industry,
according to the 1931 census of manufacturers as made by the
U. S. Department of Commerce. To the 1935 A. F. of L. Con-
vention there came but six delegates from six federal locals of
rubber workers, with a total of 39 votes (one vote for every 100
There are 230,377 workers in the chemical and allied products
industry, according to the above-mentioned census. To the 1935
A. F. of L. Convention there came but one delegate from one
chemical workers' federal local (Barberton, Ohio) with three
There are 598,308 workers in the iron, steel, and iron and
steel products industries. At the 1935 A. F. of L. Convention in
Atlantic City, the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin
Workers had but 86 votes, representing 8,600 dues-paying mem-
bers. (No doubt this voting strength is an underestimation of
the actual membership, for many lodges understate their dues-
payments so that they may retain a part of the per capita for
themselves; nevertheless it does show how far from being in
the A. F. of L. are the half million or more steel workers.)
In the motor vehicle bodies and parts industry, the above
census lists 151,799 workers, plus 135,426 workers in the motor
vehicle industry itself. To the 1935 A. F. of L. Convention there
came but six delegates from eight federal automobile workers'
locals, with 18 votes.
In the cigar and cigarette industry there are 87,600 workers.
At the A. F. of L. Convention in 1935 the Tobacco Workers Inter-
national Union, which is supposed to organize the big cigarette
factories, had 104 votes, meaning 10,400 members (it listed
2,500 members in 1932) ; while the Cigarmakers Union had 70
votes, for 7,000 dues-paying members (it listed 15,500 mem-
bers in 1932).
The electrical machinery, apparatus and supplies industry,
which includes radio, employs 180,064 workers, according to the
above census; at the A. F. of L. Convention not a single delegate
was present from an electrical manufacturing plant, and only
seven delegates from seven radio factory federal locals, with 75
votes, representing 7,500 dues-paying members.
This is a brief picture of the failure of the antiquated craft
union system in the A. F. of L. to organize the millions of work-
ers in the mass production basic industries. The great masses of
workers in these industries have not been given the protection of
trade unions, and so have been forced to work under low wages,
incredible speed-up such as pictured above, spy systems and
company unions. These workers have not been given the trade
union protection they need and want, because the A. F. of L.
craft union leaders have offered them, when they have offered
them anything at all, not unionism adapted to the industrial con-
ditions under which they work, but a plan of splitting them up
into a score or more of unions based on crafts, which either no
longer exist or are fast fading from the picture.
Organization into industrial unions on the basis of one shop,
one industry, one union, means bread and butter, life or death
to the workers in these basic mass production industries. The
proposition the A. F. of L. Executive Council tries to force on
them means death, because it means being split up every which
way against one powerful foe.
The A. F. of L. has not been able to organize these mass pro-
duction workers into craft unions. (A chemical union in Buffalo
and an electrical manufacturing union in Lynn sent back their
charters when told they must submit to division into craft unions.)
These workers, clamoring for trade union protection, went ahead
and organized themselves on scores of occasions since 1933,
instinctive!} adopting the industrial union, only to have the craft
unions come in like a pack of starving wolves to divide them up.
The workers themselves organized federal locals of auto work-
ers in General Motors plants in Detroit, Flint, St. Louis, Tarry-
town, Cleveland, Kansas City, etc. They organized auto-parts
federal locals in Toledo and other cities. They organized air-
craft federal locals in Buffalo, Baltimore, and other cities. They
organized federal locals in rubber factories in Akron, Chicopee
Falls, etc. They organized federal aluminum locals in the Pitts-
burgh area, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in Massena, N. Y., etc.,
and other aluminum centers. They organized radio federal locals
in Philadelphia, New York, etc.
Industrial Unions Led Most Strikes
Just to mention these locals — all of them organized on an
industrial basis by the workers themselves — is to call out of the
pages of recent labor history some of the most glorious and
valiant struggles known to America. Who will ever forget the
Toledo strike of 1934? These are the unions, together with the in-
dustrial United Textile Workers of America, the industrial United
Mine Workers of America, the semi-industrial needle trades
unions, the closely federated marine unions on the Pacific Coast,
which wrote such brilliant pages of struggle into American labor
history in recent years; while the Molders Union, the Machinists
Union, the Patternmakers Union, the railroad craft unions, the
building trades craft unions and practically every single other
long-standing craft union took part in no struggles, or at best,
scattered and minor struggles, even though their members and
the unorganized masses in their own trades kept taking it on the
chin and demanding strike action.
Instead of having led struggles in their own trades, the big
shots in these craft unions tried to break the backs of the new
industrial unions in the mass production industries by making
grabs for their members and splitting them up. Sixteen crafts in
the metal trades went to divide up the Association of Oil Field,
Gas Well and Refinery Workers at the present time, to give one
example of such wolfishness. They are like hungry boarders
scrambling for the eats with their forks, but instead upsetting the
whole platter in their greed, so that nobody has anything.
Another example of such splitting was when the Montana cop-
per miners had decided on the industrial form of unionism as the
only form under which they could, and in this case actually did,
lick the powerful Anaconda Copper Co. (in the Butte district,
May, 1935 ) . But after the International Mine, Mill and Smelter
Workers (an industrial union) had fought the copper barons to
a standstill, the craft unions stepped in and signed some 13
separate agreements for 13 different craft unions in the building
and metal trades.
Against this policy of splitting, of tearing apart the ranks of
the A. F. of L. and the working class in general, the slogan "For
a United A. F. of L." must be raised, a slogan which the Com-
munist Party backs and actively fights for. "For a United A. F.
of L.", on a basis of "one shop, one industry, one union," plus a
fighting policy to gain the demands of the workers, and real
trade union democracy within the A. F. of L.
Haven't Even Organized Thetr Own Trades
Not only have the craft unions failed to organize the mass pro-
duction industries, but the plain fact is that they have failed to
organize the bulk of the workers in their own trades.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and here are
Number of members
in A. F.
workers in trade of L. craft unions,
A. F. of L.
Brick and stone masons,
Painters, glaziers —
Plumbers, gas &
steam fitters 237,813
tractor drivers 970,916
draymen, teamsters 111,178
Plasterers Union 35,300 180
Plumbers Union 45,000 340
Teamsters Union 82,000 1,370
* One vote for every 100 dues-paying members.
Craft unionism, together with a policy of playing ball with the
bosses, and gag-rule within the unions, therefore, has been an
obstacle to organizing the huge majority of workers even in the
particular crafts they cover, as these examples from the metal
trades, building trades, etc., show. It may be added that craft
unionism also has been an obstacle to organizing the huge ma-
jority of the workers in such industries in which mass production
is not so well developed, and where the trades still have a grip,
as transport, food, and the like, and has left large numbers un-
organized on the railroads. Not such a hot record, even on their
own "home grounds".
