• U.S.

National Affairs: C.I.O. (CIO)

9 minute read

Dr. George Gallup recently polled U. S. voters on U. S. Labor. He found that 78% preferred A. F. of L.’s William Green to C.I.O.’s John L. Lewis. His conclusion: “The majority of American voters, particularly in the upper and middle classes, fear the power of Lewis and the C.I.O.” Last week the frightened classes had a look at the man and the thing they fear.

John L. Lewis and 518 other delegates to a constitutional convention assembled in Pittsburgh to bury the three-year-old Committee for Industrial Organization.

In its stead they erected a permanent organization, whose full official title is “Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).” Man of Power. John Llewellyn Lewis does not expect to be seen clearly in his time, but he does expect to be measured in history. Seemingly undismayed by C.I.O.’s poor showing in last fortnight’s elections, Mr. Lewis last week measured himself as a man of power. Said he: “My strength is only the strength of the multitude when the multitude gives me a grant of authority to represent it, but when they send their grant of authority, then my strength is multiplied and multiplied in progressive ratio, and it becomes a strength to be reckoned with in the realm of affairs in our democracy.” Man of Politics. Labor’s multiplied power man has let it be known that the strength of himself and multitude remains at the service of Franklin Roosevelt and New Deal, but not necessarily at the service of Franklin Roosevelt and Democratic Party. To drive home this distinction, John Lewis took as his text Boss Frank Hague of Jersey City, N. J., vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Federal Judge William Clark recently dusted off Mayor Hague by specifically enjoining him to let C.I.O. organizers (and other dissenters from the established Hague order) speak, solicit members, carry placards and otherwise exercise their Constitutional rights in Jersey City. Politico Lewis declared it high time to throw all Hagues out of the Democratic Party, to arrange a genuinely liberal political alignment of CIO in 1940.

When a convention delegate offered a Roosevelt-Third-Term resolution˜such as has become routine at conventions of C. I. O. affiliates˜Chairman Lewis squelched him. Thus Mr. Lewis had left wide open the question of C. I. O. al legiance in 1940. The convention then went on record against all amendments to the Wagner Act, and against diversion of Federal funds from social services to Rearmament (but did not oppose Rearmament as such). It demanded more Relief, more Housing, more and better Planning in the name of greater production, greater employment, greater consumer purchasing power.

Peace Without Pieces. C. I. O. started in 1935 as a rump committee of eight A. F. of L. union presidents, shortly burgeoned into a combination committee of indi viduals and association of unions apart from the Federation. But until last week it had no constitutional powers to charter, direct or assist its affiliates. One of the eight cofounders, David Dubinsky, thought C. I. O., the Congress, would re duce the chances of reunion with A. F. of L., therefore refused to enter the Congress with his International Ladies Garment Workers (TIME, Nov. 21). Many another believed the existence of a “permanent” rival would chasten A. F. of L.’s more pugnacious leaders and make the Federation “see light.” Some of the younger Leftist militants (chiefly Longshoreman Harry Bridges, Sailor Joe Curran) wanted Leader Lewis to go beyond his stand for Peace with Honor, appeal directly to A. F. of L. rank & filers to override William Green and re unite on C. I. O. terms. Mr. Lewis neatly suppressed that move. Then he permitted every union president worth mentioning, Bridges & Curran included, to parade to the platform. They upheld his position that C. I. O.’s industrial unions cannot risk dismemberment by joining any body dominated by A. F. of L. craftsmen. Said Electrical Worker James Barren Carey: “The C. I. O. wants peace˜without pieces.” High Politics. Fitted into the new C. I. O. jigsaw are such diverse unions as Mr. Lewis’ essentially conservative United Mine Workers, Sidney Hillman’s liberal Amalgamated Clothing Workers, Harry Bridges’ radical International Longshoremen & Warehousemen, Joe Curran’s turbulent National Maritime Union. Their common, immediate aim, to organize the mass production industries, holds them soundly together, but there are dissents within the whole. Last week one of these dissents popped to the surface when Vice Chairman Sidney Hillman called upon the delegates to adopt a new constitution which they had never seen.

Messrs. Bridges, Curran and Mervyn Rathbone (American CommunicationsAssociation) rose to demand i) copies of that important document, and 2) a clause prohibiting discrimination against union members because of political beliefs (i.e., Communism). They did not get their clause, but they did delay debate until copies were distributed next day.

