Class-conscious machinists: "Stormy petrels of west coast labor"

Machinists on strike at Bethlehem shipyard, San Francisco, October 29, 1945
Machinists on strike at Bethlehem shipyard, San Francisco, October 29, 1945

Sister machinist unions, San Francisco's Lodge 68 of the International Association of Machinists and Oakland's Local 1304 of the CIO's Steel Workers Organizing Committee (which left the IAM over a wildcat strike in 1936), had a national reputation for militancy; Lodge 68 had more strikes during World War II than all other Bay Area unions combined. Along with Local 1304, they accrued this strike record in open defiance of the National War Labor Board, who were backed by the FBI, the Office of Economic Stabilization in the White House, a Navy Vice-Admiral, the War Manpower Commission, the collective bosses, who in turn were supported by the CIO, ILWU, and Communist Party.

Submitted by IDP on August 22, 2012

The San Francisco Machinists and the National War Labor Board

Richard P. Boyden

In the fall of 1944, San Francisco machinists Martin Joos and Arthur Burke found themselves fired from their jobs and blacklisted. A member of Machinists’ Lodge 68 since 1920 and a shop steward at Bodinson Manufacturing Company, Joos lost his job after protesting to management against members of another craft doing machinists’ work. Burke was a wartime newcomer to the Bay Area and a union committeeman at the National Motor Bearing plant in San Mateo. The company dismissed him because he had prevented a machinist from being in the toolroom doing toolmaker’s work. Both Joos’ and Burke’s actions consisted of routine performance of union business. Both men were fired by order of the U.S. Navy. Before being fired, each man was taken into a back room and questioned by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, because the navy hoped to have them prosecuted under wartime antistrike legislation.1

These actions were a part of one of the harshest set of federal government measures employed against any group of American workers during World War II. Pursuant to two executive orders by President Roosevelt in September 1944, the U.S. Navy took possession of the bulk of the machinery industry in San Francisco and the industrial suburbs south of the city. The existing multiemployer contract was suspended, as were collective bargaining rights, union recognition, dues payment, the hiring hall, and the right of union representation. Joos and Burke were fired and blacklisted “for the duration” of the war. Others were referred to the Selective Service System for immediate drafting into the armed forces. Others had their ration cards for food and gas revoked. A large number of FBI agents fanned out through the working-class community, visiting and interviewing thousands of machinists in their homes. There was talk that the union leaders would be prosecuted under new federal and antistrike legislation.2 What led up to these events, and what were some of their consequences?

During the war, the San Francisco and Oakland machinists’ locals were known as the “stormy petrels of West Coast labor.”3 They were highly skilled, all-round mechanics who had a national reputation for militancy (and radicalism) going back to the turn of the century. In recent years, social historians of the workplace have taken a fresh look at the role of skilled workers, who have been dismissed by many as labor-aristocratic defenders of craft privilege. David Montgomery argues that a mutualistic craftsmen’s ethic radically clashed with managerial reform; Jeffrey Haydu, that American machinists devised limited classification systems that embraced the unskilled in alliance against scientific management; and Ronald Schatz, that skilled workers played leading roles as shop floor organizers for industrial unions in mass production plants during the Great Depression.4 Others have shown that shop floor militancy in American industry during and after World War II shaped employers’ and government efforts to create a new system of industrial relations.5

The San Francisco machinists, for their part, had long felt their skills and livelihoods to be threatened by technological and managerial revolutions: the introduction of jigs and fixtures and systematized authoritarianism as represented by Frederick Taylor’s scientific management and similar schemes.6 The result was a decades-long struggle with major employers, in which machinists helped to lead broad-based strikes of metal workers. For example, in 1919-20, a ten-month strike by 60,000 Bay Area shipyard workers was the fourth largest labor dispute in the nation during the postwar strike wave. In the ensuing open shop era, the machinists were able to maintain their wage scale and job control in most plants without signed agreements, through strong rank-and-file involvement and informal bargaining.7

During the 1930s, the machinists were again prominent in the revival of unionism and in radical opposition to national union leadership. In 1934, during the epochal unionization struggle of West Coast waterfront workers, the San Francisco machinists were the first of the old, established craft unions to push the idea of a general strike.8 In 1936, the machinists defied their international union against the imposition of a low-paid “production worker” job classification. When the international union attempted to break a major strike over the issue, the Oakland machinists withdrew from the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (CIO) Steel Workers Organizing Committee.9 As a result, Lodge 68 and the new Steel Workers’ Local 1304, which continued to work closely together despite interfederation warfare, may have been the first AFL-CIO in the country.