Union Scabbing on Union
One of the most disgusting and most vicious results of craft
unionism is the record of scabbery by A. F. of L. craft unions
against A. F. of L. craft unions. Such a spectacle is absolutely
impossible under industrial unionism and with rank-and-file con-
trol of the unions. It is the direct result of craft ideas, that the
craft union leaders constantly take advantage of the position of
each others' unions and of the unskilled, by making a bargain
for their own craft union at the expense of the rest. Such scabbery
is the direct result of craft unionism, under which the various
unions in the shop have agreements with the same employer, but
expiring at different dates, so that if one craft strikes, the others
cannot on the excuse that they are bound to the job by their
Let's hold our noses as the sickening pageant of scabbery re-
sulting from craft unionism, and the consequent splitting up of
the workers, goes by. It cannot be blamed on the membership
themselves; they don't like craft unionism; they have it forced
on them by policies which were already outliving their useful-
ness when Steve Brodie took a chance.
John Olchen, chairman of the trustees of the Cleveland Metal
Trades Council, a craft organization, member of Machinists Local
439, a craft union, gives his experience of craft unionism in
action. In 1915 he struck in Youngstown with 1,500 machinists.
The molders were ordered to remain at work. The scab machinists
used molds made by union molders. The strike was lost. A year
later the molders struck, on the expiring of their agreement, but
the machinists were ordered to scab. As a result, both strikes
were lost and both unions practically wiped out.
No wonder Olchen has had his bellyfull of craft unionism and
is strong for industrial unionism for the entire A. F. of L. !
In the big 1921 shop crafts strike, seven crafts tied up the
mechanical departments of all the railroads in the country. But
transportation kept right on: train crews, trackmen, clerks, teleg-
raphers stayed at work. The railroad companies had one or-
ganization, one center, one head, to combat the strike; the rail-
road workers were divided up into many unions with as many
sets of leaders, headquarters, dues systems, agreements, etc.
Scabbery of this sort, of craft union against craft union, has
happened innumerable times on building trades jobs. No won-
der: on one building job there may be as many as 20 different
agreements with 20 different business agents.
The only reason it's hard to give many examples of craft
union scabbing on craft union in the most recent years is because
the craft unions have ceased calling strikes altogether, except in
small and isolated cases. And in most of those cases the same
sickening story of scabbery, particularly in building trades
strikes, holds true.
But wait. There have been some strikes called by craft unions
in recent years. They were jurisdictional strikes— in which a craft
union called a strike, not against the boss, but against another
Paralysis by Jurisdictional Fights
And this brings to mind another one of the poisoned fruits of
craft unionism, jurisdictional disputes, in which the craft unions
battle each other, in some cases, in order to steal jobs away from
each other, or in other cases, to steal members from each other.
When it comes to fighting for relief jobs at union wages for the
unemployed, the craft union leaders are usually somewhere else.
When it comes to stealing jobs from other unions you'll find
them Johnnies-on-the-spot. When it comes to getting new mem-
bers by conducting a real campaign for organization of the
unorganized the craft union top leaders aren't around. When it
comes to getting a handful of new members by "swiping" them
from other unions, they're always willing. Let us see some ex-
amples of this method of dividing the ranks of the workers by
the craft unions.
The Tobacco Workers International Union has been able in
all its years of existence to organize only two of the cigarette
factories, the Axton-Fisher and Brown-Williamson plants in
Louisville. Even at that, the Tobacco Workers International has
had to divide 232 out of the 2,684 Brown-Williamson employees
up with 14 other craft unions. The Tobacco Workers International
had a contract with Axton-Fisher for 39 years, when, suddenly,
in 1936, the Machinists Union stepped in and demanded a con-
tract for 138 employees whom it claims in Brown-Williamson,
and the machine-fixers in Axton-Fisher, which means an attempt
to open up a war between the craft unions in these plants.
The Glass Blowers Union has fought the Flint Glass Workers
Union for control of neon signs. The Teamsters Union fought the
Railway Clerks for control of the employees in the vehicle de-
partment of the American Railway Express. The Flint Glass
Workers Union has fought the Machinists Union for control of
the machinists working in glass factories. Naturally, the employ-
ers sit back and smile. Instead of fighting for better conditions
and wages these unions keep fighting each other.
The main business of the Building Trades Department of the
A. F. of L. has been concerned with jurisdictional disputes
between the unions. As far back as 1918 these jurisdictional
scraps got so sharp that an attempt was made to work out a
solution by setting up a National Board of Jurisdictional Awards,
composed of men from the A. F. of L. Building Trades Depart-
ment and the American Institute of Architects. But it didn't last
long; in a year the Carpenters Union quit the Board because an
award went against it. When this Board broke apart, attempts
were made to form local boards to settle jurisdictional disputes;
but certain building trades unions wouldn't take part on the
grounds, as one of them stated, that "no two local boards would
settle the questions in exactly the same way". The truth was
evident. The building trades craft union leaders saw the juris-
dictional disputes not only preventing the organization of the
majority of building workers, but also bringing about the loss
of members already in these unions. Still they weren't interested
in putting a stop to these fatal inter-union fights by means of a
closely-knit federation, leading to amalgamation of the unions
in the building trades industry, through which they could get
down to the real business of organizing the hundreds of thousands
of unorganized building trades workers. So the same warfare
between the building unions goes on today.
The craft union leaders often hate each other so bitterly that
when the plumbers, painters and molders tried to get admission
into the Railway Employees Department of the A. F. of L., con-
sisting of nine craft unions, they were turned down, "to avoid
The Ambition of a Craft Union Leader
For the past few years Tobin and the rest of the top leaders
of the Teamsters Union seem to have had one all-consuming am-
bition. Has this ambition been to organize the more than one mil-
lion teamsters and chauffeurs in the United States? Wrong! Their
sole ambition has been to snatch away from the Brewery Work-
ers (an industrial union) all the drivers employed in breweries.
The Brewery Workers Union naturally has resisted this; they
don't want the forces of the brewery workers split up. The A. F.
of L. Executive Council has ordered the brewery workers to sur-
render the drivers to the Teamsters Union ; they even were respon-
sible for the lockout of the brewery drivers in some of the plants
in Washington and Oregon, because these drivers want to stick
with the other brewery workers in an industrial union. The mere
fact that a referendum in April, 1934, held by direction of the A.
F. of L. in very brewery in the country resulted in 24,161 votes
for the industrial Brewery Workers Union and only 170 against
doesn't mean a thing to the A. F. of L. craft union leaders.
