Labor Takes the Rap
Sometime this week the Senate will have its chance to modify the terms of the Smith bill, rushed through the House last Wednesday and containing the most restrictive decrees of any act since the First World War. Under its terms the present status of closed or open shop must be maintained for two years or for the duration of the emergency. Strikes for any purposes but straight wages, hours, and safety measures have been outlawed. Before workers can be called out, labor must observe a "cooling off" period which might better be described as a warming up period for management. Requiring registration of union membership gives bosses their chance to establish an effective, all-inclusive blacklist. Above all, the vote of the House in passing on the bill indicates its division into Northern Democrats against Southern Democrats and the entire Republican bloc. This anti-labor alliance has the power as well as the inclination to pass a bill outlawing all strikes instead of one merely crippling labor's only bargaining point.
However, it is not that the Smith bill is a completely devilish or undemocratic device to hamstring labor that we take our stand against it. The requirement of the secret ballot in strike votes, the provisions for voluntary arbitration in the event the mediation board fails, and the registration of financial statements should prove healthy measures, and taken by themselves would speed the advance of labor unions toward the democratic organization that is their goal.
But taking the sacred name of defense and taking it in vain, the so-called business forces of the country have maligned and unfairly damned labor to such an extent that a misled public has forced Congress to pass these restrictive laws. Craftily playing on the stupid mistakes of a few labor leaders and skillfully using the powers of their allies, the press, the anti-labor forces of this country have succeeded in anathematizing the name of their enemies among the neutral portions of the nation.
After reading constantly in the papers about the extent of defense stoppage caused by labor disorders, who is going to believe the truth--that strikes have caused less delay and fewer lost man hours of production than industrial accidents since the emergency began? Or when a steel corporation closes down on its plant on the grounds that a strike has cut off its supply of coal, who is to know that the company actually could get its hands on immense reserves of coal if it didn't want to build up anti-strike and anti-labor prejudice?
And while their left hands have been putting the well-known thumb on labor, with their right hands the leaders of industry have adroitly been harvesting the increased profits of the defense boom while continuing to avoid major taxes. More flagrant even than that, as a minor speaker at the congress of the National Association of Manufactures threw in their faces the other day, the highly paid executives have been raising their own salaries. Admitting that his figures of 18 per cent salary boosts were "scandalous", the speaker, a Tennessee congressman, proceeded to leave the N. A. M. meeting and fly to Washington to cast his ballot along with 90 per cent of his sectional representatives in favor of the Smith bill.