Having profanely put Mr. Bridges in his place, John L. Lewis informed the delegates that their constitution was a democratic document, ordered them to adopt it forthwith. They did. Its chief provisions gave each of C. I. O.’s 41 affiliates a member of the international executive board, empowered that board to investigate any “situation”‘ in any affiliate but left punitive action against member unions to annual or special C. I. O. conventions.

Motor Trouble. One such situation that Mr. Lewis recently had to handle without constitutional sanction was a rift in the United Automobile Workers of America. Now firmly in control of C. I. O’s Vice Chairmen Hillman and Philip Murray, impoverished U. A. W. last fortnight borrowed $50,000 from Mr. Lewis’ United Miners. Last week it developed at the convention that U. A. W.’s sorely divided officers had spent some of the money for Elgin watches to give Messrs. Lewis, Hillman. Murray and C. I. O. Headquarters Director John Brophy as “symbols of unity.” U. A. W. President Homer Martin, who heartily dislikes all four, had to avow the utmost esteem for them (and they for him). He also exuded esteem for his fellow officers, who half hoped that Mr. Martin would fulfill his recent threats to resign.

This splurge was the signal for a general convention assault upon Ford Motor Co., only automaker not yet brought under U. A. W. contract. Mr. Martin has been dickering privately with Ford’s Harry Bennett (TIME, Oct. 24, et seq.). In denouncing anti-union employers he conspicuously avoided mention of the Ford company. Others were not so coy, and C. I. O. pledged itself to boycott Ford products unless or until Henry Ford signs up.

Laboring Press. No day of C. I. O.’s convention passed without a rousing attack on the U. S. Press. This was all right with the 40-odd working newspapermen who were present to report the convention.

Some, feeling that the U. S. Press has sinned often and greatly against U. S. Labor, did not blame Labor for making a whipping boy of the sinner, did not mind hearing C. I. O. denounce their publisher bosses. All were prepared to dine amicably on the fourth evening with John L. Lewis, who wished to salute the biggest outpouring of correspondents accorded any convention since the Democratic National Convention of 1936.

Mr. Lewis’ dinner was ruined by baldish Morris Watson, vice president of C. I. O.’s American Newspaper Guild. He introduced, and the convention passed, a resolution denouncing “the press generally, and certain newspapers especially,” for their coverage of the convention. This put the blame not on the publishers but on the reporters present˜some of them Mr. Watson’s own union constituents. It accused them of trying to reate dissension in C. I. O. by reporting its own unmistakable dissensions at the Convention.

As one man, the reporters tumbled off their Olympus. Sore on their individual accounts, they were particularly angry because the resolution was aimed at the New York Times’?, fair and able Louis Stark, who by example has generally done more than any other one man to raise the level of labor reporting. The Lewis dinner was “off the record.” But plenty was said to him and Guild President Heywood Broun.

Next morning, worried, haggard Columnist Broun (who had approved the offending resolution) shambled to the platform, apologized for Mr. Watson’s “clumsy wording” and declared the document didn’t mean what it said, its denunciation did not apply to correspondents. Mr. Broun concluded: “But I do not except any publisher˜not a single one!” One Piece. To keep C.I.O.’s 41 national unions, 675 locals and 3,787,877 claimed members all in one piece, John Lewis depends upon: 1) his prestige; 2) the C.I.O. constitution, which vests large powers in his executive board; 3) the men whom he chooses to help him run his congress. Last week he and the convention concluded five busy days in the gilded convention hall of Pittsburgh’s ornate Grotto Temple by choosing the following: President˜John Llewellyn Lewis.

Vice Presidents˜Miner Philip Murray, whose stature as No. 2 man in C.I.O. and probable successor to John Lewis has steadily increased; wise, adroit Sidney Hillman, to whom Mr. Murray absentmindedly referred as “second vice president.” (The two are supposedly equal.) Secretary˜Shy, brilliant James Barren Carey, 27, whose United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers have one of the most vigorous and biggest of the younger C.I.O. unions. Mr. Lewis, who considers little Mr. Carey the best of C.I.O.’s youngsters, maneuvered his election as a salute to them. Mr. Carey thereupon dashed home to Manhattan, where his wife was expecting a baby.

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