Scabbing by union against union in strikes, the calling of
strikes against other unions instead of against the employers and
for improvement of wages and conditions, a mad scramble for
jurisdiction over jobs and for who shall control a handful of
members instead of going out and organizing the many millions
still unorganized— these are the miserable results of craft union-
ism and its division of the workers.
Industrial Unionism in Action
Is this possible under industrial unionism? Let's look at a
typical strike of an industrial union and see. In September, 1935,
the soft coal miners wanted a wage increase. They struck for it—
they went on strike 400,000 strong, tying up almost every soft
coal mine in the country. There was no scabbing of a coal cutter
against a mine electrician in this strike; nor of mine carpenters
against slate-pickers. They all went out, to a man. Why? Because
they were members of an industrial union, the United Mine
Workers of America, embracing every man who works in and
around the mine. And as a result the soft-coal miners won a 10
per cent increase. And in April, 1934, by a strike threat, this in-
dustrial union won the seven-hour day.
Or take the marine industry on the Pacific Coast, where, as a
step toward one industrial union for the marine industry, long-
shoremen, ships' clerks, seamen, masters, mates and pilots, marine
engineers, marine firemen, oilers and wipers, marine cooks and
stewards, and other unions working in connection with the ship-
ping industry formed the closely knit Pacific Coast Maritime
Federation. Demand after demand has been won for these unions
because each marine union had all of the others behind it. The
members of the International Seamens Union on the Pacific Coast
have won a wage scale of $62.50 a month, while the Atlantic
Coast seamen, not part of such a federation, work under a lower
scale of $52.50 a month. One would suppose that the staunch
advocates of craft unionism in the A. F. of L. leadership might
learn something from these facts. They not only learn nothing,
but they hate the guts of the Pacific Coast marine workers for
having accomplished so much through solidarity, and therefore
they order the charter of the Sailors Union of the Pacific revoked
and a new dual union established in its place. Talk about splitting
the labor movement!
Making More Money — For the Bosses
The top leaders of the craft unions have shown great willing-
ness to allow warfare between the unions to go on. But they don't
show a willingness to fight the employers. Quite the opposite;
they seem to prefer collaborating with the bosses, working hand
in hand with them, even going to the extent of working out
schemes by which the employers' profits can be increased at the
expense of the employees. Here are some examples of it:
The International Printing Pressmens Union maintains a spe-
cial bureau to study methods of improving the processes of print-
ing and engraving, which means methods of speed-up and elimi-
nating thousands of workers from their jobs.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, in com-
bination with the electrical contractors, has set up machinery for
establishing standards of work in the industry and for settling
disputes without recourse to strikes.
And who does not know of the Baltimore and Ohio Plan,
originated in 1923 by the railroad shop craft unions, whereby the
unions cooperate with the management on that railroad to speed
up and cheapen the cost of production. Shortly after the plan was
adopted, 5,000 men in the B. and 0. shops were permanently laid
off through efficiency schemes. In the spring of 1934, through a
drive to get more work in the B. and 0. shops, 1,500 were laid
off. The plan has been adopted in essence by the Chicago and
Northwestern, the Milwaukee, Canadian National and other rail-
roads. There are many cases of industrial or semi-industrial
unions, such as in the United Textile Workers and the Amalga-
mated Clothing Workers, where such schemes are practiced. The
leaders of these unions who fight for industrial unionism must
realize that this only weakens the fight for industrial unionism
and the organization of the unorganized.
Organize the Negro Workersl
Craft unionism has not only resulted in splitting the ranks of
the workers generally, but the top leaders of the craft unions have
been the leaders in splitting the ranks of the workers as between
white and Negro workers. It is in the craft unions especially that
the Negro worker has been met with the color bar. Many of the
craft union leaders have actively fostered the practice of prevent-
ing the Negro workers from obtaining skilled positions. In their
apprenticeship systems young Negroes have strictly been barred,
closing up the avenues leading toward the holding of skilled jobs.
Not content with barring Negroes from membership in many
unions, not satisfied with keeping them from holding skilled jobs,
the craft union leaders have made little or no attempt to organize
the Negro workers generally. In most cases where Negro workers
spontaneously organized themselves, they have been isolated in
little federal locals of "laborers", and given no attention there-
It was only in October, 1935, that the Brotherhood of Sleeping
Car Porters, consisting entirely of Negro workers, was given an
international charter. The Pullman porters were kept out of the
A. F. of L. for four years, and then given federal local charters
in 1929. Craft unions that never lifted a finger to organize the
porters claimed the dues, and on the excuse of these jurisdictional
claims, the A. F. of L. Executive Council help up the porters'
national charter for six years. One of the craft unions which
claimed the porters' dues, the Pullman Car Conductors, itself had
a color bar, and offered to organize the pullman porters as a
lower caste within the union, on condition that no porter could
rise to the rank of pullman conductor. The result of craft union-
ism and its accompanying policies is that only about 50,000 out
of the million or more Negroes employed in American industry
are organized into the A. F. of L.
In permitting jim-crowism in its locals and allowing the prac-
lice of keeping Negroes out of the skilled jobs in southern cotton
mills, an industrial union like the United Textile Workers, even
though it fights for industrial unionism, also must stand guilty of
helping to split the ranks of the workers.
Craft unionism has also left the huge majority of the millions
of young men and women workers in the lurch, without trade
union protection. Women and young workers do not work in large
numbers in the strongest crafts and trades which the A. F. of L.
Council considers its ''backbone", and little or no attempt has
been made to organize those industries where large numbers of
young workers and women work. In those cases where large num-
bers of young workers and women have been organized, it has
been done by unions industrial or semi-industrial in form, like
the textile workers and the needle trades unions.
Poisoned Fruits of Craft Unions
These are the fruits of craft unionism, of a class-collaboration
policy and lack of trade union democracy in the A. F. of L. :
splitting the ranks of the workers; leaving the vast majority of
them, both in the mass production industries and in the trades,
unorganized and at the mercy of the employers 1 attacks; scabbery
of unions against unions in strikes; fierce warfare between unions;
working with the employers to dope out new schemes of elim-
inating hundreds of thousands of workers from their jobs; setting
up bars between Negro and white workers; leaving the bulk of
ihe women workers unorganized.
Despite all this, which has left the unions pale shadows of the
powerful bodies they could be, the A. F. of L. Executive Council
persists in basing policies affecting 30,000,000 workers in the
United States on the antiquated Scranton Declaration of 1901.
This Declaration itself went back to conditions of the eighteen-
sixties, seventies, and eighties, and compels the A. F. of L. to be
shackled by strict adherence to organization based on craft lines
throughout the years, come what may in the shape of mechaniza-
tion of industry wiping out craft lines, in the form of huge trusts
dominating industry, of powerful open-shop bosses' organizations.
