A 1950 report from a metalworkers union based in Cleveland affiliated with the IWW, advocating that the organization comply with the anti-Communist provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. The union eventually left the IWW over this issue.
1950 Report from I. U. 440, Cleveland, Ohio to the Delegates of Metal and Machinery Workers, I. U. 440, of the I. W. W. , at Convention Assembled
There are some problems of importance that this Convention should consider and, if possible, find a solution. But before mentioning them we would like to briefly review Cleveland's activities for the past year and one-half.
In March of 1949 we put on a drive at the Electric-Motors Corporation, a plant then recently taken over by General Motors. The UAW-CIO and the AF of L were also competing in trying to organize the plant. To the best of our limited resources, especially manpower, we covered the plant, distributing many leaflets, some of them later published in the Industrial Worker. This was our first experience at trying to organize workers on a program that called for their voting NO UNION if they wanted us as their union. We were forced to use this approach because we were unable to use the NLRB since we had not complied with the Taft-Hartley Law by signing the non-Communist affidavit.
Threats against the secretary were made by people calling in on the telephone and for a while during April we had someone staying constantly in the hall, twenty-four hours a day, to guard against any attempted raids or rough stuff on our office.
The election was pushed ahead by 30 days and in the voting the UAW-CIO won out by a narrow margin over the AF of L. There were 11% who voted NO UNION but whether these votes, or any part of them, were for us we had no way of determining.
One lesson we did draw from this was that it is almost impossible to try and organize a large plant without having access to the NLRB ballot so that we could compete on a more equal basis with the other so-called unions.
In October we established some worthwhile contacts in the then UE-CIO. This was during the that the right wing and the left wing were then battling it out for control of the union. It was our opinion then--and still is yet--that we missed a valuable opportunity to build up a middle force between the two extremes. This observation it 'need on countless numbers of talks and informal meetings with rank and filers who were interested only in building a good union.
We published a leaflet setting forth our viewpoint and urging the rank and file to forget the battle of the wings and begin to build a real union by organizing into the I. W. W. These leaflets were not only distributed in Cleveland but through our contacts were distributed in other parts of the country. As the intra-union struggle in UE developed we found ourselves again squeezed out because even where it seemed that we stood a good chance of getting a shop there was nothing we could do since we could not challenge UE or IUE to an NLRB election.
In September of last year our General Organization Committee drafted a resolution setting forth the need and the circumstances under which the I. W. W. and particularly IU 440 should comply with the NLRB. This resolution was later approved by the G. E. B.
In the latter part of last year and the early part of this year we were successful in organizing a wire fabricating plant, the Coleman-Patterson Corp. In organizing this plant we did no handbilling after we established our inside contacts. We were not going to give any other union the chance to disrupt us by their using NLRB. After about six weeks of careful work we were able to line-up 62% of the employees. They had not only signed authorization cards but were carrying a paid up union card. In February the Union and the Company held their own election and 75% of the employees voted for us. This convinced the Company that we had the shop and we signed an Agreement on February 22, retroactive to February 15.
There are shops in the same industry located in this area and it was our intention to try and organize all of them, if possible. However, the AF of L became active at some and rather than waste our time and money we withheld starting a drive until we received NLRB compliance which we were then expecting, It should be mentioned here that the shops are still not organized and our chances are still good.
While the AF of L was giving us trouble at the unorganized shops, the CIO and one scissorbill was giving us trouble at Coleman-Patterson. The scissorbill just pointedly refused to join the union while the CIO character tried to have the CIO raid us. We had a strike over these two people and after some difficulties such as NLRB filing an unfair labor practice charge against us, both fellows quit. NLRB informed us last month that they had dropped their charges too.
Anticipating that we would receive NLRB compliance we continued our agitation and making contacts. However, when our G. E. B. refused to comply we were literally left high and dry, and as a result some of our contacts lost their jobs, and to others we were placed in the embarrassing position of telling them we are a union but we can't organize you. A peculiar position to say the least.
Under the section on organizing we have made several references to the NLRB and indicated that our, i. e. the I. W. W. in general, refusal to comply with the Taft-Hartley Law has hampered our organizing efforts.
In May of this year Cleveland withheld its per capita tax from Headquarters when the General Executive Board refused not only to comply with NLRB but even declined to issue a national referendum on the question.
The Shop Branches, with the exception of J & L, went on record favoring that our G. E. B. comply with the requirements and sign the non-Communist affidavit.
After a meeting in Chicago last month, and considering that the G. E. B. had in effect stymied us from consummating our organizing efforts, it was recommended to the July Central Branch meeting that we remit our per capita tax and attend the General Convention.
Our G. O. C. requested that the delegates to the General Convention be sent uninstructed on this question of the compliance; however, according to the minutes of the California Central Conference they are sending their delegates instructed to vote against complying.
And so the question of complying or not complying remains with us and is one of the problems this convention should consider and take some definite action on.
Internal Organization in Cleveland
At present work in our shops is picking up and we can expect an increase in membership. The American Stove Shop Branch recently concluded negotiations which resulted in their improving their pension, hospitalization and insurance plan the equivalent of an eight-cents (. 08) an hour increase.
Our J & L Shop Branch accepted the steel pattern on pension and health insurance plan this year.
Coleman-Patterson Shop Branch has, under the wage reopening clause in their agreement, reopened negotiations for a twenty-five cent (. 25) across the board increase. One meeting has been with the Company, and another is scheduled soon.
Future Prospects and Problems
The question of our being the first and as yet only union to be placed on the so-called subversive list is one matter that we must take action on in order to counteract its far reaching effects in the future. We have already felt some effects from the listing in that the Internal Revenue Department has now taken the position that we should pay income taxes. Under the law unions are exempt from paying income taxes, but the Internal Revenue Department, basing its ruling on the ruling of the Attorney General of the United States, has now taken the position that the I. W. W. is not a union; and consequently must pay income tax. Our G. E. B. ruled that the ' various industrial unions should pay the tax. However, Cleveland has not paid any tax because we contend that we are a union since we hold agreements with employers and represent workers in collective bargaining, and in other respects function as a union.
It might be well to consider that when the G. E. B. decided that the I. W. W. should pay income taxes they in effect said that the I. W. W. was not a union. This question should have been fought out when it was first raised, and Cleveland even went so far as to make inquiry as to the approximate cost of such a case. I believe that the price quoted was $3500 but the Board decided not to fight the ruling. In fighting the ruling of the Internal Revenue Department we might have at the same time been able to get to the bottom of the subversive ruling.
As said before, the convention should decide something on this question.
While we have undoubtedly lost some ground because of our being denied use of NLRB by our organization there is still the possibility that we can organize workers under our banner. The question is: do we want to function as a union or not?
At this convention we recommend that in considering proposals we view them with an eye to the future. The G. E. B. coined the slogan of 2, 000 new members in 1950. Unless we straighten ourselves out organizationally this slogan will mean less than the paper it is written on.