As the clouds of war darkened in the spring of 1941, the Bay machinists again struck, this time against the federal government’s Shipbuilding Stabilization Committee in its efforts to limit wage increases to shipyard and other metal workers.10

During the war, the machinists would not relinquish bedrock conditions. After the first rush of patriotism in the early days of the war, and especially after the tide of war began to turn in favor of the Allies in 1943, machinists, like other workers, increasingly worried about what the end of the war would bring. If conditions were not defended now, they reasoned, workers might never get them back. Many remembered the aftermath of the last war, when unionized workers faced the open shop onslaught. They did not want to repeat the experience. They resented the disparity between swollen corporate earnings, wages frozen “for the duration,” and a rising cost of living only weakly dampened by government price controls.11

Workers were combative and militant during the war, as large waves of strike activity prove. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the machinists exemplified this movement. What about the other unions? In the 1930s, the longshoremen led the labor movement. This was the famous union of

Harry Bridges, the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU). The ILWU leadership, believing that the defense of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Nazi Germany transcended all other issues, took the position that any strike, no matter what the cause, aided Hitler.12 The leaders of the shipyard unions were conservative American Federation of Labor craft unionists whose treasuries were bulging with the dues of thousands of new war workers. Other union leaders, progressives in the New Deal mold, also believed that the war transcended almost all issues. None of these leaderships was about to give effective voice to the real and deeply felt grievances of their members.13

Discontent found expression in fairly numerous quickie strikes, but these rarely got past the “blowing off steam” stage.14

The machinists were different. They had grievances, a militant tradition, and rigorously democratic internal governance. Moreover, they had a large core of activists and an experienced and determined leadership. The outstanding leaders were Edward F. Dillon and Harry Hook, business agents of Lodge 68, and James P. (“Turkeyneck”) Smith of Local 1304.

The National War Labor Board (NWLB) was established in early 1942 as an impartial arbitrator of disputes between capital and labor. This impartiality was soon nullified when the board was given responsibility for administering a wage freeze. Under the board’s “Little Steel Formula” handed down in July, wage increases were not to exceed 15 percent of rates in effect on January 1, 1941. Because most organized workers had won substantial increases in the spring of that year, the NWLB’s decision meant that they would receive few, if any, further wage increases during the war.15

In 1942, the San Francisco machinists received their only wage increase of the war by defying government policy. Their annual contract expired in April. The Shipbuilding Stabilization Committee had called a national wage conference for May, where labor would be called upon to accept a 5.5 percent increase, amounting to only half of the rise in the cost of living for the preceding year. At the same time, the government and the California Metal Trades Association (CMTA), which represented machine shop employers in the nonshipyard, so-called uptown shop sector, were together trying to tie wages in their negotiations to those mandated for the shipbuilding industry. Both the government and the CMTA exerted heavy pressure on the bulk of uptown shop employers not to accede to the machinists’ demand for an 11 percent increase. Counter-pressure from the machinists proved stronger, however, and by mid-April the CMTA agreed to the higher rate. This caused consternation in high government circles, because the new uptown machinist rate of $1.28 per hour threatened to spoil efforts to impose a $1.20 rate in West Coast shipyards. Thereafter, the government’s wage freezing efforts became more effective.16

In the fall of the same year, management of the Joshua Hendy Iron Works attempted to impose a low-wage “production worker” classification in its very large Sunnyvale plant. This was one of the most important war factories in the country. Owned by a consortium of Kaiser, Bechtel, future Central Intelligence Agency Director John A. McCone, and others, the plant was producing fully one-third of all Liberty ship engines in the nation. The workers, represented by Lodge 68, rebelled against the new classification and kept the plant in turmoil for months while the NWLB tried to arbitrate the issues. These events also attracted additional unfavorable attention of high government officials to the San Francisco machinists. One of these, NWLB member Wayne Morse, characterized the machinists’ stand as “exhibit[ing] a callousness with respect to our national crisis which borders on lack of patriotism and indifference to our war effort.”17

Machinists received no further wage increases during the war. By early 1944, they grew restive as inflation eroded their incomes in a region with one of the highest costs of living in the country. In the meantime, the winding down of the war effort in industry weakened the patriotic consensus against strike action. On the other hand, the employers’ group, the CMTA, was completely unresponsive to machinists’ demands for a substantial wage increase. The “Little Steel Formula” was still in force. The union looked to possible changes in the war situation that might open the way for unrestrained negotiations. It did not want its hands tied by a year contract if the war should end. Lodge 68, therefore, proposed that the wage issue be compromised: in return for the dropping of wage demands, the CMTA agreed to reopen the wage issue every 30 days. Hook and Dillon presented the proposal to a large meeting of the local on March 26, five days prior to the contract’s expiration. After heated debate, the machinists adopted the compromise.18