Fight for Industrial Unionism Not New
The present great and ever-growing demand within the A. F.
of L. for industrial unionism is not the first such demand. The
unions were being enfeebled right along by the effects of craft
unionism. As far back as 1903, reactionary old Sam Gompers
himself said that "scarcely an affiliated organization is not en-
gaged in a desperate fight with one or more other unions", and
that unless they changed their course the unions would destroy
Such self-destruction — in the face of the ever-increasing attacks
on wages and conditions by the employers who were steadily
growing stronger, integrating mines, mills and plants into giant
holding corporations with billion-dollar financial interests, taking
control of the main industries through subsidiary corporations
and seats on boards of directors— such self-destruction was tragic.
Trade union members who had sacrificed, and were willing to
sacrifice considerably more, for their unions began to press hard
for a change in the structure of the A. F. of L. away from the
hide-bound craft lines, on the basis of plant and industrial unions.
In the years immediately after the World War, when the big
corporations, bloated with war-time profits, began to launch plans
to take away the hard-fought gains made by organized labor dur-
ing the war, the craft form of unionism was more seriously than
ever before felt to be a handicap for the workers. The 39th Annual
Convention of the A. F. of L. in 1919 found the craft union lead-
ers hard pressed by the demand for industrial unionism. In the
great 1919 strike wave, craft unionism was the main cause of
the loss of strikes, as it was in the ensuing railway and printing
trades strikes. In 1922, 23 and 24 agitation, led by the Communist
Party and the Trade Union Educational League for amalgamation
of the craft unions into industrial unions, assumed large propor-
tions, especially making itself felt at the 43rd Annual Convention
of the A. F, of L. in 1923.
In the following years, the deadly toll of craft unionism began
to be felt so sharply that no one could fail to notice it. As a re-
sult of the warfare between craft unions, as a result of the no-
strike policy, the policy of playing ball with the employers, the
policy of expulsion of members who had the guts to say what they
felt on the union floor, the membership of the A. F. of L. declined
from its highest point of 4,078,740 in 1920 to about two and a
half million in 1929.
The result was that at the 1929 Annual Convention a resolu-
tion was introduced for the appointment of a committee of 15 to
formulate a plan for reducing the number of international unions
and for consolidating them. The stodgy craft union leaders suc-
ceeded in voting down this expression of the sentiment of more
and more of the membership. The craft union leaders reaffirmed
the Scranton Declaration of 1901 as the expression of the A. F.
of L. policy — on the principle of the fellow who says, ''What was
good enough for my great-great-grandfather is good enough for
Communists Played Big Part in Fight
The fight for industrial unionism in this period was guided by
the fighting Left-wing elements in the various A. F. of L. unions,
marshalled by the Trade Union Educational League and by the
Communists whose aim in the trade unions was to lead the work-
ers in the struggle for industrial unionism, amalgamation of the
various crafts in each industry, rank-and-file control of the unions,
a policy of real struggle against the employers for improvement
of wages and conditions instead of boot-licking on the part of
the top leadership of the A. F. of L. These fighting elements
formed influential movements for amalgamation in the railroad
industry, the metal trades, the building trades, etc. Later, when
the fighting independent unions of the Trade Union Unity League
were formed on an industrial basis, the example they set of soli-
darity in strike action, of rank-and-file control of the unions, of
a policy of fighting the bosses for what the workers wanted in-
stead of trying to lick their boots — this example had a great
effect on the A. F. of L. membership in increasing their disgust
with the effects of the craft union policy.
When, for the sake of the unity of the working class, the Trade
Union Unity League dissolved its unions, its members entered into
the unions of the A. F. of L., and brought to the welcoming A.
F. of L. membership the fruits of their experience in hard-fought
struggles against the employers. Inside the A. F. of L. they con-
tinued to be among the staunchest fighters for industrial unionism,
for trade union democracy, and for a policy of struggle against
the employers, instead of palship by the top leaders with the
The Importance of the Fight Today
However, never before has the struggle for making the A. F.
of L. into a powerful, unified weapon against the employers'
attacks been so great as now. And here are the reasons for the
intense seething going on in the A. F. of L., with the eyes of the
entire working class on the struggle for a powerful A. F. of L.
based on industrial unions.
For one thing, following the introduction of the N.R.A., the
craft union policy was shown up by the great upheaval of the
workers during the 1933-34 strike movement and the great de-
sire for unionism expressed the determination of the American
working class once and for all to take a fighting stand against
the repeated wage cuts, loss of conditions, layoffs, etc. This
time, the workers in the big mass production industries — alumi-
num, automobiles, rubber, steel, for example, who had been
absolutely ignored by the craft-ridden A. F. of L. leadership
— determined to take matters into their own hands, and organ-
ized hundreds of locals by themselves. They took part in some
of the best-fought strikes ever known in American history. In
most cases where the craft unions showed any interest at all in
these workers, it was either to try to settle their strikes behind their
backs or to come in during or after the strikes and attempt to
split up these fighting, industrial locals among themselves. The
great fighting spirit of the workers following the N.R.A. showed
that if the A. F. of L. had had a policy of industrial unionism
and a policy of struggle against the employers, from ten to a
score of millions of these workers could have been organized, so
anxious were they to fight and to have the benefits of trade union
For another thing, company unionism began to grow by leaps
and bounds, under Roosevelt, and the craft union policy could do
little against it in the industries where it was especially rampant,
—steel, radio, electrical apparatus, oil refining, chemicals, auto-
mobiles, etc. In these industries the only A. F. of L. organizations
which existed, if there were any, were a few small crafts, like
bricklayers in oil refineries, or a molders local here and there
in an electrical apparatus plant, and the like. It is significant
lhat an industrial union like the United Mine Workers of America
was able to lick the company unions to a frazzle in nearly every
case, organizing nearly 500,000 miners into an industrial union.
Fight Against Fascism Needs Unified Working Class
Then, fascist tendencies, like the Liberty League, Coughlin,
Hearst, blue, black, brown and many other colored shirt move-
ments began to raise their ugly heads, one of their avowed aims
being to smash trade unionism, as the fascists did in Germany,
Italy, and Austria. What chance has a trade union movement, en-
feebled and torn asunder by craft unionism and weakened by an
anti-struggle policy — what chance has such a trade union move-
ment against fascist movements which can develop into organiza-
tions as powerful as in Germany, Italy and Austria, if the working
class doesn't unite to stop them? This fact set millions of workers
thinking, and that's one of the big reasons why the demand for
industrial unionism has become greater now than ever before.
To the three and a half million workers inside the A. F. of L.,
and to the nearly 30,000,000 other workers watching them in their
fight for industrial unionism, it's a bread and butter proposition.
