Ordinarily the term “industrial democracy,” in the average person’s mind, revolves around the rights of workers to organize and to negotiate agreements as to wages, hours and conditions of labor through representatives of their own choosing. This has been the dominant note in the literature and in the programs of those organizations which have for many years sponsored the study of labor history in school and college and initiated activities designed to stimulate labor to greater awareness of its role in industry. The right to work of all men, without regard to race or creed or color, has not been entirely disregarded but it has been subordinated to what has appeared to be the more important phase of the workers’ struggle.
The time has now come when such movements for industrial democracy must place the problem of racial discrimination in industry on a parallel plane to other industrial problems. For if men are to be denied the right to work at all because of their race or color or religious predilections, then industrial democracy can never be fully attained and the rights of labor will be forever in jeopardy.
There is a growing feeling on the part of Negro workers that the failure of Negroes to obtain jobs in defense industries is due to tacit collusion between organized labor and management. How much truth there is in this contention we are unable at this time to say. But there has unquestionably been a reluctance on the part of unions—even the CIO unions—to take up the cudgel for the Negro. In too many instances the union leadership has been content to point to the clause in the constitution of the unions which bans discrimination because of race. They fail to note that there has been little energetic action to make this clause live.
This attitude on the part of unions is the very apotheosis of stupidity. For the struggle to gain the historic rights of labor is not conditioned by race. And the allegiance of the stubborn industrialists who oppose organized labor outright, or who seek to emasculate its strength, is not determined by color. The Negro becomes a factor only when white industrialists seek to crush white labor by utilizing the Negro as a scab, and the success of this measure is in every single case dependent on the attitude which organized labor has maintained toward the Negro worker.
Mr. Sidney Hillman, Associate Director General of the Office of Production Management, has recently issued a statement to industries which hold defense contracts requesting the management to refrain from erecting the color bar at this critical time in the nation’s history. But if industry, particularly the aircraft industry, has given heed to his request we would be happy to be so informed. Up to the writing of this editorial neither private industry, nor public industry as represented by the various governments engaged in defense preparation, has inaugurated a change in policy. All apparently continue on a course of racial discrimination that is inexcusably unfair and undemocratic, and that will in the end prove to be unwise.96
Opportunity, 19 (May, 1941): 130.
The Crisis, 48 (May, 1941): 151.
From the very beginning of the present emergency the directors of the defense efforts of the United States were aware that total defense would be impossible without a full utilization of the country’s human resources. This was pointed out in an address, made before the First Annual Conference on the Negro in Business, by Sidney Hillman, Associate Director of the Office of Production Management. The following data are taken from his address.
Training program.—As a first step in solving the problem at issue the National Defense Advisory Commission endeavored to have provision made for the training of Negro workers in order that they might be qualified for employment under the defense program when industrial expansion would require an increased number of workers. Consequently, when the United States Office of Education started its defense training program in the summer of 1940, the Commissioner of Education stated, at the request of the National Defense Commission, that “in the expenditure of Federal funds for vocational training for defense, there should be no discrimination on account of race, creed, or color.”
This announcement was implemented when further appropriations were made for training for national defense. Again, in accordance with the plans of the National Defense Advisory Commission, the training legislation provided that—
No trainee under the foregoing appropriations shall be discriminated against because of sex, race, or color; and where separate schools are required by law for separate population groups, to the extent needed for trainees of such groups, equitable provision shall be made for facilities and training of like quality.
Employment policy.—Paralleling this drive for training Negroes for defense work, the Commissioner of Education took up the problem of equitable job opportunities, stating from the outset that “workers should not be discriminated against because of age, sex, race, or color.”
Construction work.—At Fort Meade in Maryland, Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Fort Robinson in Arkansas, and in scores of other camp constructions, skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled Negroes were widely employed. Over 2,500 Negro carpenters alone worked on these various projects at $8 to $12 per day, and thousands of brickmasons, roofers, cement finishers, plasterers, power-saw operators, and other skilled and semiskilled Negroes, were and are being employed. At one time during the construction work at Fort Jackson, over 600 Negro carpenters were on the pay roll. The hiring of 300 Negro carpenters during the construction of the United States Army Hospital at New Orleans set a record for that occupation in that community.
In the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, in a locality in which not over 10 Negro families were living, over 150 Negro carpenters were given jobs through the aid of Dr. Robert C. Weaver’s office; moreover, approximately 300 Negro bricklayers were placed on a single construction job in Indiana, and tens of thousands of unskilled Negroes obtained employment throughout the United States.
The recent hirings of Negroes in building construction have been duplicated less conspicuously in other fields in which Negro labor had already been trained. For example, the iron and steel industry indicates a greater absorption of skilled and semiskilled Negroes. Establishments in several northern sections have recently been seeking to bring Negro foundry workers from the South; and job opportunities are also increasing in the latter section.
In reporting on the developments in the above-mentioned fields, the speaker said that he did not wish to give the impression that the Office of Production Management is “interested only in advancing the Negro skilled worker in the fields in which he has already gained employment.” He stated that the position of the OPM had been recently expressed by him in a communication to all defense contractors, which declared “that every available source of labor capable of producing defense materials must be tapped in the present emergency. And this applies to the important new defense industries as well as to the old established ones.”
The Negro in aviation.—The problem of a fair deal in employment for Negroes has already arisen in the aviation industry as in all other industries, and the OPM intends to continue its campaign there. Three significant developments indicate that progress may be looked for in that field. Confronted with a labor shortage, one aircraft factory in California is trying out a Negro unit. An aircraft manufacturer in Ohio is contemplating hiring at least 300 Negroes. In Missouri another employer has pledged himself to use a substantial number of Negroes in his aircraft establishment.
Statement of Committee on Negro Americans in Defense Industries
On May 7, 1941, about 60 representative citizens of the North and South issued a statement urging that greater numbers of competent Negroes be employed in defense industries and that opportunities for special industrial training be made more generally available to them. In releasing this statement to the press, Dr. Anson Phelps Stokes, the chairman of the Committee on Negro Americans in National Defense Industries, said: “We wish as independent citizens to support the recent efforts made with encouraging results through the Office of Production Management to speed up defense industries. One way of accomplishing this is by the larger employment of skilled Negro mechanics, especially in fields where there is a labor shortage. In this way we can help place our industrial life in this national emergency on a more effective basis. An ‘all-out’ defense effort cannot disregard the Negro tenth of our population which is known for its loyalty.”
Monthly Labor Review, 52 (June, 1941): 1388–90.
By Thomas A. Webster
The treatment of this topic is based entirely upon experiences in Greater Kansas City and the great mid-western region which surrounds the city.
The fact that Kansas City is a border line center, often termed a northern city with a southern exposure, may account for the similarity of experiences that are characteristic of both our southern and northern industrial communities.
The role of the Negro in the trade union movement in Kansas City is this in brief: Negro union members are either in distinct Negro locals such as the Brotherhood of Pullman Porters, and the Hod-Carriers’ Union, or in mixed locals like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the packing industry locals, or in separate and auxiliary units of the white parent bodies such as the Federated Musicians Local.
Negro carpenters, bricklayers, painters, plumbers, electricians, cement finishers and sheet metal workers have been barred either by constitutional provisions, ritual or some other device from union membership in Kansas City.
Since the social study is the chief tool of a social work agency, the Kansas City Urban League made a six-months’ study of Kansas City Negro workers as they were affected by trade union organization. The study treated the Negro worker as a part of the organized labor movement, in the role of a strike-breaker, and also studied experiences and problems of Negro workers both within and outside of labor organizations in Kansas City. This study, “The Negro Worker of Kansas City,” served as the basis on which social action was planned to open union membership to more Negro workers.
Board and staff members of the Urban League held conferences with the executive officers of the Labor Council of Kansas City, composed of one hundred representatives from as many locals in the city. An appeal was made to have those unions which had bars against Negroes to drop them, or to make plans whereby Negroes would not be eliminated entirely from work where union membership was the first requirement. These attempts met with no success. It was only after public mass meetings, protests to Congressmen, labor officials and federal agencies, that union barriers began to break in Kansas City. First, Negro carpenters hurdled the 30-year bar which would not permit Negro members to belong to the same local as white members. Since becoming union members, Negro carpenters have worked on all of the cantonment projects and other important government construction work where white carpenters had threatened to walk off if Negroes were hired. Contractors have used them in mixed crews without any difficulty. Many Negro carpenters have been engaged on private jobs where whites said they would not have a chance.
Next came the induction of Negro bricklayers into the white local where already one Negro has been made a foreman by a contractor in a munition plant project. Despite the fact that Negro bricklayers are few compared with white members, three are serving as stewards on jobs with white workers.
Recently seventeen Negro painters have successfully passed an examination for union membership and probably have received their charter by now. For thirty-five years the Painters’ District Council had barred Negro mechanics from union membership.
The League has also been holding meetings of Negro cement finishers, sheet metal workers, electricians, and plumbers. We expect to break the traditional bars against Negro workers in these crafts. With public and defense housing jobs, as well as other government construction to be started soon in Greater Kansas City, union membership will mean thousands of additional dollars to Negro workers.
Contact with employers is a very definite factor in the placement of workers. In 1929 the Urban League made a comprehensive survey of the industrial status of the Negro in Kansas City. Out of 1,235 industries in 1929, only 308 employed Negroes in any capacity. Forty-eight per cent of all Negro workers were employed as porters; of forty-eight plants using mixed crews, only seventeen offered real promotion for the Negro workers. In none of these plants had there ever been racial friction, and the labor turnover among Negro workers was low.
Eleven years later conditions are substantially the same. The Federal government has sunk over four hundred million dollars in Kansas City plants to manufacture tents, trunks, engines, radios, clothing, airplanes and scores of other supplies.
Believing that such a volume of new business for Kansas City industries would call for additional workers, the League interviewed fifty-four employers holding defense contracts. The interviews disclosed that only eleven of these firms employed Negroes, and only four of these plants employed them other than as janitors, watchmen or common laborers. These were the statements that employers gave to hundreds of jobless Negroes who expected the new industrial boom to include them:
“White men won’t work with Negroes.”
“We would have to build separate locker and toilet facilities.”
“The unions never send us Negro workers.”
Despite repeated efforts to get Negro workers into these plants, no substantial numbers have gained employment.
Believing that if trained workers were available, color would be less of a factor when serious shortages occurred, training was sought for Negro workers. Educational authorities refused to set up classes until employers gave reasonable assurances of employment. Employers claimed they could not promise employment for untrained workers. Negroes were caught in the traditional vicious circles of buck-passing and run-around.
A conference of city officials, educational directors and employers was called to discuss plans for employing more Negro workers. Employers using Negro workers in skilled jobs without friction between them and white workers were invited. Employers who had flatly refused to consider Negro workers were also asked to attend. Only those employers who used Negro workers came to the conference. They were only able to reiterate that they were using Negro skilled workers, and would use more if production increased. These companies use Negroes as car builders, car inspectors, machinists’ helpers, coach cleaners, hostlers, welders, moulders, grinders, chippers, boiler builders, paint sprayers and as punch press and overhead crane operators.
Employers attitudes have limited both refresher and supplementary training programs for Negro workers. Managers of new industries coming to the city would often promise unlimited employment to Negroes, only to rescind these promises later by claiming they might have to conform to community patterns. In all instances they used as the community pattern those industries that use Negroes only in the custodial and service occupations. Added to an already gloomy picture were the malicious statements of several responsible citizens. It was circulated that the North American Aviation Corporation said through its Mr. Kindelberger that it would employ only as janitors, and that Negroes could not be employed because they were petty thieves. They said small, costly airplane precision parts which could be pocketed easily were to be manufactured. This plant, it was also rumored, would not use Jews, Orientals, Germans or Italians. Whoever circulated the rumor overlooked the fact that the packing and manufacturing industries in Kansas City used Negroes and they experienced no more theft on the part of Negroes than from white workers. During the same week this lie was being circulated, two airplane factories in Wichita, Kansas, issued an order prohibiting workers from bringing their own tool boxes into the plants. The workers would invariably leave with a micrometer or a handful of rivets in the bottom of the tool box.
These plants did not even employ a Negro janitor and one stated specifically in its application blank, “white workers only need apply.”
On the heels of this a director of records of the Kansas City Police Department, on hearsay evidence, in a public meeting stated there were 10,000 Communists in Kansas City, of whom 6,000 were Negroes. Although this statement was later repudiated, irreparable damage was done to already job-impoverished Negroes. Many employers needed only such a statement as a further excuse for not using Negroes.
Believing that the position and policy of the Federal government as one of the largest employers of workers will influence and determine the policies of private industrialists, special attention has been given to three major concerns in Greater Kansas City. These are government-owned plants to be operated under the supervision of the Federal government. They are the North American Aircraft Corporation, which will employ at its peak production around 10,000 workers, the Remington Small Arms Plant, to use 8,000 workers, the majority of whom will be women to tend automatic machines, and the Kansas City Quartermaster’s Depot.
The Quartermaster’s Depot has already employed its personnel of several hundred workers with civil service status; eighty-one Negro classified laborers are used in storage and distribution work. The Commanding Officer believes that labor work offers the best promotion in the depot for Negroes because they all work in the same department; only one Negro is detached from this department. A clerk in the Finance Department with all white clerks is tolerated because his work is largely outside of the depot, auditing reports in nearby camps. Negro storekeepers, clerks, packers, guards and shippers have been told these are “white men’s jobs,” or this temporary work, while laborers’ jobs are more permanent.
The bomber plant and the small arms plant have said they will not discriminate against Negro workers In any department, yet to date real consideration is being given only to the employment of Negro custodians, grounds keepers, laborers, and box makers. Only forty-two Negro trainees have received sheet metal training for the bomber plant which intends to use 8,000 to 10,000 sheet metal workers. Conformity with the community pattern is being interpreted to mean that only Negro custodial and maintenance workers can be used.
Kansas City, similar to many communities, found hundreds of Negro workers lacking training and industrial experience essential to defense industries. Many had been without foresight and felt specialized training was costly and a waste of effort when immediate employment opportunities offered them no chance to utilize such skills as they might acquire. Yet there are those who had gained skilled occupational experience during the last World War or had migrated to Kansas City from communities that did employ Negro skilled workers. Hundreds of Negro workers sought refresher and supplementary training classes when the emergency program started. At first they were offered training on a car-washing project and a form-building project, neither of which was needed by defense industries. Negro youth on NYA work-shop projects were being offered personal grooming and janitorial training.
Today less than fifty Negro youth have had short intensive training in aircraft sheet metal work. Less than a score are being given gas welding instruction and a like number instruction in operating multiple needle sewing machines. Despite the shortage of more than 1,000 operatives in the garment industries, no Negro women have been accepted. Both the garment industries unions and the employers say they are needed and will not stand in their way, but the two forces have not reached an agreement on the actual employment of these women.
The public employment office registrations on which labor supply for the Kansas City region is determined, indicate few Negroes listed with skills necessary for defense production. During the depression period Negro applicants, despite the fact they could offer skilled occupational experience, preferred to be classified for jobs which were traditional. Many preferred steady work as laborers on WPA projects to temporary work as carpenters or bricklayers. In some instances applicants were encouraged by employment officials to apply for such work.
Still others who registered for work with employment agencies failed to return or telephone to reactivate their registration after the usual thirty-day period. Still others have been purely negligent in using the public employment service.
Proof of citizenship by the presentation of a birth certificate or equivalent documentary evidence has worked a hardship on Negro trainees. Many were born in communities where registration of Negro births was not available, either because the birth was attended by a mid-wife or Negroes were not born officially as far as vital statistics recordings were concerned.
Hundreds of Negroes who possess skills which can be increased by supplementary training have not sought such training opportunities. Of three hundred and fifty trainees referred by three major industries on the training within industry basis, no Negro workers are included.
The Negro Defense Committee of Kansas City has used personal interviews, bell-ringing and door-knocking as methods to reach trained Negro workers or those who could profit by refresher and supplementary training courses. Plans are being projected to hold a public meeting, with the cooperation of Negro churches, to have Negro skilled workers to list their skills and present this information to officials in charge of labor supply to the Kansas City area.
Despite the President’s Executive Order, hundreds of Negro workers still believe nothing will change the status of their employment in Kansas City. The evidence of the gains by bricklayers, carpenters and painters is not enough to give hope to other skilled mechanical workers.
Opportunity, 19 (October, 1941): 295–97.
By Joseph S. Himes, Jr.
Absorption of Negro labor by industry in this period of national defense is subject to the operation of the economic law of supply and demand. Both aspects of this process contain serious bottlenecks.
Available indexes show that Negro labor is benefiting from the national defense boom. This quickening of demand for colored workers is evident in spite of the persistence of discriminatory personnel practices and the slow yielding by industry to governmental policy and pressure.
The ranks of colored labor on WPA and relief rolls are being thinned daily by the return to work. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce employment index for August, 1941, was 134.8 and although the rate of Negro employment lags behind this figure, it is measurably above the level of a year ago.
To take a typical month for example, in May, 1941, the Columbus office of the Ohio State Employment Service placed over 1,000 colored applicants. In May, 1940, this office placed only a few more than 1,700 applicants of all races. These 1,000 Negro placements constituted 35 per cent of total placements through the Columbus office in May.
This increased demand is reflected in the experience of a number of Negro employers. Insurance companies, automobile service establishments, and building repair contractors complain about the inability of securing satisfactory workers. Capable men, formerly available to these employers, are being drawn off by the army and the swelling tide of national defense stimulated employment.
Analysis of the employment figures by occupations reveals a significant trend. Encouraging proportions of these workers find production jobs in industries related to national defense. The majority, however, replace white workers in service occupations. They are filling jobs in automobile repair and service shops, filling stations, laundries, office machine repair and service establishments, cleaning and pressing concerns, hotels and restaurants, delivery service and like concerns.
Although defense production jobs are more glamorous and often pay higher wages, these service jobs have some advantages. Even the optimists expect the defense boom to come to an end sometime, and workers will no longer be needed to build fighter planes, machine guns and military uniforms. Meanwhile, the services which are now engaging increasing numbers of colored workers may reasonably be expected to continue. These service jobs, supported by the thick crust of American tradition regarding the place of Negro labor, are relatively permanent, involve some, often considerable, skill and are fairly well paid.
The entry of Negro labor into defense stimulated jobs is hindered by a supply bottleneck. Under the unremitting pressure of government agencies, local organizations and mounting labor shortages, additional industries express a willingness to accept colored workers. The about face of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Columbus is a dramatic case in point.
The call is for skilled, technically trained workers with recent experience; machinists, sheet metal workers, engineers, draftsmen, layout men and the like. Information of opportunities for many hundreds of Negro workers in these and similar lines in Ohio today rests on the desks of Urban League offices and the Clearance Department of the Ohio State Employment Service. It is impossible to find colored workers to fill these jobs. Those who are qualified are employed. Those who are available are unqualified, either by virtue of inadequate training or lack of recent industrial experience.
The movement of skilled labor into defense-stimulated employment is caught in this bottleneck of technology and narrowed down to insignificance.
Some colored labor, however, is entering defense production as learner-helpers and trainees. Industry-controlled training programs like those of Curtiss-Wright and publicly supported programs are important inlets for Negro labor into national defense jobs. Available figures indicate that many colored workers in defense employment enter as trainee-learners and replacements of white single-skill workers. Unfortunately, the flow of colored labor into these jobs by this channel is further bottle-necked by the reluctance to seek available technical training.
In view of the shortage of technical and skilled colored workers with recent experience, the industrial practices of down-processing and up-grading are developing some opportunities for Negro labor. Down-processing is the practice of breaking highly skilled jobs down into component operations and assigning these to crews of single-skill workers on the assembly-line plan and under the supervision of a highly skilled mechanic who puts the finishing touches on the work as it comes off the line. Workers of limited ability can be taught to perform a single operation with great efficiency and with far less time and cost than it requires to produce an all-round mechanic.
The need in this situation is for men with some mechanical aptitude, limited ambition and psychological equipment capable of standing the monotony of the work. The casting and machining of metal parts once performed by moulders and machinists, is now down-processed in some shops to an assembly-line operation. This practice is employed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in the manufacture of fighter planes in the Columbus plant.
Young Negro workers, with some training and no experience, find an opportunity to enter production industries under this system. As a matter of fact, the volume of Negro placements in production industries in this area is due in part to the application of this processing technique.
Employed on single-skill jobs colored workers have an opportunity for promotions and pay increases as they improve in skill and efficiency by the practice of up-grading. The importance of this process is indicated by the instances of the up-grading of alert Negro workers in Columbus industries. Moreover, for instance, the capable worker who passes up through all jobs on the machine assembly line may expect to become a first-rate all-round machinist with current industrial experience.
The movement of colored workers into defense production industries, however, is retarded by their reluctance, particularly young workers, to seek technical training. Current reports show that this situation is general. A recent bulletin from the Industrial Relations Department of the National Urban League contains the following figures. In Cincinnati only 21 Negroes were included in 700 trainees enrolled in Federal defense courses. In Pittsburgh the corresponding figures were 25 Negroes out of a total defense training enrollment of 825; and in New York, 268 out of a total of 10,000. In Cincinnati 200 of the total of 4,000 youths enrolled in vocational high schools were colored; and in Pittsburgh 135 Negro youths were found among the 5,234 in vocational high schools.
As is evidenced by placement figures, the integration of colored labor into national defense production is measurably retarded by this reluctance to seek necessary training. Furthermore, the indifference of employed workers to in-service training reduces their opportunity of being up-graded and tends to hold them in marginal jobs. Finally, the failure of Negro workers to achieve progressively increasing industrial competence and usefulness will probably limit their chances of retaining this newly gained foothold after the defense bubble bursts.
The present configuration of labor supply for defense production has developed two points of entry for Negro workers; namely, as service workers and as single-skill learner-helpers. However, their reluctance to seek available technical training tends to bottleneck the ready integration of available Negro workers into defense industries and threatens to create a problem of the first magnitude for Negroes in industrial communities.
Opportunity, 19 (November, 1941): 329–30.
White Members Picket Company When Violence Flares Between Strikers and Non-Strikers Demands Higher Pay
SHREVEPORT, La., Dec. 18—(By B. Everett Moore for ANP)—A strike on the part of Negro employees at a local wholesale grain distributing company has caused many unusual incidents which should bear watching. Under orders from the local AFL office, Negro employees at the company demanded an increase of 10 cents per hour. Their demand was refused by the company and 26 Negro truck drivers and helpers refused to work.
Trouble burst upon the scene when non-union workers attempted to defy the striking procedure and go to work. Following a series of fights and attacks, 26 Negro strikers were arrested and hailed into city court on charges of threatening the lives of non-strikers. After a reprimand by the city judge, they promised that there would be no more trouble, however, to make their promises hold good, each striker was put under a $100 peace bond, in effect pending good behavior.
Whites Take Over Picket Duty
The strikers apparently agreed to also cease their picketing because they are no longer part of the picket lines. Instead (and this is extremely unusual) the local AFL office has placed white pickets on the grounds to protest the company’s unfairness to its Negro employees by refusing to give an increase in pay of 10 cents per hour to grant seniority rights to veteran employees.
Today there is ironyin the scene created by the local white union which is backing its Negro members to the extent of engaging white pickets to alleviate the dangers which Negro workers would be subjected to if put in the picket lines.
The strike is one of the most demonstrative on the part of Negroes in this section. They are determined in their demands to force the company to accede to their desires and for once the union stands staunch behind them.
Pittsburgh Courier, December 20, 1941.
Survey Shows Heavy Increase in Skilled Jobs and Decrease of Laborers—Stress Need for Youth to Get Training
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 18—Negro civilian employment in United States Navy Yards increased by more than one hundred per cent during the year ending Sept. 30, 1941, Dr. Robert C. Weaver, chief of Negro employment and training branch of the Labor Division of OPM announced this week.
According to the findings of a survey made public by Dr. Weaver, a total of 13,401 Negro technical, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers were employed in United States Navy Yards on Sept. 30, 1940. During the same period, the percentage of Negro workers in these yards increased from 6.03 per cent to 8.03 per cent of the total employment figures.
Urges Youths to Obtain Training
Dr. Weaver revealed the Navy Yard employment figures in urging Negro youths to enroll in national defense training classes as a means of obtaining skilled employment.
“Navy Yards throughout the country,” he said, “are hiring thousands of defense training graduates as helpers in various skilled categories. These trainees, who are chosen without regard to race, creed, color or national origin, are given credit for six months experience and are hired at starting wages of $4.72 to $5.12 a day. These youths are then upgraded as rapidly as possible into skilled mechanics.”
The greatest increase in Negro employment was in two southern navy yards, the survey indicated. The Charleston Navy Yard at Charleston, S.C., increased its number of Negro employees from 453 to 1,802 during the one year period, with the percentage to the total number of employees rising from 9.5 per cent to 17.7 per cent.
A Decrease in Unskilled Class
At the same time, Negro employment in the Norfolk Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Va., increased from 2,111 in September, 1940, to 5,426 on Sept. 30, 1941. Officials at the Norfolk Navy Yard stated in November that their Negro employees now exceed 6,000 and comprise more than 23 per cent of total employment.
An analysis of the occupational distribution of Negro workers in the United States Navy Yards revealed an increase in clerical and technical workers from 118 to 205; skilled workers, 1,003 to 1,830; helpers and classified laborers, 4,153 to 10,822 and apprentices, 103 to 205. Negro common laborers decreased from 557 to 350 during the twelve-month period.
Pittsburgh Courier, December 20, 1941.
NEW YORK, Jan. 29—As further proof of the solidarity and comradeship which distinguishes its membership from that of any other labor union, the National Maritime Union disclosed last week that a crew of white seamen had refused to sail on the S.S. Mormacport, a cargo ship built by the government for the Moore-McCormack Lines, when officials of the line refused to hire four able-bodied seamen who were Negroes.
In order to obtain a crew, the line finally yielded its position and took on a mixed crew which included the four rejected Negro seamen—Jacob Green, Zuvendee Wyllis, Allan David and Harry Jones, all of whom have seen from 15 to 20 years service at sea.
Line Official Denies Blame
It took the intervention of President Roosevelt three weeks ago to force the United States Lines to rescind its rejection of twelve Negro seamen who had been assigned to the S.S. Kungsholm by the National Maritime Union. As in the case of the Mormacport, white seamen were willing to sail as members of the mixed crew but line officials would not allow it.
Although the NMU has accused the Moore-McCormack Lines of discrimination, Robert C. Lee, executive vice-president of the shipping firm, has entered an emphatic denial. “It’s a lie, he said, “and I’m perfectly willing to be quoted. The NMU informed us that there was a shortage of seamen and asked us if we would take colored men.
“I said all right, but there must not be any checkerboard. I have no color line. We’ll take an all-white crew or an all-colored crew, but we won’t quarter them together. We’ll take colored men provided the whites don’t object. That’s positively the only basis I’d accept.” Mr. Lee admitted that the whites had not objected in the case of the Mormacport. “It seems that they are Comies,” he said.
Pittsburgh Courier, January 31, 1942.
January 14, 1942
Mr. Joseph Curran, President
National Maritime Union
346 West 17th Street
New York, N.Y.
My dear Mr. Curran:
I am informed that the discrimination against colored seamen, referred to in your telegram of January 2nd, was eliminated by the action of the United States Maritime Commission on the day it occurred.
It is the policy of the Government of the United States to encourage full participation in the National Defense program by all citizens, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin, in the firm belief that the democratic way of life within the nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups within its borders.
The policy was stated in my Executive Order signed on June 25, 1941. The order instructed all parties making contracts with the Government of the United States to include in all defense contracts thereafter a provision obligating the contractor not to discriminate against any worker because of race, creed, color or national origin.
Questions of race, creed and color have no place in determining who are to man our ships. The sole qualifications for a worker in the maritime industry, as well as in any other industry, should be his loyalty and his professional or technical ability and training.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Pittsburgh Courier, January 31, 1942.
By Charles A. Shorter
Philadelphia is a city which has achieved an enviable eminence in industry. Its manufacturing, according to the Ninth Industrial Directory of Pennsylvania (1937), consisted of 5,537 establishments with a total personnel of 292,691 employees.
The introduction of the National Defense Program into the city has caused a large expansion in both the physical facilities and personnel of its industries. The city ranks among the top flight industrial areas in the country, and as a consequence has received several billion dollars in defense contract awards.
Negro workers first made their entree into Philadelphia industries in the year 1915, when as a result of a labor shortage they were given their first opportunity. Since that time, notwithstanding the unfavorable consequences of the depression years, the Negro has been able to a degree to maintain the gains afforded by the first World War. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1935, according to the report of the Bureau of Statistics, Department of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania, there were 13,181 Negroes employed in the eleven major divisions of industry in the city.
Likewise, with respect to the unions, Negroes in the pre-defense days held membership. Their status today in the organized labor movement in Philadelphia may be divided into three classifications. There are locals which have mixed memberships, a typical example being the construction unions, both skilled and unskilled. In the International Hod Carriers’ Building and Common Laborers’ Union, the Negro membership is placed in the thousands. Negroes hold membership in the following construction unions: painters, lathers (woodwire), bricklayers, cement finishers, plasterers and carpenters. There are not any in the electrical and plumbers unions, although the unions have made the commitment that qualified Negroes will be accepted into membership. In the garment industry unions, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers’ Union of America, is found a mixed membership. There are other unions in the city which have a membership which is totally colored, and still others where Negroes are not accepted. A typical case of the latter being International Association of Machinists. Unions in Philadelphia have good and bad classifications with respect to Negro workers, and in many instances they have operated to restrict Negro employment.
This review shows briefly the status of Negroes with respect to industry in Philadelphia before the introduction of the National Defense Program. It also reveals that in making an effort to have Negroes integrated into the many factories and plants of the city in connection with defense, those dealing with this problem did have an entering wedge.
Since the inception of the defense program, an examination of the status of Negroes with regard to finding employment in the industries holding contracts discloses that there are three major barriers which must be overcome before a statement can be made that a satisfactory condition exists. The first is the inclusion of qualified Negroes in the intraining programs of the city’s plants. On this matter there is evidence that employers have completely succumbed to the virus of race prejudice. A similar state of condition also exists in connection with the up-grading of qualified Negro workers who are already employed in industry. Likewise there is need for a more widespread use of Negroes or increase in numbers of such workers in many of the plants. This latter condition, however, is not as unfavorable as the other two.
Concerning Negroes and the training within industry it may be said that the non-inclusion of them in such a program has been sufficient to create consternation within their ranks; many have assumed a defeatist attitude in their job-seeking efforts. This is evidenced by the fact that of the 3,500 Negroes who enrolled for defense training within the past year, the mortality has been high, only 3 or 4 per cent have been listed as completing the training course. This is important in light of the fact that many of the defense employers have done their recruiting in the schools. Also in connection with defense training, a study of the type of courses in which Negroes are enrolled shows very clearly that in many instances they are too concentrated in too few important courses. For example, it has been estimated that 70 per cent of the defense contract awards in Philadelphia have been for ship construction and naval equipment. In examining Negro enrollment in training courses allied to these fields one finds only a small percentage of such trainees. Only a few have taken such courses as ship-fitting, marine pipe fitting and ship mold loft. There has been on the other hand a large Negro enrollment in the automotive courses such as auto-maintenance. In connection with this matter of guidance into the proper courses of defense training, the members of the staff of the Armstrong Association, an affiliate of the National Urban League, in conferring with prospective enrollees, have always tried to channel them into the courses where there is the greatest need for such trained workers, before sending them to places of registration.
Contacts with employers in an effort to have the integration of Negro trainees into their intraining programs have brought varying responses. Some of the more commonly given ones are: “We would very readily accept Negro trainees, we have no policy against them, but our employees will not accept them as co-workers;” “No bar against the use of Negro workers, but there seems to be evidence that Negroes and whites don’t get along so very well together;” “We do not have any Negro trainees, because our work is highly technical—we select the best minds among the trainees enrolled in the defense courses and employ them in our intraining programs.” To offset this first listed reason we bring to the attention of the employer the many cases where Negroes and whites are working as co-workers. On the second, we refer to the voluminous testimony given by other employers as to the harmonious relationship existing among their Negro and white employees. In connection with the third reason set forth by employers as to the non-inclusion of Negro trainees, we cite the many instances where, according to defense training instructors, Negroes have rated among the best in the classes. There is some evidence that our responses have had their effect, a case in point being Edward G. Budd Company where the commitment was given that Negroes would be included in this program. But, on a whole, the inclusion of Negroes in the training program matter is unfavorable.
