THE PUBLIC BE DAMNED
With the results of the vote of more than 40,000 Pacific Coast maritime workers announced yesterday and showing huge majorities in every port in favor of accepting the new wage and hour agreements, the costly, 97 day old shipping strike is at last over. It has been estimated that the strike cost over $7,000,000 a day, in losses to both employers and employees, and the loss to the general public, not only of the Coast cities, but all over the country, is inestimable.
Although details of the settlements which employees voted to accept are not yet available, it is known that beyond a wage increase, the basic demands of Harry Bridges, alien strike leader of the Coast, were not granted. Those demands were, of course, the now familiar request that his particular organization be granted the complete monopoly of furnishing men to the shipping companies. Mr. Bridges is not desirous of having his organization, the Maritime Federation, which includes all grades of seamen from cooks to mates, assume the responsibility for the safety of the passengers and cargoes. He is perfectly willing that the steamship companies should continue to shoulder this burden; all he wants is to dictate whom the companies shall employ. But there is as yet no "automatic pilot" for ships, and the human element is still by far the most important. Obviously therefore, aside from all consideration of the inherent unfairness of the monopolistic demand of Mr. Bridges, human safety demands that those responsible be given unfettered freedom to select men who will provide that safety.
If Mr. Bridges were in any way sincere in his protestations of having the "interest of the working man at heart", he would have been willing to arbitrate the simple matter of wage and hour adjustments back in October when the strike began. The ship owners were then ready and cager to sit down with the Maritime Federation and discuss adjustments in the then existing working agreements which expired in October.
But Mr. Bridges, determined to tie up the shipping on the Coast, and demonstrate his power, refused arbitration conferences then, and persisted in having his "basic demand" of the closed shop granted before any arbitration began. Instead of the active opposition used in 1934 the owners pursued a policy of watchful waiting, hoping the public would soon sicken of a strike which bade fair to dry up city after city on the Pacific Coast. The public, however, lulled into lethargy by such gilded phrases as "economic royalists", and "well warmed capitalists in well warmed clubs" that were on the lips of the winning candidates in the last election, was slow to force action, and it was only when Mr. Bridges saw his support slipping away from him, that he became eager to confer on other than the "basic demand" of complete monopoly.