The protection of powerful unions, industrial in form, demo-
cratically controlled, with a policy of fighting the bosses with
a determined front, would mean not only a halt to the attacks of
the employers, but a chance to take the offensive and get back
what has been taken away from the workers in the shape of wage
cuts, hacking away at conditions, etc.
The rumbling in the ranks of the A. F. of L. that foreshadowed
the present big fight for industrial unionism was felt at the 1934
Convention of the A. F. of L., held in San Francisco (the scene,
a few months earlier, of the historic general strike). At that
Convention 14 resolutions for industrial unionism were intro-
duced. In an attempt to stave off the revolt they felt coming, the
A. F. of L. Executive Council pretended to agree to allow the
unions in at least a few of the mass production industries —
automobiles and rubber — the status of international indus-
trial unions. As for taking any steps toward industrial unionism
in general, that was strictly taboo to these gentlemen. They were
forced to talk glibly of organization campaigns for the steel, auto
and other mass production industries, which they later never even
attempted to carry out. Instead of organizing the steel industry,
they allowed the Tighe machine to expel those leaders and locals
of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers
who wanted the campaign for organization of the steel industry
carried out. Instead of organizing the mass production industries
they busied themselves after the 1934 A. F. of L. Convention in
scrambling to divide among the craft unions whatever organiza-
tion the workers themselves had been able to bring about in the
mass production industries.
The Lewis Bloc at the 1935 Convention
The 1935 Convention in Atlantic City showed that a great
movement for industrial unionism had begun to sweep through
the ranks of the A. F. of L., a movement of such determination
that international union leaders like John L. Lewis, president of
the United Mine Workers; Charles P. Howard, president of the
International Typographical Union (a craft union) ; Sidney Hill-
man, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers; David
Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers
Union; Thomas P. McMahon, president of the United Textile
Workers; Harvey C. Fremming, president of the Oil Field, Gas
Well and Refinery Workers; Max Zaritsky, president of the Cap
and Millinery Department, United Hatters, Cap and Millinery
Workers Union ; Thomas H. Brown, International Union of Mine,
Mill and Smelter Workers, and other higher officials found it a
good idea to become leaders of the movement for industrial
Lewis and Howard led a powerful minority at the Atlantic
City Convention in the fight for industrial unionism in the mass
production industries. A minority report signed by five members
of the Resolutions Committee, including Howard, Dubinsky and
Lewis, pointed out that "the time has arrived when common sense
demands the organization policies of the American Federation of
Labor must be molded to meet present-day needs". Showing that
in its 55 years of existence the A. F, of L. has enrolled only about
three and a half million members out of thirty-nine million organ-
izable workers, the minority resolution stated that "we refuse to
accept existing conditions as evidence that the organization pol-
icies of the American Federation of Labor have been successful".
The resolution further stated that "in those industries where
ihe work performed by a majority of the workers is of such
nature that it might fall within the jurisdictional claim of more
than one craft union, or no established craft union, it is declared
that industrial organization is the only form that will be accept-
able to the workers or adequately meet their needs". The resolu-
tion went on to show how fears of jurisdictional claims dividing
the workers and preventing their unity had prevented organiza-
tion of these workers to an\ large extent.
Why Not Industrial Form for All Unions?
A seriously weak point in the minority resolution was this:
"It is not the intention of this declaration of policy to permit the
taking away from National or International craft unions of any
part of their present membership, or potential membership in
establishments where the dominant factor is skilled craftsmen
coming under a proper definition of the jurisdiction of such Na-
tional or International Unions." This means that the curse of
division into many craft unions, the curse of scabbery of craft
union on craft union in strikes on the railroad, in the building
trades, printing trades, etc., would continue, that jurisdictional
fights sapping the life of the A. F. of L. would go on as merrily
The Committee for Industrial Organization
The minority resolution on industrial unionism was defeated
at the craft-dominated A. F. of L. Convention by 18,025 votes
against 10,924. About a month after the Convention, in Novem-
ber, 1935, a Committee for Industrial Organization was formed,
with Lewis, Howard, Hillman, Dubinsky, McMahon, Fremming,
Zaritsky and Brown as its members and John Brophy, of the
LInited Mine Workers, as its Director. It aims to "bring the unor-
ganized into the American Federation of Labor ... by carrying
on education within the Federation for industrial unionism, in
order to win over a majority, and by giving advice and help to
groups of newly organized workers in the mass production in-
Some of the strong arguments against craft unionism and for
industrial unionism made in the speeches and literature of the
Committee for Industrial Organization are here given:
"There are forces at work in this country that would wipe out, if
they could, the labor movement of America, just as it was wiped out
in Germany or just as it was wiped out in Italy.
"There are those of us who believe that the best security against
that menace and against that trend and against that tendency is
a more comprehensive and more powerful labor movement. We be-
lieve that the way should be paved so that those millions of workers
who are clamoring for admission into our councils might be made
welcome upon a basis that they understand and that they believe is
suited to their requirements. And in consequence of that we are
assembled in this Convention with the eyes of these millions of
workers upon the Convention to decide this momentous question.
Methinks that upon this decision of this Convention may rest the
future of the American Federation of Labor, because upon this de-
cision will rest the question of whether the American Federation of
Labor may be forged into an instrumentality that will render service
to all of the workers or whether the American Federation of Labor
and its leaders will rest content in that comfortable situation that
has prevailed through the years, where they are only required to
render service to a paltry three or four or five million of the forty-
odd million wage workers of this country, who, after all, want to he
union men." (Speech of John L. Lewis at 1935 A. F. of L. Conven-
tion in support of the Minority Resolution on Industrial Unionism.)
"Our own experience in the headwear industry is a striking illus-
I ration of the dangers to which our movement is exposed when
several organizations claim or hold jurisdiction in the same field.
While these jurisdictional claims occupied our attention many thous-
ands of workers remained unorganized. The evolution of our industry
compelled us to recognize that our own methods must be changed
if we are not to become impotent as an instrument for the protection
of the workers employed in the industry. It was only when this fact
was recognized that we were able to sacrifice charter rights and
surrender conflicting claims, and begin the work of organization, with-
out regard to jurisdiction. As a result, thousands of new members
have been enrolled in our organization." (Letter to William Green
by Max Zaritsky, President, Cap and Millinery Dept., United Hatters,
Cap and Millinery Workers International Union.)