In reference to the second major barrier to be overcome, the lack of upgrading Negro workers, employers usually say, “it can’t be done” and refer to long established competitive feeling which has existed between black and white workers. A summation of this condition may be stated thus: In comparison with white workers assuming competence as normal, Negroes are not promoted in accordance with abilities and length of service in the preponderance of Philadelphia’s defense industries. Of course this statement must be qualified with the remark that there are exceptions.
Another unfavorable situation which exists in many of the local defense industries is the scarcity of Negro workers found in some of the plants. There are a number of such firms in which the Negro personnel represents only one per cent of the total. Employers of these firms when approached point with a great deal of pride to the fact that they have Negroes in their employ. There is little evidence that they know or have given consideration to the fact that there are 251,000 Negroes in the city representing approximately 13 per cent of the total population. With such firms it may be likewise brought out that in most instances the few Negroes employed are serving only in menial work capacities and have nothing whatever to do with the various production operations.
Some of the most frequently given reasons by employers for the non-employment of qualified Negro workers or the limited inclusion of such workers are: “My employees are not willing to accept Negroes as co-workers;” “Our work is highly technical, we haven’t found any Negroes qualified;” “My employees will not use the same toilet facilities which are available to Negroes;” “Negroes and whites don’t get along so well as workers;” “The union never sends us any Negroes;” “Our jobs are handed from generation to generation by the white persons in our plant.” The most overworked of these reasons is the first. In Philadelphia, however, although defense employers have fortified themselves with the aforementioned arguments or excuses and have in many instances taken a rather determined stand with respect to Negro workers, favorable changes have been brought about. There have been very definite gains made in the defense industries by Negro workers. Gains from the standpoint of increase in their personnel, the number of elevations to skilled positions and also in the number of factories and plants using Negroes for the first time. A review of this situation and specific instances where gains have been evidenced is more important in stimulating the morale among Negroes than the negative side of the matter is in building a spirit of defeatism. It is our feeling that if we are to induce the group to train and prepare successfully, we must be able to show progress.
While one finds many unfavorable instances in the employment conditions among Negroes in Philadelphia, a close examination brings out that they are not preeminently as bad as the average layman thinks. In the three governmental agencies, which have a vital part in defense work, the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Frankford Arsenal, and the Quartermaster’s Depot, there are approximately 3,168 Negroes employed. This figure represents a little over 6 per cent of the total. At the Philadelphia Navy Yard there are 1,768 Negro workers. While the weighty majority fall under the occupational grouping of classified laborer, it is interesting to note that Negroes are found in 36 other work classifications at the Yard. Some of the jobs held are: ship-fitters, coppersmiths, boatbuilders, machinists, sheetmetal workers, apprentices, electricians, assistant chemist, boiler-makers, pipefitters, welders, drillers, shipwrights, painters, sewers (female), and clerks. The Quartermaster’s Depot affords the greatest opportunity for Negro female workers. This agency has hundreds of Negro power-machine operators, and also has Negro workers as checkers, under-mimeograph operators, and employed in various other occupations. The Frankford Arsenal has a number of Negro workers; an examination, however, reveals that while there are Negroes working in skilled capacities in the agency, it also discloses that a great majority are serving in unskilled jobs. The Marine Depot has a sizeable number of Negro workers. All of the jobs which Negroes have received in connection with these governmental agencies have been through Civil Service. And in connection with the latter it may be added that there is evidence in Philadelphia that there would be a larger number of Negroes employed with these agencies if there wasn’t so much power vested in the authority of the appointing officers.
The year 1941 has witnessed qualified Negro workers being introduced into factories where in previous years they weren’t even accepted as applicants. Perhaps the most outstanding instance of the kind was the introduction of five Negro workers into the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company, in July. Recent contact with this company revealed that the number of Negro workers had increased to 50 and that Negroes had been integrated into several classifications of work. They are employed as shear-operators, workers on assembling lines, truckers (inside), garage workers and elevator operators. The Cramp Shipbuilding Company, which had its second beginning last year, has at the present time 107 Negroes employed in the following capacities: chippers, general helpers, riveters, drillers, laborers, riveter-helpers, driller-helpers, and janitors. Likewise, Negroes, since the beginning of the defense program, have been introduced the first time as workers into the S. L. Allen Company, the Bendix Aviation Corporation, the Kellet Autogiro and the Electric Storage Battery Company.
Perhaps the greatest gains afforded Negro workers of Philadelphia during the past year have been in such plants and factories where they were already established. Figures have been gathered recently by our office which indicate specific gains for Negro workers in defense plants. Some of these are: The General Steel Casting Corporation (Eddystone, Pa.), in September, 1940, had 170 Negroes in its employ; today has 383, an increase of some 125 per cent. Dodge Steel Company increased its Negro personnel from 70 to 100 in number, a 42 per cent increase. The Philadelphia Navy Yard in February, 1941 had 1,400 Negro workers; this figure has been increased by 368, representing a 26 per cent increase. Baldwin Locomotive Works (Eddystone, Pa.), in 1940 had 85 Negro employees; today the company has 135, an increase of 58 per cent. The Keystone Coat and Apron Company during the past year has increased its Negro personnel from 75 persons as of September, 1940 to 200 in October, 1941, a 166 per cent increase. The Frankford Arsenal last year had 284 Negro employees; today this agency has 500, an increase of 76 per cent. There are numerous other Philadelphia companies which may be placed on this list, and while the aforementioned has been given as evidence in bringing out the favorable side of the matter of defense work and Negroes, it must be kept in mind that there are still many inequalities. To briefly summarize the situation, it may be said that Philadelphia is a city which does not fully practice unlimited discrimination. There have been gains made by Negroes in defense industries and also in those industries which have been indirectly affected by the national preparedness program.
Efforts made by the Armstrong Association to have qualified Negro workers fully integrated into the defense program have been constant, varied and numerous. Contacts have been made individually with defense employers in an effort to sell them on the use of Negro labor and likewise with non-defense employer groups. As a result of our contact with the Metal Manufacturers’ Association, a statement requesting the full utilization of Negro labor was placed in the monthly bulletin of the organization. This publication has a mailing list of several hundred of the metal firms. Copies of “I Can Run Your Machines,” published by the National Urban League, along with lists of qualified available Negro workers, have been placed in the possession of a number of local employers.
Since so many employment opportunities are predicated upon either joining or the approval of organized employee groups, union contacts have been made by the staff of the Armstrong Association in an effort to enhance work opportunities for Negroes. Influential Negro and white groups, through our efforts, have been influenced and induced to take a stand on the matter of job discrimination against qualified Negroes. Advice, counsel and information on the defense program have been given to the hundreds of Negroes who have come into our offices. We have directed the attention of Negro workers to Civil Service examinations and to possible sources of private employment. In this effort we have sent out special notices to the list of applicants which we have on file.
In the all important matter of training the Armstrong Association has conducted an extensive educational program along the line of encouraging and inducing Negroes to go in for training. We have rendered an invaluable service to a large number of persons who had no understanding as to the first step to take to get a job or better the one which they had already. Many have been directed to sources of registration for defense training.
To reiterate a statement previously made, the status of the Negro in Philadelphia with respect to the National Defense Program has both its favorable and unfavorable aspects. Favorable developments have been of a nature and degree as to afford real encouragement of the possibility of greater progress; the unfavorable do not suggest that they cannot, through proper efforts, be modified for the better.
Opportunity, 20 (January, 1942): 4–7.
By Judge Henderson
The Crisis, 49 (March, 1942): 95.
By Emmett J. Scott97
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 5—As national mobilization of man power proceeds, it becomes increasingly evident that a labor shortage in the United States is in the offing—forecast to occur between July 1, 1942 and July 1, 1943.
The conversion of industry to war productuon will call for a schedule of 10,000,000 additional war productional workers and an additional 2,000,000 men for contingents of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
This startling revelation gives some notion of America’s colossal war preparation now underway, calling for 4,200,000 in uniform, and 15,000,000 others to be employed in turning out the implements of war by December of this year.
Coincident with the release of this information comes a survey-study of employment prospects for Negroes in armament industries just published by the Reports and Analysis Division of the Bureau of Employment Security of the Social Security Board.
Summary of Findings
A summary of its findings indicates that Negroes were not considered for employment in 51 per cent of 282,245 openings that occurred in selected establishments in defense industries during the period September 1941-February 1942.
Questioning of employers by Employment Service interviewers revealed that the degree of exclusion is even greater at the higher skill levels. At all skill levels there are occupations with heavy defense labor requirements in which most employers expect to continue to exclude Negroes.
Considerable differences in employer responses among the various industries and in various states were noted, it is stated. The least exclusion was reported by employers in the shipbuilding industry. (During the last World War record for driving of rivets was broken by a singing colored crew in an American shipyard—at Norfolk, Va.).
This is a depressing state of affairs after the struggles made during the past eight months to focus attention on the exclusion of Negroes from defense industries. The right of this group to participate fully in the defense program has been buttressed by an Executive Order from the White House. Government defense contracts which forbid discrimination against Negroes have been issued. Enlightened public opinion has expressed itself. Still the practice continues.
The Bureau of Employment Security interviewers requested employers in communities where Negroes are considered a significant minority group in the labor force to respond to these inquiries.
1. Whether they can employ Negroes in those occupations in which openings would occur?
2. Whether, if Negroes are not employed, they will employ them in the future?
Responding employers indicated that they do not and will not employ Negroes in more than half of the 282,245 jobs that were filled. They reported, however, that they would give consideration to Negroes in 30 per cent of the openings in categories from which Negroes have heretofore been barred. The remaining 19 per cent of the hires are to be made by employers who had Negroes working for them in occupations in which they are hiring.
Sadly, the Bureau relates, the evidence of relaxation of discriminatory practices is open to the criticism that employers’ responses may have been biased by a desire to appear cooperative with the government’s plea for an end to Negro discrimination in defense hiring. In actual practice the prospects for Negro employment may be even poorer than are indicated by the study.
Pittsburgh Courier, March 7, 1942.
ATLANTA, Ga., Mar. 19—Negro workers in Georgia who have any hope of getting a job in the giant aircraft plant now being built on the outskirts of Atlanta, will not receive the same pay as white workers if Governor Eugene Talmadge has his way. This was revealed last week when the Governor addressed a luncheon meeting at the Capital Club where the plant construction was discussed.98
Giving evidence of his race hatred, Talmadge let loose all the venom and vitrolic abuse he has become noted for. “The Negro here in Georgia is not used to being paid the same wages as the white workers,” he told the diners. “The Negro in the South is paid low wages because of their low standard of living and their low average of intelligence and it would be unwise for any northern industrialist to venture here in Georgia, build a giant enterprise like this bomber plant, and raise the wages of the skilled Negro worker to that of the skilled white worker.”
“This is White Man’s War”
The Georgia dictator even went so far as to call upon the members of the Cobb and Fulton counties Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a bill providing for them to have jurisdiction over all salaries on public jobs and Negro wages.
Continuing the Georgia Feuhrer stormed, “This is a white man’s war against the yellow man doggism and this war can be won without the Negroes help. The Negro has never done anything to help develop America so why should he be given a chance to enjoy the fruits like the white man or be given an even break.
Raps Air Cadets
“One of the worse things that the government did was to permit the training of Negroes to become U.S. Army flying cadets. The state of Georgia never has granted a Negro a pilot license and never will as long as I am the chief executive,” he concluded.
The Bell Aircraft Corporation of Buffalo, N.Y. announces it will build a giant bomber plant 17 miles from Atlanta at a total cost of $30,000,000 and would employ 42,000 people working on three shifts daily. The plant will be located between Marietta and Smyrna, the scene of mob violence in 1939 when white mobsters brutally beat and forced Negroes to leave their homes.
Pittsburgh Courier, March 21, 1942.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 11—Suggested plans for training 50,000 Negroes for jobs in war industries were discussed this week with Production Chief Donald Nelson and were to be forwarded to the White House for further consideration.
Earl Dickerson, Chicago Negro alderman and a member of the President’s Fair Employment Practices Committee, and Sec. Ferdinand Smith of the CIO National Maritime union presented the four-point proposal.99
Its main suggestions as given to Nelson:
1. “That you, as War Production director, publicly announce that the War Production Board will take immediate steps to use Negro labor throughout the nation in the war production program.
To Avert Shortages
2. “That as a first step to carry out this announced policy, the War Production Board take effective measures to train fifty thousand Negro workers in the next three months; and allocate these trainees throughout the country where serious shortages exist or will exist within the near future.
3. “That a national production conference on the subject of Negro manpower be called within the next thirty days by you, which will include representatives of labor, management, government and representative Negro organizations for the purpose of working out detailed plans for full utilization of Negro manpower for winning the war. From such a conference will develop similar area production conferences.
4. “That you recommend to the President, Negro representation on the War Manpower Board.”
Presentation of the plan to Nelson marked the first time that Negro leaders have conferred with the War Production Chief, and advanced a plan for utilizing Negro manpower for all-out war production.
Both Dickerson and Smith were high in their praise of what they described as Nelson’s “frank and direct approach to the production plan.”
They said he expressed a keen interest in every phase of the plan, and indicated that he will take it up with the War Production Board, when the board meets at the White House this week.
CIO News, April 13, 1942.
LOS ANGELES, May 14—“Our message to the Negro community is that just as ‘business as usual’ and ‘trade unionism as usual’ are out for the duration of the war, so must ‘race prejudice as usual’ be thrown into the ash can and kept there.”
Thus does Revels Cayton, dynamic and hard-hitting Negro who is vice-president of the California CIO Industrial Union Council, sum up the new job he is working on in Southern California.100
For eight years Cayton has been a top-ranking leader in the California labor movement, putting in three years as business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards and three more as secretary-treasurer of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific.
Heads Setup on Minorities
After the Maritime Federation was dissolved to become a part of the CIO, Cayton made a trip to Australia with a convoy. Upon his return, the State CIO Council assigned him to direct its efforts in airing the involvement of workers from minority groups in the war production effort.
“America must produce enough tanks, guns, airplanes and other weapons of war to enable democracy’s fighting men on the far-flung battlefields of the world to smash and destroy the race-hating Fascist hordes,” Cayton says.
“But this is no small job, and if the Herculean task is to be accomplished the productive energy of every man and woman must be utilized.
War Work Bottleneck
“Yet in this hour of crisis more than 13,000,000 black hands lie idle because of a bottleneck of discrimination which plays right into the hands of Hitler and must be broken if we are to win.”
A key problem in the scrap to break jim-crowism in employment is that of training Negroes for war industry work, Cayton points out.
Further, Cayton says that “our investigation shows that there is widespread discrimination in the referring of Negroes and Mexicans to defense training classes offered by the United States Employment Service.”
As a first step toward getting necessary job training for Negroes and Mexicans, the Los Angeles CIO Industrial Union Council has submitted a program to the Los Angeles Board of Education, Cayton says continuing:
“We first recommended that classes in aircraft and sheet metal work be opened at Jefferson High School and that the existing classes in machine shop at that school be expanded.
“We also ask that other classes in shipfitting, pipefitting, etc., be set up in the Negro district immediately.
“Our third demand is that all forms of discrimination be immediately abolished throughout the training program, and fourth, we ask that Negro teachers, advisors, supervisors, field workers, file clerks stenographers, etc., be hired and placed in the defense training setup.
“Our fifth and last demand is that defense classes be opened for women.
“We think that this is very important because, as bad as the discrimination has been against Negro men workers, it has been even worse against women.
“Since it is estimated that 30 per cent of the workers in Southern California defense industries will be women before the war is won, this point takes on special significance.”
Labor Shortage is Acute
While Negroes and members of other minority groups are being excluded from the training programs, the Southern California employment situation becomes more acute daily, according to Cayton.
“In view of this situation, the crime that is being committed by those who are responsible for the exclusion of these thousands of minority people from war industry begins to take on a most treacherous character.”
Pittsburgh Courier, May 16, 1942.
The half million organized colored workers undoubtedly read with alarm the warning given by Wayne Lyman Morse, so-called public member of the War Labor Board, at its meeting last week, that the laws against treason will be applied to anyone in a labor organization who tries to bring about work stoppage over jurisdictional disputes.
Nor were they reassured when three days later Rober D. Lapham and Cyrus Ching, industry members of the WLB called upon Labor to live up to its no-strike vow and appoint an arbiter in a specific jurisdictional dispute on pain of government intervention.
These are straws in the wind and they indicate in which direction the wind is blowing.
Labor today seems to be at the crossroads, faced with the momentous problem of deciding whether or not it will accept government dictation and control.
There is a war in progress with the earth as the stake, and Labor wants to win that war in order to preserve its nation, its independence of action and its very identity.
On the other hand, Labor is reluctant to surrender its independence of action for fear it may never get it back, being frankly skeptical of the self-sacrificing patriotism and good intentions of many of the erstwhile lawyers who are heading the managerial revolution in Washington.
Labor realizes that it is only a short step from considering a jurisdictional strike treasonable to considering ANY strike treasonable; the reasons for outlawing the one being as cogent as the reasons for outlawing the other, so far as the central authority is concerned.
It is chiefly a matter of opinion, and things being as they are, Labor has a good idea what and whose opinion will prevail.
There is a widespread feeling in the ranks of organized labor that once the right to strike is surrendered, it will eventually lose all the advantages and privileges gained by a century of sacrifice.
This is not, of course, a racial problem specifically, but it nevertheless concerns a half million colored workers, three-fifths of whom have entered the ranks of organized Labor since 1937 and profited by increased wages, shorter hours and vacations with pay.
Undoubtedly Labor would be more willing to relinquish its prerogatives if the vast war production effort were being more largely directed by its elected officials with industrialists and managers subordinated to them rather than the other way around.
The slowly gathering drive for a ceiling on wages, ostensibly to halt inflation, does nothing to weaken Labor’s apprehension.
Pittsburgh Courier, August 1, 1942.
NEW ORLEANS, La., Sept. 3—On Thursday, of last week, seven members of the executive board of the Beer Drivers’ Local Union, No. 215, met at the New Orleans Urban League to discuss plans for re-employing Negro helpers on brewery trucks in this area. The committee was headed by A. M. Tolivar and J. G. Muhs, president and secretary of the union, respectively.
On August 6, a result of the action of the union, seven Negro youth, who had been working as helpers on beer trucks, were fired and the members of the union employing these boys were fined five dollars each. Moreover, heavier penalties were promised those who did not comply with the union’s wishes.
Resolution For Hiring Killed
As a result of contacts made by Clarence A. Laws, executive secretary of the league, the matter was again introduced at the meeting of the union on August 20. A resolution which would have permitted the drivers to hire Negroes if they desired was killed by a vote of 42 to 35.
Negroes Buy Much Beer—But Not Hired
Said Mr. Laws after the meeting, “I sincerely believe that the members of the executive board of the Beer Drivers’ Union appreciate the unfairness of barring Negroes solely on the basis of color and that they will reconsider the matter favorably at their next regular meeting. I do not know what action Negroes will take if Negro youth are not rehired. In the meantime I want it clearly understood that the Urban League is for or against any brewery. We know that some hire more Negroes than others and we appreciate this fact. At the same time we are cognizant of the fact that none of the breweries are hiring Negroes in proportion to their consumption of beer.”
The Urban League secretary also stated that a letter was received from the Jackson Brewing company during the past week in which it was stated that the company is “very decidedly against the action taken by Local Union 215.”
Pittsburgh Courier, September 5, 1942.
The most effective approach to the utilization of Negro labor has been to select certain industries, firms and occupations in which there are shortages and press for the use of Negroes in these areas. An illustration is offered in the shipbuilding industry. Due to custom and union opposition, Negroes were generally excluded from welding, electrical work and machine shop prior to 1941. Starting first in government navy yards and extending the activity to private yards in tight labor markets, an effort was made to break down this occupational limitation. Progress has been made. U.S. Navy Yards in general hire colored welders, electricians and machinists. Private yards on the West Coast, in the Middle Atlantic States, and in New England now utilize Negro welders on a large scale and offer employment to Negroes in skilled occupations. Little has been accomplished in private yards in the South. The employment of Negroes in a large number of occupations by the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Chester, Pennsylvania and the use of thousands of Negroes by the Kaiser yards on the West Coast illustrate developments in this field. As of March 16, 1943, the Richmond shipyards of the Kaiser Corporation reported 6,100 Negro employees. Of these, 905 were female. The breakdown as to classifications of Negro workers was as follows:
Employment of Negroes in the aircraft industry was effected by the same approach. Here there was a problem of opening new jobs to Negroes and gaining acceptance for Negro women. Starting on the West Coast, a definite program was initiated to deal with these problems. By 1943, most of the aircraft assembly plants outside the South were accepting Negro men and women on production jobs. It cannot be reiterated too often that numerical employment for Negroes is intimately related to opening new types of jobs to them. The unemployed Negroes on the labor market cannot all be absorbed in unskilled and service jobs. Certainly there can be no successful approach to the problem of shifting colored workers now in non-essential pursuits to vital war production unless new types of jobs are opened to Negroes.
War Manpower Commission Records, RG 211, Series 11t, Box 793, National Archives.
The Negro employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad are in 74 different occupations, many of which require skilled and semiskilled workers. The 16,155 Negroes employed by the company, as of September 28, 1942, represent a gain of more than 6,000 persons over its normal number of Negro workers. According to the National Association of Negroes in American Industry, as reported in Service (Tuskegee Institute, Ala.) for January 1943, the railroad is thus the largest single industrial employer of that racial group.
These Negro employees are scattered through the eastern, central, and western regions, the New York zone, the Long Island Railroad (a subsidiary), the system’s general offices, and its Altoona works. The eastern region, which includes Philadelphia but excludes the New York zone, had a total of 5,437 Negro workmen, the central region 2,340, and the western region 2,408. The New York zone, exclusive of the Long Island Railroad with its 548 Negro workers, employed 2,063 of that race. The repair shops at Altoona hired 18 Negro workmen, and the dining-car department employed 3,208. In the general offices of the company there were 133 Negroes.
Of the total number of colored employees, 154 were women, whose occupations ranged from marine stewardesses to coach cleaners, and included elevator operators, matrons, crossing watchwomen, and locomotive preparers.
Male Negro workers were listed in the mechanically skilled and semiskilled classes as well as the unskilled. Those employed in the skilled and semiskilled classes, it is stated, had more than doubled during recent years, beginning well before the outbreak of war. Among the workers in these classes were 37 marine firemen, 65 tallymen, 14 machinists and 72 machinists’ helpers, 151 oilers and 12 stationary engineers and firemen.
Indicative of the railroad’s tendency to upgrade Negro workers, it is said, is the fact that they are represented in such skilled occupations as electricians, painters, welders, masons and masons’ helpers, blacksmith’s helpers, cranemen, and tractor, turntable, and stoker operators. In the maintenance-of-way department, 12 Negro track foremen headed units with 17 assistants, and 19 in the group acted as machine operators.
Negro freight truckers and station baggagemen, numbering 2,012 and 317, respectively, were engaged in handling the system’s freight and baggage. The greatest number in this group were in the eastern region (1,197), and in the western and the central division and the New York zone (784).
The dining-car department employed Negroes in the following occupations: 549 chefs and cooks; 2,598 waiters and other food attendants; and 61 attached to trains in various capacities. Altogether, 621 Negroes were station porters, with 14 acting as captains. More than half (approximately 350) of the station porters were in the New York zone and 194 were in the Philadelphia area.
Monthly Labor Review, 56 (March, 1943): 484–85.
By Eleanor Fowler
Secretary-Treasurer, CIO Women’s Auxiliaries
Labor Day, 1943, will see more women at work than ever before in our country’s history. Two million new women workers will be needed in industry before the end of the year. The War Manpower Commission and the Office of War Information are planning a nation-wide campaign to induce women over 18, with no children under 14, to take jobs.
At the Executive Board of the Congress of Women’s Auxiliaries last weekend in Cleveland we discussed this need for women workers. Each member of the Board—and they all come from big industrial centers—cited instances in which Negro women had been denied jobs in the face of labor shortages.
Two of our Board members had had personal experiences. They had stood in line at an employment office where women were being hired, had been told, when their turns came, that no more help was needed, and had seen white women coming after them hired for the jobs.
There’s a new bomber plant in Cleveland. Over 60% of the employees are scheduled to be women—and they’re talking of bringing women workers in from other areas. But Negro women who want jobs in Cleveland are still waiting.
Negroes Turned Away
In Indianapolis the papers carry urgent ads for women workers in war industry, and Negro women applying for those jobs are turned away.
The auxiliary executive board realized that this situation is undermining the morale of the Negro citizens of our nation. Negro men give their lives to win the war against Hitlerism on the battle front. It is utterly unfair that their wives and sisters should be denied the opportunity to work for Victory on the production front.
Our Board voted to call the matter to the attention of the President of the United States and to ask him to force employers to observe the official policy of our government banning racial discrimination in war industry.
Other Discrimination Too
Discrimination because of color is not the only discrimination we must fight. Many older women—the very ones who have “no children under 14”—are being denied jobs too. Employers set up all sorts of age, height and weight requirements by which they limit the women they will employ.
Women with young children who must have jobs—wives of servicemen, for instance, whose government allowance is utterly inadequate—are denied employment, too.
Our auxiliary board voted to urge the War Manpower Commission to conduct a national registration of women in those areas where labor shortages exist or are developing. Such a registration would give the local manpower authorities a real picture of the available labor supply which they do not have at present.
A firm policy of requiring employment of all available local labor before workers are imported must then be instituted to help break down the discriminations now hampering our war production.
CIO News, May 31, 1943.
Although there has been an increase in the total employment of Negroes in practically every branch of war production, there is a serious time-lag both in the wider use of Negroes among many of the smaller individual firms and in the occupational upgrading of Negroes in all firms. This concentration of Negroes in a relatively few large firms, together with slow occupational progress generally, has had the effect of restricting the use of Negro workers as a means of meeting immediate labor needs.
The degree to which Negroes are effectively employed varies widely among specific plants, areas, and industries. In the shortage areas of the South, Negroes are concentrated in those establishments and occupations where heavy unskilled work is to be performed. In the South, also with few exceptions, no steps are being taken in the direction of upgrading Negroes to new occupations nor is there any hiring of Negroes to meet the demand of establishments seeking workers for skilled jobs.
In the acute labor shortage areas of the North where war industries are much more diversified than in the South, the utilization of Negroes has progressed much further, but Negro employment is concentrated with respect to occupations, establishments, and industries. There is very little indication of an increase in diversified employment of Negroes to meet shortages generally in the tight labor market areas.
Although current placement developments outside the South show slight improvement in the placement of Negroes in skilled war jobs as compared with unskilled and service occupations, discriminatory job specifications are still a formidable barrier in many plants and occupations.
The successful recruitment of Negroes for war work is now fundmentally a problem of the removal of discriminatory barriers against the employment of Negroes in many smaller individual establishments and against the general use of Negroes in all occupations for which they can qualify. This problem is now being accentuated by the efforts of Negroes to transfer from nonessential to essential war occupations in accordance with Selective Service policies.
Trends in employment and placement of Negro workers
Employer reports indicate a slow but continued upward trend in the general level of employment of Negroes. As shown in the table below, Negro workers in July 1943 represented 7.3 per cent of total employment in those major war establishments reporting nonwhite employment. In July 1942, a year ago, Negroes constituted 5.8 per cent of total employment in such establishments.
Nonwhites Employed in War Industry Establishments, July 1942—July 1943
Placements of nonwhite persons by the Employment Offices increased by about 20 per cent between July 1942 and July 1943, but the proportion of nonwhite to total placements declined slightly (from 18.2 per cent to 15.9 per cent) chiefly as a result of the reduced emphasis on filling service jobs, in which Negro placements formerly predominated. Only very small advances have been made in the placement of Negroes in skilled and semiskilled occupations. During the second quarter of 1945 Negro placements were 3.2 per cent of all placements in skilled jobs as compared to 2.7 per cent in the same quarter of 1942; placements in semiskilled occupations were 7.6 per cent in 1943 and 7.3 per cent in 1942. Out of every hundred placements of nonwhites, 6 were in skilled and semiskilled jobs in the second quarter of 1942, while a year later the number had risen only to 10.
Variation in the extent of Negro employment
Although the long-run employment trend of Negroes has shown some progress, the real problem is to get employers to hire locally available and qualified Negroes to meet all types of labor needs. A current illustration of this difficulty now prevails in the textile mills in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There, employers are refusing to hire locally available Negroes and at the same time are insisting that the Government provide additional housing facilities to house in-migrant white workers. This situation and many other similar situations have not been met because the practice has been not to employ Negroes where serious opposition has appeared. Hence, the employment of Negroes in war industries has scattered and varied as between areas, industries, and plants.
There is a large variation from one industry to another in the extent of utilization of Negroes. For example, in May 1943, Negroes represented approximately 43.2 per cent of total employment in tobacco manufactures, 21.8 per cent in lumber and timber basic products, 17.2 per cent in contract construction, at the same time, Negroes constituted only 2.7 per cent in textile mill products, and 4.0 per cent in transportation and other public utilities.
Within a given industry there is a large variation from one geographical area to another in the extent of employment of Negroes. For example, in May the proportion of Negroes employed in aircraft establishments ranged from 2.3 per cent in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area to 10.4 per cent in Detroit; and in shipbuilding establishments from 12.7 per cent in Savannah to 25.1 per cent in Charleston. While geographical variations cannot be adequately interpreted without an analysis of variations in supply, it is known that an important part of the variation is due to differences in employer, labor and community attitudes and practices. The importance of variation in employer attitudes and practices is evidenced by the variation between plants in the same industry in the same locality.
The result of this pattern of extreme variability in the utilization of Negroes is that unnecessary shortages are allowed to develop and persist in occupations for which Negro workers are available. For example, the Office of War Information reports that in some cities transport vehicles are lying idle due to lack of people to run them. Out of 227 local transportation companies—representing 80 per cent of total employment in the industry—only eight employ Negro operators.
Developments in areas of acute labor shortage
Precise data for comparing changes in the overall employment of Negroes in acute labor market areas are lacking. However, employer reports in those establishments reporting nonwhite employment indicate an increase in the use of Negroes in the tight labor market areas. In the field of unskilled occupations, there is wide use of available Negroes in all areas of acute labor shortage. Indications are, however, that there has been but little increase in the use of Negroes in skilled occupations. This is especially pronounced in Southern labor market areas.
The employment of Negroes in acute labor shortage areas of the South.
In the tight labor market areas throught the States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas, Negroes are principally used as unskilled labor in ship and boat building and in Government establishments.
In none of these tight labor markets in the South has there developed a trend toward upgrading Negroes to new occupations, with the possible exception of one shipyard, which has recently set up a segregated unit for Negroes following a race riot there.
There is some indication that wider employment opportunities will eventually be made available to Negro women in the Charleston area. A new attitude in this connection was shown when a number of construction contractors placed Negro women on building jobs. The work was found generally unsuitable for women, but it made dramatic the large potential supply of Negro women available in the area for production work.
Employment of Negroes in acute labor market areas of the North
At the very beginning of both the defense and the war program there appeared throughout the North and Far West scattered instances where larger war establishments consented to use Negroes at all levels of skill. In some cases this development was purely voluntary on the part of the employer and in other instances it was the result of negotiations through the Negro Employment and Training Branch of the Office of Production Management.
The wide use of Negroes in these establishments and some of the other larger establishments which later adopted the same policy toward Negroes tends to weigh the overall figures on Negro employment in many acute labor market areas, and obscures the more basic problem of the limited employment of Negroes in a large number of smaller individual firms scattered throughout the tight labor market areas. Examples of this situation are especially notable in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area. In this area there are two firms in the professional and scientific instruments industry which have more than 3,000 employees and only 8 Negroes. Likewise, in the communications equipment industries, there are two firms employing more than 3,000 employees with only 18 Negroes. In this area, out of a total of 80 firms representing the important war industries, 45 per cent of the 9,490 Negroes employed in May were in 5 firms in the blast furnaces, steel works and rolling mills industry.
In the Akron area during the month of May there were only 6 Negroes in 9 firms employing more than 2,000 workers. Five firms in iron and steel products industry in the Dayton, Springfield area employed half of the 2,277 Negroes in approximately 50 firms with a total employment of 41,750 workers. There are many other tight labor market areas in the North, such as the Evansville area and the Gary-Hammond-E. Chicago area, where Negroes are chiefly concentrated in a relatively few individual firms.
