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Militant Strikes on West Coast

(July 1933)

On the Workers’ Front, The Militant, Vol. VI No. 33, 1 July 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Los Angeles. – The city of Los Angeles has witnessed, and is witnessing, the beginning of a wave of strikes as the workers are commencing to think that it is as well to starve fighting as to starve working. About six weeks ago, the Cleaners and Dyers struck. This union is affiliated to the American Federation of Labor: A strike of upholsterers is now going on.

The two most important strikes, however, are those of the agricultural workers and of the milliners who are in the Left wing Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union.

The Mexican agricultural workers are a super-exploited section of the Southwestern proletariat. These workers are generally migratory or semi-migratory. Entire families work in the fields, from the little children of six and seven to the adults. The wages paid range from six cents an hour for seven year olds to eight cents an hour for twelve year olds and thirteen cents an hour for adults. Payments for work is highly speculative, as the Mexican laborer, under constant threat of deportation, is very reluctant about going to the legal channels to collect his wages. The ranchers knew this and have been quick to take advantage of the Mexican agricultural proletariat.

Beginning as a spontaneous struggle the strikers in this field have now reached the number of 5,000. Arrests of pickets are a daily occurrence but in spite of this the strikers’ morale is still high.

A curious phenomenon in this strike is the attitude of the Mexican government. Ex-president Calles has sent the strikers $750 and President Rodriguez has sent them $1,000. The explanation for this most probably is that in order to succeed in present-day Mexican politics with the radicalized workers and peasants one has to be “socialist” or “labor” or “agrarian”.

Milliners in Militant Strike

Another strike now going on is that of the milliners led by the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union. About four or five weeks ago, Golden Bros., the second largest shop in the city attempted to celebrate the “New Deal” in a fitting fashion. They introduced a piece-work, speed-up system. The workers, amongst whom were a nucleus of Left wingers, stopped work without going down into the street and brought the Golden Bros. to their knees.

The victory at Golden Bros. became the talk and inspiration of the millinery workers who are most desperately in need of militant organization. The union is growing daily. It has increased its membership ten-fold at least in the last month, since the triumphant stoppage at Golden Bros.

The millinery trade has a large representation of Communists and sympathizers. The new spirit amongst the workers also had a thawing effect upon the Communists and Left wingers. Long silent, they have once more begin agitating. The next fruits of their agitation has been a strike at Lubes Hat Works, where forty workers walked out demanding the 44-hour week, (they were working 48 hours) division of work, recognition of a shop committee and the cessation of wage cutting.

A picket line was thrown around Lubes. This line was re-enforced with girls from other shops, particularly from Golden Bros, in a demonstration of solidarity. The “Red Squad” did not succeed in intimidating the girls and men on strike. In forty-eight hours, the bosses at Lubes surrendered to all the demands of the workers.

If the millinery market was astir with hope after the first victory at Golden’s, the condition of the workers’ minds after the second brilliant victory can only be left to the imagination. The workers were inspired, but the bosses’ chief emotion was one of fear and alarm.

Mr. Sam Golden is the vice-president of the Millinery Ass’n, the bosses’ organization. In an evidently planned attack, the bosses of the Golden Bros. shop began to lay the ground work of again attempting to introduce the piece-work system. The workers who are nervously alert demanded of the Golden Bros., the giving up of these plans. When the Messrs. Golden refused, the workers walked out to the number of 70 out of 90 employed. Of the 20 remaining, most of them were relatives. This was about a week ago.

The first day of the strike witnessed the arrest of two pickets, comrade Elsie Meyers and Helen Costello. This did not in any way frighten the strikers. Picketing kept right on in spite of the almost unbelievably brutality of the most, despicable collection of human filth which bears the title of “Red Squad”. Thursday night six more pickets were arrested. They are still in jail as charge after charge is being placed against them making bail impossible to secure. The original strikers, however, are out nearly one hundred per cent.

Strike meetings, held under the leadership of the chairman of the strike committee, comrade Sam Meyers, an active Left Oppositionist, are as enthusiastic now as on the lirst day of the strike. The workers are girding themselves for a long time struggle. The bosses arc doing likewise.

The Chamber of Commerce presented Mr. Golden with a $5,000 check to be used in keeping Los Angeles the “white spot” of the country.

However, like a pack of wolves, the other manufacturers are snatching the Golden Bros.’ orders away as deliveries are not made. Mr. Golden’s bank credit is none too high. Victory is possible for the strikers provided the leadership of the union can formulate and apply correct policies.

The need at the moment is a mass picket line. This picktet line should bear the character of a united front. The issue is elementary and appeals to the proletarian instincts of every workers of every type of labor organization. Will the leadership of the union make this appeal to every progressive labor organization or will they retain their old position of “united-front-from-below” only? Or what is still worse, will they give lip service to the idea of a genuine united front and sabotage it in action?

The strike can be won provided a correct policy is followed. The L.O. in Los Angeles will attempt to point out this correct policy inside of the union and in the struggle, itself..

This strike wave particularly in the N.T.W.I.U., the only T.U.U.L. group of anywhere near a bona fide character in Los Angeles, has caught the party unprepared, Long paralyzed by the ultra-Leftism of the C.I., the worker Communists are re-learning the art of leadership in the every day struggles of the workers. Once liberated from the effects of the “Third Period” they are becoming skillful Communist organizers and not parroting sectarians. In the class struggle itself, the correctness of the views of the Left Opposition are being shown. The worker-Communist, after these struggles, will not be the easy prey for a pencil-pushing, “infallible” bureaucrat.

The activities of the L.O. in the agricultural fields, in the Needle Trades workers, in the unemployed organizations are putting the Left Opposition on the map. Our influence is growing rapidly, and while our membership is growing in an extremely slow pace disproportionate’ with the growth of our influence, organizationally too, we can mark some progress.

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