"The American Federation of Labor has not done anything with
:he problem [of organizing the steel workers — Editor \. The Executive
Council report says that it has done so because there has been turmoil
in the Amalgamated Association, an organization of six or eight
thousand men. Well, there are four or five hundred thousand outside
of it clamoring to join an industrial form of union. We are assured
the way is now open for an aggressive campaign of organization in
the steel industry. What kind of a campaign — a campaign to organ-
ize them in fifty-seven varieties of organizations? You ought to know
without my telling you how effective that kind of campaign will be,
and with several hundred thousands of members of the United Mine
Workers of America who understand the position of interests of
that character and who also understand the practical problems of
organization in these big industries, they know that the officers of
the American Federation of Labor might as well sit down in their
easy chairs and twiddle their thumbs and take a nap as to conclude
that any results will come from that kind of organization in the
iron and steel industry. . . .
"If you go in there with your craft union they will mow you down
like the Italian machine guns mow down the Ethiopians in the war \
now going on in that country; they will mow down, and laugh
while they are doing it, and ridicule your lack of business acumen,
ridicule your lack of ordinary business sagacity in running your own
affairs, because of the caviling in your own councils and the feeble-
ness of your methods." (Speech of Lewis at the 1935 A. F. of L.
Feeble Arguments by Craft Union Advocates
These are strong indictments of the great and tragic harm that
has been dealt to the American working class by the evils arising
out of the antiquated craft-union system, but they do not go far
enough, as we shall see a little later.
The answers to these arguments by the enemies of industrial
unionism, at the Atlantic City Convention and since, are feeble
in their defense of craft unionism. The enemies of industrial
unionism among the craft union leaders made no attempt to
deny any of the arguments that crafts are disappearing; that
mechanization, specialization, mass production in industry as it
is today make industrial unionism necessary (as has been shown
above) ; that the trustification of industry has placed enormous
power into the hands of the bankers and capitalists who control
the major industries, and that a system of unionism which di-
vides the workers, as does craft unionism, is ineffective against
such enormous power. They are not able to deny that craft union-
ism has been responsible for the scabbery of union against union,
for bitter fights over jurisdiction between unions, which has par-
alyzed the trade unions in face of the sweeping attacks of the
The majority report of the Resolutions Committee at the At-
lantic City Convention could only answer the arguments against
craft unionism made by the industrial union advocates, by rein-
dorsing the craft unionists' declaration at the San Francisco Con-
vention in 1934 to the effect that "Experience has shown that craft
unionism is most effective in protecting the welfare and advancing
the interests of the workers. . . ."
Let us see. We have mentioned the gains made by the indus-
trial United Mine Workers in the past two years. Let's see what
the craft railroad unions did, in the same period. Wage cuts of
$200,000,000 were made on the railroads and extended two years.
The longshoremen on the West Coast, protected and aided by the
Maritime Federation, of which they are a member, won a six-hour
day through their July, 1934, strike; the railroad unions are still
finagling around Washington, trying to get the six-hour day
through legislation. In the railroad industry, 800,000 are out of
work, while the union leaders stand helpless before the federal
coordinator who O.K's a plan of consolidating the roads — a plan
which will throw tens of thousands more out of work. On the
Mobile and Ohio Railroad, the national wage agreement was
violated for two years before the grand lodge officials found it
necessary to take a strike ballot. Instead of calling a strike they
accepted an Emergency Board Ruling allowing the railroad to
keep 6% per cent of all back wages and extending a 3^ per cent
cut in addition to the 10 per cent cut prevailing on all roads. On
the Chicago and Northwestern, basic changes in working rules, for
the worse, were authorized by the Unions. These are just a few
examples of the "effectiveness" of craft unionism in protecting
the welfare and advancing the interests of the workers. The fact is
that the only definite gain made by the railroad workers in recent
years was through the Railroad Retirement Act (pension act),
the fight for which was led by a Pension Association which cut
across all craft lines and even bucked the opposition of many of
the craft union heads.
The Joke on Frey
The same sort of an argument was raised by Frey, head of the
Metal Trades Department, who stated that "if an organization
wants to convince me that the form they have adopted is more
effective than my own International Molders Union they will
have to show me that they have made more progress." He got the
answer he deserved in the statement by Philip Murray of the
United Miners, who told that among the 100,000 or so steel
workers in the Pittsburgh area from which he comes, the Molders
Union had not one member. Frey ignored the fact that the
Molders Union membership is on record for industrial unionism.
Another feeble argument the craft union leaders gave against
industrial unionism was the fact that such industrial organiza-
tions as the American Railway Union and the Western Federa-
tion of Miners have gone out of existence. But they ignored the
fact that the American Railway Union was scabbed out of exist-
ence by the A. F. of L. craft union leaders; that these organiza-
tions mentioned also fought some of the most valiant battles in
American labor history and through those battles won much of
what the American workers have today. They tried to pull a fast
one by not mentioning the fact that such industrial unions as
the United Mine Workers, the United Textile Workers, the semi-
industrial needle trades unions are far from having disappeared
off the map.
The craft union leaders don't come out with the real reasons
why they want to hang on to the craft union system. They're
afraid, for one thing, that by bringing into the A. F. of L. the
masses of unorganized, semi-skilled and unskilled workers, and
through industrial unionism they will lose control of the unions
and will have to give place to more progressive leaders. They're
afraid they will lose their fat-salaried positions. They're afraid the
nice friendships they have built up with open-shop employers,
bankers, and corrupt labor-hating politicians of the Republican
and Democratic Parties might be cut off if the unions became
unified, fighting organizations. These are the reasons they haven't
wanted to organize the millions of unorganized — their interests
are not with the working class, but on the bosses' side of the
fence. The A. F. of L. Executive Council has even rejected the
offer of $500,000 made by the Committee for Industrial Organ-
ization to aid in organizing the steel workers!
There remained only one other answer for the craft union
leaders. And that answer they gave when William Green and
the Executive Council, unable to meet the strong arguments of
the Committee for Industrial Organization, ordered the C.I.O. to
disband on pain of severe action. Reports are that the Executive
Council will go to the length of splitting the A. F. of L. by
expelling those unions which support the Committee. Yes, these
so-called labor leaders would split the A. F. of L. rather than
adopt forms and methods which would unify the working class
by enabling the A. F. of L. to organize the big majority of the
C.I.O. Doesn't Go Far Enough
The arguments of the Lewis industrial union bloc are powerful,
and none but the blind or those who wilfully refuse to see the
30,000,000 American workers organized can fail to support them.
But arguments like these should be followed to their logical con-
clusion, which the Committee for Industrial Organization fails
to do. It does not see that the question of industrial union ism
affects not only the mass production industries, but every industry,
for craft unionism, as we have shown, has paralyzed the trade
union movement in all industries. The C.I.O. does not see that
without a fighting policy by the A. F. of L. and without trade
union democracy, industrial unionism would be weakened as a
weapon against the employers' attacks.
