During this year Cleveland continued to be the source of most of the news. However, there was also news from the Houston branch; the Detroit branch announced the opening of a new hall in May at No. 4 W. Vernor Highway at Woodward. In addition, during this year the magazine, Business Week, acknowledged the existence of the I.W.W. in an article from which excerpts are given below:1
War breathes life into the cadaver of the old Wobblies by uniting malcontents who spurn labor's no-strike pledge. Lastweek union members at the American Stove Co., in Cleveland walked out in a dispute over the transfer of several employees to departments where pay rates were lower...As recently as ten months ago, a new directory of U.S. labor organizations failed to list the I.W.W." although its listings were complete enough...But the I.W.W. is showing signs of life. In the metal shops of Cleveland, the vanadium mines of California, the copper diggings at Butte, the lumber camps around Spokane, and on the waterfronts of San Diego, New Orleans, and New York, the dead past is stirring and workers carry 'red cards'...Although the I.W.W. industrial union idea might be considered as having come to partial fruition in the C.I.O., many students think the organization's most important contribution to the labor movement is its development of the sitdown strike. A keystone in Wobbly strategy was the so-called 'strike on the job'. It implied the withdrawal of productive effort without absence from the work place...Now, as always, most Wobblies belong to two unions...Like the Communists, they operate on the theory that 'boring from within' can make them more widely influential than building exclusive organizations of their own...Consequently, the 7,000 members which the I.W.W. now claims... the I.W.W. is as purely syndicalist in philosophy as any organization that ever operated in America...As unionists, Wobblies have neve r sought recognition for their organization...The organization bargains for its members, but it will not sign contracts...Strikes for improved conditions are approved because the I.W.W. considers them fine training for the great revolutionary general strike which will bring capitalism crashing down...The decline of the I.W.W. movement was a direct result of the disappearance of the American frontier and pioneer conditions...A secondary factor which put the I.W.W. into the shade was the rise of the Communist Party...The I.W.W. revitalization, however, can hardly be expected to outlast the war...And the A.F.L. and C.I.O. have demonstrated, at least to the satisfaction of the bulk of their members, that labor's position can be improved under capitalism.
The Industrial Worker criticized this article on several points, protesting that it had never died out; that the article neglected to mention other contributions to the labor movement such as "endless-chain picketing"; that the I.W.W. does not believe in or practice "boring from within" tactics.
In May and June I.U. 510 reported opposition from the Galveston-Houston Towing Company to their efforts to organize the tugboat employees of that company. The company was accused of intimidating the employees and of declaring openly that it would discharge anyone promoting an outside union. In fact, the company did discharge L.R.Currington, an I.W.W., for organizing activities. The excuse given was that he had been absent with leave.
On Kay 14, the M.T.W. hall at Houston was raided by the police, apparently because someone had informed the police that the union was plotting a revolution in the hall.
The I.W.W. retained A.J. Mandell, a Civil Liberties Union lawyer, to protest this violation of civil rights, as well as the case of L.H. Currington referred to above. No satisfaction was obtained in either case.
In Cleveland a convention was held on October 20 and 21 by I.U. 440 at the Hotel Hollender. Twenty two delegates, the General Organization Committee, the General Secretary-Treasurer, and the General Executive Board member were present. Some of the questions discussed were: the check-off; the future of the Cleveland Newsletter ( a monthly paper printed by the Cleveland branch, including union news and personal items about the Cleveland members); improvement in the labor education of the members; and, minor amendments to the by-laws.
I.U. 440 had a little difficulty with the management of the Draper plant of Jones and Laughlin during this year. Apparently, the management wanted to get rid of the I.W.W. It complained of unprofitable operations due to a "slow-down" allegedly directed and supported by the union, and it threatened to close the plant. However, this threat was not carried out, and the situation didn't become serious until the next year.
Relations between the union and the American Stove company management were more satisfactory. During this year an agreement was reached by which the workers received a 20% increase.
- 1Business Week. 3/7/45