A few days later, when the union committee met with the CMTA to complete the contract negotiations, they were surprised to find an almost entirely new employer committee across the table. The employers proceeded to repudiate the previous agreement and even refused to agree to keep the old contract in force pending further negotiations. The workers greeted these moves first with dismay, then outrage. Having a strong tradition of refusing to work without an agreement, they voted on April 12 to ban all overtime in excess of 48 hours per week in the CMTA shops. Faced with this, the CMTA rushed to the NWLB for protection.19

Two days before the overtime ban was to go into effect, the parties met with a federal conciliator. After less than an hour, the employers broke off the meeting - over the objections of both the union and the conciliator. Within one hour, the NWLB in Washington, D.C., had assumed jurisdiction over the case. This violated board procedures, because the conciliator had not yet submitted his report. The uncommon speed with which the board had acted seemed to confirm the machinists’ suspicion that the NWLB, especially the regional board in San Francisco, was collaborating with the CMTA to prevent Lodge 68 from getting its contract demands. “This,” said Dillon, “is a sample of the dispatch with which the board moves when the employers are getting hurt.” The board, of course, justified its actions on the ground that they were necessary to forestall the threatened overtime ban, which, in its view, was tantamount to a strike.20

On April 17, 1944, the overtime ban went into effect, to remain in force for four months, during which all machinists quit work after eight hours and refused to work on Sundays altogether. They insisted that they were not on strike and that their action did not adversely affect the war effort. The slackening of the war economy had resulted in layoffs of over a thousand machinists in the uptown shops since the first of the year. Refusal to work overtime was a time-honored method of spreading the work. The big companies enjoyed the bulk of war contracts and needed ten-hour shifts. They were responsible for the CMTA’s hard-line policy. If these employers remained intransigent, argued the machinists, the resulting production shortfalls could easily be made up in smaller, currently underutilized machine shops, 20 of which had signed the proposed union contract. The machinists also insisted that the ban violated no laws or legal government orders, because it conformed to Roosevelt’s executive order mandating the 48-hour week in war industry.21

The NWLB was motivated by two sets of considerations in its fight with the San Francisco machinists, one national and one regional. On the national level, the board felt its authority challenged by the machinists’ refusal to abide by repeated orders to rescind the ban. This was especially true in light of the NWLB’s concurrent struggle against the Montgomery Ward Company’s refusal to respect the collective bargaining rights of its employees. The federal government had recently seized Ward’s properties and evicted its die-hard president Sewell Avery in a move that brought indignation from the business community. Board members now felt that unless the NWLB succeeded in cracking down on Lodge 68, it would be perceived as coddling labor while going hard on business. Just as important, the board feared that if the machinists won a new contract through the use of the overtime ban, other workers might also adopt the tactic as a way of evading the no-strike pledge. These fears were heightened by a Chicago printers’ overtime ban the month before. As Fred Vinson, Roosevelt’s economic stabilization czar, remarked, the San Francisco machinists were setting an example that must be “stamped out” before it spread across the entire country.22

In the Regional War Labor Board in San Francisco, there was consensus among government, labor, and business members that Lodge 68 must be brought to heel. This was especially true, strangely enough, of the labor members, led by the leadership of the ILWU. The machinists and the Communist-party-oriented ILWU had maintained a close working relationship during most of the 1930s, but bitter animosity had grown between them since the beginning of the war. The wartime ILWU attitude toward the machinists was expressed by prominent San Francisco labor attorney Aubrey Grossman writing to CIO national counsel Lee Pressman in October 1944. According to Grossman, Lodge 68 had staged more strikes since Pearl Harbor than all the other unions in the region combined. “Their strikes have not only done untold damage to the war effort,” he claimed, “but the publicity has immeasurably injured the prestige of labor in California and swung large numbers of votes from President Roosevelt and in favor of the infamous Proposition 12.”23

The strongest voice inside the Regional War Labor Board for military intervention against the machinists was that of ILWU vice-president Louis Goldblatt. Goldblatt told a June 1944 closed session of the NWLB in Washington that the machinists’ overtime ban “is a strike ... which unless this board takes decisive action is going to spread. . . . It is contagious; because you have many unions throughout the Region that are pretty expert at job action, quickie strikes, and where for many years prior to the war that was really the common form of economic action – not the major strikes . . . and there are a number of forces within the labor movement . . . who are not a bit adverse to going back to that type of guerrilla warfare.”24

Goldblatt then made the following remarkable statement, indicating that he was not simply following a pro-Communist line but that he had developed - in a profound break with the traditions of 1934 – a genuine conservatism like that of many other union leaders: “We on the labor side don’t want to see any resumption in the San Francisco Bay Area ... of the type of collective bargaining that prevailed six or seven years ago when you had a constant economic contest [and] one of the best strike records that anybody ever had in the country. We think we have had enough of that. . . . We don’t want the resumption of guerilla warfare which will inevitably result if this board fails to act, because these employers will begin to fold one by one, and then you have taken the lid off.”25