Even in those areas in which Negroes are employed extensively, the industrial distribution of the Negro workers tends to show a considerable concentration. In Baltimore, for example, slightly more than half of the 22,478 Negroes employed in reporting establishments were in ship and boat-building and repairing, while approximately 40 per cent of total employment was in this industry. Similarly, in the Detroit area 64 per cent of the Negroes in reporting establishments were employed in aircraft and parts while approximately 58 per cent of total employment was in the industry.
In none of the tight labor markets of the North does there appear a significant use of skilled Negro workers in war industry as a whole. In the Detroit area it is reported by the Employment Service that in May 1943 only 6.7 per cent were in skilled classifications as compared with 20.5 per cent for all employees. Available data on individual firms indicate considerably less use of skilled Negroes in other tight areas.
Employment of Negro Women
Among war industries, establishments in aircraft, communications equipment, electrical equipment, shipbuilding, and small arms ammunition are the principal employers of women. Available data indicate that the employment of Negro women is limited to a small number of firms In a few industries. For example, a recent survey of selected war industries in the Baltimore area reveals that 75.5 per cent of the 2,249 Negro women employed were working in only four establishments. In the Detroit area the Employment Service reports considerable opposition to the employment of Negro women in even the unskilled grades.
Reports of discriminatory hiring specifications
Of 685 reports of discriminatory specifications submitted to Fair Employment Practice Committee between January and June 1943, 486 or 71 per cent were submitted from Region V. This particular concentration of discriminatory job orders is largely due to the incidence of discrimination against Negroes in the Detroit area. An analysis of 242 reports from the Detroit area indicates that approximately one-third of the discriminatory job orders came from firms in the ordnance industry, followed by nearly 25 per cent from the machinery industry (except electrical) and 23 per cent from the aircraft industries. There were relatively few reports of discrimination in forms engaged in automobile and automobile manufacturing, iron and steel, and nonferrous metals and products. Throughout the East North Central states, excepting Wisconsin, the largest proportion of discriminatory job specifications have been reported on firms in the machinery industries.
An analysis of reports of discriminatory specifications indicates a wide range of occupations. In the Detroit area the most frequent reports of discrimination in the aircraft industry involved unskilled jobs such as machinist helper and break-in machine operators. Similarly, in the machinery and ordnance industries in Detroit the most frequently involved occupations were break-in machine operators and machine cleaners. The occurrence of discriminatory specifications in unskilled occupations leading to skilled machine jobs is primarily a restriction upon the entry of Negroes into skilled work involving machine tools and electrical machinery.
War Manpower Commission Records, RG 211, Series 115, Box 793, National Archives.
It is our Responsibility to Defeat Race Prejudice and Intolerance, Hitler’s Fifth Column
Statement by the Executive Board
DISTRICT COUNCIL NO. 8 UNITED ELECTRICAL, RADIO & MACHINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, CIO
The recent outbreaks of racial strife in major war production centers call for sober thought by all our members.
Look at the results of the Detroit “race riot,” instigated and organized by Hitler’s volunteer Fifth Column in America:
34 dead—more than 700 injured—three million man-hours of work lost—a terrific drop in production, already too low for our urgent war needs—an example, unmatched in years, of disunity, disregard of the war, disregard of the democracy for which we are fighting.
The Detroit “riot”—a planned attack upon the Negro population—did not just happen. It was the worst of a series of “race riots,” attacks upon Mexicans in Los Angeles, upon Negroes in Beaumont, Texas; Newark, N.J., Mobile, Alabama; all major war production centers.
Civic leaders in Detroit, including R. J. Thomas, president of the United Automobile Workers of America, largest union in the world, and the Rev. Benjamin Rush, president of the Detroit Council of Churches, have pointed out that outbreak was worked up by the Ku Klux Klan and allied Fascist groups. These, the Klan, the Black Legion, the Gerald L. K. Smiths, and Charles Coughlins, are the people who seek to defeat democracy at home, to establish Hitlerism over American workers. To achieve their ends, they serve as the Axis’ Fifth Column in our country.101
Stabbing our Soldiers in the Back
The reason for these outbreaks at this particular time is clear.
American and British armies are moving to the invasion of Europe, which must bring about the final defeat of Nazi Germany and free the world. Hitler’s Italian ally is crumbling. Hitler’s back is to the wall. His agents and American friends are making a last desperate attempt to prevent this invasion by disrupting our war effort at home. If they cannot block the invasion, they hope to weaken it by continuing attacks on our home front.
Hitler’s friends are stabbing our fighting boys in the back—by inciting strikes—by fighting against price control so the people will be demoralized by skyrocketing prices—by organizing attacks in Congress on important war services—by inciting racial strife.
Hitler’s Fifth Column is inciting race riots in the great war production centers of the country, where the greatest damage can be done to war production and to the unity of the American people. It works by preying upon the intolerance, the un-American prejudices of some people who still put their personal hates above their patriotism and their belief in democracy.
It works by spreading rumors and starting trouble around minor disputes between people of different color. Days before the Detroit riots, word was spread among the whites that they would be attacked by Negroes, word was spread among the Negroes that they would be attacked by whites.
Victory is Threatened
Hitler looks at the work of his agents and their dupes—and he laughs. He looks at Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles, Mobile, Beaumont, and crows:
“These people can’t beat me. They’re too busy fighting among themselves.”
And let those who cockily think the war is won, that we cannot lose—let them take heed. Given much more of the kind of attacks on unity that we had in Detroit, our offensive can be stopped—preventing that complete victory over the Axis which we must have to guarantee democracy abroad and at home.
Hitler looks hopefully to other cities—to San Francisco, New York, Pittsburgh, yes, to St. Louis, to Evansville—any war center where workers may fall prey to un-American race hatreds—where a minor street car dispute may flare into a Detroit riot.
American workers must furnish the answer to the Fifth Column—in a determination not to be misled by Fascist agents and sentiments, in a recognition of the contribution which all American workers are making to the war.
A prominent Southerner, Dr. Frank Graham, public member of the War Labor Board and President of the University of North Carolina, in a recent board opinion abolishing wage differences between white and Negro laborers, declared that racial or religious discrimination “is in line with the Nazi program.”102
The Brotherhood of Man
Said Dr. Graham:
“The Negro is necessary for winning the war, and, at the same time, is a test of our sincerity in the cause for which we are fighting.
“Whether as vigorous fighting men or for production of food and munitions, America needs the Negro; the Negro needs the equal opportunity to work and fight.
“More hundreds of millions of colored people are involved in the outcome of this war than the combined populations of the Axis powers. Under Hitler and his Master Race, their movement is backward to slavery and despair. In America, the colored people have the freedom to struggle for freedom. With the victory of the democracies, the human destiny is toward freedom, hope, equality of opportunity and the gradual fulfillment for all people of the noblest aspirations of the brothers of men and the sons of God, without regard to color or creed, religion or race, in the world neighborhood of human brotherhood.”
This union, the UE-CIO, has a special opportunity and a special responsibility in the present situation, because it takes seriously the democracy for all, regardless of race or creed, demanded by the Constitution of the United States of America.
The UE, along with the whole CIO, fights for equal job opportunities for all, for unity of all American workers.
We Have a Job To Do
It is the job of our members to achieve that unity. If they are unwilling or unable to rid themselves of race dislikes, it is their job to put their patriotism and their union first. They must check their prejudices in favor of a united effort to work and fight for victory.
We must permit no one, whether he be a stooge for an unscrupulous employer, or a conscious or unconscious Fascist, to split our ranks. Disunity, racial and religious intolerance, will be used to endanger our job conditions. It will bring defeat to American workers. Unity will bring better working conditions, victory over the enemies of democracy at home and abroad.
It is our job to fight vicious rumors and slanders. It is our job to avoid careless or unpleasant remarks about persons of another race, to avoid disputes. It is the job of officers and stewards to exercise their leadership by giving an example of mutual understanding, by exerting a firm hand on any member, white or Negro, who may start trouble.
Our officers and stewards will have the full backing of their union. This union will not tolerate anyone starting trouble or behaving irresponsibly. Any one, white or Negro, found responsible for creating dissension within our ranks, will be dealt with vigorously.
We rely upon the union spirit, upon the patriotism of our members, to set an example for the whole community—to insure that the Shame of Detroit shall not happen here.
We call upon our members to lead in unity for victory.
Flier in possession of the editors.
For America at War
BEHIND THE NOISE—the hammer, the thunder, the drive—that typifies America at war is a group of women. Negro women, who have pooled their strength with that of all other Americans in an effort to achieve a common goal—Victory. Carrying their full share of the Nation’s wartime load, they are at work in every section of the country. In the steel mills and the foundries, in the aircraft plants and the shipyards. Negro women are helping to make the weapons of war. Not only are they working in war plants but their services in laundries and restaurants, on railroads and farms, and in countless other essential civilian industries have helped to make it possible for America to become the arsenal of the United Nations. Negro women’s wartime performance has proved that, given the training, they can succeed in any type of work that women can do.
Trail Blazers for Uncle Sam on the Production Front
More than one precedent was broken when in 1942 women mechanics were hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the first time in 141 years. It was a red-letter day for women when the doors of the navy yard swung open. For Negro women especially it was a triumphant day, for a Negro girl received a grade of 99, the highest rating of any of the 6,000 women who took the civil-service examination for navy-yard jobs. She and another Negro girl who also showed special aptitude for work with precision instruments were assigned to the instrument division, where binoculars, telescopes, and range finders are reconditioned. Of the first 125 women hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard about 12 were Negro. At a second eastern navy yard, highly qualified Negro girls were among the first women hired in 1942. Since the work is skilled and strenuous, every new employee is required to pass rigid aptitude and physical tests.
In the Washington D.C. Navy Yard, Negro women are employed in the cartridge-case shop as well as in other shops. Some several hundred Negro women-most of whom are married and are mothers—are working there. They are operating punch and blanking presses as well as lathes and tapping machines in the manufacture of cartridge cases.
In the summer of 1943 about 2,000 women were employed in the Washington Navy Yard. Women were hired for naval ordnance jobs only if they had had 100 hours of training in machine-shop practice. In paying tribute to the splendid contribution of Negro women, an official of the navy yard said: “Negro women have played an important role in the production of ordnance materials during the present war. In the production of cartridge cases they are responsible for keeping production at a high peak. Both the output and morale in the shop reflect the cooperative spirit in which women have been accepted. Negro women have demonstrated their ability to adapt themselves to a field of endeavor that was foreign to them as well as to other women in the yard.”
Negro women also were working on fuze-loading at the Bellevue (Md.) Naval Magazine. Behind steel barricades they measured and loaded pom-pom mix, lead azide, TNT, tetryl, and fulminate of mercury. The various loading operations are strung along differently grouped assembly lines. On one line, for example, women loaded tetryl lead-ins for bomb fuzes, or delay elements containing small cells of black powder, or mercury fulminate and lead azide for detonators. In small steel booths others received an element through a hole in the wall, put in the measured miligrams of powder, and passed it cautiously through an opposite hole to the next booth for another twist, tap, or turn.
In aircraft plants also there are many Negro women pioneers. More than 2 years ago Negro women were working on production, including machine operation assembly, and inspection, in at least 15 major aircraft plants on the west coast, the east coast, and in the Middle West. Many of them had received their job training from NYA or other free Government training classes. One of the first aircraft plants to hire Negro girls in mechanical jobs was the airplane engine division of the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Electrical equipment and machinery
Another of the large woman-employing industries in which Negro women have been at work for several years is the manufacture of electrical machinery and equipment. From the personnel director of one of the leading electrical manufacturing companies this report came to the Women’s Bureau early in the war: “We have on our rolls at the present time approximately 2,000 Negro women, the majority of whom have been added in the last 6 to 9 months. They are engaged in 45 separate and distinct occupational classifications covering a rather wide range of skills. Included among their assignments are bench hands on various kinds of partial and final assemblies, cable formers, clerks, inspectors, many kinds of machine operators, solderers, stock selectors, electrical testers, and wiremen.”
“One of the best men in the shop,” according to the foreman, was a Negro girl in the electrical repair department of the overhaul and repair shops of a large eastern airline field.
In little more than a year after Pearl Harbor, Negro women were assigned to many of the more difficult technical laboratory jobs at the Army Proving Ground at Aberdeen, Md., where all types of guns, tanks, and other fighting equipment are tested. The girls employed in the ballistics laboratory were college graduates, and all had a thorough background of higher mathematics. Only two years of college were required, however, in the star gaging section, where they tested bores and curvatures of guns. According to a War Department personnel specialist, the Negro girls in the Aberdeen laboratories “proved very satisfactory.” Early in the present armament program, Negroes comprised at least 350 of the women employed at an Ohio ordnance plant. One of the Negro women who came in as a warehouse worker was put in charge of a crew of women packers, both white and Negro, and later was made a counselor.
Another midwestern ordnance plant employed 700 Negro women soon after the war began. They worked in a variety of jobs, and included supervisors, stenographers, machine operators, nurses, photograph technicians, draftsmen, machine adjusters, movemen, janitors, and matrons.
In a survey made by the National Metal Trades Association in 1943, 62 plants were found that employed women. Of these plants 19 employed Negro women, most of whom were in janitor service. However, one plant reported a total of 1,200 Negro women distributed among all the departments where women were at work. Other plants reported successful employment of Negro women in such occupations as work in a foundry, operation of machine tools including turret lathes, all types of winding operations, inspection, a variety of bench work, assembly, painting, electrical work, riveting, flame cutting, and welding.
Negro women were employed in most of the 41 steel mills surveyed by the Women’s Bureau in 1943. Areas visited by Women’s Bureau agents included Pittsburgh-Youngstown, Buffalo, Chicago-Gary, and West Virginia, and one mill each in Colorado, Sparrows Point (Md.), and Bethlehem (Pa.). While women were working in most divisions of the steel industry, their proportion was small, about 8 per cent covering all races. In some of the mills, however, women were found in almost every department. There were women working at the ore docks, in the storage yards for raw materials, on the coal and ore trestles, in the coke plants, the blast furnaces, the steel furnaces, the rolling mills, and the finishing mills that were doing fabricating on shells, guns, and regular products such as nails, spikes, and bolts.
The majority of the Negro women, like the white women, worked at labor jobs. The proportion of Negro women in the masonry and outside-labor gangs was large. Where women were employed in the sintering plants they were chiefly Negroes, and were reported as moving as much dirt and material as men. Jobs around a sintering plant are all dirty and chiefly of a labor grade; everything around such a plant is covered with iron dust. The sintering plant salvages ore dust and blast-furnace flue dust by mixing it with water and spreading it on moving conveyors that carry it under gas flames for baking into clinkery masses known as sinters, which are charged back to the furnace. Considerable numbers of women in these plants worked on dumping the cars of ore and dust, inspecting along the sides of the conveyor to remove lumps of slag and foreign matter, shoveling up spills along the conveyor lines, screening coal and dust, carrying tests to the laboratory, etc.
Plants on the Great Lakes receive most of their ore supply by boat. At one of these plants women were working at the ore docks. Though the boats are unloaded by electric ore bridge cranes that scoop up 15 to 20 tons in each bucket load and empty a boat in a few hours, it is necessary for labor gangs to go down into the bottoms of the boats and sweep and shovel up the leavings of ore into piles for removal by special hoists, as the grab-buckets cannot clean up around the sides and edges. To do this work a crew of women, chiefly Negro, and with a woman gang leader, went from boat to boat as needed. When there were no boats ready for cleaning, they worked around the docks and stock yards as a part of the general clean-up gang. The ore, coal, and limestone are heavy to handle, even when a small shovel is used.
In two of the steel mills visited by the Bureau, a Negro woman was employed as panman. The job of the panman is to mix the fire clay, shoveling the materials into a mixing mill, for sealing the casting hole of the blast furnace. The work is carried on in a blast-furnace shed. Mud mixing is not a full-time job and is incidental to other labor.
Another unusual job held by a Negro woman was that of operating a steel-burning machine. This intricate machine, 25 feet long and 6 feet high, cuts parts for 6 different kinds of antiaircraft guns from huge plates of steel. The acetylene torches cut two parts at a time and must be set and guided with precision. The operator must have a dozen or more controls set exactly right.
In the Buffalo area Negro women were breaking into many jobs traditionally closed to women in the steel industry. In one large plant in this area Negro women made up about one-third of the total number of women employed.
Review of the situation in the steel mills, however, indicates quite general acceptance of the position that women’s employment in steel is only for the duration of the war, and that men returning from the armed services will take over the jobs on the basis of seniority and priority rights in the industry.
Negro women were employed in 8 of the 13 foundries visited by Women’s Bureau representatives in the latter half of 1943. A few of the foundries produced small as well as large castings. In the foundry itself, excluding other departments, the 13 establishments surveyed reported the proportion of women (race not stated) as 16 per cent (3,631) of the workers. In one mid-western foundry 50 per cent of the women were Negro, and in one steel-castings corporation such per cent was 67.
Women were found in occupations ranging from the shoveling and mixing of sand and other unskilled types of labor to fairly skilled work in the fine finishing of molds. A few foundries indicated that they might keep women after the war in some of these jobs, individual foundries stating that women may be retained in jobs at which they excelled. Included in the list of jobs mentioned were clerical work, drafting, laboratory work, sand testing, operation of the heat-treat furnaces, and the making of small cores. Many foundries were convinced that women were better than men at the making of small cores. No large numbers of women, however, seemed likely to remain in foundry work after the war, even if they wished to do so. In a predominantly male industry they would have little opportunity to acquire the higher skills or advance up the job-progression ladder. The heavy nature of much of the work in itself would prevent that.
Arsenal of the United Nations—Detroit
The Bureau of the Census reports that the number of nonwhite women employed in the Detroit-Willow Run Area rose from 14,451 in March 1940 to 46,750 in June 1944. Fewer than 30 Negro women were employed in war plants in this area in July 1942, but by November 1943 about 14,000 were so employed. Early in 1944, 7 to 8 per cent of the workers in the entire State of Michigan were Negroes, and it was estimated that almost 6 per cent of them were women.
Negro women in the Detroit area early in 1944 were working as machine operators, assemblers, inspectors, stenographers, interviewers, sweepers, material handlers, and at various other jobs in all types of work where women can be used. The first woman hired as a detailer by a small engineering company was a Negro woman trained in engineering. A company that for some time resisted taking Negro women employed two as inspectors in the middle of December 1943; a few months later it had 47 Negro women inspectors and machine operators.
In one Detroit company Negro women made up 10 to 12 per cent of the 1,000 women employed. Another that used a large number of women had about 25 to 30 per cent Negro women; they were in every department and worked at almost every skill. In this company, management and the union backed the rights of its Negro workers—men and women—for advancement on a basis of seniority and skill.
A foundry that employed some 250 women had about 12 per cent Negro women. Women applicants were interviewed and hired on a basis of qualifications and ability to adjust to other workers without regard to creed or color.
Though a company had been violating War Manpower Commission regulations on discriminatory newspaper advertising, it was persuaded to withdraw the advertisement and cooperate with the WMC and the union in introducing Negro women workers. As a result, in 1944 the proportions of Negro women in this company’s two plants were 20 per cent and 35 per cent.
A company that had hired about 1,500 Negro women reported that they made up from 8 to approximately 25 per cent of the women in its various plants. Another company opened certain departments to women in one of its plants. At the beginning it hired one Negro in every two women employed. In 1944, of approximately 8,000 women in this plant, around 75 per cent were Negro, and the company was pleased with their production performance.
Essential Civilian Industries
The foregoing pages report a few of the recorded instances typical of great numbers of Negro women who with loyalty and skill have forwarded the massive war production program of their country. Even at its maximum, however, that record would register but a small share of the support coming to the war economy through the labor of Negro women workers. Customary work positions and previous experience easily account for their presence in great numbers in essential civilian jobs in laundry, food, and restaurant establishments, in hotels and lodging houses, and in other service industries. Doubtless many of the women so employed do not even realize that they are doing war work, work which affects directly the country’s war production.
Said the president of a large west coast aircraft corporation late in 1943: We think every worker we can place in a laundry is worth three new workers in our own plants. A company survey had revealed that in these plants most absenteeism was caused not by hangovers but by a lack of such community services as laundries and restaurants. Bomber production was being affected because workers in these plants could not get their washing done, nor buy their meals in restaurants. “The result was,” said the president, “that we had to start an advertising campaign to urge unemployed people to take jobs in laundries and restaurants so our own people could stay on their jobs.”
Large numbers of Negro women were working in New Jersey and New York canneries visited by Women’s Bureau representatives in the summer and fall of 1943. Much work in the fields also was being done by them. Products handled by the canneries ranged from soup to coffee and from baby food to army rations.
Cannery labor was secured from many sources—housewives, students, soldiers, sailors, migratory workers taken north in trucks from Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and other Southern States in numbers far exceeding those of previous years, Jamaicans and Bahamians. Women were used in a wide range of jobs in the preparation of fruits and vegetables. Their jobs included the more usual ones of sorting, peeling, trimming, feeding machines, on the can line as well as jobs new to women in those particular plants; jobs involving the control of retorts and of pulping, extracting, evaporating, and scalding equipment. Some women were doing heavy labor such as unloading cars, handling cases weighing from 15 to 42 pounds, handling bushel baskets filled with produce. Others were employed as general laborers feeding cans, salvaging cans, shaking sacks, and as conveyor and belt attendants. As maintenance and miscellaneous workers women were employed as janitors, elevator operators, truckers, directors of shed and yard traffic, and to clean and grease machines.
Housing provided for migratory workers ranged from tent colonies to a trailer camp and a converted summer hotel. In three of the camps in which Negro families were living in tents it was stated that new housing had been planned for them and was to be built by the Federal Public Housing Authority. Nearly 150 Negro women were living in the barracks built originally for a CCC camp. At a Farm Security Administration camp, 100 Negro families were living in tents but gradually were being provided with other accommodations. At another camp occupied by Negro families, the housing consisted of a combination of frame houses built during World War I, of new prefabricated houses, and of tents. One company built a one-story dormitory on cannery property for 250 women, both white and Negro.
Filling jobs from “baggage smasher” to trackworker, Negro women railroad employees have done their share to keep the Nation’s war wheels turning. The work of these women is invaluable, since the railroads are one of the country’s major war arteries, transporting the armed forces and carrying to them food, clothing, and weapons, and at the same time supplying civilians with the essentials of everyday living. Negro women have filled a variety of jobs, ranging from the unskilled, such as cleaning and janitor work, to the semiskilled. A few have held highly skilled jobs. Neither Negro nor white women, however, have found their way as yet into many skilled jobs in transportation, which long has been considered a man’s industry.
A railroad survey made by Women’s Bureau representatives revealed that one large railroad system employed over 4,500 Negro women in 1943; in fact, Negroes made up 21 per cent of all women employed by this road. The largest groups worked as section and extra gang men (1,138); laborers (1,019); coach cleaners (967); and callers, loaders, and truckers (546). This railroad was also employing Negro women as dining-car waitresses and as coach-lunch waitresses. A Negro woman was head waitress on one of the diners. Other Negro women worked in the railroad’s commissary kitchen and as station elevator operators. A Negro woman was forewoman of a gang of 38 coach cleaners at one of the yards.
The Bureau found 400 Negro women working for one western railroad system, making up over 13 per cent of the total of their sex employed. The largest groups of these women were general laborers (148), section and extra gang men (114), and coach cleaners (83). Another western railroad had 48 Negro women as coach cleaners in one of its yards.
One of the most unusual railroad jobs for a woman was held by a Negro woman in Georgia. Probably the first woman train announcer in the United States, she started her railroad career 25 years ago by doing odd jobs, icing and watering the trains, cleaning up the station’s carpenter shop. Her job as caller started accidentally when the stationmaster asked her not to let anyone miss a train. She got copies of all schedules and began to memorize them. Today her voice is a station essential.
Various street-transportation companies have hired Negro women as car and bus cleaners and as helpers in shops. In several large municipalities they have acted as car or bus operators and conductors. For example, New York City’s first woman streetcar operator was a Negro woman.
The intercity bus industry has employed Negro women in various sections of the country, chiefly as cleaners and maids. One company employed Negro women at filling stations, servicing trucks. This company not only states that their work has been satisfactory, but stresses their stability and says they have presented no special problem in absenteeism or labor turn-over.
The inland waterways, including the Great Lakes, have employed Negro women as cooks, waitresses, maids, and stewardesses. A few women have done overhaul and repair work for the air lines.
In the Line of Duty
In the performance of their work many Negro women achieve unusual individual distinction. An outstanding example of such a woman is an Arkansas arsenal worker. A munitions laborer in the production division, she twice rescued fellow workers from burning to death when fire broke out in the plant’s incendiary section. For this heroism she became the first woman to receive War Department’s highest civilian award for exceptional service. The Award of Emblem for Exceptional Civilian Service, the civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Medal, was presented to her. The citation accompanying the award praised her for “exceptional conduct in performance of outstanding service beyond the call of duty.”
Among the Negro women who have shown exceptional skill in their war-plant jobs is a worker who became champion arc welder and one of two winners in the Negro Freedom Rally’s competition for “Miss Negro Victory Worker of 1944.” One of seven Negro girls in a New York war plant, she admits it was no easy task to surpass her fellow workers and thereby win the national merit award that was given her and the co-winner, a Negro girl from Detroit. After the presentation of the award in Madison Square Garden, both girls were taken to New York City Hall to receive Mayor LaGuardia’s congratulations.
In Speaking of her award, the champion arc welder said: “When you work in a war plant—and maybe this is my own personal feeling—you talk very little while you work but you do a lot of thinking. And with the roar of machinery you sort of get a message which seems to say to you that this job must be well done, because the stake in getting it out is perhaps the life of some boy fighting on the beachheads. That’s what I keep thinking.”
Also in the “champ” class are two Negro women riveters, who set a record of 104 rivets in 120 seconds. Workers in a west coast aircraft plant, these women were giving more than full measure of their strength and skill. They worked as a team on bomb-bay doors for the PV-1 Ventura bomber, among the first American planes consistently to bomb the Japanese homeland of Paramo-shiri, northernmost bastion of the Nippon home defenses.
Among the Negro women workers serving in leadership positions in their unions was an Illinois gun-plant employee who was elected shop steward early in the war by a department composed of 5 Negro women and 90 white women. In a New York plant making cloth and leather war goods, 6 of the 14 union shop chairladies were Negro. They were elected by the 1,000 men and women members, half of whom were white and half Negro. Another Negro woman early in 1945 was the only woman on the general executive board of a union of transport and service workers, and president of the local to which she belonged. A Negro woman, educational director of a local union of garment workers, was one of the four representatives of American women workers to visit Great Britain early in 1945 in an exchange designed to bring about a better understanding between the two countries. The four women were selected by their respective unions and arrangements for their trip were made by the Office of Labor Production of the War Production Board and the Office of War Information.
Recognition came to another Negro woman war worker when she entered a national magazine contest on “What My Job Means to Me” and won first place plus a $50 war bond. In her essay she said in part:
“I am an inspector in a war plant. For 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, I stand in line with 5 other girls performing a routine operation that is part of our production schedule. We inspect wooden boxes that are to hold various kinds of munitions, and that range in size from 8 inches to 6 feet. When we approve them they are ready to be packed with shells, bombs, fuses, parachutes, and other headaches for Hitler and Hirohito. Did I say my job isn’t exciting or complicated? I take that back. It may be a simple matter to inspect one box or a dozen, but it’s different when you are handling them by the hundreds. The 6 of us in my crew sometimes inspect as many as fourteen or fifteen hundred boxes during one shift. That means 250 apiece—an average of one every 2 minutes, regardless of size.
“Of course the work is hard and sometimes dangerous, but Victory in this war isn’t going to come the easy way. . . .”
Women in Uniform
Negro nurses, 1944
By 1944 the number of graduate Negro nurses was estimated at 8,000. Besides those serving in such official public health agencies as the American Red Cross and the Army Nurse Corps, Negro nurses were employed by the War Food Administration and the Veterans’ Administration. Three hundred Negro nurses were in the Army Nurse Corps, some of whom went overseas. In March 1945 the first Negro nurse was commissioned by the Navy Reserve Nurse Corps.
United States Cadet Nurse Corps
In June 1943 the acute military and civilian need for nurses was responsible for a significant forward step in nursing education which has greatly aided Negro women seeking such training. This was the passage of the Bolton Act, establishing a United States Cadet Nurse Corps, which operates under the Public Health Service.
Under the provisions of this act, Federal aid is made available for students to take an accelerated nursing course ranging from 24 to 30 months. Federal funds may be used for maintenance for the first 9 months for all students who join the Cadet Nurse Corps. During this period students are known as precadet nurses and are given concentrated instruction and supervision. The act also provides scholarships and a monthly allowance for all students of the Corps. Scholarships cover tuition and all other fees charged by the school and include the cost of books and the school uniform.
In return for advantages received through the Corps, Cadet Nurses must promise that, health permitting, they will remain in essential nursing for the duration of the war. The choice of which essential service is theirs. They are not required to pledge themselves to military service. Almost 2,000 young Negro women have joined the Cadet Nurse Corps. They represent all but about 600 of the total number enrolled in all schools of nursing admitting Negroes. Of these student nurses, 1,600 are studying in 20 all-Negro schools; the rest are enrolled in schools having both white and Negro students. At the end of one year of the Corps’ existence, it was reported that 33 schools of nursing of a possible 55 that admit Negro students have qualified under the Federal program. Five collegiate schools are operating now to prepare young Negro women for administrative, supervisory, and educational positions in the nursing field.
The effect of Federal aid on Negro nursing enrollments is clearly indicated at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Freedman’s, a Negro school of nursing, had an enrollment of 77 student nurses in 1939 and 78 in 1942, but in 1943, the year the Bolton Act was passed, the enrollment went to 116 and in 1944 jumped to 166.
Directors of schools of nursing admitting Negroes see the Corps as accomplishing a twofold service: it is enabling young women who finish high school to enter a professional field, and it is enabling schools of nursing to set higher scholastic standards.
Another progressive step was that taken by Sydenham Hospital in New York City when it announced in December 1943 that it would admit any qualified Negro into the ranks of its internes, resident physicians, surgeons, and nurses, and that Negroes also would be represented on its board of trustees. Thus, Sydenham has become the first voluntary hospital in the United States to function on a completely interracial basis. The reorganization of the hospital was carried through by an interracial committee organized by the New York Urban League. Among those commenting favorably on Sydenham’s action was the Medical Society of the County of New York, which passed a resolution urging the acceptance of a similar policy by all voluntary hospitals.
Women’s Army Corps
Of the first 436 to become officers in the WAAC (Now WAC), 36 were Negroes. By January 1945 there were 120 Negro officers and 3,900 enlisted Negro WACS. In the course of their service, many WACS are being given new training. In some cases this covers work not previously done by women. Negro WACS are competently filling jobs ranging from pharmacist to graphotype-machine operator.
“I just had to sell my share in the drug store and get into a uniform before I could feel right, said the only Negro WAC on duty at the Station Hospital at Fort Dix, N.J., who qualifies for her job as a pharmacist. Now a sergeant, in civilian life she was co-owner for 4 years of a city drug store and secretary of a druggists’ association.
Thousands of letters and parcels, incorrectly addressed, never would reach the soldiers for whom they are intended if it were not for the job Negro WACS are doing in the post office at Camp Breckinridge, Ky. These “detectives” of the post locator department deal with wrong spelling, incomplete addresses, poor handwriting, and whatever else comes up to interfere with speedy delivery of soldiers’ mail.
Using a spray gun to paint names, numbers, and insignia on various types of Army vehicles is one of the jobs of a Negro sergeant and a private serving in the Ordnance branch at the Automotive General Maintenance Shop at Camp Breckinridge. Other Negro WACS in this camp are assigned such jobs as cleaning and inspecting spark plugs for Army motor vehicles, painting jeeps, staff cars, and trucks. One Negro WAC operates a graphotype machine to produce the metal identification plates, commonly referred to as “dog tags.”
Servicing trucks is the job of a Negro WAC at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Another Negro WAC operated a mimeograph machine at the station hospital, while other WACS at Fort Huachuca have served in such varied capacities as switchboard operator, office worker, cook. The first Negro WAC unit to be sent overseas arrived in England in February 1945. It is serving as a postal battalion for the European theater. A total of 24 officers and 677 enlisted women are in the unit.
