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Reva Crane

Negroes Win Strike for Bus Jobs

Negroes Declare April 26 a Holiday – Will Parade Through Streets of Harlem

(April 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 17, 28 April 1941, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A battle well fought and won such is the story of the struggle conducted by the United Negro Bus Strike Committee, hereafter to be known as the United Negro Bus Association. After four weeks of picketing Harlem bus stops, carrying such slogans as “Don’t ride the buses until you see Negro drivers” and “Walk so that Negro men may live,” militant, race-conscious Negroes under the direction of the committee, composed of the Harlem Labor Union, the National Negro Congress and the Greater New York Coordinating Committee, assisted by members of the Workers Party and the Young Peoples Socialist League, had the satisfaction of knowing that what they had pledged themselves to win was at last theirs.

Starting with a committee of five interested in obtaining jobs for Negroes from the Omnibus Corporation, the movement grew so that at the last mass meeting held about two weeks ago over 5,000 Negroes enthusiastically supported the drive. The battle came to a close when an agreement was signed between the representatives of the Transport Workers Union, the bus corporation and the United Negro Bus Association on Saturday, April 19.

I was at the Abyssinian Church talking with Joe Ford, untiring and efficient picket organizer, and awaiting final confirmation of the agreement, when word crone over the telephone that the contract was signed and the strike was over. Ford had just been in the midst of telling me that this strike was only a stepping stone to greater and more important struggles for jobs for Negroes.

To celebrate this victory, Harlem has declared a holiday for Saturday, April 26. All places of business are asked to suspend operations between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. and all Harlem will march – churches, political clubs, trade unions, social groups and others. The participants will convene at 110th Street and Lennox Avenue at 1 p.m. Preceded by bands and picketers, under the leadership of Marshals John Parris, Joe Ford and Walter Roarks, the parade will march through the heart of Harlem to 148th Street and Bradhurst Avenue at Colonial Park.·At this spot there will be an open air meeting at 4 o’clock.

The three-party agreement calls for “the immediate employment as the need arises of 70 Negroes in the maintenance division and of 100 Negroes in the bus drivers division. No member of any other race can be employed until this 170 has been employed. After that there will be employment of one Negro for each white until 17 per cent of the working group is Negro (this is the same as the proportion of Negroes in the population of New York City. This means over 500 of the 3,000-odd employees of the bus company will eventually be Negro workers.

The co-chairmen of the drive issued the following statement:

“This is not the end, but merely the beginning in the historic struggle of the Negro people of the 20th century to assert their rights to dwell in the heart of this democracy of ours, rather than on the fringes. Our slogan as we march forward together is – let’s make our land safe for democracy. We are calling upon all lovers of democracy, white and black, to see that all members of this democracy, even though they are a minority, shall be free.”

Now that the bus strike has been won the committee which conducted it will continue as the United Negro Bus Association to represent the Negroes who obtain jobs with the bus company and to see to it that the provisions of the contract are carried through. However, each of the three organizations composing the original committee will return to its own activity. The Greater New York Coordinating Committee, which itself is composed of many organizations, has plans for extending this struggle.

An important place for such a campaign is in the war industries where there are many jobs available from which Negroes are barred in spite of the fact that many of them are well trained to fill these jobs. The Workers Party is ready to participate in such a campaign to obtain jobs for Negroes, in the same manner as we participated in the Negro Bus strike, in the capacity of pickets or in any other way which will advance the struggle for social, political and economic equality for the Negro masses.


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