Differences within the government delayed action for another six weeks. The navy was especially resistant. It was not interested in snatching the NWLB’s chestnuts out of the fire, especially because the onus for repression would likely fall on them. The navy also claimed that the overtime ban was not actually hurting war production in the Bay Area and, in an effort to undermine the NWLB, leaked this information to the press. It was now clear that the real issue in the dispute was not damage to the war effort, but the prestige and authority of the NWLB itself.26 Only after an overt strike was successfully provoked in one of the plants did the board succeed in getting action from the White House.27

If the navy had been hesitant in taking repressive action prior to seizure of the machine shops, all such misgivings were dispelled with the arrival in San Francisco of Vice-Admiral Harold G. Bowen, who believed that the machinists’ union had long “been a thorn in the flesh of the people of San Francisco” and characterized Hook and Dillon as “labor racketeers.” When Bowen met stiff initial resistance from the machinist rank and file to his orders to resume ten-hour shifts, he adopted a series of draconian measures to force compliance. Demanding that the FBI “take them two bastards into custody,” Bowen sought to have Hook and Dillon prosecuted under the Smith-Connally Act.28

Although the navy was unable to jail the union leaders, it did succeed in wiping out most of Lodge 68’s formal union rights and in cowing the workers individually with the threat of severe punishment. Coordinated by the Office of Economic Stabilization in the White House, the government cancelled the machinists’ collective bargaining agreement, grievance procedure, union shop, dues collection, and hiring hall. Sanctions were applied against workers who refused to work over eight hours per day. For many months prior to the seizure, the NWLB had repeatedly asserted that no individual worker could be forced to work the longer hours. All that the board wanted from Lodge 68 was a rescinding of the ban so that each worker could decide for himself whether to work overtime. This promise was now forgotten. Faced with mass refusal,

Admiral Bowen turned over 58 machinists to their draft boards for induction into the armed forces. The gas rations of others were cancelled. Bowen ordered the firing of eight workers, including Arthur Burke and Martin Joos. They and others were blacklisted by the War Manpower Commission (WMC). Bowen publicly vowed that these workers would remain jobless “for the duration” of the war.29

These measures succeeded in ending the overtime ban and in preventing the machinists from getting the contract language they sought, but they did not have the desired effect of breaking the union. A number of factors explain this. First, however much leaders of the local labor movement had previously wanted government seizure, they had not expected the navy to take such blatantly antiunion sanctions as instituting an open shop and blacklisting individual workers. Labor now reacted strongly against these measures. Nor were the employers particularly happy about navy occupation, because of their concern about the continuing power of the machinists to regulate production, which they proceeded to do with great effect. Ed Dillon summed up the workers’ attitude in a still-potent Wobbly idiom: “We’re just sawing wood, let the other fellow do the talking.”30

Through the use of such informal pressure, the machinists maintained their organization in the shops as strongly as ever. Dues collection, enforcement of the union shop, and grievance processing continued on an informal basis almost as if there had been no navy presence at all. In addition, the navy quietly retreated from its victimization of individual workers. Except in the highly publicized Joos and Burke cases, all the fired workers soon returned to their jobs, and not a single machinist was drafted. Joos and Burke became the center of a lengthy appeals procedure and a lawsuit by the union against the federal government.31

A detailed examination of the cases of the two men reveals much about the complex political relationships affecting the outcome of government seizure. As soon as the machinists had been blacklisted, the navy informed them that although they had the right to appeal to the WMC, their appeals would be denied. At this point, the American Civil Liberties Union intervened on their behalf. In answer to angry inquires from the American Civil Liberties Union, the San Francisco WMC office claimed that appeals would have to be delayed pending a decision from Washington on whether the cases would be heard there or in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the same San Francisco officials were telephoning Washington to try to get the cases “lifted” to the national level! If hearings were held locally, they said, Joos and Burke would win their appeals. The navy’s cases against both men were weak. Both men had been fired on orders from the navy, allegedly for interfering with production and violating navy orders; in fact, both dismissals resulted from each man’s routine attempts to enforce union rules at companies long known for their hard-line antiunion policies. Just as important, both labor and employer representatives on local hearings panels were annoyed with what they viewed as the high-handedness of Admiral Bowen and his staff. If the men won their appeals, the navy, having vowed to blacklist them for the remainder of the war, would suffer a humiliating blow to its authority.32