Women’s Naval Reserve
On October 19, 1944, the Navy Department announced that Negro women would be accepted in the Women’s Reserve, U.S. Naval Reserve. The Navy’s statement is quoted here:
The President today approved a plan submitted by the Navy Department providing for the acceptance of Negro women in the Women’s Reserve of the Navy. The plan calls for the immediate commissioning of a limited number of especially qualified Negro women to serve as administrative officers. They will assist in the subsequent planning and supervision of the program for Negro women which will be administered as an integral part of the Women’s Reserve. Enlistment of Negro women will be undertaken as soon as these plans have been completed . . . Officer candidates and enlisted women will be trained at existing schools for the training of WAVES. The number to be enlisted will be determined by the needs of the service.
Some 200 Negroes, the majority of them women, were in Red Cross overseas work late in 1944. They were in every theater of war—in Great Britain, Italy, France, North Africa, South Pacific, Australia, and the India-Burma-China theater. Bending their varied talents toward the single vital objective of backing up America’s fighting men, these women have shelved their peacetime activities for the duration. They were appointed as assistant club directors, staff assistants, assistant program directors, and personal-service directors at overseas military stations.
In this country by the middle of 1944 the Home Service Division of the Red Cross was employing Negro women as case workers and in clerical jobs in a great many cities of the United States. In Chicago alone more than 100 Negro women were so employed. Among the other cities where Negro women were on the Red Cross home-service pay rolls are Savannah, Birmingham, New Orleans, Dallas, St. Louis, Louisville, Columbus, Cleveland, Evansville, New York City, Brooklyn, and Washington. Negro women have worked in the Home Service Division both at the District of Columbia Chapter and at National Headquarters of the Red Cross, in the latter only since late in 1944. Some dozen were employed there as stenographers, and as junior and senior correspondents.
STATUS IN 1940 AND IN 1944
Generally speaking, women who have jobs or who are looking for work must earn their own living or help in the support of their families. This is especially true of Negro women. The income of the Negro family is much lower than that of the white and the woman’s earnings are very much needed. According to a study made by the National Resources Committee, the median income of white families in the rural South in 1935-36 was more than twice as high as that of Negro families, the median for white families being $1,100 and that for Negro families $480. In the urban South white incomes were three times as high, on the average, as Negro incomes; white families’ incomes had a median of $1,570, while that for Negroes was $525. In 3 large north-central cities the median income of white families was almost 60 per cent higher than that of Negro families, the median for white families being $1,720 and that for Negro families $1,095.
In 1940 nearly 2 in every 5 Negro women, in contrast to 2 in every 8 white women, were in the labor force. A little over 1-1/2 million (1,542,273) Negro women, of a total of 4,785,233 Negro women 14 years old and over, were employed in 1940; 60,168 were on public emergency work and 178,521 were experienced workers seeking jobs.
Over a million Negro women, constituting 70 per cent of all Negro women employed in 1940, were in the service occupations, according to the census for that year. An enormous number of these women—about 918,000—were employed in private families, and some 98,000 were cooks, waitresses, and other such service workers elsewhere than in private homes. The remaining 60,000 workers in service trades were in miscellaneous personal-service occupations, such as beauticians (14,800), boarding-house and lodging-house keepers (13,600), charwomen and janitors (12,400), practical nurses (11,000), housekeepers and hostesses (3,000), and elevator operators (3,300).
Agriculture employed the next largest number of Negro women. About 245,000 were agricultural workers in 1940, of whom some 128,000 were unpaid family workers. Over 70,000 were paid farm laborers and foremen. More than 46,000 were farmers and farm managers.
Practically 66,000 Negro women were engaged in professional and semiprofessional work, teachers accounting for 50,000 of this number. In addition, some 900 were college presidents, professors, and instructors, while 95 were artists and art teachers. The nearly 6,700 trained nurses and student nurses ranked next in this classification, and the 1,960 musicians and music teachers ranked third. Almost 1,700 were social and welfare workers. More than 120 were dentists, pharmacists, osteopaths, or veterinarians, and 129 were physicians and surgeons. Nearly 200 were actresses and over 100 were authors, editors, and reporters. Thirty-nine were lawyers and judges. Four hundred were librarians.
Practically 11,000 Negro women were proprietors, managers, and officials in lines other than farming; more than 4,800 of these were in eating and drinking places and more than 3,900 in other trade enterprises.
Sales and kindred workers in general numbered 7,600; agents, brokers, etc., accounted for 1,300, saleswomen 5,300, and canvassers, news venders, and the like the remaining 1,000 and more.
Clerical and kindred workers were an important group, numbering more than 13,000. Stenographers, typists, and secretaries aggregated 4,100; bookkeepers, accountants, and cashiers 2,100; and clerks not specified 6,500. Only 92 were reported as operators of office machines, and only 267 were telephone and telegraph operators.
Operatives and kindred workers numbered more than 96,000 of the Negro women reported. Not far from 36,000 were in manufacturing, the chief groups being 11,300 in apparel and other fabricated textile products, 11,000 in tobacco manufactures, and 5,600 in food and related products. About 7,200 were reported as in nonmanufacturing industries and services. Also in the operatives’ total were the 11,300 dressmakers and seamstresses not in factories, the 39,300 laundry operatives not in private families, and 2,800 other women.
Government service employed approximately 8,300 Negro women. Of this number, not far from 1,000 were in the Postal Service; 218 were in national defense, and over 7,000 were classified on as “Government.”
Changes, 1940 to 1944
The employment of Negroes in civilian jobs increased by almost a million between April 1940 and April 1944. Six hundred thousand of this increase was in women’s employment. During this 4-year period the employment of Negro women rose from 1.5 million to 2.1 million. Their employment increased by 40 per cent, in contrast to a 51 per cent gain for white women.
Most dominant changes in Negro employment during the 4 years were a marked movement from the farms to the factories, especially to those making war munitions, and a substantial amount of upgrading, but there was little change in the proportions occupied in unskilled jobs.
Slightly over 7 in every 10 employed Negro women were in some service activity in April 1940. The great majority of these (918,000) were domestic employees. After 4 years there was only a slight decrease in the proportion in the services, though a significant internal shift had taken place. While the proportion of domestic employees showed a marked decrease, those occupied in such personal services as beautician, cook, waitress, etc., showed a corresponding increase. The actual number of Negro domestic workers increased slightly between 1940 and 1944, the number in these occupations rising by about 50,000, but this addition was not sufficient to offset the decline of 400,000 among white domestic employees.
As before stated, for both Negro women and men the most definite occupational shift was from the farm to the factory. The proportion of Negro women on farms was cut in half in the 4 years. In April 1940, 16 per cent of all Negro women in the labor force were on the farms; 4 years later only 8 per cent remained, and the number employed on farms had decreased by about 30 per cent.
While the total number of Negro women employed had increased by about a third, the number employed as craftsmen and foremen and as factory operatives almost quadrupled.
For both Negro women and men the greatest gain in employment opportunities came in skilled and semiskilled factory operations which few had performed before the war. Consequently, for a great many Negro workers this is the first opportunity to demonstrate their ability to perform basic factory operations in such capacities. Negro women’s employment increased not only in the munitions factories but in food, clothing, textiles, leather, and all other manufacturing. The greatest increase was in the metals, chemicals, and rubber group. Fewer than 3,000 Negro women were employed in this group in April 1940; 4 years later 50 times as many were so employed.
In the other major occupational groups the percentage increases were large, but the numbers involved were not sufficient to have much effect on the occupational distribution of Negro women. The number working as proprietors, managers, or officials trebled. Those working as saleswomen almost doubled, while those engaged as clerical workers rose to a number five times as great as before.
The proportion of Negro women in the professional and semiprofessional fields decreased slightly, but there was a small increase in numbers.
There was a notable increase in Negro employment in Government service (Federal, State, county, municipal). In April 1944 about 200,000 Negroes were employed in this field in contrast to fewer than 60,000 in the same month of 1940.
The 1940 major occupation groups are not comparable with those for preceding decades because of the changes in occupational classifications. However, there has been developed a classification on the basis of social-economic groups, which permits tracing broad occupational levels. Social-economic groupings are not the same as the major occupation groups used elsewhere in this report. Though titles may show similarity, for a specific social-economic group some occupations are omitted and others added, as compared with the occupation group it resembles. The 1940 data include the employed, the experienced seeking work, and those on public emergency work; the distribution in the various social-economic groups has been estimated. For the decades before 1940, figures are for “gainful workers.”
Negro Women War Workers, Bulletin 205 (Washington, D.C.: Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, 1945), pp. 1–19.
Before the War, the Sign “Men Only” Was Hung on Many Jobs . . . Now the Women of the Nation Have Taken Down That Sign
WASHINGTON—Mrs. Rosalie Ivy, an energetic young woman, works in mud, but she’s neither a pottery maker nor a maker of mud pies. She is a “Pan Man” in a giant Gary, Ind., steel mill, and mixes a special mud used to seal the casting hole through which molten iron flows from a blast furnace. In the entire steel industry few women, or men either, are “Pan Men,” for this is a rare job.
Mrs. Ivy belongs to that growing list of Negro women war workers who have replaced men in jobs for the first time. The Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor recently compiled a list of some of the odd jobs held by such women.
Among those listed in this group is Evelyn Samuels, who went to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard last year when they hired women mechanics for the first time in 141 years. In the Civil Service examinations given for Navy Yard jobs Miss Samuels received 99, the highest rating of any of the 6,000 women tested. Doris Wilson, Hunter college student and Brooklyn resident, was another high ranking applicant in the same examination. Both Miss Samuels and Miss Wilson were assigned to the instrument division, where binoculars, telescopes and range finders are reconditioned.
First Woman Chipper
Sarah T. Francis, formerly a presser in a laundry, is not only the first woman in the country to be employed as chipper and caulker, but the first in the history of shipbuilding. She is working at the Todd Shipyards in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Mrs. Susie T. Glover of Georgia holds a unique job for a woman. She was probably the first woman train announcer in the United States. Mrs. Glover started her railroad career 25 years ago doing odd jobs, icing and watering the train, cleaning up the station’s carpenter shop, etc. Her job as caller started accidentally when the stationmaster asked her not to let anybody miss a train. She got copies of all schedules and began memorizing them. Today her voice is part of the essential station noises.
At the Bartlett-Hayward plant in Baltimore, Md., a woman runs a steel-burning machine. It is an intricate machine, 25 feet long and 6 feet high, which cuts huge pieces of steel for use in six different kinds of anti-aircraft guns. The acetylene torches which cut two parts at a time must be set and guided with precision. The operation must have a dozen or more controls set exactly right.
One of the most unusual jobs held by a colored woman in war industries is that assigned to Ethel Maxwell Williams, of St. Paul, Minn. Mrs. Williams is assistant to Cecil E. Newman, director of Negro personnel for the Twin Cities Ordnance plant at New Brighton, Minn. Her work includes labor relations, personnel adjustment, race relations and related spheres of administrative activity. Last spring this plant was employing more than 17,000 workers, 700 of whom were colored. They work at a variety of jobs and include supervisors, stenographers, machine operators, nurses, photograph technicians, draftsmen, machine adjustors, janitors and matrons.
“MEN ONLY” PRE-WAR THEME
The pre-war theme song of the aircraft industry was “men only.” Shortly before Pearl Harbor some 4,000 women were employed in the entire aircraft industry, and most of them were in sewing jobs. By September of 1943, however, the tune had changed; more than 240,000 women were at work in the industry in air frame, engine, and propeller plants. Another 4,000 were employed on gliders.
Negro women are now to be found in every one of the key war industries. They are sharing, sometimes in small measure, the wartime advances being made by all women. Today, because of the critical lack of manpower, age-old prejudices are beginning to crumble. Into the entering wedge have gone women of many nationalities.
The need for women war workers is still acute, and there is still the need and opportunity for women in civilian jobs to transfer to war work.
Pittsburgh Courier, February 8, 1944.
Chicago, Mar. 4—Montgomery Ward, billion dollar mail order house, is being accused of “flagrant discrimination against minority groups” by Local 20, United Retail, Wholesale & Dept. Store Employees. The charge was made to the Chicago Council on Religious and Racial Equality.
“The only jobs open to Negroes in the Chicago properties of Montgomery Ward,” declares the memorandum, “are those of porter, bus boy, bus girl, elevator operator and matron. The bulk of mail order house, retail store and warehouse jobs are therefore closed to Negro workers.
“Although Ward’s runs large advertisements in the ‘Help Wanted’ sections of the newspapers every day, scores of Negroes have been turned away from the employment office and refused employment.”
CIO News, March 6, 1944.
by A. Philip Randolph
Though I have found no Negroes who want to see the United Nations lose this war, I have found many who, before the war ends, want to see the stuffing knocked out of white supremacy and of empire over subject peoples. American Negroes, involved as we are in the general issues of the conflict, are confronted not with a choice but with the challenge both to win democracy for ourselves at home and to help win the war for democracy the world over.
There is no escape from the horns of this dilemma. There ought not to be escape. For if the war for democracy is not won abroad, the fight for democracy cannot be won at home. If this war cannot be won for the white peoples, it will not be won for the darker races.
Conversely, if freedom and equality are not vouchsafed the peoples of color, the war for democracy will not be won. Unless this double-barreled thesis is accepted and applied, the darker races will never wholeheartedly fight for the victory of the United Nations. That is why those familiar with the thinking of the American Negro have sensed his lack of enthusiasm, whether among the educated or uneducated, rich or poor, professional or non-professional, religious or secular, rural or urban, north, south, east or west.
That is why questions are being raised by Negroes in church, labor union and fraternal society; in poolroom, barbership, schoolroom, hospital, hairdressing parlor; on college campus, railroad, and bus. One can hear such questions asked as these: What have Negroes to fight for? What’s the difference between Hitler and that “cracker” Talmadge of Georgia? Why has a man got to be Jim-Crowed to die for democracy? If you haven’t got democracy yourself, how can you carry it to somebody else?103
What are the reasons for this state of mind? The answer is: discrimination, segregation, Jim Crow. Witness the navy, the army, the air corps; and also government services at Washington. In many parts of the South, Negroes in Uncle Sam’s uniform are being put upon, mobbed, sometimes even shot down by civilian and military police, and on occasion lynched. Vested political interests in race prejudice are so deeply entrenched that to them winning the war against Hitler is secondary to preventing Negroes from winning democracy for themselves. This is worth many divisions to Hitler and Hirohito. While labor, business, and farm are subjected to ceilings and floors and not allowed to carry on as usual, these interests trade in the dangerous business of race hate as usual.
When the defense program began and billions of the taxpayers’ money were appropriated for guns, ships, tanks and bombs, Negroes presented themselves for work only to be given the cold shoulder. North as well as South, and despite their qualifications, Negroes were denied skilled employment. Not until their wrath and indignation took the form of a proposed protest march on Washington, scheduled for July 1, 1941, did things begin to move in the form of defense jobs for Negroes. The march was postponed by the timely issuance (June 25, 1941) of the famous Executive Order No. 8802 by President Roosevelt. But this order and the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, established thereunder, have as yet only scratched the surface by way of eliminating discriminations on account of race or color in war industry. Both management and labor unions in too many places and in too many ways are still drawing the color line.
It is to meet this situation squarely with direct action that the March on Washington Movement launched its present program of protest mass meetings. Twenty thousand were in attendance at Madison Square Garden, June 16; sixteen thousand in the Coliseum in Chicago, June 26; nine thousand in the City Auditorium of St. Louis, August 14. Meetings of such magnitude were unprecedented among Negroes. The vast throngs were drawn from all walks and levels of Negro life—businessmen, teachers, laundry workers, Pullman porters, waiters, and red caps; preachers, crapshooters, and social workers; jitterbugs, and Ph.D.’s. They came and sat in silence, thinking, applauding only when they considered the truth was told, when they felt strongly that something was going to be done about it.
The March on Washington Movement is essentially a movement of the people. It is all Negro and pro-Negro, but not for that reason anti-white or antisemitic, or anti-Catholic, or anti-foreign, or anti-labor. Its major weapon is the non-violent demonstration of Negro mass power. Negro leadership has united back of its drive for jobs and justice. “Whether Negroes should march on Washington, and if so, when?” will be the focus of a forthcoming national conference. For the plan of a protest march has not been abandoned. Its purpose would be to demonstrate that American Negroes are in deadly earnest, and all out for their full rights. No power on earth can cause them today to abandon their fight to wipe out every vestige of second class citizenship and the dual standards that plague them.
A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess. To trample on these rights of both Negroes and poor whites is such a commonplace in the South that it takes readily to anti-social, antilabor, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic propaganda. It was because of laxness in enforcing the Weimar constitution in republican Germany that Nazism made headway. Oppression of the Negroes in the United States, like suppression of the Jews in Germany, may open the way for a fascist dictatorship.
By fighting for their rights now, American Negroes are helping to make America a moral and spiritual arsenal of democracy. Their fight against the poll tax, against lynch law, segregation, and Jim Crow, their fight for economic, political, and social equality, thus becomes part of the global war for freedom.
PROGRAM OF THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON MOVEMENT
1. We demand, in the interest of national unity, the abrogation of every law which makes a distinction in treatment between citizens based on religion, creed, color, or national origin. This means an end to Jim Crow in education, in housing, in transportation and in every other social, economic, and political privilege; and especially, we demand, in the capital of the nation, an end to all segregation in public places and in public institutions.
2. We demand legislation to enforce the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guaranteeing that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, so that the full weight of the national government may be used for the protection of life and thereby may end the disgrace of lynching.
3. We demand the enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the enactment of the Pepper Poll Tax bill so that all barriers in the exercise of the suffrage are eliminated.104
4. We demand the abolition of segregation and discrimination in the army, navy, marine corps, air corps, and all other branches of national defense.
5. We demand an end to discrimination in jobs and job training. Further, we demand that the F.E.P.C. be made a permanent administrative agency of the U.S. Government and that it be given power to enforce its decisions based on its findings.
6. We demand that federal funds be withheld from any agency which practices discrimination in the use of such funds.
7. We demand colored and minority group representation on all administrative agencies so that these groups may have recognition of their democratic right to participate in formulating policies.
8. We demand representation for the colored and minority racial groups on all missions, political and technical, which will be sent to the peace conference so that the interests of all people everywhere may be fully recognized and justly provided for in the post-war settlement.
Survey Graphic, 31 (November, 1942): 488–89.
An eloquent appeal to Negro America to march on the Nation’s capital for jobs and an equal share in national defense work was issued to the press of the nation last week. Fifty thousand are expected to participate.
The March on Washington is scheduled for July 1st, and is one of the most militant actions ever planned by Negroes of this country and should be the largest mass movement in their history. It is vitally important to the future well-being of the race that the March be a success.
The call for marchers to organize was signed by Walter White, Reverend William Lloyd Imes of St. James Presbyterian Church, N.Y.; Lester Granger of the National Urban League, Frank Crosswaith, labor leader; Dr. Rayford Logan, Howard University professor; Henry K. Craft, head of the Harlem Y.M.C.A; Richard Parrish, youth group leader; Layle Lane, vice-president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who conceived the idea.105
The Association stresses the importance of the cooperation of all Branches with local March committees in organizing marchers, distributing March buttons, which sell for ten cents, and disseminating publicity.
Find out if there is a local March committee in your community, and give it the support of the entire membership. Further instructions and information can be obtained from the local committee or from the office of the steering committee, at 217 W. 125th Street, New York City, c/o Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. If there is no local March committee in your community, write to the national committee at the above address, informing them of this fact.
The success of this March on Washington may mean a job for you and thousands of other colored Americans. The time to act is now!
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Papers, Group 2, Library of Congress.
July 1, 1941
We call upon you to fight for jobs in National Defense.
We call upon you to struggle for the integration of Negroes in the armed forces, such as the Air Corps, Navy, Army and Marine Corps of the Nation.
We call upon you to demonstrate for the abolition of Jim-Crowism in all Government departments and defense employment.
This is an hour of crisis. It is a crisis of democracy. It is a crisis of minority groups. It is a crisis of Negro Americans.
What is this crisis?
To American Negroes, it is the denial of jobs in Government defense projects. It is racial discrimination in Government departments. It is widespread Jim-Crowism in the armed forces of the Nation.
While billions of the taxpayers’ money are being spent for war weapons, Negro workers are being turned away from the gates of factories, mines and mills—being flatly told, “NOTHING DOING.” Some employers refuse to give Negroes jobs when they are without “union cards,” and some unions refuse Negro workers union cards when they are “without jobs.”
What shall we do?
What a dilemma!
What a runaround!
What a disgrace!
What a blow below the belt!
‘Though dark, doubtful and discouraging, all is not lost, all is not hopeless. ‘Though battered and bruised, we are not beaten, broken or bewildered.
Verily, the Negroes’ deepest disappointments and direst defeats, their tragic trials and outrageous oppressions in these dreadful days of destruction and disaster to democracy and freedom, and the rights of minority peoples, and the dignity and independence of the human spirit, is the Negroes’ greatest opportunity to rise to the highest heights of struggle for freedom and justice in Government, in industry, in labor unions, education, social service, religion and culture.
With faith and confidence of the Negro people in their own power for self-liberation, Negroes can break down the barriers of discrimination against employment in National Defense. Negroes can kill the deadly serpent of race hatred in the Army, Navy, Air and Marine Corps, and smash through to blast the Government, business and labor-union red tape to win the right to equal opportunity in vocational training and re-training in defense employment.
Most important and vital to all, Negroes, by the mobilization and coordination of their mass power, can cause PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT TO ISSUE AN EXECUTIVE ORDER ABOLISHING DISCRIMINATIONS IN ALL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, ARMY, NAVY, AIR CORPS AND NATIONAL DEFENSE JOBS.
Of course, the task is not easy. In very truth, it is big, tremendous and difficult.
It will cost money.
It will require sacrifice.
It will tax the Negroes’ courage, determination and will to struggle. But we can, must and will triumph.
The Negroes’ stake in national defense is big. It consists of jobs, thousands of jobs. It may represent millions, yes, hundreds of millions of dollars in wages. It consists of new industrial opportunities and hope. This is worth fighting for.
But to win our stakes, it will require an “all-out,” bold and total effort and demonstration of colossal proportions.
Negroes can build a mammoth machine of mass action with a terrific and tremendous driving and striking power that can shatter and crush the evil fortress of race prejudice and hate, if they will only resolve to do so and never stop, until victory comes.
Dear fellow Negro Americans, be not dismayed in these terrible times. You possess power, great power. Our problem is to harness and hitch it up for action on the broadest, daring and most gigantic scale.
In this period of power politics, nothing counts but pressure, more pressure, and still more pressure, through the tactic and strategy of broad, organized, aggressive mass action behind the vital and important issues of the Negro. To this end, we propose that ten thousand NEGROES MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR JOBS IN NATIONAL DEFENSE AND EQUAL INTEGRATION IN THE FIGHTING FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES.
An “all-out” thundering march on Washington, ending in a monster and huge demonstration at Lincoln’s Monument will shake up white America.
It will shake up official Washington.
It will give encouragement to our white friends to fight all the harder by our side, with us, for our righteous cause.
It will gain respect for the Negro people.
It will create a new sense of self-respect among Negroes.
But what of national unity?
We believe in national unity which recognizes equal opportunity of black and white citizens to jobs in national defense and the armed forces, and in all other institutions and endeavors in America. We condemn all dictatorships, Fascist, Nazi and Communist. We are loyal, patriotic Americans, all.
But, if American democracy will not defend its defenders; if American democracy will not protect its protectors; if American democracy will not give jobs to its toilers because of race or color; if American democracy will not insure equality of opportunity, freedom and justice to its citizens, black and white, it is a hollow mockery and belies the principles for which it is supposed to stand.
To the hard, difficult and trying problem of securing equal participation in national defense, we summon all Negro Americans to march on Washington. We summon Negro Americans to form committees in various cities to recruit and register marchers and raise funds through the sale of buttons and other legitimate means for the expenses of marchers to Washington by buses, train, private automobiles, trucks, and on foot.
The Black Worker, May 1941.
How shall we solve this problem of discrimination against one section of our American people? Can we postpone the solution of this question until after the war is over? Would it be correct for the Negro people to allow themselves to be sidetracked from the war issue and concentrate only on their own domestic problem?
The Negro people know the record of the Communist Party as the defender of Negro rights. We Communists did not hesitate to organize and struggle for the Scottsboro boys, for Angelo Herndon, WPA and relief during those depression years. The Communist Party need not profess its friendship for the Negro people—it is a part of the Negro people, as well as of all Americans. That is why we say frankly: today we cannot organize our demands in the same way as in those former years.
We must find a solution to this problem within our national unity and not outside of it. We can solve this problem only through unity of Negro and white workers.
March on Arms Plant is Ill-Advised
We have received a copy of the leaflet issued by the St. Louis unit of the March on Washington Committee, which calls for a march on the small arms plant this Saturday, to protest against discrimination and firing of 150 Negro workers. While we fully agree with the demands expressed in the leaflet, we cannot support the demonstration nor the method in which the committee is proceeding to remedy the situation.
Here is the reason why we cannot support it:
1. Our country is involved in a just war against Hitler and his Axis partners who are the enemy of the Negro people, just as much as of other Americans. Therefore, we must seek solutions to our grievances in ways that will not affect the war effort. Demonstration at the war plant certainly is a most ill-advised procedure which, however well intended, might be turned into a provocation against the best interests of both Negro and white workers.
2. The March is to include only Negro workers. This a cardinal mistake, which can only play into the hands of the appeasers and enemies of our country. The firing of 150 Negro workers is not the concern of the Negro people alone, but the concern of all Americans—we must unite and not split at this grave hour of our history.
3. We feel that the correct approach would be for the labor movement, Negro and white, to undertake the fight through established channels and, if that failed, a joint action of labor unions and Negro organizations would strengthen unity and would guarantee victory.
4. We cannot agree with the slogan, “Winning Democracy for the Negro is Winning the War for Democracy.” This is a misleading slogan which can only serve to divide and divert. A proper slogan would be “Winning victory over Hitler’s Axis includes winning democracy for the Negro.”
End Discrimination Through United Effort of the Labor Movement, Negro and White
Instead of sectional movements, which can only tend to weaken our national unity, we firmly believe that these just grievances of the Negro people can be solved through the united effort of the Negro and white workers. We propose the following immediate action:
1. Demand that Mayor Becker immediately convene a Conference of Employers, Labor and Negro Representatives to end discrimination against the Negro citizens.
2. Immediate calling of a public hearing at which to take testimonials of all cases of discrimination and name employers and companies which have failed to give proper employment to the Negro workers. Exposure at these hearings of those officials and leaders and organizations which continue to violate President Roosevelt’s executive order, and demanding that the government take over the plant which still continues to Pursue Anti-Government policies.
3. Immediate establishment of Joint Negro and White Fair Employment Committee in the State and in the City.
FOR UNITY OF ALL AMERICANS, NEGRO AND WHITE.
FOR FULL ENFORCEMENT OF PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT’S EXECUTIVE ORDER AGAINST DISCRIMINATION.
FOR NATIONAL UNITY AND VICTORY OVER HITLER’S AXIS IN 1942.
State Committee, Communist Party of Missouri
1041 North Grand
Flier in possession of the editors.
Local Units—March On Washington Movement
The March On Washington Movement - That it is.
The Movement originated out of the protests, grievances and injustices that beset the Negro people and the mass cry for deliverance. It grew out of a threatened March On Washington called by A. Philip Randolph, its founder and philosopher, to break down discrimination in the army, navy and air corp, in the government and in defense industries, and which resulted in the establishment of the Fair Employment Practice Committee - Executive Order #8802.
A series of mass meetings and conferences and the resolutions growing out of them indicated the need for a type of permanent organization that would have as its objective the following:
1. To develop mass power through a mass organization with an active program, aggressive, bold and challenging in spirit but non-violent in character.
2. To crystallize the mass consciousness of grievances and injustices against Negroes and project it into a Cause for which Negroes themselves will gladly and willingly suffer and sacrifice.
3. To re-educate white America on the question of equality for Negroes.
4. To enlist the support of liberal and Christian white America in an all-out struggle for unadulterated democracy at home as well as abroad.
5. To operate by means of mass maneuvers and demonstrations.
The March On Washington Movement is All-Negro but not Anti-White nor Anti-American.
Now the Movement is organized.
Our Movement should be well knit together. It must have moral and spiritual vision, understanding and wisdom. We advise against rash judgment and misguided action. Our aim is to think through on issues and plan and discipline well our action so that none of our energies are dissipated or lost. We take no responsibility for provocateurs either locally or nationally. Persons acting in our name must be organized and disciplined by duly constituted authorities recognized by our National Office to execute policies.
Our job is actually to organize millions of Negroes and build them into block systems with captains so that they may be summoned to action over night and thrown into non-violent physical motion. Our forces must be marshalled with Block Captains to provide immediate and constant contact. Our Block Captains must hold periodic meetings for their blocks to develop initiative and the capacity to make decisions and move in relation to directions from the Central Organization of the Division and from the National Office.
The Job of the Division of Local Unit
Our divisions must serve as Negro Mass Parliaments where the entire community may debate the day to day issues as police brutality, high rents, jobs in public utilities, discrimination and segregation—Jim Crow laws and patterns, utilization of Negro manpower in defense and in government and other questions and make judgments and take action in the interest of the community.
These divisions should hold meetings twice a month. In them every Negro should be made to feel his importance as a factor in the liberation movement. We must have every Negro realize his leadership ability, the educated and the uneducated, the poor and the wealthy. In the March On Washington Movement the highest is as low as the lowest and the lowest as high as the highest. Numbers in mass formation is our key, directed of course by the collective intelligence of the people.
The Education Program
Our education program must be developed around the struggle of the Negro masses. We must develop mass plans to secure mass registration of the people for the primaries and elections. Through this program the masses can be given a practical and pragmatic view of the mechanics and functioning of our government and the significance of mass political pressure.
Plans should be mapped and strategy studied by the various divisions to fight for Negro integration in the public utilities and safeguard and police the Fair Employment Practices Committee. Workers Education should be carried on to inform workers about the trade union and social legislation. Public affairs education should be integrated in our bulletins and in our regular meetings.
Vigorous campaigns and giant public protest meetings should continue in order to develop Cause Consciousness and to give moral and spiritual strength to our Movement and the Negro masses.
The Mass Action Program
The day-to-day exercise of our Civil Rights is a constant challenge. Negroes have the moral obligation to demand the right to enjoy and make use of their civil and political privileges. The fight to break down Jim Crow barriers in every city should be carefully and paintakingly organized. By fighting non-violently but directly for these civil rights the Negro masses should be disciplined in struggle. Court battles may ensue but this will give the Negro masses a sense of their importance and value as citizens and as fighters in the Negro liberation movement and in the cause for democracy as a whole.
Division of Authority
Until the May Conference and the proposed Constitution is amended and adopted, central authority is vested in the National Director, who is our philosopher and founder.
The National Office has been temporarily established in the Hotel Theresa Building, 2084 Seventh Avenue, New York City and Miss E. Pauline Myers is the General Organizer of the Movement. Her term of office shall be for a term not longer than that of the appointing Director, but she may be reappointed by the continuing or succeeding Director.
Her duties are to supervise, direct and administer a program of membership on a national scale. She shall collaborate with National Officers and the National Committee. She shall develop policies and procedures, prepare standardized forms to be used in membership campaigns, plan, coordinate and execute membership campaigns on a national scale, establish and maintain a close working relationship with the Regional, State and Divisional Organizers, issuing to them from time to time as needs require directive procedures and policies relating to membership activities, prepare and submit to the National Director reports concerning the program of membership and progress in the accomplishment of this program.
Local units are members of State Organizations, which in turn are members of Regional Organizations. The Detroit Conference designates five geographical areas and the National Director has the power to appoint five Regional Directors. Each Regional Director has the power to appoint one Regional Organizer—the said organizer shall be responsible for the execution of policies and procedures and plans for membership as established by the National Executive Secretary so as to conform to a National pattern. She shall submit to the Regional Director and the National Executive Secretary periodic reports on the development and progress of membership within his region.
The State organizer shall have the authority of directing and coordinating the membership activities of the various divisions subject to his supervision; plan and conduct a program pointing toward the organization of new city divisions.
In city divisions employing Executive Secretaries this secretary shall serve as Division Organizer. The responsibility shall be to organize and develop by districts and by blocks the membership of the particular division; plot and lay out districts of not more than ten square blocks to which he may appoint and assign District organizers. Organize and advise the standing committees on Education techniques, mass action strategy, finance and membership activities. Act in an advisory capacity to district organizers in matters relating to organizational work. Allocate to district organizers literature and material for distribution among block organizers. See that block organizers hold regular meetings among themselves and within their blocks. He should submit regular reports to the division director or president and the State organizer on the progress of the division’s activity.