The Committee for Industrial Organization weakens its own
fight when its members repeatedly stale that "The suitability of
existing craft unions in the industries where skilled labor is pre-
dominant is not called into question" (statement by Sidney Hill-
man of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers in reply to Green's
order for the disbandment of the C.I.O.), or, "there is no attempt
or even thought to take advantage of or destroy any satisfactorily
existing form of craft organization wherever they have been able
to establish themselves in accordance with their policy" (speech
of Lewis at Atlantic City Convention).
Those industries in which the craft unions have established
themselves have been the scenes of the most vicious scabbery of
union against union and the most bitter self-destroying jurisdic-
tional fights between the unions. It is an elementary task of the
workers in those unions (like transport, food, building trades,
printing trades, on the railroads, etc.) to strive toward industrial
unions, through steps toward them in the shape of closely knit
federations, partial amalgamations (as is at present desired by
the trainmen, switchmen and conductors on the railroads),
through joint agreements to expire at the same time, joint strike
movements and the like.
Trade Union Democracy
The Lewis industrial union bloc also as yet hasn't been able to
see as far ahead as growing sections of the rank-and-file member-
ship of the A. F. of L. as to the true implications of the fight for
industrial unionism. The members of the Committee for Indus-
trial Organization see the fight only as a question of a change in
structure of the A. F. of L., and at that, as a change in structure
only for a part of the A. F. of L. (only where the mass produc-
tion industries are concerned). But they don't see, as the great
masses of the rank and file do, that hand in hand with the fight
for industrial unionism, goes the need for genuine trade union
democracy, which means the holding of conventions regularly
by all the unions, freedom of discussion for all members of the
unions, the democratic election of all officers, the right of all
members of the unions to run for and hold offices, the right of
all A. F. of L. members to hold any political belief they desire,
the use of democratic methods so that the membership can decide
on all questions affecting the unions they sacrifice so much for.
It means cleaning house in the unions — doing away with all forms
of racketeering and gangsterism which still hold sway in many
sections of the labor movement.
The leaders of the industrial union bloc themselves now feel
the results of high-handed bossism and lack of trade union democ-
racy in the way in which Green and the Executive Council refuse,
because they are unable, to argue the question of industrial union-
ism in any logical way, but resort instead to the method of
autocracy, ordering the Committee for Industrial Organization to
disband; resorting to threats, hinting at expulsion of those unions
fighting for industrial unionism; sending letters, as Green did,
to 1,354 local and federal unions directly affiliated to the A. F.
of L., to all state federations and to 730 central labor bodies,
ordering them not to have anything to do with the perfectly
legal Committee for Industrial Organization. This is the same
sort of tactic which is used against Communists and other fighting
elements in the trade unions (and which Lewis himself has used
repeatedly in the U.M.W.A.) because they speak out for a policy
of struggle for the unions.
Because there is no real trade union democracy in the Carpen-
ters Union, for instance, the fighters for industrial unionism saw
the spectacle of Hutcheson, the leader of the Carpenters Union,
speaking and voting at the 1935 A. F. of L. Convention against
industrial unionism in the name of 200,000 carpenters, even
though he was speaking and voting against the real wishes of
The union leaders who are at the head of the fight for indus-
trial unionism can see attempts at discussion in favor of indus-
trial unionism being choked off by gag methods in the craft
unions. There is little question but that the bulk of the craft
union membership would vote overwhelmingly for industrial
unionism if given the chance. If the fight for industrial unionism
is to be won, it must be carried into every craft union, and the
members of the craft unions must be shown a real example of
genuine trade union democracy by the industrial unions which
make up the Committee for Industrial Organization. If, for
example, at the 1936 Convention of the industrial United Mine
Workers of America, John L. Lewis had been one of the strongest
supporters of the right of the miners to elect their own district
officials, what a further strengthening of the fight for industrial
unionism that would have meant!
John L. Lewis further weakened the fight for industrial union-
ism when he nominated the reactionary clique headed by Green
back into office at the 1935 A. F. of L. Convention. As long as
this clique heads the A. F. of L., every real attempt to organize
the unorganized will be seriously hampered, for the Green clique
does not want to organize the unorganized.
A Class Struggle Policy Is Vital
The Committee for Industrial Organization bases its fight for
industrial unions, and correctly so, on the fact that this will unify
the ranks of the working class and will enable the A. F. of L.
to organize the 30,000,000 unorganized workers in the United
States. But these workers, so desperate, are raring to go for
real struggle against the employers, as was shown on innumerable
occasions in the past few years, when they struck without waiting
for the sanction of the leading officials, when these officials re-
fused to give such sanction, or when they struck on numberless
occasions spontaneously. The Committee for Industrial Organ-
ization must come to these unorganized workers, offering them an
A. F. of L. policy of class struggle, a policy of fighting for the
workers' demands. By not seeing that the fight for industrial
unionism is closely connected with the need of a class struggle
policy, the C.I.O. greatly weakens the struggle for industrial
The masses of workers in the A. F. of L. not only want, through
industrial unionism, to make the A. F. of L. a solid, united weapon
against the bosses' attacks, but they want an end to the policy
of class collaboration, of friendship for the bosses on the part
of the A. F. of L. leaders instead of a fighting policy.
industrial Unionism and the Farmer-Labor Party
The Committee for Industrial Organization is talking common
sense when it points out that the workers nowadays must face
powerful financial interests and powerfully organized employers'
organizations, and that this in itself is a strong argument for
industrial unionism. But it is not only the powerful organiza-
tions of the employers that the unions now face on the picket
line. They face terror at the hands of the Republicans and Demo-
cratic politicians controlling the government, who are ready at
the drop of a hat to send police against strikers, to order out
the militia and to declare martial law in order to smash any
struggle of the workers.
We see a Republican governor doing this in California; a
Democratic governor doing it in Indiana or Kentucky.
We see Democratic and Republican judges handing out in-
junctions right and left against unions.
We see so-called investigations of rackets, supposed to gel aftei
the gangster mobs, turning into attempts to discredit the unions
as a step toward crushing them.
We see more terror against strikers under the Roosevelt admin-
istration, which Lewis had the U.M.W.A. Convention endorse in
1936, than ever before.
We saw Roosevelt and his Labor Boards hand the auto work-
ers over to the company unions. We saw the Department of
Justice under Roosevelt let the Weirton Steel, the Budd Body,
and a host of other open shop corporations get away with murder
despite decisions of the N.R.A. Labor Boards.