Only after Lodge 68 had filed suit against the federal government did the WMC hold local hearings for Joos and Burke. After the local panel had ordered their reinstatement, national WMC chairman Paul McNutt violated his own regulations by retroactively denying the panel’s right to make findings in the case. McNutt then upheld the blacklistings but limited them to 60 days. A federal judge in San Francisco sustained McNutt’s order and dismissed the union’s suit. Meanwhile, Lodge 68 had paid Joos’ and Burke’s wages, in keeping with an old tradition embodied in the local’s “laws” that members victimized for union activity “shall have the full protection of the Organization.”33

The machine shops remained under nominal navy occupation until the end of the war. The results were mixed from the government’s point of view. Most employers had wanted to reach agreement with the union. Now the day of reckoning was merely postponed. “If I know the membership of Lodge No. 68,” wrote Dillon, “then the Admiral can make arrangements for a permanent address in San Francisco and we will see the employers after the war and do it the hard way.”34

In the cases of Martin Joos and Arthur Burke, we can see a dauntingly complex set of forces and events resulting in what was ultimately an ineffectual victimization of these union activists. First, the machinists were a compact group of skilled workers with powerful traditions and interests they perceived to be seriously threatened. They proved ready to challenge their employers and, if need be, the U.S. government. Second were major employers, intent on curbing labor’s power precisely in the arena where the machinists excelled: job control on the shop floor. Third was the government, which proved to be internally divided and slow to act.

Finally, much of the leadership of the regional labor movement opposed the machinists. Fearing that pent-up grievances would lead to strikes and strikes to an antilabor backlash in public opinion, many regional labor leaders pursued the limited strategy of working with the

NWLB to wrest concessions from management. The machinists threatened this position, both because they seemed oblivious to the political danger of backlash and, more importantly, because they posed an implied alternative leadership strategy to that of the moderates. Galvanizing opposition to the machinists within the labor movement was the Communist party.35 Under Hook and Dillon, its former allies in the progressive wing of the labor movement, the machinists’ union had become a major threat to the party’s goal of promoting labor peace and “national unity” in the cause of Allied victory.36 The conflict between the Communist party and the machinists’ union would continue into the postwar period, with tragic consequences.

Edward Dillon’s prophesy came true: the end of the war in the fall of 1945 saw the machinists confront the employers “the old fashioned way.” They walked off their jobs in shipyards and machine shops in San Francisco and Oakland, demanding, like the auto workers who struck against General Motors three weeks later, a 30 percent wage increase. Although 12,000 machinists struck, some 45,000 nonstriking members of other metal craft unions honored the picket lines.37 However, the strike divided the labor movement: union officials, including ILWU leaders, attacked the strike and undermined it behind the scenes. Because of this lack of official union support, 45,000 nonstrikers received no strike benefits.

After five months on the picket lines, the strike was broken when the IAM national leadership, at the employers’ urging, arrived in San Francisco, placed Lodge 68 in trusteeship, and induced other metal craftsmen, who had been without strike benefits for five months, to return to work.38 Over the next five years, the IAM, supported by the courts and employing a small army of “goons,” carried out a systematic and often violent purge of Hook and Dillon and their many followers. This effort succeeded, in part, because of the acquiescence and support of the official labor movement, including Harry Bridges and the Communist party. These events contributed to a crisis in the party, with the expulsion of many of its machinist members for supporting the strike and the subsequent exodus of about one-half of its membership in the region.39 (However, that is a story for another day.)


By Richard P. Boyden. Originally appeared as "The San Francisco Machinists and the National War Labor Board” in American Labor in the Era of World War II, edited by Sally M. Miller and Daniel A. Cornford, pp. 105-119. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995