Policies and directives governing local units will be handed down directly from the National office.
Relationship to Other organizations
The March on Washington Movement is not and is not intended to be a rival organization to any established organization already functioning to advance the interest of the Negro. It seeks only to demonstrate the techniques of militant mass pressure in the field of minority problems where other techniques have broken down.
The fundamental policy of the MOWM should be to cooperate with other agencies in a multiple attack on the problem. It should seek to advance overlapping of function and organization by seeking continuous discussion with other organizations to affect a division of labor and the best utilization of community organizational resources. For example, where established recognized agencies are handling a specific situation, like the NAACP and the Urban League, the MOWM should not seek to supercede their activities or techniques in any way which will adversely affect the ultimate solution of the common problem. Once other agencies seek support, the MOWM should then use its facilities to attain the desired ends. Where problems arise, such as legal cases, job placement, etc., which can be handled efficiently by agencies already in the field the MOWM will refer such cases to the proper agencies.
Undated leaflet in the Fur and Leather Workers’ Union Archives.
Press Release, August 17, 1942
Reports from chapters of the March on Washington Movement and from individuals all over the country indicate that the Negro is genuinely alarmed over the prospect of the transfer of the Fair Employment Practice Committee by President Roosevelt to the War Man Power Commission of which Paul McNutt is chairman. As soon as the proposed change was announced, A. Philip Randolph, our National Director, and Lawrence M. Ervin, President of the New York Division, dispatched telegrams of protest to the White House.
Yesterday, Eardlie John, Chairman of the Fair Employment Practice Committee of the New York Division of the March on Washington Movement, wrote to the President outlining the reasons for the objection to the change.
August 16, 1942
The President of the United States
The White House
My dear Mr. President:
If the proposed transfer of the Fair Employment Practice Committee to the War Man Power Commission is consummated, the spiritual progress of our country would be set back at least a quarter of a century.
When you issued Executive Order #8802, the morale of the Negro, which had struck a new low, was materially heightened. Although it was but a crumb that fell from the rich man’s table, we were grateful to you. In each Negro American’s heart welled the hope that at long last the Great Humanitarian had looked our way and maybe would look again. Maybe we were wrong! Maybe justice and right and decency to one’s fellow-men would be triumphant!
On December 7th the Negro American was, without exception, fighting mad because a foreign power had dared to attack our country. We only wished to get within rifle and hand range of the enemy.
We have always been in the vanguard of the fight for freedom from Boston Commons to Bataan.
We asked only that we be allowed to serve with dignity. Our offer to serve on a dignified basis was rejected. We were accepted only as an inferior, jim-crowed and humiliated by our own Government. One of the most important functions of a Government is to set its spiritual level far above that of the individual so that in the striving of mankind to reach as near perfection as is humanly possible, the exalted and meek could seek inner strength and guidance from its Government. If only our Government would strike out boldly for the right, for justice for all, our country would be impregnable.
Prior to the appointment of the Fair Employment Practice Committee, Negroes were on the verge of despair. Everywhere men were talking about democracy, even in the dark South, but their action belied their words. We listened attentively to the cruel words, for all said, “All men are created equal and that in this country all men have equality of opportunity.” The Committee, though working under a budgetary handicap, performed near miracles within its limited sphere. Whatever success has come to it, came almost solely because of you, Mr. President. Its effectiveness stems solely from the dynamic moral force and sanction of your high office, added to the respect and love of the great majority of the American People for you as a Great Humanitarian. If the Committee is denuded of this authority, its future work will be worthless.
The articulation of all America into the war effort is of serious and paramount importance. Without such there can be no unity of purpose. Without such there can be no favorable peace. It is the responsibility of our country to lead the world out of the horror chamber of fear and prejudice and despair to that higher ground of peace and good will to all men. There can be no peace until our country cast off the shackles of discrimination and segregation and lead the world into that higher spiritual leadership for which mankind longs.
The work of the Fair Employment Practice Committee, if it is allowed to remain responsible only to you, will be a driving force in accelerating the democratic process. Men everywhere must see that our country is a democracy in fact for the eyes of all the world are focused upon the United States. Oppressed peoples, not only the Poles and the Danes but the Indians, the Chinese, the Africans and the Negro American look to you for spiritual leadership.
The Man Power Commission, if it is to be effective in immediately mobilizing the productive capacity of our country, must keep clear of controversial issues. Equality of economic opportunity is not controversial, but because the South is determined to use its exaggerated influence to deny the Negro elementary democratic rights, this equality of economic opportunity is thrown into the field of controversy. In these circumstances, the Commission may not contemplate moral punitive action against employer and at the same time ask them to speed up production. The Southern mind would resent Mr. McNutt’s Committee to the point of non-cooperation but will obey the edicts of the President’s Committee.
If the Fair Employment Practice Committee is transferred to the Man Power Commission, it will undoubtedly be subject to the orders of the regional directors. As is noted above, the chief offenders are Northerners. There is where much work needs to be done. Southern Regional Directors will bend every effort to sabotage the Committee’s work. War Man Power Commission will soon have to ask Congress for more funds. Congressmen and Senators from the South who enjoy their abnormal prestige and power from the numerical strength of the Negro while at the same time withholding from him the right of vote, will refuse to appropriate funds for the Commission unless the Fair Employment Practice Committee is killed or hamstrung.
Further, the Chairman of the Man Power Commission is a candidate for the Democratic Nomination for the Presidency in 1944, if you do not chose to run. As such a candidate, he must seek votes in the Democratic Convention from the solid South. The South is committed to the proposition that Negroes shall never be given equality of opportunity. It is too much to ask a human being aspiring to the greatest office on earth to clash violently with the small men of the South. You are the exception. The people have confidence in you and no matter what these small men of the South may think or feel, they can never affect your high place in the history of the world and in the hearts of your countrymen.
In the years to come let history recall that you did more for democracy and for world peace than perhaps any other man. It is upon this issue, the equality of all man, that the peace of the world rests. The Fair Employment Practice Committee is the one active Agency of our Government that is laying the foundation for a lasting peace; and it must have the authority and sanction and prestige of you and your office directly behind it.
Fair Employment Practice Committee
Copy in the Fur and Leather Workers, Union Archives.
The March on Washington Movement, 10,000 Strong
MARCHES Saturday, August 29, 1942
CARTER CARBURETOR COMPANY
(Located at Grand - Spring - Dodier and St. Louis Avenues)
THIS PLANT IS NOW ENGAGED IN WAR CONTRACT PRODUCTION THIS PLANT EMPLOYS OVER 2,650 WORKERS BUT HAS
NOT ONE NEGRO EMPLOYED!
THIS PLANT IGNORED OUR REQUEST FOR A CONFERENCE HENCE IT
ASKED FOR A MARCH!
AT THE AUDITORIUM MEETING, AUGUST 14, YOU PROMISED TO HELP WHEN NEEDED . .
NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!
THE MARCH FORMS at Tandy Park, Cottage and Pendleton Avenues
SATURDAY, AUG. 29, 2:30 P.M.
BE THERE!!——WE MUST NOT FAIL!!
MARCH ON WASHINGTON COMMITTEE
Flier in possession of the editors.
March From Tandy Park to Plant of Carter Carburetor
Some 400 St. Louis Negro men and women yesterday afternoon paraded from Tandy Park to the Carter Carburetor Corporation plant at 2840 North Spring avenue in an orderly demonstration against alleged discriminatory labor policies of the war industry.
Occasional street corner groups watched without comment as the silent marchers walked in slow single file the long hot mile from the park to the big plant.
The marchers, who paraded for the most part on the sidewalk, were led by a flag-bearer and T. D. McNeal, St. Louis chairman of the Negro March on Washington Committee. Behind the leaders sauntered the long procession of placard-bearing demonstrators.
Marchers Carry Signs
Some of the placards read:
“Carter employs 3,000 people, not one Negro; Is that democracy?”
Still others asserted:
“Shut our mouths and stop our marches with jobs, democracy and freedom.”
A large crowd of staring but unopinionated spectators lined the sidewalks at St. Louis and Spring avenues, the southwest corner of the Carter plant. A detachment of motorcycle patrolmen checked traffic as the marchers quietly circled the block-square factory.
After circling the Carter plant, the marchers paraded west on St. Louis avenue to Tandy Park where the procession disbanded.
Although McNeal had predicted about 10,000 Negroes would participate, he expressed himself satisfied with the mass protest.
“All we wish to do,” he said, “is to keep our problem before the people of St. Louis. The conscience of the people will do the rest. The purpose of this demonstration was to dramatize the plight of the discriminated Negro, who only asks to be allowed a place in his country’s war effort.”
Others To Follow
The demonstration at the Carter plant, McNeal said, would be followed by similar mass protests directed at other St. Louis plants which allegedly discriminate against Negro labor.
In addition, he said, a mass prayer meeting sponsored by the March on Washington Committee here will be held the afternoon of September 20 at Memorial Plaza.
“We intend to continue our protests and our demonstrations until Negroes are given an equal share in war work in St. Louis, he declared.
H. H. Weed, general manager of the Carter Corporation, asserted the plant had no established policy barring Negroes from employment.
St. Louis Globe, August 30, 1942.
34. SPEECH DELIVERED BY DOCTOR LAWRENCE M. ERVIN, EASTERN REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON MOVEMENT AT THE “WE ARE AMERICANS, TOO” CONFERENCE, HELD AT THE METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH, CHICAGO, ILL., JUNE 30, 1943
Mr. Chairman, Fellow Marchers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We are assembled here at a time of great racial tension and stress. It is a time when the rapidity of this tension’s increase has reached a most dangerous point—in truth, at a time when the tides of democracy are running very low for the Negro people.
It is a time when all of the responsible leaders of our government from the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, to the heads of all of its various bureaus and branches are saying that we are not fighting this war for men to live together as master and slaves, but we are fighting for the spirit of universal brotherhood. At a time when Mr. Sumner Welles, our Assistant Secretary of State, has publicly proclaimed to Negroes that “equality to all men is the democratic promise.” At a time when the national press, in bold headlines states that we are fighting for the extension of the democratic way of life to the four corners of the earth. At a time when every radio commentator is filling the air waves with beautiful phrases extolling the virtues of our democracy.
As citizens we ask ourselves, “What is this thing called Democracy?” I will tell you. Democracy has for its meaning and its purpose the long-time interest, welfare, and happiness of all the people, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin. It respects the personality of every individual; it seeks to develop in him a sense of belongingness. It assumes that the maximum development of every individual is for the best interest of all. It encourages and directs him to respect himself and to make the best of his own natural gifts, to develop his own unique personality for the benefit of the whole. For we are all of one stupendous whole, whose body Nature is, and God the Soul. And the soul of democracy rests upon the Equality Clause, penned by the immortal Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
We assemble here knowing that democracy renews its strength by continued education as to its meaning and its purposes. We, of ths Movement, take democracy seriously. We know it has developed as a struggle for principles that has penetrated deeply into the consciousness of all our citizens, and has established even amongst the lowly, a sense of equality for human dignity and justice. Some, however, take it for granted that sound economic and political problems under the shibboleths of so-called democratic principles will continue automatically to take care of themselves. They close their eyes to the growing confusion and bitterness, trusting child-like, that “mother democracy” will somehow make all well again. But we have come to enlist other men’s minds in this crusade of Winning Democracy for the Negro. We say that nothing can take the place of struggle. We seek to develop a contagious enthusiasm for this struggle. We demand that Americans, black and white, come out of their “ivory towers” and carry the fight for freedom of the Negro people into the market places of the world, Now.
There are those who will say that this is not the time to parade upon the public platform the indignities that are heaped upon the minority groups in this democracy. They cry aloud “our national house is on fire—stop everything and put out the fire.”
“Remember you are the minority and minority must bow to the approved program of the majority.” “Win the war,” they say—“and your rights can then be demanded.” They say it is better to suffer the indignities of a Negro hero under a democracy than to live a slave under a Nazi yolk. Again let me quote the immortal Jefferson on the will of the majority, “Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be uplifted must be reasonable, that the minority possess their equal rights, that equal laws must protect and to violate would be oppression.” I say to you, Ladies and Gentlemen, that an organization can be critical of its government’s directive actions and yet remain patriotic and loyal. And we say to those critics who say that our leadership should be silenced during the war, that we still have in America freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Thus we have assembled and we will not be silenced, but we will be heard.
From the day of the legal lynching of Odell Waller by the sovereign State of Virginia, to the day of the complete emasculation of the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, to the hour of the Detroit riots, our government itself has maintained a rigid pattern of oppression, segregation, discrimination and jim-crow, against the Negro people.
The failure of this administration to take a moral stand against the native forces of fascism in this country, while six hundred thousand Negroes in the uniform of Freedom fight in Bataan, Corregidor, Dutch Guinea, Hawaii, the Phillippines and Africa—has left us bewildered. Yes, bewildered we are and passion tossed. Mad, we are, with the cries of a mobbed and mocked and murdered people. Standing here I hear their cries. They say “show us the way and point us the path.” They know that within their race are cowards, [line missing] those of us assembled here, “give us a plan of action Now.” A plan that will teach us to respect ourselves. A plan that will make us stand and face pomp and glory in our pure white robes of simplicity, unafraid. A plan that will teach us to walk on our own feet; to work with our own hands; to speak with our own minds. To rely upon our own strong right arm. To overcome a system that pits worker against worker, brother against brother, and father against son; that causes men to crush the weak; that spits in the face of the fallen; that strikes at those who dare not strike back, that hates the image that God himself has stamped upon a brother’s soul.” Too long, they say, has color in the world and in America, been the infallible guide to a man’s ability and his dessert. They want the instruments to win this freedom—not the instruments of hate and of violence, but rather the instruments of Equality, Education, and the Right to Work and become first-class citizens of our democracy. Lincoln said that this nation cannot remain half slave and half free. I say that under a democracy we cannot have a first and second class citizenship. Either the Negroes of America enter into the pattern of American life on a plan of complete, perfect, and unlimited equality or they don’t enter. I also say that unless the Negro contend and fight for his democratic rights now during this war he will never get them. And after the war he will have the status of “untouchables,” for we must remember that one can win a war and still lose one’s democratic rights.
Who are the people who deny the Negro his democratic rights? Who believe that the democratic right of freedom from fear—freedom from want—freedom of religion—fredom of speech—the right of habeas corpus—the right of trial by jury—the right of petition and the right of equality before the bars of justice, are the rights of white people only. Whose boast is it that this is a white man’s government? They are the Rankins and Bilbos of Mississippi. They are the Talmadges and Coxes of Georgia; the Cotton Ed Smiths of South Carolina. They are the Ellenders of Louisiana; the Connallys and Sumners of Texas. They are the Martin Dies’. They are the Dixons and Starnes of Alabama; the Glass’s and Smiths of Virginia. They are the Donald Smiths of the Ku Klux Klan; the Christian Frontiers; the Black Shirts. This host of little men, who take but who never give; who share but who never spare. These Negro phobists who strut in the Halls of Congress and make a mockery of democracy. Who rant and wave the bloody shirt of racial superiority and preach the inflammatory doctrine of Negro domination for political advantage whose every thought and every action is designed to keep the Negro in his place. No, this is not a white man’s government—rather, it’s man’s government. Long before Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death” a Negro, Crispus Attucks, had died on Boston Commons to establish this government.106
Our forefathers fought, bled and died to outlaw this reactionary doctrine of superior races; of separate classes, of first families and of segregated peoples. This nation was conceived and dedicated to the proposition that all men should have equality of citizenship. This was every Puritan’s prayer. This was every immigrant’s hope. This was every free man’s desire. This was every emancipated slave’s dream. This was the very epitome of man’s effort toward honest government and universal brotherhood.
The problem of the Negro in this democracy of ours is a problem of prejudice, discrimination, segregation and jim-crowism in all of the social, economic, political, educational and religious institutions of this country. But the Negroes are awakening, and they are beginning to question the domination of the so-called master white race. They are rapidly reaching social maturity. They are defining terms. They know jim-crow to mean a spiritual, moral and intellectual insult to their very soul, and they are determined to get rid of this insult. They hold, in spite of the reasoning of the Supreme Court of our land, that segregation is discrimination, and they will never submit to it. For we are full men, and as such we expect to be treated.
No, we will never accept a status of second-class citizenship in America, and we know that the majority of Americans hope for a true democracy where all men live in peace and good will. However, we know that Negroes must win this freedom, this equality; and we must win by methods that are new and revolutionary. Gradualism and appeasement have failed. The powers that be always give us two bad choices or none at all—either jim-crow or don’t enter; either segregation or don’t work. We must take the good choice and On to Victory. We say to you that the power to win the [illegible] resides in the masses and if we organize thirteen millions of Negroes and discipline them to follow leadership and join with our natural allies, which are labor and other minorities, we will win this struggle of the common man for his place in the Sun.
Yes, the Common Man. Common as air is common, whose sweetness we never guess until it is polluted. Common as water is common, without which shipwrecked men go mad. Common as God’s sky is common—lit by day with infallible light and starred at night with whirling worlds of beauty. Common as Jesus Christ himself was common.
Copy in the Fur and Leather Workers’ Union Archives.
Considerable excitement was caused at the Bell Telephone Building at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, September 18th when 205 members of the March On Washington’s picket committee showed up at one time to pay their telephone bills en masse. Many of the March On Washington pickets paid their telephone bills in pennies. This was designed to slow up the process of collection. However, some one had evidently tipped off the telephone company that this technique would be used and the cashiers had been equipped with individual money sacks into which such payments were raked subject to later verification. During the demonstration practically all of the officials of the telephone company gathered on the mezzanine balcony and watched the irate Negro telephone subscribers show their resentment against the undemocratic employment policy of the telephone company through this non-violent technique.
T. D. McNeal, Director of the March Movement, after the demonstration stated that it was a completely successful project in that it again dramatized this un-American situation and forcibly called to the attention of the telephone management the fact that Negro citizens here have an abiding determination to see this fight against the telephone company through no matter how long a time or what sacrifice might be entailed.
St. Louis Argus, September 24, 1943.
America is a nation of many different peoples. The white majority itself is composed of various minorities and when questions of creed or national origin arise around the issue of job opportunities, the minority status of the individual concerned becomes a very important question. For example, the average white American who happens to be a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect finds himself in much the same position as a Negro worker if other white workers object to his being employed on the same job. A Mexican worker who can get any job for which he is qualified in the East will face considerable discrimination in the Southwest. Fully one-third of the total American population belongs to minority groups of one kind or another that fall within the protective provisions of Executive Order 9346. There was a time in America when it was quite common for orders to the United States Employment Service to include the requirement “WXP” (White, Christian, Protestant).
Figures for nonwhite workers will be used chiefly in this chapter because they constitute the best data available on the employment of minority groups. For the United States as a whole, Negroes represent about 96 percent of all nonwhite workers, the remainder including persons of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Indian origin. In 1940, there were in the United States about 13,000,000 Negroes, 127,000 persons of Japanese, and 78,000 persons of Chinese origin, 46,000 Filipinos, and 362,000 American Indians.
The other principal minority groups consist of approximately 5 million aliens, 3 million Lat Americans, and 4-1/2 million persons of Jewish ancestry. Altogether, the national origin minorities, including Germans, Italians, Canadians and others totaled some 21,000,000 persons.
But of America’s minorities, its 13 million Negroes are the main objects of discrimination and 78 per cent of FEPC’s case load is concerned with their employment problems. . . .
The economic depression of the thirties gave impetus to the already established trend of removing Negroes from jobs which had become desirable either as a result of technical improvement or the raising of wage scales through unionization. Negroes lost heavily on railroads as firemen and in the building trades, while continuing their downward trend in employment as boilermakers and machinists. Unemployed whites took over the traditional “Negro jobs” of waiters, bell-men, porters and truck drivers and, with the loss of these service jobs, the Negro was literally pushed off the bottom rung of the occupational ladder.
The depression seriously curtailed occupational gains which Negroes had made in such industries as iron, steel, meat packing, shipbuilding, and automobile manufacturing during World War I and the decade thereafter. In 1940, colored workers constituted even a smaller proportion of the workers in mining, manufacturing, trade, and transportation than they had in 1910. The greatest relative and absolute loss occurred in manufacturing, a decline from 6.1 per cent of the total in 1910 to 4.9 per cent of the total in 1940. Despite the lack of employment opportunities in the North, Negro migration northward out of the South continued during the depression. It was not as high during the thirties as in the preceding decade, but estimates indicate that 317,000 Negroes moved from the South to the North betweeen 1930 and 1940.
Negro Workers and World War II
Comparisons between the occupations of whites and Negroes in 1940 reveal that Negro labor was disproportionately concentrated in unskilled, service, and agricultural jobs. Agricultural workers and other laborers constituted 62.2 per cent of all employed Negro men but only 28.5 per cent of all employed white men. Only about 5 per cent of Negro men as compared with approximately 30 per cent of white men were engaged in professional, semiprofessional, proprietary, managerial, and clerical and sales occupations. Skilled craftsmen represented 15.6 per cent of employed white men but only 4.4 per cent of employed colored men. Moreover, more than half of the Negro craftsmen were mechanics or artisans in the construction trades, further indicating the scarcity of Negro skilled workers in manufacturing industries. Striking differences also were shown between the occupations of white and colored women.
When the period of defense preparation began in 1940, local white labor was absorbed and outside white workers were imported into centers of expanding activity, but the local Negro labor supply was not utilized to any appreciable degree. Both management and the unions practiced a policy of excluding Negroes from the new job openings. The Tolan Committee found in 1941 that 9 A.F. of L. unions and the Railway Brotherhoods still had constitutional provisions barring Negroes from membership. Numerous other unions discriminated by tacit consent or by forcing Negroes into auxiliaries. A survey in the fall of 1941 by the Bureau of Employment Security of the Social Security Board revealed that Negroes would not be considered by industry for 51 per cent of 282,215 job openings expected to occur by February 1942. The War Manpower Commission estimated early in 1942 that nonwhites constituted 2.5 to 3 per cent of employees in war industries.
Factors which have hindered the participation of Negroes in war industries include racial discrimination, the occupational characteristics of the Negro labor force, and the geographic distribution of the Negro labor force in relation to the geographic distribution of war contracts. Three-fourths of the Negro population lived in the South in 1940, and two-thirds of the colored labor force was located in 14 Southern states where only 13.5 per cent of the nation’s war contracts have been awarded.
The major factors which have contributed to the present industrial advancement of the Negro worker have been the tight labor market characteristic of wartime and the action of the Federal Government in breaking down the barriers to job opportunities. Pre-employment and in-plant training courses have prepared colored workers for skilled and semiskilled jobs, thereby making possible the transition from agricultural and service jobs and the upgrading from unskilled industrial work. The migration of southern Negroes to urban areas in the South and from the South to northern and western centers of production has rearranged the geographic distribution of the colored labor force.
The participation of Negroes in war training programs is worthy of special notice. Pre-employment and supplementary training were provided for the following industry groups: aircraft industries, shipbuilding, sheet metal and welding, automobile mechanics, machine shops, electricity and radio, and inspection and foremanship. Non-white trainees participated in training for each of these groups, but have been concentrated most heavily in machine shops, aircraft, and shipbuilding. These were the industries, the latter two being highly marginal, in which Negroes were almost entirely denied employment in the earlier phases of the defense effort.
In the South Negro trainees participated in very much less degree than would be indicated on the basis of their local population ratio, but this was slightly offset numerically by increased participation in other regions. A survey in 1942 indicated that the South with roughly 80 per cent of the Negro population was training about 20 per cent of all Negro participants, while the North with 20 per cent of the Negro population was training about 80 per cent of all Negro participants.
Employment Gains in Defense Industries
The per cent of nonwhite workers in firms reporting to the War Manpower Commission has risen steadily. From less than 3 per cent in early 1942, nonwhite participation rose to 4.6 per cent in September 1942, 6.4 per cent in January 1943, 7.2 per cent in January 1944, and 8.3 per cent in November 1944. More than a million nonwhite workers are now employed in war industries.
Some idea of the industrial advance of the Negro in specific industries can be obtained by noting the following comparisons between July 1942 and November 1944.
Shipbuilding has been the area of most dramatic increase in nonwhite employment. Nonwhite employment increased from 10,099 in the whole industry in 1940 to 157,874 in 96 shipyards in March 1944. While total employment increased 888.9 per cent, nonwhite employment during the period of wartime growth increased 1,463.2 per cent.
Negroes in the Local Transit Industry
Increased transportation needs at a time of gasoline and rubber shortages have made local transit companies war industries of prime importance. Traditionally both the management and unions of local transit companies have excluded Negroes from platform operations in nearly all major cities of the United States. However, by January 1945, the number of local transit companies hiring Negroes in platform operations had risen to 21 and the number of Negroes in such positions had risen to 3,601. New York and Detroit each had more than one thousand Negroes in platform jobs and San Francisco had 750. In other cities the employment of Negroes as drivers, operators, and conductors signaled their entrance and consolidation of gains in an important occupational field.
Negroes in Government
Improvement has been noted in Government as well as in industry. In March 1944, Negroes formed 19.2 per cent of Federal departmental service (chiefly located in Washington, D.C.). This figure can be compared roughly with that in 1938 when Negroes were only 8.4 per cent of all persons employed by the Federal Government in Washington. According to the 1940 Census, Negroes were 28.2 per cent of the local population. The gain has also been qualitative. Whereas in 1938, 90 per cent of all Negro Federal employment in Washington was custodial, only 10 per cent was clerical, administrative, and fiscal, clerical-mechanical, and professional. Today 40 per cent of Negro workers are custodial and 60 per cent are in the higher-paid and more desirable clerical and professional jobs. Thus one-half of all Negro departmental workers have been redistributed into higher levels of pay and status. In addition, whereas Negroes were less than 10 per cent of Federal employment throughout the country in 1938, they are today almost 12 per cent. This low figure, in comparison with their representation in departmental service, may be accounted for by the fact that they were only 11.2 per cent of the field service where 90 per cent of all Federal employment is found.
The present relatively good position of the Negro in the Federal Government is qualified by the fact the most of the heavy employment and good utilization, in terms of skill, has been achieved in temporary war agencies. The overwhelming proportion of Negro employment, 70 per cent, is really industrial and is confined to the Army Service Forces and Navy shore establishments. Only 30 per cent of all Negro Government workers are in classified service. Moreover, 57.7 per cent of those in classified Civil Service jobs were employed in temporary war agencies.
Impact of the War on the Negro Labor Force
Employment of Negroes in civilian jobs increased by almost a million between April 1940 and April 1944, the number of employed men rising from 2.9 to 3.2 million and the number of employed women from 1.5 to 2.1 million. The shift from the farm to the factory was the most outstanding change in the male Negro labor force. The proportion of Negro workers on farms declined from 41 per cent to 28 per cent, or by 13 points, and the proportion in industry increased by the same amount. Moreover, the number of Negro males employed as skilled craftsmen, foremen, and semiskilled operatives doubled from one-half million to one million during the 4-year period. Despite these increases, the proportion of Negroes in unskilled jobs remained the same, or one in five. The employment changes of Negro women followed the same pattern.
The numerical increases made by Negoes in the higher occupations (skilled, semiskilled, clerical, and sales, proprietors, and professional) have been offset by the entry into the labor force of a million workers, most of whom are unskilled workers from the farms or women and men seeking work for the first time. Thus, the Negro labor force is still made up predominantly of unskilled and service workers.
Below are tables which show the distribution of total and nonwhite workers in major industry divisions. Table A covers the entire labor force and table B shows total and nonwhite employment in manufacturing industries.
Current Minority Employment Before VE-Day107
The two foregoing tables show the nonwhite labor force pattern which has been established as the result of the changes that have taken place during the war. This pattern serves as the basis from which to measure the further changes that will occur after VE-day and before victory over Japan.
In speaking of the current period of intense war production, former Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion James F. Byrnes said in his report of April 1, 1945, “Manpower has become the major limiting factor. There is no pool of unemployed to draw upon. We have committed our reserves.108
“If we are to meet schedules, we must draw on workers in less essential activities. There is no other way out. We must still concentrate on getting the right workers into the right jobs and places at the right time.”
Utilization of Minority Workers
It is estimated that over 400,000 minority group workers are still available for war industries or for other essential work. Approximately 151,000 nonwhite workers were unemployed in November 1944; and, even though a certain amount of frictional unemployment is unavoidable, this number could be considerably reduced. Furthermore, minority workers comprise a more than proportionate number of persons now engaged in less essential industries and occupations. A considerable pool of such workers might be shifted from the amusement, personal, and domestic service occupations into more essential work. Finally, a great number of these workers are still employed in relatively unproductive agricultural areas, and could be shifted to more productive work.
NOTE.—Nonwhite employment in lumbering and printing and publishing estimated from available data. All other percentages of nonwhite employment obtained from Summary of ES-270 Reports of the War Manpower Commission, November 1944.
Perhaps an even more important source of increased labor productivity lies in the upgrading, in accordance with experience and skill, of minority workers now limited to unskilled work in essential industries. A great many cases have come to the Committee’s attention in which experienced Negro and Mexican-American workers actually train newly recruited white workers for promotion to more highly skilled jobs denied to themselves. It is by taking action to assure the more effective employment and utilization of minority workers in war production that the Committee can make its principal contribution to solving the current manpower problem.
Minority Employment During “Period I”
The time between victory in Europe, “VE-day,” and victory over Japan, “VJ-day” is now being referred to as “Period I.” The Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion has outlined the Government’s plans for reducing war production and increasing civilian output during that period. The overall release of resources from munitions production in the first quarter following the defeat of Germany is estimated at about 20 per cent, with an additional 5 per cent to be released in the second quarter, and still another 5 per cent in the third quarter.109
Conservative estimates for the reduction in Army requirements amount to about 15 to 20 per cent for the first 3 months after VE-day and about 40 per cent before the end of the year following the defeat of Germany. The programs of the Navy and the Maritime Commission, which are now on curtailed production schedules will undergo little further change after VE-day. The ship construction program of the Navy decreases from a quarterly rate of $1,570,000,000 in the first quarter of 1945 to approximately $1,000,000,000 by the first quarter of 1946. The ship-construction program of the Maritime Commission decreases from $970,000,000 in the first quarter of 1945 to $400,000,000 in the fourth quarter of 1945.
The declining schedules in ship construction may be expected to result in the displacement of a considerable portion of the 180,000 nonwhite workers who were employed in that industry in November 1944. A portion of the workers released from ship construction may be absorbed by the increased labor requirements for ship repair work.
There has been some increase in the employment of nonwhite workers even in those munitions industries which have had stationary or declining total employment since November 1943. This may indicate that white workers have greater alternative employment opportunities, and that a larger proportion of white than nonwhite workers have tended to move into jobs which will continue after the end of the war, or else have withdrawn from the labor market. This trend may continue during the current period and may be intensified after VE-day. It will mean that VJ-day will find Negroes heavily concentrated in war industries and their prospects poor for finding work in reconverted plants. Generally, however, minority workers have accumulated less seniority in those war industries which have post-war possibilities, and will be in a more precarious position during the reconversion to peacetime production.
Negro War Migration
Throughout the entire period of defense and war mobilization there has been an extensive movement of people from agricultural regions to industrial areas. They have migrated from the rural South and the states in the interior of the country, to the East and West coasts and the rim of the Great Lakes region. If we assume the same racial composition of population flow since 1940 as before, we may estimate a net migration across state lines of 4,350,000 persons, including 470,000 Negro migrants, between April 1940 and November 1944. If we add to these figures the movement of Negro workers and their families from rural areas and smaller communities to major war production centers, within the same states, we get a total figure for Negro migration which has been estimated at 600,000 through 1943 and 750,000 through 1944.
Three main streams of Negro population flow were developed before 1930 and much of current migration has followed the same course: from Georgia through the Atlantic Coast states to Pennsylvania and New York; from Mississippi and Alabama through Tennessee and Kentucky to Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; and from Louisiana through Arkansas and Missouri to Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. The new flow which has been gaining in importance since 1940 has been from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri to the West coast.