The C.I.O. states it wants to see the unorganized organized,
and that's why it favors industrial unionism. The members of
the C.I.O. must begin to see that the organization of the unorgan-
ized is going to meet the resistance of the Republican and Demo-
cratic politicians who use the police force, the militia, and
injunctions against the workers. That sort of business wouldn't
go on for one second if the workers elected officials of their own
to governmental positions, if the workers elected Farmer-Labor
The old-time craft union leaders hob-nob with the Republican
and Democratic politicians while the latter order strikers shot
down. The leaders of the industrial union bloc must be made to
see that by failing to cast overboard their ties with these poli-
ticians they hurt the cause of industrial unionism.
The Communists point out that the endorsement of Roosevelt
by the U.M.W.A. Convention therefore seriously weakened the
fight for industrial unionism. The Communists, supporting to
the limit the fight for industrial unionism, will also, in the most
comradely manner but firmly, try to do everything in their power
to win the miners, and all the trade unions, behind the Farmer-
Labor Party, which so many locals, central labor bodies, and
even state federations and some internationals, have endorsed.
The Communists back the fight for industrial unionism to the
fullest extent because it is a progressive step for the A. F. of L,
But they point out that industrial unionism will be weakened
in its effectiveness as a weapon in unifying the workers against
the employers unless genuine trade union democracy is established
in the A. F. of L., unless a fighting policy of class struggle is
adopted, unless the unions rally behind and become the back-
bone of a Farmer-Labor Party which will elect real representa-
tives of the workers to political office. The "reward-your-friend-
punish-your enemy" policy of supporting the candidates of the
Republican and Democratic Parties is as much of a relic of the
"dear-departed" days of yesteryear as is the craft union idea.
Industrial unionism means more bread on the table of every
worker, and more than bread. The well-being of every worker
in the country is involved in the fight for industrial unionism.
It means better clothing on the children's backs; it means a chance
to take the whole family to a show more frequently (and millions
of workers never get that chance). It means the organization of
the unorganized ; it means a successful fight for the 30-hour week ;
for unemployment insurance. It's vital if company unionism is
to be abolished; it's indispensible in order to buck the back-
breaking speedup system. Industrial unionism with trade union
democracy and a fighting policy would enable the unions to walk
up to the employers and talk turkey to them. With the unions
solidly united, instead of divided, the employers would sing an
entirely different tune when workers ask for wage increases.
If Hitlerism, if any form of fascism is to be stopped in this
country, the greatest solidarity and unity of the unions is re-
quired. A powerful front of everyone who hates the tyranny of
fascism — a might People's Front — is needed for that task, and
a strong Farmer-Labor Party, as a step toward that People's Front
—a Farmer-Labor Party based first of all on solid, industrial
Fascism crushed the trade unions in Germany, Italy, Austria.
The French fascists were hell-bent on crushing the French trade
unions. But in France a mighty People's Front was built up
with the trade unions in the foreground of the People's Front
there. In the face of the fascist menace the trade unions in
France have been merging themselves into strong induslual
unions. The result is that the French fascists have been taking
one whipping after another and haven't made the headway the)
expected. That's the kind of treatment we must dish out to the
Liberty League (with Morgan, du Pont, General Motors and other
open shoppers behind it) . That's the kind of treatment for Hearst
and the rest of the would-be Hitlers in this country.
It must here be pointed out that Lewis, if he wants to be re-
garded as an enemy of fascism, must cease giving the fascists
the kind of support he did when he headed a delegation to
Roosevelt to protest the importing of Soviet coal. There's noth-
ing the fascists like better than any kind of attack on the Soviet
Union which is the greatest enemy of fascism. Nor does Lewis
express the will of the U.M.W.A. membership in such actions.
Time and again U.M.W.A. locals have submitted resolutions for
recognition, and defense of the Soviet Union.
The Next Steps
The Communist Party has always stood four-square behind
the building of the trade unions. Because it is for class struggle
policies, the Communist Party has faced the cry of "splitting"
just as the Committee for Industrial Organization now does
because the C.I.O. is for organizing the unorganized. The Com-
munist Party urges all workers, whether they belong to craft
or industrial unions, to carry through the following tasks :
1. To see to it that there be a storm of resolutions from every
local union, city or county central labor council, district trades
council, state federation of the A. F. of L. endorsing the policy
of industrial unionism, supporting the Committee for Industrial
Organization in its fight; protesting the order of the Executive
Council to split up the radio workers, auto workers, and other
industrial unions; protesting the order for the disband ment
of the Committee for Industrial Organization. They should
protest and fight against the expulsion of 13,000 seamen on the
Pacific Coast, who were the staunchest fighters for union solidarity.
2. The members of the craft unions are urged to lift their
voices in the demand for a democratically conducted referendum,
or special convention, in each craft union, to decide on these
questions of industrial unionism. The members of the craft
unions are urged to initiate a movement for more solidly uniting
the craft unions in each industry by means of forming tightly-
knit federations which will work closely together against the com-
mon enemy in each industry— the strongly organized employers.
Such federations should be modeled after the Pacific Coast Mari-
time Federation, which unites all marine crafts in common action
against the employers, and not like the so-called railroad federa-
tions, which still permit the inter-union disputes to go on un-
checked. The craft union members should fight for agreements
of all unions in the industry which expire at one time, instead of
on different dates, so that all crafts can strike together and not
have to scab on one another. In some cases, as with the con-
ductors, trainmen, and switchmen on the railroads, the move-
ment can take the shape of a campaign for partial amalgamation.
These are the necessary steps toward the formation of industrial
unions in industries like the building trades, metal, railroad,
marine, needle trades, transport and food trades, etc.
3. Steps should be taken to initiate and to give full organiza-
tional, financial, and moral support for a campaign to organize
the unorganized in the steel, auto, radio, metal mining, rubber,
chemical, electrical apparatus, agricultural machinery, agricul-
tural and all other unorganized industries, giving special attention
to the need for winning the Negro workers into the trade unions,
and abolishing all forms of discrimination against Negroes in
the trade unions.
4. Steps should be taken to organize the resistance of the
workers against wage cuts, for wage increases and for maximum
support to every strike of workers for better conditions. This
means also a fight for a policy of class struggle in all trade
5. The fight for trade union democracy must be redoubled,
now as never before, so that the fight for industrial unionism can
be more effective, and the unorganized more easily brought into
the trade unions.
6. Maximum support must be given to the struggle of the
unemployed for adequate relief and for union wages on all
relief jobs. The unions must join in the fight for social and
unemployment insurance, supporting the Frazier-Lundeen Bill,
thus developing the unity of the employed and unemployed, ami
strengthening the unity of the working class against the attacks
of the bosses.
7. A solid front against the fascist menace in this country, a
menace which aims at reducing the workers' wages and comli
tions to the coolie level, at crushing the trade unions completely .
The swinging of all unions behind the Farmer-Labor Party, an
independent working class party, participated in by all sections
of the masses of the people who want to preserve and strengthen
the democratic rights in our country.
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