  • 1Jack H. Sapiro (IAM Lodge 68 attorney) in Transcript of Appeal Hearing, case of Martin Joos, October 9, 1944, Appeals Cases, Region XII, Records of the War Manpower Commission, RG 211, National Archives – Pacific Sierra Region, San Bruno, California (hereafter cited as Joos Trans., WMC XII, NA-Pac. Sierra).
  • 2San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 1944; Harold G. Bowen, Ships, Machinery, and Mossbacks: The Autobiography of a Naval Engineer (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1954), pp. 285-89; Edward F. Dillon to Harvey W. Brown (IAM International President), September 3, 1944, in Lodge 68 File, International President’s Files, International Association of Machinists Papers (microfilm), Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin (hereafter cited as IAM Papers).
  • 3San Francisco Call Bulletin, March 7, 1947; Katherine Archibald, Wartime Shipyard: A Study in Social Disunity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1948), p.142.
  • 4David Montgomery, Workers’ Control in America: Studies in Work, Technology, and Labor Struggles (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Jeffrey Haydu, “Factory Politics in the British and American Metal Trades: Changing Agenda for Protest, 1890-1922” (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1984); Ronald Schatz, The Electrical Workers: A History of Labor at General Electric and Westinghouse, 1923-60 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
  • 5Nelson Lichtenstein, Labor’s War at Home: The CIO in World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Howell John Harris, The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982).
  • 6Ira B. Cross, “Machinists’ Local 68,” handwritten notes, October-November1914, Folder 51, Carton II, Cross Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 7Delegate Carberry (Lodge 68), 1920 IAM Convention Proceedings, p. 226; Louis Goldblatt (member Tenth Regional War Labor Board and vice-president of the Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's union) in Executive Sessions of the National War Labor Board (hereafter cited as Exec. Sess.), June 2, 1944, p. 427.
  • 8Levon Mosgofian interview, March 30, 1984; Lodge 68 Minutes, June 13 and 20, 1934, in custody of IAM Local 1327, Oakland, California.
  • 9Harvey Brown to George Adams (Lodge 284), July 14, 1936; Walter Galenson, The CIO Challenge to the AFL: A History of the American Labor Movement, 1935-41 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960), pp. 502-4.
  • 10Horace Drury, History of Shipbuilding Stabilization: A Study of Industrial Relations in a Key War Industry: Part II, Stabilization in the Framework of National Defense (typescript, Office of Defense Management, Washington, D.C., 1954), pp. 207-22, copy in RG 254, Records of the Shipbuilding Stabilization Committee, National Archives.
  • 11Lichtenstein, Labor’s War at Home, pp. 119-20; Levon Mosgofian interview, February 2,1984; Ralph Miller interview, October 6,1985.
  • 12Daily Worker, March 3, 1942; Harry Bridges, Longshoremen’s Bulletin (ILWU Local 10, San Francisco, California), March 10, 1942.
  • 13Archibald, Wartime Shipyard, pp. 131-41; Richard Claire interview, July 22, 1985
  • 14For example, there were at least 30 longshore job actions on the San Francisco waterfront during the war, none of them sanctioned by union officials. Minutes of Joint ILWU-Waterfront Employers Association Labor Relations Committee, San Francisco, California, in Local 10, May 10, September 8 and 18, 1942, and passim.
  • 15Harris, The Right to Manage, p. 47; “Wages: Squaring the Vicious Circle,” Fortune 27 (May 1943): 88; Melvyn Dubofsky and Warren Van Tine, John L. Lewis: A Biography (New York: New York Times Books, 1977), pp. 418-19; Lichtenstein, Labor’s War at Home, pp. 150, 159; Art Preis, Labor’s Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO (New York: Pioneer, 1966), p. 161.
  • 16Sidney Hillman to Metal Trades Councils and Shipbuilding Employers of the West Coast, March 25, 1942, in San Francisco Machinists Locals 68 and 1304 file, file code 37/3, Subject Classified Central Files, Records of the Shipbuilding Stabilization Committee, RG 254, National Archives; Frank Knox (Secretary of the Navy to all District Commandants, March 25, 1942, in San Francisco Bay Area file, file code  unknown RG 254; Ralph Bard (Assistant Secretary of the Navy) to Frances Perkins, May 22, 1942, file code 58/544, RG 254.
  • 17Ralph Miller interview, October 6, 1985; Wayne Morse, NWLB Opinion, January 1, 1943, cited in Sam Kagel, Union’s Opening Brief, pp. 89 ff., in Case 665, Lodge 68 vs. California Metal Trades Association, in Records Relating to Dispute Cases, national War Labor Board Region X, San Francisco, RG 202, in “Charles Kerr Collection,” San Francisco Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University.
  • 18E. F. Dillon to H. W. Brown, January 7, 1944, IAM Papers; Harry Hook and E. F. Dillon to H. W. Brown, April 9, 1944, IAM Papers; Minutes of Special Called Meeting, Lodge 68, March 26, 1944, in Lodge 68 Minutes.
  • 19E. F. Dillon to H. W. Brown, April 27, 1944, IAM Papers; Dillon, quoted in San Francisco Chronicle, August 3,1944.
  • 20Dillon to Brown, April 27, 1944, IAM Papers; Fred Hewitt (editor, Machinists Monthly Journal and alternate labor member of the NWLB) in Exec. Sess., May 2, 1944, pp. 186-88; H. W. Brown to William H. Davis (chairman of the NWLB), May 5, 1944, IAM Papers; H. A. Schrader (IAM International) to George W. Lawson (AFL member, NWLB), May 10, 1944, IAM Papers; H. A. Schrader, statement before the NWLB, May 10, 1944, p. 70, IAM Papers; E. F. Dillon to H. W. Brown, April 27, 1944, IAM Papers; Lloyd Garrison (public member, NWLB), in Exec. Sess., May 10, 1944, p. 325.