The total population increase between 1940 and 1944 for the 10 congested production areas surveyed by the Bureau of the Census amounted to 1,840,000 including over 205,000 or 11.2 per cent nonwhite migrants. The general movement of Negro migrants has been from southern agricultural areas to the southern cities, and from southern cities and towns to northern and western industrial centers. For example, 37 per cent of the Negro migrants into Mobile, Ala., came from farms, whereas only 14 per cent of the Negroes who migrated to Detroit, Mich., were from rural areas. Again 70 per cent of the Negroes who moved to Charleston, S.C., came from elsewhere in the same State and only 27 per cent from other states. On the other hand, only 15 per cent of the Negroes who migrated to San Francisco came from other parts to California, whereas 85 per cent came from other states.
Historical records and current surveys indicate that between one-half and two-thirds of the minority workers who have migrated into war production centers will remain in these communities after the war. In addition to the general problem of absorbing permanently a large increase in population, the communities to which large numbers of minority workers have migrated will be faced with the necessity of adjusting intergroup relations.
First Report: Fair Employment Practice Committee, July 1943-December 1944 (Washington, D.C., 1945), pp. 85, 88–97.
Group Meeting in Chicago Cites Two Coast Machinists’ Locals for Barring Race Workers—Hears Buick Aircraft Case
CHICAGO, Jan. 22—The President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices this week cited two locals of the American Federation of Labor Machinists’ Association for violation of the Executive Order in barring two colored workers from employment in defense plants. The citation is expected to be the text of the effectiveness of the President’s decree.
The committee recommended to President Roosevelt that he summon to Washington the heads of the two locals, together with Harvey W. Browne, international president of the machinists, and require them to take necessary corrective measures at once.110
Hears Buick Case
The two locals, No. 751 of Seattle and No. 68 of San Francisco, are charged with violation of the national policy to the detriment of the war effort on the basis of testimony heard at Los Angeles last October. The committee charged that Charles Sullivan of San Mateo, Calif., had been denied the opportunity to work at the Bethlehem shipbuilding plant by Local 68, and that C. L. Bellums of Oakland, Calif., was barred from skilled occupation with the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle by Local 751.
The action of the committee was taken Monday at its meeting in Chicago prior to the opening of hearings on discriminations in Illinois industrial defense plants. The first case heard was that of the Buick aircraft engine plant in Melrose Park, which had been charged with violation of the fair labor order.
Members of the committee present for the hearings are David Sarnoff, Milton Webster and Frank Fenton, representing William Green, and John Brophy, representing Philip Murray.111
Pittsburgh Courier, January 24, 1942.
WASHINGTON, April 18—Ten big firms, all of them working on war orders, were told to stop discriminating against any Negro and Jewish applicants in the most sweeping order issued to date by the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices.
The order directs the 10 companies, located in Chicago and Milwaukee, to submit monthly reports describing workers newly hired and showing the number of Negro workers included and the jobs to which they are assigned.
The companies were accused in a two-day hearing held by the committee of having refused jobs to Negroes and Jews of having told employment agencies to send only whites and Gentiles, and of having specified “gentile” or “Protestant” or “white” in ads placed in newspapers. The charges were denied by the 10 firms, but evidence at the hearings substantiated them.
The Fair Employment Committee, set up by President Roosevelt some months ago, has representation from organized labor, with John Brophy, director of Industrial Union Councils, representing Pres. Murray and the CIO.
The companies involved are: Stewart-Warner Corp., Buick Aviation of Melrose, Ill., Bearse Mfg. Co., Simpson Mfg. Co., Nordberg Mfg. Co., A. O. Smith Co., Heil Co., Allis-Chalmers Corp. and the Harnischfeger Co.
“The findings and directions will give the committee a continuing jurisdiction over the employment practices of these industries, which hold contracts for war implements and material, as each concern has been asked to file reports with the committee showing the extent to which steps have been taken to bring the company’s employment policies and practices into line with the national policy: Dr. Malcolm S. Mac Lean, chairman of the committee explained.
CIO News, April 20, 1942.
The effort to completely hamstring the Fair Employment Practice Committee has been defeated owing to the unanimous and extremely vocal disapproval of colored citizens.
Unfortunately, the strenuous effort to have the Committee returned to an independent status has failed.
The FEPC will have a greater personnel and will be able as formerly to conduct investigations and hearings wherever it chooses, but final decisions as to action will be in the hands of War Manpower Commissioner McNutt, which is something less than the independence the Committee originally enjoyed.
Beyond their demand that the Committee not be reduced to complete impotence, colored citizens also wanted to see the work of the committee implemented by a strong Federal law enabling it to punish violators of both the letter and spirit of Executive Order 8802.
So long as there is no such law, the Committee cannot go beyond gathering evidence and warning firms to comply with the Presidential order.
If discriminating companies, industries and agencies do not choose to abide by the President’s order beyond small token employment, there is now nothing more the FEPC can do about it.
Hence, the next step of those who want to see the letter and spirit of the President’s order carried out, is to fight for the passage of a Federal law setting up drastic penalties for its violation.
The hurdles, obstacles and barriers in the path of the FEPC which almost led to its death, were placed there by reactionary business interests determined to keep American economic enterprise “for whites only” and it was their loud complaints that finally reached the top and brought about the Committee’s transfer from an independent to a subordinate status.
It is evident that the plan was to completely sabotage the Committee for why else should Robert Weaver and Will Alexander have been given charge of Negro and minority affairs within the War Manpower Commission when the FEPC had been specifically set up to cover the same or similar ground?112
Happily, the FEPC had mass pressure of Negroes behind it and Messrs. Weaver and Alexander did not, and the history of the New Deal has shown its responsiveness to the strongest and most persistent pressure.
If colored citizens present a united front on all questions affecting their welfare as they have in this fight to save the FEPC, a larger measure of success will crown our efforts to make democracy a living reality in the United States.
Pittsburgh Courier, November 7, 1942.
Ordered to Cease Discriminating Against Negro Skilled Labor—Union Also Cited
WASHINGTON, D.C. Nov. 19—The President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice on Tuesday directed the Delta Shipbuilding Corporation at New Orleans “to cease and desist its discrimination against skilled Negro labor and from its practice and policy of refusing to employ skilled Negro workers.”
The committee also directed that Local No. 37 of the International Boilermakers, Shipbuilders, Welders, and Helpers of America likewise, “cease and desist from its discrimination against Negro workers qualified for skilled positions or classifications or employment in the Delta shipyards.”
Hearings which brought about these directions were held in Birmingham, Ala., June 20, 1942.
Had Only Common Laborers
The formal complaint alleged that investigation by the committee’s field representative disclosed that out of a total employment of 7,000 at the Delta shipyards, there were only a few hundred Negroes employed as common laborers or in menial capacities.
Louis B. Dapremont testified at the hearings that he is a carpenter of 27 years’ experience and on June 4, 1942, was referred for work to Delta by Local 584, Shipbuilders, Carpenters and Joiners’ Union.
He stated that he worked during the next two days but noticed no other colored mechanics employed. Mr. Dapremont disclosed to the union secretary and the shipyard employment office that he was a Negro and inquired whether he had been referred and hired under the impression that he was not a Negro.
Negro Carpenter Told to Quit
Upon his disclosure, both the union secretary and an employment official at the shipyard advised him to quit his job, which he did.
Paul D. Dixon stated he had 22 years’ experience in the shipbuilding trade and was hired by the Boilermakers’ Union through Mr. James B. McCollum, international representative to organize a Negro auxiliary.
Mr. Dixon organized several thousand Negro mechanics and sought employment at Delta for himself and his men on March 10, and several subsequent occasions. He was freely given application forms, on one occasion receiving as high as 200.
These applications were filled out and filed with the company, but none of the applicants were hired although many white applicants were employed at or about the same time.
At one time, said Mr. Dixon, he was told at the employment office that the applications meant nothing. At another time the labor manager at Delta told him to see Mr. McCollum. When he did so, he was reportedly told by Mr. McCollum, “Keep your mind off Delta because Negroes are not going to work there . . . because every white man in there would walk out.”
Fired for His Pains
In an effort to remedy conditions, Mr. Dixon wrote letters to the mayor of New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana, and to the FEPC. For so doing, he related, he was discharged by Mr. McCollum from his position as organizer.
Clarence L. Laws, secretary of the New Orleans Urban League, testified that during the summer of 1941, over a month before the first keel was laid in Delta, he conferred with John H. Steinman, vice-president of the American Shipbuilding Company of which Delta is a subsidiary and was informed that Negroes would be hired on all levels of employment. 300 APPLY! NONE HIRED.
Following that conference, more than 300 applications were made by Negro welders, ship carpenters, painters, ship fitters and pipe fitters. None were hired.
R. B. Ackerman, vice president of the corporation, testified that “we are from Cleveland, Ohio, and are not prejudiced. The problem is new to us, but it is more or less controlled by conditions of the South.”
He said further that the company entered into a preferential hiring agreement with the New Orleans Metal Trades Council in October of 1941, and under that agreement the company hires all of its workers through the unions affiliated therewith.
Further explaining the company’s policy, Mr. Ackerman said that if the union under the hiring agreement referred skilled Negro workers to the company, the latter would hire them but that no such referrals had ever been made.
Feared Friction, Strikes
Robert Quinn, president of the New Orleans Metal Trades Council, said there are 23 union members of the council, but denied racial discrimination is the policy. He admitted, however, that Negro union members had an equal chance with the whites of being referred to or hired by the company. He asserted that he believed to hire Negroes in Delta would cause friction and strikes. His attention was called to Negro and white bricklayers in the same New Orleans union, who have worked side by side since 1922.
Mr. McCollum also denied the boilermakers discriminated or that Negroes were organized into an auxiliary local with discriminatory intentions. He said that he had not sent any boilermakers to Delta because he had none to send. He denied “firing” Mr. Dixon because of complaints to the FEPC and others.
Pittsburgh Courier, November 21, 1942.
In resigning as chief counsel to the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices after War Manpower Commissioner McNutt had torpedoed the scheduled hearings into anti-Negro railroad discrimination, Henry Epstein, former New York State Solicitor General, wrote:
The sudden cancellation of the hearings without warning or opportunity for discussion by the President’s Committee is, in my judgment, an irreparable blow to your committee’s prestige and must result in loss of public confidence in its effectiveness.
Mr. Epstein is just about 100 per cent right and no amount of weasel words like “indefinite postponement” can obscure the ugly truth. When the FEPC sought to get down to rock bottom on this question of discrimination against Negro labor in a major industry vital to the winning of the war, it was ruthlessly sidetracked.
This action marks the final triumph of a long and consistent campaign to make the FEPC completely ineffective, so far as ending discrimination in war industry is concerned.
The FEPC was handicapped from the first in having no punitive measures to work with, as in the case of other government agencies aiding the prosecution of the war.
In consequence, the FEPC, when it found rank color discrimination in existence, could only tap the war contractor on the wrist, figuratively speaking, and urge him to “Go and sin no more.”
It got some co-operation from war contractors outside the Solid South and Negro workers entered many plants from which they had been previously barred, but they were largely employed at unskilled tasks, and promotion in accordance with experience, tenure, aptitude and skill has been disappointingly slow where it has happened at all.
The campaign to scuttle the FEPC got into full swing when it announced the hearings in Birmingham.
At the hearings Mark Ethridge, “true to his native land,” administered the kiss of death.
After the hearings, the conspiracy to scuttle the committee gained impetus with some never-publicized skullduggery in high places, egged on by Congressional Negrophobes, which resulted in burying the FEPC in the War Manpower Commission where Mr. McNutt owns its body if not its soul.
It is significant that prior to the transfer, Mr. McNutt had already established a Negro setup whose purpose, though suspected, was never clearly defined.
The transfer brought forth such a clamor from liberal circles that everybody in authority yelled “’tain’t so” and professions of love for the committee were profuse. The rival jim-crow setup was banished from the WMC payroll.
The FEPC got more money and allegedly more freedom but remained in the shadow of the McNutt veto.
Then came the announcment of the hearings into charges of discrimination against Negroes by the country’s railroads and the autocratic, lily-white railroad unions—charges that would have been as easy to prove as the existence of cold weather in Siberia.
This sort of thing was “embarrassing” and “unthinkable” to powerful business and labor czars who have slowly been eliminating Negroes from the few skilled jobs they still hold, and who do not intend to change their anti-Negro policies, war or no war.
So the hearings have been “indefinitely postponed.”
When the hearings will be held is anybody’s guess, but skeptics profess to believe that it will not be in our time.
The FEPC may continue to function but after this severe blow its future existence will probably be like that of a zombie UNLESS THERE IS A TREMENDOUS AND NATION-WIDE COMPLAINT FROM NEGRO ORGANIZATIONS, CHURCHES, UNIONS AND BUSINESSES, and those white groups eager to see democracy work in the United States.
Pittsburgh Courier, January 23, 1943.
FEPC Developments During Week
Walter P. Reuther, vice-president of the UAW-CIO, and member of the Labor-Management Policy Committee of WMC, protested to President Roosevelt and Chairman McNutt against postponement of FEPC hearings on discrimination in the railroad industry.
Powerful National Maritime Union wired Mr. McNutt denouncing the postponement as a “blow to the war against fascism.”
Evidencing his resentment at McNutt’s action, Harry Epstein, FEPC special counsel, tendered his resignation.
Walter White, NAACP secretary, held Roosevelt’s secretary, Marvin McIntyre, partly responsible for suppression of FEPC hearing and called McIntyre “self-appointed President of the Negroes.”
A delegation from Detroit, headed by Rev. Charles Hill, conferred with McNutt but received no “encouragement” that the hearing would be held.
George Marshall, president of National Federation for Constitutional Liberties, in a letter to the President expressed “grave concern” over the indefinite postponement.
The National Lawyers Guild called on President Roosevelt to “re-create” FEPC as an independent agency with complete autonomy.
The CIO, through James B. Carey, secretary, leveled a sharp attack on McNutt and charged the postponement was a “serious blow to the war morale of Negro citizens and to all whites who know that racial discrimination is a Hitlerite weapon.”
William Green, AFL president, has instructed Boris Shishkin, Federation representative on FEPC, to voice AFL’s opposition to McNutt’s action at the committee meeting this week.113
The Socialist Party called upon McNutt to “rescind” his postponement order.
NAACP branches throughout the country began organizing for mass protest on the ban on FEPC investigation.
The National Urban League, through President William H. Baldwin, wired President Roosevelt and Commissioner McNutt that it was “disturbed over apparent trends toward immobilization of the Committee’s authority.”
Dr. Max Yergan, president of the National Negro Congress, demanded the restoration of FEPC’s power as an independent agency.114
A. Philip Randolph, head of the March on Washington Movement and militant leaders of the Porters’ Brotherhood, led a delegation of labor and civic leaders to Washington for a conference with McNutt on Monday.
By E. W. BAKER
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 21—War Manpower Boss Paul V. McNutt remained adamant in the face of the most withering blast of criticism and protests ever leveled at a government official in one week, and he steadfastly refused to clarify his order to the Fair Employment Practice Committee, forcing it to halt a scheduled investigation into discrimination within the railroad industry or to satisfy two delegations as to the reason for its issuance.
With many wild rumors abroad as to the reason for squelching the probe, members of FEPC, acting on orders from Dr. Malcolm S. MacLean, chairman, have refused to publicly comment on McNutt’s action. The members had no opportunity to discuss the postponement and it came as a complete surprise to them.
Members May Resign
Dr. MacLean has called a meeting of the entire committee for Friday and it is expected they will thoroughly analyze McNutt’s order and the future of FEPC in being able to enforce Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802.
Members who were polled separately were unanimous in stating the ban on the committee’s probe was a challenge to FEPC’s existence and would hamper or completely make ineffective any further probe against jim crow in the nation’s war industries. It is believed the committee will make a direct appeal to President Roosevelt following their Friday meeting and if that procedure is not effective, they are expected to resign in a body.
Labor Leaders Oppose Order
With the strong position taken by both the CIO and the AFL, it is a certainty their representatives on the committee will make a strong protest against the suppression of the hearing, which was scheduled for January 25.
William Green, AFL president, has already advised Boris Shishkin, AFL representative, to register the Federation’s opposition to McNutt’s order. Green is believed to feel the railroad hearing should go on as scheduled.
John Brophy, CIO representative, and Milton P. Webster, of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, are expected to join Shishkin in demanding that McNutt rescind his order.
Wendell Willkie Consulted115
After consultation with Wendell Willkie in New York last week, a group of citizens issued a statement saying “The cancellation not only is an irreparable blow to the Negro people, but does the utmost damage to the whole prosecution of the war.” The committee was composed of Ferdinand Smith, of the National Maritime union; Dr. Max Yergan, of the NNC; Dr. Warren Banner, National Urban League; Edward Lewis, New York Urban League; Joseph People’s committee, and Rev. A. Clayton Powell, Jr., city councilman.
A. Philip Randolph, militant leader, whose threat to lead a “March” on Washington forced President Roosevelt to issue the Executive Order, in a statement, said: “McNutt’s action is a slap in the face of/and insult to, upwards of 20 millions of Negro Americans. It makes them feel that the President is surrendering to the race-prejudice-mongering political demagogues of the South. President Roosevelt stated in the famous White House conference that some agency was needed to which could be presented complaints of discriminations. He established such an agency and charged it with the responsibility of investigating discriminations in war industries. Such is the function and responsibility of FEPC.”
Walter White, NAACP secretary, strongly urged President Roosevelt to “restore the Fair Employment Practice Committee to its full independent status prior to its transfer to the War Manpower Commission.”
Pittsburgh Courier, January 23, 1943.
The enthusiasm that swept colored America in the summer of 1941 over Executive Order 8802 and the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Committee is as dead as Montezuma.
In the first flush of optimism the order was hailed as a second Emancipation Proclamation destined to free colored labor from the shackles of job discrimination, it being forgotten that the original proclamation of emancipation actually freed nobody.
The Executive Order was to apply to all new contractors for war production and, of course, to the far-flung government agencies.
True, the Committee possessed no punitive powers and depended entirely upon moral suasion to enforce the President’s order but this serious weakness was overlooked or minimized at the time.
It is probable that Congress, which has just abolished with great haste the $25,000 salary ceiling, would not have passed a law punishing war contractors for jeopardizing national existence by insisting on job jim crow, but neither the Administration forces nor members of the Opposition introduced any such law.
In consequence the FEPC has been passively and actively resisted by its numerous enemies almost from its birth.
Passively it has been resisted by calculated failure of numerous war contractors to hire colored workers at all, to hire them only in certain positions from which they could not advance, or to hire only a very few in order to escape the charge of colored discrimination.
Actively it has been resisted and attacked by certain Southern white politicians and employers as an effort on the part of the Administration to saddle social equality upon Dixie, and this attack served as the signal for rallying Southern reactionism against the more liberal policies of the New Deal.
The rest of the country possessed sufficient political power to force the reactionary minority in the South to end color discrimination on the job in order to speed victory which is dependent upon industrial production, but, as usual, it refused to do so.
It might be added that the Administration has set a rather bad example by its approval and extension of segregation and color discrimination throughout the armed forces.
Apparently the Committee itself was not above suspicion of insincerity after Mark Ethridge lifted the hopes of the reactionary South and dashed those of colored citizens by his Birmingham speech, and after Dr. Malcolm MacLean, president of Hampton Institute, another member, was revealed as wholeheartedly approving suspension of the railroad hearings.
Even Lawrence Cramer, former governor of the Virgin Islands and the committee’s secretary whose appointment to the job was “plugged” by the NAACP on the ground of alleged friendliness to colored folk, is accused in the March issue of Common Sense as having “often said that Negroes are too emotional about their problems and that whites can be more objective and should therefore administer policy on Negro affairs.”
Weak and handicapped as it was from the beginning, the FEPC was rendered more helpless by transfer to the War Manpower Commission and now seems to be almost completely impotent.
What gains have been made in the employment and promotion of colored workers in war industries have been due more to the pressure of production demands and the shortage of manpower than to the efforts of the FEPC although its efforts have not been entirely ineffective.
Now the colored people of this country want to know what the Administration proposes to do about the FEPC.
Is it to be given an independent status and real power to compel obedience to the President’s order? Is it to continue its present zombie-like existence? Or is it to be quietly buried, unhonored and unsung?
Pittsburgh Courier, April 3, 1943.
Opponents See Government Approval of Segregation—Dr. Graham Issues WLB Ruling Outlawing Race Classifications
By John P. Davis
WASHINGTON, June 10—A Sharp struggle over the future of FEPC, which involved the question of the whole future status of Negro workers in industry, is developing at rapid pace this week. Before many weeks have passed, it is likely that this battle will loom as one of the most bitter and significant actions on the home front.
Here in brief is the FEPC news this week: Monsignor Francis Joseph Haas, newly selected chairman of the FEPC, sworn in at the White House on May 31, last week, postponed again—this time indefinitely—the FEPC hearings on discrimination against Negro workers by the Capitol Transit company, which had already once before been postponed.116
Approves Mobile Solution
Reasons given for this action were that the full six-man committee, created under the new executive order (Executive Order 9346 replacing Executive Order 8802) of President Roosevelt, had not been named and that hearings would not be held until the committees had been re-organized.
Next Monsignor Haas announced that a solution of the difficulties at the shipyard of the Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding company had been approved by him, by the War Manpower Commission Chairman, Paul V. McNutt, by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Ralph Bard), by the chairman of the U.S. Maritime Commission (Rear Admiral Emory S. Land).
The announcement stated: “Under the arrangement confirmed by the heads of the interested agencies. Negroes will be upgraded in all skills necessary for bare hull construction on ways one through four of the Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding company, and these ways will be set aside for bare hull construction by Negro workers.”
Places Okay on Segregation
Back of these actions lies a hidden meaning that is of utmost importance to all Negro America. The decision in the Alabama case simply means that the federal government—acting through the War Manpower Commission, the Maritime Commission, the Navy and the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, itself, has agreed to segregate Negro workers to one section of the shipyard and has approved their exclusion from all other sections of the shipyard.
“The attempt to upgrade Negro workers in the Mobile shipyards led to racial violence with several Negro workers severely beaten and mobbed. The white Southern anti-Roosevelt leaders, who bitterly attacked the Birmingham hearings of the FEPC, will make political capital out of the upgrading of Negro workers if these workers have to work side by side with whites in superior positions. If there is any attempt to insist on upgrading without segregation then there will be nothing but violence, a halt to vital war production and no real benefit to Negro workers. On the other hand, the real meaning of the solution in the Mobile case is that 5,000 Negro workers will be employed in addition to 7,000 now working there; that Negro workers will be rapidly trained and employed at practically all skills on the four segregated all Negro shipways.
Establishes Jim Crow Job Pattern
As Lawrence Cramer, executive secretary of FEPC, stated it to The Courier “The FEPC has in the past refused to decide hypothetically that segregation of Negro from white workers was discrimination referred to in the President’s Executive Order. We always take the position that if in a segregated situation any individual can show that by being segregated he is discriminated against, we will take action.”
Now that is one side. Here is the other. Opponents of the recent FEPC decision point out that if Negroes are segregated from whites on the job, it will be impossible to prevent discrimination against them; that in fact segregation is discrimination. They point out that the Alabama decision threatens to establish a jim-crow job pattern throughout the country of frightening proportions, that every industry all over the country will seize on the formula of a segregated section or plant for Negro workers, and that after the war the Negro will be driven out of industry completely. They claim that the action of Chairman Haas, acting alone and not even waiting for the selection of the other members of the committee, has destroyed his usefulness to the FEPC. This side declares that it is precisely because there must be all-out war production that the “Haas Compromise”—like the “Missouri Compromise” will settle nothing.117
Graham Raps Classification
If the side opposed to the new FEPC chairman had purposely sought a champion for its cause, it could have done no better than it did last week when quite by accident a spokesman for its side fell into its lap. That spokesman was Dr. Frank P. Graham, white Southerner, president of the University of North Carolina, member of the War Labor Board, and the first man sought by President Roosevelt to head the FEPC. In a decision by the National War Labor Board written by him and adopted unanimously, Dr. Graham lashed out bitterly against the classification “colored laborer.” The case which arose in Texas concerned the practice of an oil company in paying Negro workers a lower wage than white workers for the same work.
Said Dr. Graham: “In this small but significant case the National War Labor Board abolishes the classifications “colored labor” and white labor” and reclassifies both simply as “laborers” with the same rates of pay for all in that classification without discrimination on account of color.
Dr. Graham pointed out that this decision was in line with the President’s Executive Order 8802, “with prophetic Americanism; and with the cause of the United Nations.”
Said Dr. Graham:
Praises Loyalty of Negroes
“Economic and political discrimination on account of race or creed is in line with the Nazi program. America, in the days of its infant weakness the haven of heretics and the oppressed of all races, must not in the days of its power become the stronghold of bigots. The world has given America the vigor and variety of its differences. America should protect and enrich its differences for the sake of America and the world. Understanding religious and racial differences make for a better understanding of other differences and for an appreciation of the sacredness of human personality, as a basic to human freedom. The American answer to differences in color and creed is not a concentration camp but co-operation. The answer to human error is not terror but light and liberty under the moral law. By this light and liberty, the Negro has made a contribution in work and faith, song and story, laughter and struggle which are an enduring part of the spiritual heritage of America.
“There is no more loyal group of our fellow-citizens than the American Negroes, north and south. In defense of America from attack from without, they spring to arms in the spirit of Dorie Miller of Texas, the Negro mess boy, who, when the machine gunner on the Arizona was killed, jumped to his unappointed place and fired the last rounds as the ship was sinking in Pearl Harbor.118
“It is the acknowledged fact that in spite of all the handicaps of slavery and discrimination, the Negro in America, has compressed more progress in the shortest time than any race in human history. Slavery gave the Negro his Chiristianity. Christianity gave the Negro his freedom. This freedom must give the Negro equal rights to home and health, education and citizenship, and an equal opportunity to work and fight for our common country.
Dean Morse Notes Agreement
“Whether as vigorous fighting men or for production of food and munitions, America needs the Negro; the Negro needs the equal opportunity to work and fight. The Negro is necessary for winning the war, and, at the same time, is a test of our sincerity in the cause for which we are fighting. More hundreds of millions of colored people are involved in the outcome of this war than the combined populations of the Axis Powers. Under Hitler and his Master Race, their movement is backward to slavery and despair. In America, the colored people have the freedom to struggle for freedom. With the victory of the democracies, the human destiny is toward freedom, hope, equality of opportunity and the gradual fulfillment for all peoples of the noblest aspirations of the brothers of men and the sons of God, without regard to color or creed, region or race, in the world neighborhood of human brotherhood.”
The opinion of Dr. Graham so strongly represented the opinion of the War Labor Board that Dean Wayne L. Morse, although he had not taken part in the decision, asked consent to have the record show that he agreed completely with the opinion of Dr. Graham.119
Thus the battle between these two opposing points of view is clearly developing and on its outcome will depend the whole future of FEPC.
Pittsburgh Courier, June 12, 1943.
The Crisis, 50 (August, 1943): 231.
Content removed at rightsholder’s request.
The Crisis, 50 (October, 1943): 295.
The hateful practice of discrimination because of race, religion or national origin against which we are fighting abroad must be stamped out at home. Economic, political and civil equality must be guaranteed to every American, regardless of his race, creed or national origin.
We call for the establishment of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee with adequate appropriations and enforcement powers. We urge legislation to prohibit activities or propaganda directed against any individuals because of their racial, religious or national origin.
(a) The immediate passage of the anti-poll tax bill and elimination of other restrictions on the right to vote;
(b) Enactment of a genuine soldier vote bill.
Free, strong and responsible labor organizations are the bulwark of democracy. Their growth, and the extension of the process of collective bargaining throughout American industry must be encouraged as an objective of national policy. The right to join labor unions of their own choosing must be guaranteed and protected for all wage earners, including federal, state and local government employees.
CIO News, June 12, 1944.
Congresswoman Mary T. Norton, chairman of the House Labor committee, has postponed hearings on the creation of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee, and said that “It is our intention to continue hearings when Congress reassembles after the election, report the bill and do everything possible to have it enacted before the expiration of the 78th Congress.”120
This sounds very much like the death knell of the permanent FEPC.
If the bill can be enacted after election, it has a much better chance of being enacted before election.
But indications are rather clear that a permanent FEPC will not be enacted either before or after election.
The war may soon be over and when peace comes it is very unlikely that any such effort will be made to force private business to do what war industry was induced to do.
If there is no permanent FEPC, Negroes will have to launch a tremendous campaign before election, and the time seems to be too short.
At any rate, the bill is now ditched and it will take a herculean effort to revive it.
President Roosevelt could lend his powerful support to the measure, but so far no word has come from him.
Apparently he would rather risk losing the Negro vote than the support of the Solid South which is opposed to a FEPC, whether temporary or permanent.
So far, only the Republicans have promised to enact such a measure.
Pittsburgh Courier, September 16, 1944.
By Ina Sugihara
The Crisis, 52 (January, 1945): 14–15, 29.
Action on funds for the Fair Employment Practice Committee had come to a full circle stop as The CIO NEWS went to press this week.
Fought by the poll tax Democrats and given only lukewarm support by most Republicans, the appropriation for the present FEPC had gone (July 6) to a point where the whole process of getting it passed in both House and Senate must be begun again.
Briefly, the tangled parliamentary situation was this: the War Agencies bill (in which FEPC funds were included) was sent back to the Senate by determined action of House liberals in raising points of order against it which they did in order to force a vote on FEPC.
Earlier, the Senate had sent the war agencies bill over to the House minus any appropriation for FEPC. This was done on demand of filibuster leaders Bilbo (D., Miss.), and Eastland (D., Miss.). An attempted compromise to give FEPC $250,000 (half its regular appropriation) had failed.
One of the sharpest battles in recent Congressional history has been fought around this issue, with the CIO, the labor and liberal movement generally, and liberal Congressmen ranged against the poll taxers and apathetic Republicans on the other.
Republicans, in fact, have been quietly cheering at the exhibition, in which they simply stand by and watch the poll tax Democrats sabotage an issue of key importance in the next elections.
CIO News, July 9, 1945.
I am writing in concern with shipyard work, about prejudice. Ten of us Negroes here from San Jose have went up to the Richmond shipyard and have been turned down because of our race. We have been up to the employment agency four times and they still refuse us employment. We would like to know whether or not there is any prejudice in the defense work. Our boys are fighting for this country and we would like to be working to help the war. We’ve done things such as turning in rubber, metals, and cooking. . . . We would like to be helping more if we can. We see people come from other states every day getting jobs, and us living in the same state and cannot secure work. We would like very much to hear from you in regard to prejudice in shipyards.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Region XII, RG 228, Box 99, National Archives.
Dear Mr. McNutt,
As American born citizen I write to you in regards of discrimination in defense projects. I have been trained for war production and obtained a certificate of training in welding.
I have been denied a chance to work at my skill at the Kaiser’s shipyards owing to the fact I am Negro.
There are over two million Negroes in the Armed Forces fighting for the same cause, democracy and we are buying bonds and do everything to help in winning this war. I don’t see why we or anyone should be discriminated against because of color. As long as this is to exist in national defense this war is futile and the peace is already lost.
As chairman of the Manpower Commision would you be so kind to inform me where I can work and be more essential in War Production?
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Region X11, RG 228, Box 99, National Archives.
Thank you for your attention to my letter of Nov. 30th. The President’s Committee of Fair Employment Practice wrote and I replied Dec. 28th, filing a form acknowledged by Notary Public. I do so hope action can be taken to dispel the power of Ku Klux Klanism which now manages the shipyards. The waste of manpower is now atricious; the qualification for positions of authority still remains; not the need to know what you’re doing, but rather your ability to practice and preach the KKK code.
This is horrible, now, of all times.
And you should know more about the U.S. Employment Service which is, I understand directly under your office.
It, while operating under the State of California, was infamous for its discriminatory mis-classifying registrants.
In my case: I registered with them in Berkeley in 1936, Mrs. Johnson was in charge. Because I had been cashier of a company she referred me to a job as cashier of a cash register, first time I’d ever punched a cash register in my life. From that time—1936—to the present that was the only job the agency offered me.
Mrs. Johnson was soon promoted to a better position in the Oakland office.
Marjorie Walker was put in charge of Berkeley and she continued the wrong classifying.
Altho’ I had many years experience in charge of bookkeeping and in managing offices, my card still rates me in the lowest clerical class.
Some friends finally became annoyed over this stupid injustice and, as I was on WPA, went through the Democratic Machine in this district with the result that the local WPA administrator raised the rating slightly higher, then the local official was eased out of office and the position given to a Miss Hally who had always been promoted each time she performed an injust act.