  • 21Lodge 68 Resolution, April 26, 1944, in Lodge 68 Minutes; Mr. Keezer in Exec. Sess., May 10, 1944, p. 306; J. H. Sapiro (Lodge 68 attorney) in NWLB hearing, May 10, 1944, p. 18; San Francisco Chronicle, May 7, 1944.
  • 22Thomas F. Neblett (chairman, NWLB Region X, San Francisco) to Lodge 68, telegram announcing directive order, April 20, 1944; the union enforced a ban on overtime at Union Iron Works in the 19308. Lodge 68 Membership Minutes, April 1, 1936; Lewis Gill (public member, NWLB) in Exec. Sess., May 2, 1944, p. 202; George Taylor (public member, NWLB) in Exec. Sess., May 31, 1944, p. 100; Vinson, quoted in Bowen, Ships, Machinery, and Mossbacks, p. 283.
  • 23Aubrey Grossman to Lee Pressman, October 28, 1944, in Pipefitters’ Local590 File, Papers of Gladstein, Leonard, Patsy, and Anderson, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Exec. Sess., June 2, 1944, pp. 397-98.
  • 24Exec. Sess., June 2, 1944, pp. 397-98.
  • 25Ibid., p. 401.
  • 26Lloyd Garrison in Exec. Sess., June 2, 1944, pp. 363-64; Lewis Gill in Exec. Sess., June 2, 1944, pp. 48, 366; and New York Times, July 9, 1944.
  • 27New York Times, August 1 and 22, 1944; San Francisco Chronicle, August 1,2,3, and 4, 1944; E. F. Dillon to Harvey W. Brown, September 3, 1944, IAM Papers. 28. Bowen, Ships, Machinery, and Mossbacks, pp. 282,284,305, and passim; Dillon to Brown, September 3, 1944.
  • 28Bowen, Ships, Machinery. and Mossbacks, pp. 282,284,305, and passim; Dillon to Brown, September 3, 1944.
  • 29New York Times, August 16, 1944; San Francisco Chronicle, August 19 and 20, 1944; Garrison in Exec. Sess., August 18, 1944, p. 596, and Lt Barrett (USN), in Exec. Sess., August 18, 1944, pp. 623; San Francisco Chronicle, August 18 and September 3, 1944; Bowen, Ships, Machinery, and Mossbacks, p. 299; San Francisco Chronicle, August 27,1944.
  • 30Anthony O’Brien (War Manpower Commission, San Francisco office) in  telephone conversation with Bernice Lotwin (War Manpower Commission, Washington, D.C.), September 15, 1944, verbatim transcript, Arthur Burke file, Appeals Cases, Region XII, Records of the War Manpower Commission, Record Group 211, NA-Pac. Sierra (hereafter cited as WMC XII); Bowen, Ships, Machinery, and Mossbacks, p. 285; K. C. Apperson to Roy Brown, August 31, 1944, IAM Papers.
  • 31Ibid.; Dillon to Brown, September 3, 1944, IAM Papers; Bowen, Ships, Machinery, and Mossbacks, p. 303; Dillon to Brown, September 3, 1944, IAM Papers; San Francisco Chronicle, September 14, 1944.
  • 32O’Brien to Lotwin, WMC XII; Statement of William A. Edwards, late August-early September 1944(?), File 663, ACLU of Northern California Papers, California Historical Society; O’Brien to Lotwin, WMC XII.
  • 33J. H. Sapiro, Brief of October 16, 1944, pp. 6-7, in San Francisco Lodge 68,International Association of Machinists vs. Forrestal, et al., Case No. 23721G, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, RG 21, NA-Pac. Sierra; Paul V. McNutt, “In the Matter of the Appeal of Arthur B. Burke: Chairman’s Findings of Fact and Decision,” p. 10, in File 663, ACLU of Northern California; Lodge 68 Minutes, September 13, 1944.
  • 34Dillon to Brown, September 3, 1944.
  • 35For example, at the start of hearings in Washington, D.C., Dillon informed IAM headquarters staff that Goldblatt was lobbying officials of other international unions in the capital against the San Francisco machinists’ cause. E. F. Dillon telegram to Eric Peterson, general vice-president, International Association of Machinists, June 1, 1944, IAM Papers.
  • 36Harry Bridges, “On the Beam,” ILWU Dispatcher, 1941-46, passim.
  • 37San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 1945.
  • 38The role of the employers is discussed by leading employer representative, Paul St. Sure, in his oral history. According to St. Sure, a committee of major Bay region employers sat the IAM international executive board down in Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel and told them how to place Lodge 68 under receivership and break the strike. “Some comments on Employer Organizations and Collective Bargaining Since 1934. An Interview Conducted by Corine Gilb for the Institute for Industrial Relations Oral History Project” (typescript, University of California at Berkeley, 1957), p. 357.
  • 39For opposition to strike by the metal trades and the San Francisco Central Labor Council, see San Francisco Chronicle, October 21, 25, and 30, and November 2. 1945; the Communist party’s San Francisco newspaper. People’s World, November 1, 2, and 5. 1945. Dissident elements within the Communist party succeeded in printing their criticisms of the IL WU leaderships’ efforts to undermine the machinists’ strike in the People’s World in the fall of 1945. See Harrison George (author of many of these articles), “Crisis in the CPUSA” (Los Angeles, self-published. 1947). The author’s 1984 interviews with Levon Mosgofian, a prominent rank-and-file Communist machinist who was expelled from the party for supporting the strike and the Lodge 68 leadership, have also been instructive. For Louis Goldblatt’s version of his role in the strike, including the opposition he encountered from the ILWU membership, see his oral history “Louis Goldblatt – Working Class Leader of the ILWU” (Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1974), pp. 336-40.