These are the acts which have caused people to believe the New Deal is just a false front for real action, more cruel and undemocratic than the reactionary rulers. If I believed that I shouldn’t bother to write to you, only my faith that what we call the New Deal will clean its own house and give the people something more tangible than a fine front to support, prompts these efforts.
While in the slightly higher classification on WPA, I was receptionist in the Re-employment and Training Program.
Women streamed into that office begging to be trained for defense jobs (spring of 1942). Most of them were directed to a Mrs. Jean Differding, who in turn insisted all Negroes must leave WPA to go to work as servants. Today I saw Jean Differding working in your Berkeley office of U.S. Employment Service.
While I was working on the Re-employment Program, Mrs. Marjorie Walker wrote to the head of that Program, Nye Wilson, (Mar. 13, 1942, I believe) that I was not even registered with the employment service—of course I was not only registered but had been calling at that office nearly every month for 6 years. Mrs. Marjorie Walker is still manager of the Berkeley office and I am still rated in the same very low classification.
There is a definite parallel between this contemptuous appraisal of the U.S. Employment Service and the management of Kaiser Shipyards.
I know the former WPA administrator Burr, left his bad treatment of WPA workers and was given a fine job as personnel director for Todd Shipyards.
I know that as fast as timekeepers on WPA failed to allow me to be paid for actual hours worked, the man who had the power to give out jobs from the (U.S.) State Employment office, placed each timekeeper in a comparatively good job.
Your U.S. Employment Service is an excellent pool for distributing manpower if properly directed, but it is useless as long as it is stacked with the same people who have undermined every progressive step the Administration has taken, or tried to take, forward.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, RG 228, Box 99, National Archives
Thank you for your honest effort to correct the acts of discrimination against Negroes in the government agency WPA, about which I wrote to you some time ago.
Mr. Lawson’s WPA (San Francisco) office replied with their habitual sophism and even lied by disclaiming any knowledge of Chas. Owens. They know him well, their files contain definite charges against him. They dismissed responsibility for the others mentioned saying these were no longer with WPA. Both the California and Washington offices were completely informed all these past years, their condonation of this malfeasance has been observed. Mr. Olson made himself a party to it—no wonder he endured such a landslide out of office.
The facts remain:
(1) The U.S. government refused to act against such perpetrators.
(2) These perpetrators have always been advanced to bigger and better positions.
(3) They are still free to repeat their acts of breaking down Democracy.
Many of them must be active in the policies of the shipyards as the policies are so parallel, using government money to create dissention.
I am at Richmond Yard 3. Not a single colored person is employed in the offices I contact. All persons I know who are advanced to leadermen or other supervisory jobs are mostly from Oklahoma or Texas. They are willing to boss anybody like slaves and they are sure to hate Negroes. Another qualification for advancement is to be anti-labor.
The pay and working conditions are pretty bad for the white collar group. Naturally no one will stay and take it. So, now they misuse the Manpower Act. We received the following memo: It has been agreed between the shipyards in the S.F. Bay Area, the Navy and the U.S. Maritime Comm., that all employees, union or non-union, come under the terms of the freezing act. Therefore, it will be necessary for us to issue termination clearances to all employees—office, clerical, guards, etc.—that are not covered by union agreements . . .” Nov. 6, 1942, signed D. C. Peacock, Sr.
I do not believe my government intends to hire us out at a wage on which we cannot live, for the benefit of a very few individuals and pay those few a percentage for mistreating and underpaying us—then demand that we stay and take it.
I do not believe the freezing of salaries included those already making too little—yet the head of the Purchase Dept. at my yard said that it did.
As this concerns the Manpower department, maybe you can catch up with these brutes.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, RG 228, Box 99, National Archives.
Thank you for your attention to my letter of November 30th.
Most employers of Defense workers, are aware that they have no right to openly discriminate against employees because of race, creed, color or national origin. So, they operate quietly to continue the discrimination.
At this Richmond Yard No. 3, I know of no individual cases in which the management openly says, “You may not have equal pay or hold a position for which you are qualified because of your race or religious belief; or because you believe in Fair Employment Practice.” I do know that not one colored person is employed in any of the many offices I have been in; I know that the office help is packed with people holding racial prejudices; that the group of people Kaiser has imported from Oklahoma and Texas and placed in supervising positions, express themselves from time to time, and these expressions are pure Ku-Klux-Klanism; I know the Negroes and Chinese are kept at menial jobs and bossed by those who hate them; I know that my religion does not appease nor tolerate these policies, of Kaiser Co. nor of my government which rewards these un-Christian and un-American individuals.
I do know that I work side by side, do the same work (except more of it) with others, and am paid less than the KKK’s. My skin happens to be white, and of course Kaiser doesn’t say “We are working you out of classification and underpaying you because you won’t join our KKK.”
I do not know if you can do anything about the unfair conditions, but they certainly exist.
Anyway, I’m enclosing the formal complaint in the hope that some action may break down the very un-American structure of Defense Industries, the waste of manpower just because a Defense Plant puts “wasters” in supervisorial positions and works others out of a classification in which they can contribute most to Defense.
You may be sure many of us wouldn’t be in the yards so long except that we do want the ships built. But we don’t believe we should be wasted while they are being built.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practices, RG 228, Box 99, National Archives.
The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and its local lodges in Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles, Calif., have been directed by the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice to eliminate all membership practices which discriminate against workers because of race or color, Malcolm Ross, FEPC Chairman, announced today.
At the same time, Mr. Ross revealed, five West Coast shipbuilding companies have been directed by the Committee to reinstate all Negro workers discharged because of their refusal to pay dues to Boilermaker auxiliary unions. The companies were also ordered to cease discharging or refusing to hire Negroes solely because they had failed to obtain clearance from the union.
Firms notified by the Committee included the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation and the Kaiser Company, Inc., in the Portland-Vancouver area, and the California Shipbuilding Corporation, Consolidated Steel Corporation (Shipbuilding Division) and the Western Pipe and Steel Corporation in the Los Angeles area. Both the unions and the companies have been directed to report to the Committee within 45 days on actions taken toward compliance.
The Committee’s findings and directives, signed by all seven members, resulted from public hearings held in Portland, November 15–16, and Los Angeles, November 19–20, on charges of discriminatory employment practices in West Coast shipyards. The hearings followed complaints filed with the Committee after several hundred Negro shipyard workers had been fired for refusing to pay dues to Auxiliary Boilermakers’ locals. The dismissals were under terms of a “Master Agreement” between the union and West Coast shipyards under which all workers under Boilermakers’ jurisdiction must become and remain members of the union before they can work. The Negroes charged that the Auxiliary locals were discriminatory.
The Committee findings were that the Auxiliaries are created only for Negro workers and are placed directly under control of the white Subordinate (regular) Lodge for the area. Auxiliary members, the findings continued, have no vote or voice in the conduct of the union’s affairs and must accept as their business agent the business agent of the supervising (Subordinate) Lodge in whose election the Auxiliaries have no part. The supervising Lodge’s grievance Committee also serves the Auxiliary Lodge, with the addition of one member from the Auxiliary.
The International Brotherhood was not represented officially at the hearings. Its contention (through correspondence with FEPC) that the Auxiliary Lodges are not discriminatory drew the Committee’s reply that “there is nothing in the written Constitution and By-Laws of the International Brotherhood or the Subordinate Lodge Constitution prohibiting the admission of Negroes into the organization.”
The Committee cited records of past conventions of the union which showed the question of admitting Negroes to membership had been considered.
“The by-laws governing Auxiliary Lodges,” the Committee said, “represents the results of efforts of the International President and the Executive Council of the union.”
The companies, all of whom were represented at the hearings, contended that they were bound by a Master Agreement and that “to look beyond the unions so far as the employment of Negroes is concerned would be ‘to interfere with the internal affairs of the unions’ and lay themselves liable to violation of the National Labor Relations Act.”
In reply the FEPC said: “Reluctance of the Corporation to involve itself in a violation of the National Labor Relations Act is understandable, but will find no basis for its concern in the National Labor Relations Act or in decisions construing it.”
The Committee cited an NLRB General Counsel’s opinion which states in part: “. . . the enforcement of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, once it is made, rests with the parties to the agreement and does not come within the jurisdiction of this Board.”
Also cited by the FEPC was the recent NLRB decision in the Bethlehem-Alameda Shipyard Case in which “the Board (NLRB) intimates strongly that an employer who has a closed shop contract with a union which excludes Negroes, far from violating the Act if he ignores the union’s request for discharge of a Negro employee, will violate the Act if he gives effect to the request.”
“The sincerity of the Companies’ motives in this case need not be drawn in question,” the Committee declared. “. . . Regardless of the measure of the union’s responsibility in this case, the power to hire and fire remains with the Companies, and their obligation to eliminate the obvious and admitted discrimination because of race or color in hiring and firing is primary and fundamental.”
The FEPC also pointed out that the companies’ production is vital to the war effort; that a critical manpower shortage exists and is being aggravated by rejection of qualified Negro applicants and discharging of others on the basis of provisions in the union agreement.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Files of Cornelius Golightly, RG 228, Box 398, National Archives.
In Public Hearings Held in Portland, Oregon
November 15 and 16, 1943
SUMMARY, FINDINGS AND DIRECTIVES
Relating to Kaiser Company, Inc., and the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation
International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders, Welders and Helpers of America, A.F. of L.
Subordinate Lodge No. 401
Auxiliary Lodge No. A-32
Issued by order of the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice December 9, 1943
Milton P. Webster
P. B. Young, Sr.122
In this hearing, held in Portland, Oregon, on November 15 and 16, 1943, the Kaiser Company, Inc., and the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation were represented by their Attorney, Mr. Gordon Johnson and Mr. Edgar F. Kaiser, the General Manager for the shipyards of both Companies in the Portland-Vancouver area.
There was no appearance or representation on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders, Welders and Helpers of America, or on behalf of Subordinate Lodge 401 of said International Brotherhood. Subordinate Lodge No. 72 was represented by its Attorneys Messrs. Charles W. Robison and Leland Tanner, and its Secretary and Business Agent, Mr. Thomas Ray.
Prior to the hearing, the Committee mailed to the Companies and to the Unions a “Summary of Complaints.” In addition to the complaints relating to the central issue in the hearing, the Committee received a number of complaints alleging discriminatory practices on the part of the Companies unrelated to the central issue. These complaints will be dealt with separately. The charges in the “Summary of Complaints” relating to the central issue here involved were as follows:
Numerous Negroes, available and qualified for employment, have been refused employment altogether.
Numerous Negroes sought to join the Union but were denied membership although otherwise qualified, notwithstanding that without membership in the Union it was and is the practice of the Union to request the Companies to discharge such persons; and it is and has been the practice of the Companies to honor such requests.
Numerous Negroes have joined Auxiliary Lodge A-32 under threat of discharge if they failed to do so; notwithstanding said Auxiliary Lodge A-32 does not give to its members rights equal to those of the members of the Subordinate Lodge; and notwithstanding that in many respects the organization and operation of such Auxiliary Lodge constitutes serious discrimination between members of the Union which discrimination is based entirely upon race or color.
1. The Position of the Complainants
Negroes employed in skills under the jurisdiction of the Boilermakers Union, or applicants for such employment, testified that when they attempted to secure or continue such employment they were told by the Companies that they would have to obtain “clearance” from the Boilermakers Union; that when they sought such “clearance,” they were told by officials of said Union that because they were Negroes they could not become members of Subordinate Lodges 72 and 401, the regular Boilermakers Locals in the Portland-Vancouver area, and that before they would be “cleared” for employment they would have to become members of Auxiliary Lodge A-32, established solely for Negroes. These Negro workers testified that they refused to join said Auxiliary because of its discriminatory nature. They testified further that they were, and still are, willing and ready to join the regular Boilermakers Locals where they will have rights and privileges as well as obligations, equal to those of their white fellow workers. There was ample testimony that Negro and white workers in various kinds of shipyard employment work together harmoniously and without racial friction. Moreover, there was testimony that in other unions, notably the Electricians Union and the Laborers Union, both affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, Negro and white workers in these same shipyards belong to the same locals and enjoy the same rights and privileges, including insurance benefits, without any friction.
II. The Position of the Unions
The International Brotherhood, Subordinate Lodges 72 and 401, and Auxiliary Lodge A-32 were notified of the hearings by registered mail and requested to send official representatives. Return receipts indicate that these notices were received in due course.
Neither the International Brotherhood nor its officers appeared at the hearings. However, the Constitution and By-Laws of the International Brotherhood (which includes the Subordinate Lodge Constitution) and the By-Laws Governing Auxiliary Lodges, were made a part of the record, together with other documentary evidence relating to the official position of the International Brotherhood with regard to the admission of Negroes to membership in the Union. An expert witness carefully analyzed these documents and his testimony, added to the uncontroverted testimony of complainants, fully supports the charges set forth in the “Summary of Complaints.”
A telegram to the Committee dated August 27, 1943, from Charles J. Mac Gowan, International Vice President of the Brotherhood, was made a part of the record. This telegram states:
“OUR INVESTIGATION DISCLOSES THAT THERE IS NO FOUNDATION FOR THE CHARGE THAT THERE HAS BEEN ANY DISCRIMINATION ON THE PART OF OUR LOCAL UNIONS AGAINST ANY MAN ON ACCOUNT OF RACE CREED COLOR OR NATIONAL ORIGIN, AND WE UNEQUIVOCALLY DECLARE THAT WE HAVE FULFILLED THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF THE PRESIDENT’S EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 8802. IN OUR TELEPHONE CONVERSATION WITH YOU YESTERDAY YOU REPEATEDLY SAID THAT YOU WANTED TO GET THESE NEGROES BACK TO WORK. WE HAVE NO SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE OF ANY NEGROES BEING HELD OUT OF WORK BUT NEGROES AND WHITES ALIKE CAN RETURN TO WORK IF AND WHEN THEY PAY THEIR DUES, AS PROVIDED BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF BOILER MAKERS, IRON SHIPBUILDERS AND HELPERS OF AMERICA INCLUDING THE AUXILIARY CONSTITUTION CONTROLLING THE AUXILIARY OF WHICH THEY ARE MEMBERS PROVIDED ALL OF THEM HAVE COMPLIED WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ORGANIZATION, AND IF WE LEARN THAT A SINGLE PERSON IS NOT IMMEDIATELY PUT BACK TO WORK UNDER THE SAME CONDITIONS AS ANY OTHER MEMBERS OF THIS UNION WE WILL RECTIFY THE SITUATION AT ONCE.”
If this telegram represents the official position of the International Brotherhood, obviously, it does not meet the issue raised in the complaints. It assumes the validity of the Auxiliary Lodge arrangement, whereas, the complainants allege that the establishment and operation of the Auxiliary Lodge violates the provisions of Executive Order 9346.
Other documentary evidence made a part of the record includes excerpts from the Report of the Proceedings of the Sixteenth Consolidated Convention of the International Brotherhood held in 1937 and an Analysis of the Discriminations Against Negroes in the Boilermakers’ Union. This documentary evidence and supporting testimony reveals that as early as 1908 a ritual of the Union restricted membership in the Union to white workers and that this ritual is still operative. It appears however, that there is nothing in the written Constitution and By-Laws of the International Brotherhood or the Subordinate Lodge Constitution prohibiting the admission of Negroes to membership in the organization. It shows further that at the International Convention of the Brotherhood in 1937, the issue of admitting Negroes to membership was before the Convention, and that the Executive Council recommended “that this convention authorize the granting of separate charters to colored workers . . . that the membership of the colored men be confined to such separate locals; . . . they to enjoy all the rights and benefits provided for under our laws, except that of universal transfer.” The reports of this Convention further show that there was a difference of opinion among the delegates on the question of admission of Negroes to membership, some delegates taking the position that Negro workers are entitled to equal rights and privileges without regard to their race. The Convention finally adopted “the purpose sought in the recommendation of the Executive Council,” with certain important changes, and stricken out were the words “they to enjoy all rights and benefits provided under our laws.” The International President and the Executive Council were given full authority to work out the details and the By-Laws Governing Auxiliary Lodges represent the result of their efforts.
In the document referred to above, entitled An Analysis of the Discriminations Against Negroes, there are set out ten points of contrast between the rights and privileges accorded Subordinate Lodges and their members and those accorded Auxiliary Lodges and their members. This Analysis shows that Auxiliary Lodges, wherein membership is restricted to Negroes, are so constituted under the laws of the Union as effectively to deny to Negroes basic rights and privileges fundamental to the very concept of union membership, by virtue of which denial they are deprived of essential union representation and protection in regard to hire, tenure, and terms of employment.
Subordinate Lodge No. 401, like the International Brotherhood, failed to appear, but Subordinate Lodge No. 72 was represented. The discriminatory policies and practices charged, were frankly admitted by representatives of Local 72. Their position was that Local Lodges of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers have no choice in the matter but are obligated to follow the dictates of the International Brotherhood and its officers. Mr. Leland Tanner, Counsel for Local 72, made the following statement:
“Lodge 72 is an organization that exists by virtue of a charter that was given by the International. The ritual . . . is a ritual which should have been referred to the parties responsible for its making. Now we disclaim responsibility for the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves.”
. . . . .
“Mr. Ray, and Lodge 72, have been struggling with this problem, and have attempted to work out a solution within the structure in which we live . . . for the making of which we are not responsible. We live in that house; we did not build that house; and we are not the architects of it. Mr. Ray has attempted to live within the structure, and whatever position, he, or his counsel may have taken heretofore, has been taken within the confines and limitations that were imposed upon him by this framework that we term our International Constitution and our International Ritual. We have not the power to change either.”
Mr. Charles W. Robison, also Counsel for Local 72, stated:
“Let me make it clear to you the structure of the Union, the local Union, and the relationship between the International and the local. It is contractual. They protect and provide us with a constitution, and they give us a constitution, which is contractual, by which we protect and provide for our membership. As I pointed out to you and point out to you now, change that Constitution by the International. Give us an opportunity and we will change our procedure. But you can’t tie our hands and say ‘Make so and so’—with our hands tied. We can build no further than our blueprint. Let me make that plain to you now, ladies and gentlemen. Because we are restricted.”
Mr. Ray, Secretary and Business Agent of Local 72 submitted for the record a statement of his position “On the matter of opportunity for the Negro.” The last two paragraphs of this statement are as follows:
“In a word, Mr. Ray is prepared to sponsor for Negroes in this area, all rights and economic opportunities possible under the International Constitution. Any objections to be made to such program here in Oregon and vicinity are objections that should be addressed to the International and not to Mr. Ray.
“In conclusion, Mr. Ray will proceed as far as the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers will allow him to proceed; namely, to provide and promote to the ends contemplated in the President’s Orders and enunciated in the convention of the American Federation of Labor.”
III. The Position of the Companies
The case for the Kaiser Company, Inc., and the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation, consisted of the statement of counsel, the testimony of Mr. Edgar F. Kaiser, General Manager of the two companies, and corroborating documentary evidence.
The Companies admit that they are and have been following the policy and practice of refusing to hire Negroes in skills subject to the jurisdiction of the Boilermakers’ Union, unless cleared by Subordinate Lodges 72 and 401, and the policy and practice of discharging Negro employees certified as not in “good standing” by these unions, notwithstanding the Companies have had notice and knowledge that Negroes are not admitted to membership in these Locals, and that failure of Negroes to obtain clearance or certification of “good standing” has been due solely to the insistance of the Union that Negroes accept and maintain discriminatory membership in Auxiliary Lodge A-32.
The Companies further admit that the rejection and discharge of Negroes under these circumstances has resulted in a serious aggravation of the critical manpower shortage in the shipyards. Mr. Kaiser acknowledged that to the extent Negroes have been employed their aid has been of “immense importance.” He testified that he could not get all the workers he needed among white persons, and that aside from the unknown number of man-hours lost from Negro workers who might have been employed, the loss of man-hours from Negroes already employed “who got those stop orders and terminated their employment because they didn’t wish to join the auxiliary, has been great in itself.” Figures submitted by the Companies indicate that since January 1, 1943, “upon order” of the Unions here involved, a total of 345 Negroes were discharged, of whom 217 were rehired within one week (presumably after acceptance of the discriminatory union status)—a net loss of 128 employees.
The Companies, engaged as they are in the production of “Liberty” and “Victory” merchant ships, tankers, and escort aircraft carriers, recognize that they manage a vital war industry and are fully obligated not to discriminate because of race or color by Executive Order 9346 and by the non-discrimination clause which was incorporated in their contract with the United States Maritime Commission.
They avow that their constant intention and purpose has been to comply; that if the Order has been violated the blame is not theirs.
First, the Companies contend that they are bound to follow the aforesaid practices because of the closed-shop provisions of a contract, known as the “Master Agreement,” in effect between the major Pacific Coast ship builders and the International Brotherhood.
This contention cannot be accepted. While it is not the province of this Committee to construe the contract for the parties, it is obvious that neither of the parties, consistently with their obligations under Executive Order 9346, can give to any provision of this private agreement a construction on effect which directly results in discrimination because of race or color in violation of the Order.
Secondly, the Companies assert that they have followed the foregoing policies and practices because of advice of counsel; that for them “to look beyond the unions so far as employment of Negroes is concerned” would be “to interfere with the internal affairs of the unions” and lay themselves “liable to violation of the National Labor Relations Act.” *
Reluctance of the Companies to involve themselves in a violation of the National Labor Relations Act is understandable. However, they will find no basis for their concern in the National Labor Relations Act or in decisions construing it. The Committee has sought and received from the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, situation presented in this case, stating in part as follows:
“When the Board certified a collective bargaining representative in accordance with the principles stated above, the terms and conditions of employment are matters which are properly left to collective bargaining between the employer and the certified representative. Likewise, the enforcement of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, once it is made, rests with the parties to the agreement and does not come within the jurisdiction of this Board.” (Emphasis supplied)
* At the hearing it was stated for the Companies that their position in this respect had been supported by advice from officials of the Maritime Commission. Since the hearing, the Committee has received from Mr. Daniel S. Ring, Director Division of Shipyard Labor Relations, United States Maritime Commission, a letter dated December 3, in which Mr. Ring advises that he has communicated directly with the Company representatives involved, and there is apparent agreement that the statement at the hearing was based on a misunderstanding.
In the course of the opinion there is cited the recent decision of the Board in the Bethlehem-Alameda Shipyard Case, No. R-5693, which the Board intimates strongly that an employer who has a closed shop contract with a union which excludes Negroes, far from violating the Act if he ignores the union’s request for discharge of a Negro employee, will violate the Act if he gives effect to the request. The Board said:
“We entertain grave doubt whether a union which discriminatorily denies membership to employees on the basis of race may nevertheless bargain as the exclusive representative in an appropriate unit composed in part of members of the excluded race. Such bargaining might have consequences at variance with the purposes of the Act. If such a representative should enter into a contract requiring membership in the union as a condition of employment, the contract, if legal, might have the effect of subjecting those in the excluded group, who are properly part of the bargaining unit, to loss of employment solely on the basis of an arbitrary and discriminatory denial to them of the privilege of union membership. In these circumstances, the validity under the provise of Section 8 (3) of the Act of such a contract would be open to serious question.” (Emphasis supplied)
The sincerity of the Companies’ motives in this case need not be drawn in question. Their motive in engaging in discrimination in conflict with the Executive Order is entirely irrelevant.
Regardless of the measure of the Union’s responsibility in this case, the power to hire and fire remains with the Companies, and their obligation to eliminate the obvious and admitted discrimination because of race or color in hiring and firing is primary and fundamental.
By virtue of the authority conferred upon it by Executive Order 9346 to “make findings of fact and take appropriate steps to obtain elimination of . . . discrimination” forbidden by the Order, the Committee makes the following findings and issues the following directives:
1. The Committee finds that the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation, on May 12, 1941, and the Kaiser Company, Incorporated, on April 17, 1942, became parties to an agreement, known as the “Master Agreement,” between the major Pacific Coast shipbuilding companies and the Metal Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor, the Pacific Coast District Metal Trades Council, the Portland Metal Trades Council and Affiliated International Unions, Section 2 of which agreement provides in part that the “employer agrees to hire all workmen it may require hereunder . . . through and from the Unions and to continue in its employ . . . only workmen who are members in good standing of the respective Unions signatory hereto.”
2. The Committee finds that the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Welders, and Helpers of America (who are parties to the “Master Agreement”), and Subordinate Lodges 72 and 401 of said International Brotherhood exclude Negroes from membership, and that they establish as a condition to the employment of Negroes under the quoted provision of Section 2 of the “Master Agreement” as set forth in Finding No. 1, that Negroes accept and maintain membership in Auxiliary Lodge A-32 of said International Brotherhood.
3. The Committee finds that the policies and practices of the Union involved herein with respect to membership in the aforesaid Auxiliary Lodge A-32 discriminate against Negroes in regard to hire, tenure, terms of employment and union membership, solely because of race or color in the following respects:
(a) The establishment, jurisdiction, and proceedings of the Auxiliary are supervised by and subject to the approval of the “supervising” Local, from which Negroes are excluded.
(b) The Auxiliary Lodge and the members thereof are denied any voice or direct representation in the International Convention, the supreme and final policy and rule-making body of the International Brotherhood; and they are denied any voice or vote in the selection of delegates to said International Convention.
(c) The Auxiliary Lodge and its members are denied any voice or vote in the selection of the Business Agent of the “supervising” Local, from which Negroes are excluded, although said Business Agent is designated to perform the functions of that office for the Auxiliary Lodge.
(d) The Auxiliary Lodge and its members are denied any voice or vote in the selection of the grievance committee of the “supervising” Local, from which Negroes are excluded, which committee is designated to perform the grievance function for said Auxiliary and its members, except that the Auxiliary is permitted to select one member to serve on said grievance committee.
(e) Members of the Auxiliary Lodge are denied the right and opportunity to change their classification except with the approval of the “supervising” Local, from which Negroes are excluded.
(f) Members of the Auxiliary Lodge are denied the right of universal transfer afforded to members of the “supervising” Local, but may transfer their membership only to another Auxiliary Lodge.
(g) Members of the Auxiliary Lodge are denied equal opportunities to purchase and receive insurance benefits for themselves and families, provided by the International Brotherhood for members of Subordinate Lodges and their families.
(h) The Auxiliary Lodge is denied the right to receive apprentices, and its members are denied the right to be apprentices, although these rights are afforded respectively to the “supervising” Local and its members.
(i) Members of the Auxiliary Lodge are subject to a penalty for misconduct (intoxication) not similarly provided for members of the “supervising” Local.
(j) Membership in the Auxiliary Lodge is restricted to Negro males between the ages of sixteen (16) and sixty (60) years, whereas membership in the “supervising” Local is extended to males between the ages of sixteen (16) and seventy (70) years.
4. The Committee finds that the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation and the Kaiser Company, Inc., have been and are following a policy and practice of refusing to hire Negroes in skills subject to the jurisdiction of the Boilermakers Union, unless said Negroes are cleared by Subordinate Lodges 72 and 401 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Welders and Helpers of America, and have been and are following a policy and practice of discharging Negro employees certified as not being in “good standing” by said Unions, notwithstanding said Companies have notice and knowledge that Negroes are not admitted to membership in said Unions, and that the failure of such Negroes to obtain clearance or certification of “good standing” from such Unions is due solely to insistence of the Union that Negroes accept and maintain discriminatory membership in Auxiliary Lodge A-32.
5. The Committee finds that the policies and practices of the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation and the Kaiser Company, Inc., as set forth in Finding No. 4, constitute discrimination because of race and color in regard to hire, tenure, terms of employment and union membership and that these policies and practices are in violation of Executive Order 9346.
6. The Committee finds that the shipyards here involved are engaged in production vital to the Nation’s war effort; that in these shipyards a critical manpower shortage exists; that the discriminatory practices of the Companies as found above have contributed to and are aggravating this shortage in that these practices have directly resulted in the refusal of many qualified Negroes to apply for employment, in the rejection of a large number of qualified Negro applicants, and in the discharge of large numbers of Negroes, and in that these practices have been a contributing factor in the impairment of the morale of those Negroes whose continued employment is at the price of discriminatory union status, all to the detriment of the prosecution of the war.
1. The Committee directs that the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation and the Kaiser Company, Inc., immediately cease the policies and practices found in Finding No. 4 to be in violation of Executive Order 9346.
2. The Committee directs that until such time as it shall notify the Companies that the Unions involved herein have eliminated the discriminatory policies and practices set out in Findings Nos. 2 and 3, said Companies shall desist from refusing to hire and discharging Negroes who fail to secure clearance from said Unions, where the Companies have notice or knowledge that such failure is due solely to the insistence of the Union that such Negroes accept and maintain membership in Auxiliary Lodge A-32.
3. The Committee directs that the Companies offer, upon application, to employ in line with their qualifications, or to reinstate to their prior status and classification, as the case may be, all persons who have heretofore been discriminated against in violation of Executive Order 9346, as found in Findings Nos. 4 and 5.
4. The Committee directs that each of the Companies give formal notice to the Unions named herein that they will comply fully with their obligations under Executive Order 9346 not to discriminate against workers, because of race, creed, color or national origin in regard to hire, tenure, terms or conditions of employment, and specifically that they will comply with Directives Nos. 1 and 2, and that said Companies furnish the Committee with a copy of such notice.
5. The Committee directs that the Companies report to the Committee within forty-five days of the receipt of these directives, the steps taken to comply therewith.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Files of Cornelius Golightly, RG 228, Box 398, National Archives.
WASHINGTON—(ANP)—Insinuations that the Fair Employment Practice Committee might be communistically influenced and that what Negro shipyard workers on the West Coast are asking for is but a forerunner to mixed housing, mixed schools and integrated social activity, are contained in the letter of complaint which the Boilermakers’ Union (AFL) has filed with the Smith Investigating committee whose chairman, Howard W. Smith (D) of Virginia has announced that a probe would be made of FEPC.
Contents of the letter were obtained over the week-end from a reliable source, and for the first time reveals the arguments which the boilermakers are making in answer to the directives of the FEPC to them to stop discriminating against Negro workers through the medium of jim crow auxiliary lodges.
Meanwhile, in New York, George Marshall, chairman of the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties, in a letter to the speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, urged that the Smith committee be immediately terminated because of its “irresponsible investigations which disrupt the work of important war agencies.”123
Monday a week ago, a representative of the committee seized the records of the FEPC in both the boilermakers’ and the railroad cases preliminary to undertaking a probe of the anti-discrimination agency. The seizure was made allegedly on the basis of the complaint of the boilermakers.
Pittsburgh Courier, January 15, 1944.
By Thurgood Marshall
The Crisis, 51 (March, 1944): 77–78.
THE P.T.C. DILEMMA125
PTC HALTS JOB BAN . . . PTC BARS COLORED WOMEN. These are the headlines that have been carried by the local press lately, both colored and white. I often wonder if our press completely understands the PTC situation, even though they have carried thousands of lines in their weekly issues on it during the past year.
When certain newspapers state that they doubt the sincerity of the PTC, they are certainly justified in their doubt, but to include the union in that doubt is an injustice done to an organization that is doing its best to bring about Democracy within a company where it has never existed before.
For the life of me, I do not understand how the press and their editorial writers expect to see prejudice completely erased from the PTC scene by insisting that a clause be embodied in the contract stating that there shall be no discrimination in regards to upgrading or employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin.
Words never have, do not, and never will enforce Democracy. It takes the workers themselves to bring this about.
In the first place, a contract is an agreement between two parties—the Union and the Company. Every article and clause in any collective bargaining contract is mutually agreed upon between the two parties involved. This does not mean that everything the Union demands for the workers the company will agree to. During the process of negotiation, there is a constant battle going on between the negotiating committee and the company officials, the Union trying to get the most it can for the workers and the company fighting hard to keep from giving them anything.
The TWU-CIO fought hard for a no-discrimination clause to be put into the contract, but the Company, which will never give up trying to break the Union, would not agree to it; and it was only through the TWU-CIO being the bargaining agent that the notice put out by the WMC ending discrimination against minorities was allowed to be posted.126
If anyone is under the impression that winning a Labor Board election is the most difficult part of becoming the bargaining agent, they should read up a little more on collective bargaining. The most trying and difficult period a union goes through is during the period of contract negotiations.