11 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by IDP on August 22, 2012

Fixed. Thanks


11 years 10 months ago

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Submitted by bastarx on August 22, 2012

Interesting. Might be worth adding where and when this article was published.

Juan Conatz

11 years 10 months ago

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Submitted by Juan Conatz on August 22, 2012

Switched to Full HTML so the footnotes are working.

Peter, it says at the bottom.

EDIT: IDP was right before, at some point the option to preview articles one is submitting and see it all was lost. It does make it difficult or at least more annoying to put stuff on here that requires formatting.


11 years 10 months ago

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Submitted by bastarx on August 22, 2012

I don't think the attribution was there before, but if so I apologise for my selective blindness.


11 years 10 months ago

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Submitted by Hieronymous on August 24, 2012

This is such an important history because it exposes the treacherous class betrayal of ILWU bureaucrats, which began as early as World War II. Communist Party influenced unions, most of which were in the CIO, were the strictest enforcers of the no-strike pledge during the war -- prioritizing toeing the Moscow line over working class solidarity. So during the strike wave during and after the war, the rank-and-file of AFL unions were usually at the center of the most militant actions -- fomenting wildcat and general strikes (4,985 of the former and 6 citywide versions of the latter in 1946 alone). Bridges wanted the ILWU to have a 9-year contract after the war, which he'd hoped would have a no-strike clause. The militancy of the longshore rank-and-file prevented that until much later.

Boyden was a good friend of Stan Weir and wrote an unpublished 55-page account of the 1946 Oakland General Strike (I'm trying to get his permission to post it here on libcom). Boyden interviewed Stan extensively, but also had talked to several of the Stormy Petrel machinists in completing his 1988 PhD. dissertation entitled The San Francisco Machinists from Depression to Cold War, 1930-1950. The legacy of militants and radicals in sister IAM Lodge 68 in San Francisco and SWOC Local 1304 in Oakland puts them clearly in the "Chicago Idea" tradition. According to Boyden, Lodge 68 militant Edward F. Dillon had come out of the "syndicalist hothouse of Chicago," so the connection to the tradition was literal, as it was with earlier Lodge 68 member Edward D. Nolan who was a former Wobbly as well as having been close to Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, the anarchists framed for the Preparedness Day bombing in San Francisco in 1916 that killed 10.

Boyden's dissertation reads like a novel and it's such an inspiring tale of shopfloor militancy, class consciousness and acts of solidarity. He mentions machinists in the 1930s who bragged that a picket line in Oakland was "more effective than a barb wire fence." At the end, Boyden also makes the case that the anger over the defeat of the 5-month machinists strike in the fall of 1945 was still remembered over a year later, in December 1946, and the rage over the crushing of the Stormy Petrels was one of the catalysts of the Oakland General Strike.


11 years 9 months ago

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Submitted by Winstanley on September 5, 2012

Long live Ed Dillon, Harry Hook and Turkeyneck Smith! It is also worth noting that at the very moment that the SF machine shops were occupied by the US Navy, the founding United Nations conference was going on in San Francisco! Imagine the U.S. delegates going on about defeating fascism and upholding democracy when armed soldiers were posted at the machine shops trying to force the machinists to work overtime!



11 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by syndicalist on January 12, 2013

Hmmmm....missed this one...looks interesting. Some interesting background IAM #68:
Curious how craft oriented the Local Lodge was at the time.

Gregory A. Butler

7 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Gregory A. Butler on January 14, 2017

Great story!

It's really interesting to hear about workers waging the class struggle at a time of supposed 'national unity' - and of the shameful scabby role the Communist Party played in these events