The Company still encourages the former Company Union stooges to breed discontent amongst the workers, The AFL, which ran second to the TWU-CIO in the number of votes cast in the State Labor Board election, is doing everything it can to disrupt the program of the TWU-CIO; and also there is a group of workers who have migrated from the South and who are certainly not encouraging better race relations.
This group represents a small but active minority (their actions are typical of fascist thinking). With encouragement from the Company stooges and AFL, these backward elements are continuing to incite racial friction amongst the employees.
These Fascist-minded workers have spread anti-Negro propaganda and other types of vicious literature to increase the intensity of the racial situation that now exists within PTC.
Some of this group, with the stooges and the AFL, have joined the Union with one purpose in mind—to destroy it, to bore from within, divide and rule is their program.
Several weeks ago a number of workers went to the Union officials and asked them if the Union would support them if they should strike in protest against the upgrading of Negroes. The Union officials state definitely that they stood and were fighting continually for a policy of no discrimination.
One of the Union Officials told me that six months ago, when they called meetings in the various car barns and would bring up the race issue, they would be battling alone for Negroes’ rights. The picture has now changed, and it is to the credit of the TWU-CIO that they now have made white workers understand the fraternity of interests which exists between them and colored workers.
In many shops and barns, where Negro-white disputes took place, they were settled on the basis of this understanding.
Philadelphia Tribune, July 29, 1944.
The surprise work stoppage by PTC car and bus operators is an outrage against the people of Philadelphia and this wartime Nation.
By tying up transportation in this vital war production zone the perpetrators of the sneak strike are sabotaging America’s war effort.
Whatever the real cause or causes of this walkout, it is inexcusable and intolerable.
Particularly unpardonable is the PTC work stoppage if it is mainly the result of racial prejudice.
On July 8 the Philadelphia Transportation Company agreed to accept for employment all qualified applicants, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.
This agreement was in compliance with a ruling of the War Manpower Commission requiring impartial hiring.
It also constituted acceptance by the company of the U.S. Fair Employment Practice Committee’s directive to cease discrimination against Negro employees.
Negroes have a right to work at any tasks for which they are qualified. PTC has followed not only the required, but the proper, procedure in training them for jobs on cars.
In whatever degree the PTC walkout is based upon race prejudice it is wholly indefensible and thoroughly un-American.
To end for all time the vicious creed of race supremacy this Nation today is fighting the greatest war in history. Our Allies, especially in China and India, are wondering whether we practice the racial tolerance we preach.
Don’t the work-stopping PTC employees believe in America’s cause? Don’t they care whether or not Philadelphia’s war plants and Navy Yard are slowed down?
This walkout came only a few hours after the War Manpower Commission declared the Philadelphia-Camden district a “Group I critical labor market area” and entered a 48-hour week in all business and industrial establishments.
By stopping work in defiance of a War Manpower Commission order and of Federal directives to the PTC, the car and bus operators are in effect striking against the United States Government in the midst of war.
If the transport employes wanted to strike for any reason why didn’t they go about it in an orderly manner, with a statement of their intentions and ample warning to both the PTC and the city’s workers?
In putting their work stoppage into effect by stealth they used the most cowardly of tactics. Why? Were they afraid to come out in the open and make known their demands?
What will our gallant fighting men on Saipan and Guam, in Normandy, Brittany and Italy think of America’s Home Front when they learn that the workers upon whom they are counting for the tools of victory couldn’t get to their jobs because of sneak strikers who hadn’t even the courage to say what they were striking for?
This walkout already has inconvenienced and exasperated hundreds of thousands of busy Philadelphians. It has slowed output in this, the second greatest war production center in America. It has incited lawlessness and ill-feeling.
It represents nothing but insult and injury to millions of Philadelphians. It is a shameful pullback on America’s war effort and offers gratuitous aid and comfort to Adolf Hitler and the whole gangster crew of the murderous Axis.
This unspeakable walkout must be settled without delay and nothing like it must happen again.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1944.
By William Mensing
Yesterday’s paralyzing tieup of the city’s electrical transportation system came as the drastic fulfillment of a threat made seven months ago by the employees of the PTC that they would go on strike if Negroes were elevated to operational positions with the company.
This materialized despite the fact that just one month ago the workers ratified a new contract between the Transport Workers Union, Local 234 (CIO), and the company, calling for no discrimination against minority groups.
Reviewed on Monday
The threat began smoldering again on Monday, however, when eight Negroes—first group of motormen trainees of their race—began a three-week training course on practice tracks at 3rd St. and Wyoming avenue preparatory to taking over regular routes around the end of this month.
From many quarters, as the year began, came opposition to the November directive of the President’s Fair Employment Practice Committee that Negro employees be raised on the basis of ability to jobs as motormen, conductors, operators and station trainmen.
The P.R.T. Employees Union, then the bargaining agent for the workers, challenged the powers of the FEPC before a Congressional committee in Washington, contending such action was in direct violation of a contract then in force between the union and the company.127
The company itself, first on the fence in the dispute, finally announced that it would abide by the FEPC order if a mutual agreement could be worked out with the independent union.
Then, in March, the T.W.U. which campaigned on the ground that it followed the CIO policy of no discrimination because of race, creed or color—won an overwhelming victory in a State Labor Relations Board election conducted among workers in the transportation and maintenance departments of the company
This, to all appearances, ended the racial question after the defeated P.R.T. Employees Union sought the choice as bargaining agent on the basis of maintaining the status quo with regard to union-management contracts, which excluded employment of Negroes in operational jobs.
Supporting the Fight
Supporting the fight for upgrading of the minority employees were many religious groups, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The new contract with the T.W.U. was ratified by more than 2,000 employees on June 30 and the problem appeared to be settled and until the company announced that Negroes would be ready to become operators before the end of August.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1944.
At least ten persons were injured, one critically, when fights broke out in scattered sections of the city last night following the Philadelphia Transportation Co. workers’ protest strike against the upgrading of Negroes to operational jobs.
Most seriously injured when tension burst into street fighting at 23rd St. and Ridge Ave., was John Young, 39, of 2164 N. Dover Street, beaten unconscious with a brick after he was dragged from an automobile near the intersection.
Four Others Injured
Also injured were his brother-in-law, John Collins, 52, of 2166 N. Dover St., with whom he was riding; Eric Husak, 52, of 1832 W. Hunting Park Ave.; Louise Quigg, 37, of 224 George St., and Harry Miller, 41, of 2802 W. Oxford St.
The victims were treated at Lankenau and Women’s Homeopathic hospitals. Mr. Young’s condition was critical last night.
Store Window Broken
At the height of the disturbance in this area, during which a brick was thrown through a jewelry store window at 2208 Ridge Ave., more than 100 policemen patrolled the streets in red cars and on foot, warning residents to remain indoors.
Minor disorders were suppressed by police at 45th St. and Woodland Ave.; 40th St. and Lancaster Ave.; 40th St. and Girard Ave.; 63rd and Haverford Ave.; 57th and Larchwood Ave., and in the 3100 block of S. 82nd St.
The disturbance at 23rd St., and Ridge Ave., began when a number of youths attending a carnival nearby lowered the tailgate of a passing coal truck, spilling the coal across the intersection.
Mr. Young, driving home from the seashore with his wife and two children, was beaten when he stepped from his car to protest after it was showered with coal.
200 Rounded Up
Nearly 200 youths were rounded up by police and arrested for hearings this morning when disorders spread throughout the neighborhood.
Three others were slightly injured by thrown pieces of coal.
Others injured were Patrolman John O’Donnell, of 1843 W. Albanus St., struck by a milk bottle hurled through the window of his automobile near 11th and Norris Sts., and James Getty, 50, of 1718 N. 26th St., beaten as he walked near 21st and Columbia Ave.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1944.
By George M. Mawhinney
The first excuse offered by the men and women for the walkout when they failed to appear at work early Tuesday morning was that they were sick.
Following the strikers’ meeting, Mr. McMenamin sent a telegram to War Mobilization Chairman Byrnes urging him to take over the transit system and “to settle the matter the way it should be settled—by a vote of the employees, on the up-grading of Negro employees.
The attempt at service resumption met with variations in co-operation from cashiers on the two high speed lines. No attempt was made to resume operation on the Delaware River Bridge Line.
Action in Washington
In the daylight hours that preceded the moves toward reinstating service, official Washington had been a-broil.
Although it was learned on reliable authority that the WLB unanimously, wanted Government seizure, it also became apparent that either of the two agencies which might act in the seizure was reluctant to act.
The Army made it more than apparent that it did not wish to send in troops and a spokesman suggested that possibly the Pennsylvania State Guard might be able to take over.
Later it also became apparent that the Office of Defense Transportation, the logical agency to take over a transportation system, was not anxious to accept the issue. There was no word, at a late hour last night concerning the President’s attitude.
The Government’s moves came while Philadelphians were plodding through the rain to and from their jobs, finding transportation by the hitch-hike method, or riding in special buses and trucks provided by many large companies.
It came, too, after Philadelphia’s magistrates had held hearings on 300 persons accused of street fights or malicious mischief; while taprooms and liquor stores remained closed, and while absenteeism in war plants and other commercial institutions continued as high as 40 per cent, in some cases.
According to an incomplete WMC survey, it was estimated that yesterday 120,000 of Philadelphia’s 600,000 war workers were unable to reach their benches, and that an additional 20,000 failed to report to work in Delaware county.
Among the outstanding developments of the second day of the walkout—staged by nearly 6,000 men and women employees of the transit company in protest over the upgrading of Negro workers to posts of motormen—were these:
1. The protesting employees announced today they would not return to work unless the company returned to its status of July 30. July 31 was the day the company began training Negro operators. 2. The company declared that it must take the viewpoint that the walkout is a strike, although it is unapproved by any union, and in the late afternoon ordered all loitering employees out of its carbarns and locked the barns tightly.
3. Two hundred and fifty shop stewards of Transport Workers Union (CIO), the bargaining agent for the employees, held a meeting and denounced the walkout by an almost unanimous vote. At this meeting, Harry Sacker, general counsel of the union, denied the claim of the strikers that Negro trolley operators would achieve seniority dating back to the time they first were employed by the company in varying capacities.
4. Taxicab business and central city hotel business continued on a boom basis, with occasional reports some independent cab drivers and some smaller hotels were taking advantage of the lack of transportation by making overcharges.
5. At least one of the city’s Selective Service Boards cancelled occupational deferments of striking PTC employees and classified them 1-A, and other boards were expected to follow this procedure.
6. Motorists everywhere in the city continued to jam into ration boards to get extra rations of gasoline, which, to a great extent, was used on a share the ride basis.
7. Frank L. McNamee, regional director of the War Manpower Commission, and C. James Fleming, regional director of the President’s Fair Employment Practices Commission, made an appeal to all citizens to refrain from “rabble rousing,” and the FEPC’s division of review and analysis pointed out that Philadelphia is not the only city affected under a WMC directive for using Negro trolley and bus operators. Negroes are employed in such jobs in New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Tulsa, Buffalo and Winston-Salem, N.C.
8. The American Friends Service Committee “deplored” the walkout and urged a return to work; the Philadelphia Metropolitan Council for Equal Job Opportunity urged immediate Federal intervention, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People posted handbills on telephone poles urging Mayor Samuel and the PTC to “stand pat.”
Lead to White House
Developments in Washington, D.C., starting in the morning at an extraordinary session of the War Labor Board and leading by afternoon to the White House, were all aimed at a quick restoration of transportation for Philadelphians.
At the outset, War Labor Board Chairman William H. Davis received a detailed report on the local situation from Sylvester Garrett, WMC regional chairman, and Eli Rock, head of the disputes division of the Philadelphia region.
Soon after that report had been received, Jonathan W. Daniels, administrative assistant to President Roosevelt, and Brigadier General Edward S. Greenbaum, executive officer to the Undersecretary of War, joined the conference. As it concluded, Mr. Daniels told reporters that “there is every indication that the case will be referred.”
By those words he meant that the Philadelphia walkout would be referred to the President for action.
Army Makes Its Plans
General Greenbaum, at that time, offered no comment, but it was learned later that War Department officials had conferred most of the day in the Pentagon Building, presumably laying plans for troop movement, should it be decided to use the Army in taking over the transport system.
During the morning hours it also was learned that the WMC had recommended to War Mobilization Director Byrnes that the ODT or the War Department assume direction of Philadelphia transit, although on the subject there was no official comment.
Executive Order Prepared
It was not until late in the afternoon that it was learned that an Executive order was being prepared in the White House and had been sent to the President. At that time it was said that a White House announcement was momentarily expected.
Up to that time, it was learned there was no decision whether to use the Army immediately or first to assume direction of the transit system and appeal to the workers to go back to their jobs as employees of Uncle Sam.
War Output Hurt
Meanwhile the War Department reported that the strike had “seriously affected the production of radar, heavy artillery, heavy ammunition, military tracks, bombs and other supplies vitally needed.”
The department also announced officially that the important activities affected were those of the Frankford Arsenal, the Quartermaster’s Depot, the Philadelphia Ordnance District, the Philadelphia Signal Depot, and the Storage and Issue Agency, which is an Army funnel for front-line materials.
In Washington Walter White, secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, announced sending a telegram to the President urging Army intervention “so that war production may be resumed and that workers may be employed irrespective of race or of color.”
Steps Toward Solution
Philadelphia continued struggling along on its feet or in whatever transportation vehicles were available as the walkout entered its second day.
But as the day began, city and Government officials were making every effort to find a solution for the situation which has stagnated war production and all other business enterprises in the city.
Conference in Washington
One of the major efforts looking toward some sort of solution was centered in Washington, D.C., where the National War Labor Board pondered the problems involved. In that city a conference was held, attended by Sylvester Garrett, chairman of the Philadelphia Regional War Labor Board, and Eli Rock, Director of the board’s disputes division.
Before leaving for Washington, Mr. Garrett said he had had a telephone conversation with William H. Davis, national chairman of the War Labor Board on Tuesday night, and had informed that official that the transit situation remained “very serious.”
Appeals to Workers
Early today he pointed out that all appeals of Army and Navy officials, and of other public spirited citizens, to the men and women participating in the walkout had failed of desirable results. He added, however:
“There will be no slackening of our efforts to bring the men and women back to work at the earliest possible moment.”
Another conference of moment during the early morning hours was one held in the office of Mayor Samuel. It was attended by the Mayor, Director of Public Safety James H. Malone, Assistant City Solicitor James F. Ryan, and John F. Sears, head of the Philadelphia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The men and women participating in the walkout, estimated at approximately 6,000 of the PTC’s 12,000 employees, held a second mass meeting in the big “headquarters” carbarn at 10th and Luzerne Sts. It followed a mass meeting held Tuesday night, at which they reiterated their determination not to return work while Negro operators of trolley cars are used by the PTC.
At yesterday morning’s mass meeting they decided to continue with the walkout, and thus leave all Philadelphians to get to their places of employment as best they could.
During the first day of the walkout, according to Regional War Manpower Chairman McNamee, there was an estimated production loss of 70 per cent on Navy contracts and 50 per cent on Army contracts.
Yesterday, with the completion of organization of buses, trucks and private automobiles to carry workers to their places of employment, general production in war factories was considerably improved.
Although the walkout has been principally to motormen, conductors and some maintenance men, many other employees of the PTC failed to report to work yesterday because of transportation difficulties. The company said that the 600 Negroes it has in track repair crews reported for duty.
Union Continues Pleas
The Transport Workers Union, which holds bargaining rights among all but office workers of the PTC continued to appeal to the workers to return to their jobs. The TWU won a collective bargaining election on March 14 by a narrow margin.
That election was closely contested by the Amalgamated Street Car Workers (AFL) and the PRT Employees Union. The latter union retained bargaining rights for the office workers.
Throughout yesterday James McMenamin, a conductor, who is acting as spokesman for the committee of workers which engineered the walkout, continued to insist that the walkout was a result of the strikers’ fears over their seniority rights.
He had previously said that the Negro motormen being placed on the street cars were claiming seniority from the time they were first employed by PTC as track repairmen or in other capacities, rather than from the time they were to be made motormen or conductors.
The upgrading of Negro employes came as a result of a Presidential executive order of June 25, 1941, directing that the Fair Employment Practice Committee recommend to the War Manpower Commission means for full utilization of all workers, without regard to race, color or creed.
Thus, under the aegis of the WMC, PTC recently began training Negro employees as motormen. Eight had been instructed on trial courses, and on Tuesday, when the walkout began, were to have taken cars on trial runs over the PTC’s regular lines.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3, 1944.
If there must be Federal seizure of Philadelphia’s strike-bound transit system to remedy an intolerable situation it is profoundly to be hoped that it comes soon.
Federal action or not, the major imperative is to get the cars, trains and buses running, and keep them running. Philadelphians and the national war effort have suffered enough through this unspeakable PTC walkout. It must be ended.
But Government seizure and operation of the transit system, if such is required, will not solve the deeply disturbing issue from which the disgraceful walkout—clearly a violation of the War Labor Disputes Act—stemmed. Plant seizure in wartime strikes has consistently proved only a stop-gap.
The car and bus operators who stopped work without warning permitted race prejudice to overrule every other consideration, including their duty to the Philadelphia public and to the Nation.
They disregarded completely the fact that, with the aid of Philadelphia war plants and the Philadelphia Navy Yard, the United States is now battling on a global front for the liberty and dignity of individual men and women of every race and color.
In walking out because a few Negroes were upgraded by the PTC in a commendable effort to eliminate racial discrimination the employes disavowed the cause of freedom for which their country, even their own sons and brothers, are fighting.
What did they hope to gain by such a thoroughly unjustifiable act of sabotage on the home front? Rescinding by the PTC of its agreement to remove the color line in the training and advancement of workers? But the agreement to give Negroes fair play, however progressive and praiseworthy, was in compliance with Federal orders. No man or group of men is greater than the Government.
Whatever the opinion of the car workers regarding the War Manpower Commission’s ruling and the Fair Employment Practice Committee’s directive to the company concerning Negro employees, they had no justification for their shockingly un-American, undemocratic reprisal.
Furthermore, whether or not the WMC order was well timed has no bearing whatever on the issue now. The plain fact is that a group of employees placed their own narrow, selfish, prejudiced demands above the needs of their country and of their fellow men.
With what result? With the result that the output of war goods required for victory over the cut-throat Nazis and Japs was reduced, thousands of persons inconvenienced and Philadelphia business sharply slashed.
With the result, also, that such humanitarian essentials as blood donations to save the lives of our brave service men were cut down because donors could not get to Red Cross stations.
With the result, moreover, that Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, has been smeared from one end of the country to the other with the stigma of racial prejudice and lawlessness.
This is not the time to go into complicated dealing with racial and other issues. There will be time later for calm, reasoned consideration of such matters. The first necessity is to get the cars, trains, and buses running.
End this outrageous strike—now!
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3, 1944.
The PTC Dilemma
The provisions of the new contract between the Union and Company are numerous. Among them are the following:
1. A bonus of 5₵ per hour for transportation, shop and maintenance workers.
2. Pension plan.
3. Reduction from 12 hours to 10-1/2 hours in the overall spread on swing runs with payment of half time for swing time in excess of 10-1/2 hours.
4. Upward equalization of rates which will result in raises of from 6 to 21₵ per hour for approximately 2500 hours.
5. Raising lunch allowance to 75₵.
6. Arbitration of disputes.
7. Right to wear the Union button.
8. Union security through maintenance of membership and check off.
Regarding the maintenance of membership clause is on the same principle as industrial insurance. A union member has the assurance that the union will protect him against company injustice, therefore, for the union to give him that protection, they must have some security of membership. If, anyone wants to continue to receive the benefits of insurance, they must keep their payments up. If they do not, they lose their insurance and all its benefits. This same principle applies to maintenance of membership. A member of the union must keep his dues paid up or in trade union language remain in good standing. If a member falls in arrears of a certain number of months (usually three) and does not want to pay up his dues, he is in jeopardy of being dismissed by the company.
Of course, it is an established fact that a Union is no stronger than its membership. I mean, that the more employees belonging to the union, the stronger demands the union can make on the management for the workers.
This is a very important factor. The first step a union must take is to become strong in membership. Prior to any maintenance of membership clause going into effect, there is a fifteen day period known as the escape period. During this period anyone who wishes to withdraw from the union may do so.
It is quite logical to see why the Negro worker at PTC has remained silent on the upgrading issue. The Negro worker realizes that the union is his only salvation, and if there was a lot of “hell-raising for rights” at this particular time, before the contract was signed, it would give ammunition to the Fascists within PTC; and during the Escape Period the A.F. of L. and Company Union stooges would take advantage of the race issue, and encourage the workers to withdraw from the union with the worn line that the TWU-CIO was a n. . . . r loving Union.
Foolish as this may seem, it strikes deep into a strong minority of workers who are being continually antagonized by a combination of the A.F. of L., Company Union stooges, and migrant Southern workers.
Because of this unfortunate situation, the Negro and white press are making a grave mistake. Whether they knock the Union or praise it, the result is the same, the Union is the victim.
Reactionary elements within PTC never rests which is typical of the Fascist gangs. It is true they represent a minority, but so do Rankin and Bilbo. And whose voices are heard more often within the halls of Congress than these two Fascists. This vicious element reads the press with greater interest than the average reader.
Philadelphia Tribune, August 5, 1944.
Continued defiance of the Government and the Army by PTC strikers is an appalling demonstration of lawlessness.
How much longer must Philadelphia and its great war production plants put up with this unspeakable situation? What is the Army going to do about it, and when?
Certainly the PTC employees renewed defiance is not the result of strong-arm methods by Major General Hayes and the men under his command. Their course has been noteworthy for a moderation that approximates extreme caution.
A more positive and prompt effort by the Army toward getting cars and buses moving, with vigorous measures to assure protection, might have been more productive of results.
The same caution extended to other branches of the Government, with Attorney General Francis Biddle ordering an investigation to determine whether the strikers had violated a Federal statue. It seemed plain enough to weary and completely disgusted Philadelphians that the moment the Government took charge the Smith-Connally War Labor Disputes Act went into effect and that thereafter anyone counselling a continuation of the work-stoppage was a law violator and subject to penalties.128
A strange anomaly was the request of James H. McMenamin, self-elected chairman of the strikers, for police protection on the ground that he had been threatened by fellow employees.
Having been granted a police guard, did it occur to Mr. McMenamin that there he was, shielded against danger, while on far-distant battlefields American boys were being denied the full help of Philadelphia’s great war plants because Mr. McMenamin and his associates were tying up the transit lines upon which war workers depended for transport?
We don’t believe he had any such enlightened thought. Yet the truth is that, remote from the blood and the ghastly horror of war, the PTC strikers since early last Tuesday have been double-crossing the millions of GI Joes from Brittany to Guam.
Disregards by the strikers of all appeals to return to work, whether on grounds of patriotism or racial tolerance, is disgraceful.
Their country is at war. Their city is the second greatest war production center in the United States. The company for which they work—when they work—has been taken over by their Government. The cars and buses which they should be operating are under the supervision of the United States Army. Their refusal to return is, like their attitude toward Negro workers, indefensible.
Getting transit service started in Philadelphia at once is the only issue at this time. Causes of the strike are not the major concern now. There will be time for discussion of the fundamentals, including un-American race prejudice. The immediate imperative is to restore trolley, train and bus service to the outraged people of Philadelphia.
The strikers, as General Hayes has declared, are “apparently more intereste in aiding the Axis” than in getting Philadelphia war workers to their jobs. It is a situation that can’t be endured.
The War Labor Disputes Act should be enforced at once against conditions in Philadelphia which constitute a betrayal of the Nation and its democratic principles.
How long can the strikers defy their Government and public opinion? It’s up to the Army. End this strike!
Philadelphia Inquirer; August 5, 1944.
By Frank Rosen
Local 234 of the Transport Workers Union (CIO), the bargaining agent for Philadelphia Transportation Co. employees, yesterday adopted a resolution to be sent to President Roosevelt which stated, that “unmistakable surface evidence points to collusion on the part of important PTC officials in instigating” the transit strike.
After thanking the President for his “prompt action in ordering the Army to suppress this conspiracy against the Nation’s war effort,” the resolution declared that “we will do everything in our power to make up for the severe damage to war production and morale resulting from the tragic events of the past five days.”
400 Are Present
Some 400 officers and members of the local, which deplored the strike from its inception, were present when the resolution was adopted at a special meeting at the Broadwood Hotel.
Also present was Michael J. Quill, national president of the T.W.U., who reiterated the nine questions which he outlined publicly here Saturday night and for which he said “the people of Philadelphia have a right to demand answers from the management” of PTC.
Other speakers included James J. Fitzsimmon, national vice president of the union; Douglas MacMahon, national secretary-treasurer; Fred Myers, national vice president of the C.I.O. National Maritime Union, and several T.W.U. stewards.
At the meeting, Mr. Quill, alluding to the alleged cause of the strike—the upgrading of eight Negroes to the position of motormen—declared that “we will fight for the rights and seniority of all workers, whether they be white or black.”
In urging all PTC employees “to go back to work immediately,” he said that “we will clean Fascism out of the transit system in Philadelphia.”
Mr. Quill also repeated his charge that Philadelphia police were “useless” during the strike, and that “we have proof” that groups of policemen and striking employees drank and played cards and took part in crap games “while this delaying action was going on.”
Called Fascist Plot
Mr. McMahon referred to the strike as “a Fascist plot to break up our union—the U.S. Government knows that the trouble did not start just because of eight Negroes being upgraded to motormen.”
“Every PTC official, he continued, “will have to answer questions before the Federal Grand Jury,” which Attorney General Francis Biddle has instructed to investigate the strike to determine whether any “criminal conspiracy” existed.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 7, 1944.
As the PTC strikers go back to work at the firm, if belated, insistence of the Army, these points merit thoughtful consideration:
Philadelphia has been disgraced before the Nation. All of the transit employees should unite now in redeeming the city’s good name by giving 100 per cent service to the war effort and to the people.
They should hold in abeyance their protests against the upgrading of Negroes by the PTC.
Meanwhile, the major parties at interest, the Federal Government, the PTC, the CIO union, the city and the public should make every possible effort, through calm negotiation and discussion, to settle the racial issue.
On the contrary, Federal, State and local agencies should stop at nothing to uncover the precise causes of the inexcusable walkout and reveal all of the persons chiefly responsible for it.
All who had a hand in fomenting it and all of the leaders who defied the power and authority of the United States Government in wartime should be penalized to the limit.
In particular the Federal Department of Justice should leave nothing undone to make the PTC outlaw work-stoppage a stern and unmistakable warning to every potential wartime striker in the United States.
The Department of Justice was inexplicably tardy in invoking the provisions of the War Labor Disputes Act in this crisis.
The anti-strike law itself has again been shown up as a weak, thoroughly unreliable protection for the Nation against selfish, lawless groups. But even the ineffective Smith-Connally measure might have been of some use to the people of Philadelphia and to the maintenance of war production here if it had been enforced from the beginning.
In a broader sense the basic issue in the PTC walkout demands earnest and continuing attempts at solution not only by all Philadelphians but by all Americans in the North and in the South.
Here was a strike that concerned not rates of pay, not hours of work but the democratic right of all Americans, whatever their racial origin, to equality of opportunity.
The contention of the strikers that Negro employees of the PTC should not be upgraded to car jobs was fundamentally unsound and in conflict with every American and democratic principle.
But it is the tragic truth that the bigotry and intolerance which came to poisonous flower in the PTC tie-up have been nurtured by many of our people.
There have been grave faults on both sides of this racial issue but it is inescapable that since the Civil War far too many Americans have been content to drift along in the smug hope that the Negro problem would solve itself. It won’t solve itself. It must be solved by all of us, working together.
Into the solution must go better educational methods and facilities, a clearer understanding, a finer spirit of co-operation, a wider mutual recognition of racial aspirations and, above all, a deeper devotion to America’s democratic ideals.
One national need today towers above all others. It is the prompt, total winning of the war. But beyond victory we have a racial problem that must be solved with intelligence, faith and patient perservance.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 7, 1944.
The disgraceful and unpatriotic strike of transit workers in Philadelphia over the upgrading of eight colored employees is an indication of some of the serious problems which will confront us in the post-war period.
It shows that the conditioning of the white masses to a bi-racial color-caste society has gone so far that no sudden change on the part of those in authority in racial attitudes can be immediately communicated to them.
The decision to upgrade Negro workers in the Philadelphia transit system, followed a long uphill struggle on the part of the Fair Employment Practices Committee to overcome the reluctance of the management and the unionized workers.
The officers of the CIO union, which had become the bargaining agent for the workers (after an election in which the company union was defeated) favored the up-grading of the Negro workers, but apparently they had not succeeded in bringing their members around to the same way of thinking.
On orders from Washington, the Army has taken over and service is normal, as the military authorities show that they mean business and are not to be deterred by wildcat strikers.
The outlaw Philadelphia strike poses the question of what will happen when there is no longer a national emergency, when thousands of factories close down for lack of war orders, when millions are thereby thrown out of work, when union officials, therefore, have less power, and when millions of discharged servicemen join the army of unemployed.
The Army cannot and will not then be called out to operate businesses whose workers strike because of up-grading of Negroes.
Many of the wartime agencies which have protected Negro labor will be abolished, and in any event will not dictate to private industry.
These sober considerations should spur us to insistence NOW upon some post-war plan which will keep down unemployment, increase production and outlaw industrial discrimination because of color.
Neither political party now has such a plan, although both party platforms are filled with platitudes and generalities about the post-war world.
Unless some well-thought-out program is adopted now, before the war comes to an end, we are destined to have more and bloodier strife over jobs and upgrading, and efforts to oust Negroes from skilled positions they have secured as a result of the war effort and the FEPC.
Pittsburgh Courier, August 12, 1944.
The Nation, 159 (August 12, 1944): 172-73.
It Has Happened Here
It did happen here. And—up to the time of this writing at least—we have reason to be thankful for the forms it did not take. There have not been any wholesale clashes between Negroes and whites.
I walked up Ridge avenue last week and talked to many persons, loitered near discussion groups and the thought that was utmost in their minds was the result of the upgrading of eight Negroes to trolley car conductors at 82₵ per hour. I heard the simple statement iterated and reiterated. (Six thousand employees strike because they resented the upgrading of eight colored Americans).
In this statement is the link between Philadelphia and Harlem; Philadelphia and Mobile; Philadelphia and Beaumont. It is not a question in my mind as to the truth of this statement. What is important is that this statement epitomizes what Negroes are feeling not only in Philadelphia, but everywhere throughout the country. It reflects the racial bias of the present PTC disorder.
The Origin of the PTC Strike
In a sense the PTC disorder did not begin on Tuesday August 1. It began a long time ago when the PTC Company Union was the bargaining agent for the employees. When last winter the FEPC held hearings on the question of upgrading Negroes the Company union sat shoulder to shoulder with the employees arguing against the upgrading of Negroes and also arguing against the constitutionality of the FEPC. It was then that the seeds of racial hatred were sown. It was in January that Frank P. Carney, president of the Company Union, refused to accept the FEPC order. This same Frank P. Carney is one of the ring leaders of the present strike. In my column for the past two weeks I have mentioned the position of the TWU-CIO was in ever since the S.L.R.B. election. The company union with the help of the A.F.L. and both of them being encouraged by the Company itself has done everything within their power to destroy the CIO. They never relaxed one moment. Anti-Negro literature was continually being filtered throughout the Transportation system for weeks prior to the strike.
The stage being set August 1 was the most logical day for the storm to break loose. The timing of this strike was uncanny and as to its effectiveness, no more need be said.
The Dilemma Facing the Negro
The issue by which the PTC employees are striking is not because of the upgrading of just eight Negroes; it is the issue as to whether the Negro is going to achieve his economic rights in industry or not.
If the bell of injustice tolls for these eight Negroes, it tolls for the entire Negro race. The Negro community in Philadelphia is being torn between the fight they are asked to wage against strangers for what the white man tells him is freedom, and concrete discrimination they are asked to endure from neighbors.
This is not an easy decision for the Negro to make. What has happened in Mobile, Beaumont, Detroit and now Philadelphia has made it more difficult. The attitude of the people of the city, the city and state administration, the army has been distant, neglectful, passive, where they should have been eager and active in their sympathy and assistance.
1. The PTC Company itself is as much to blame for this strike as the Fascist elements that engineered it. It was the Company officials of the PTC that refused to let many drivers take their trolleys out; on the weak assumption that there may be trouble.
2. The PTC Company has not as yet issued any appeal for the strikers to return to their jobs.
3. The only solution that the Company offered was the identical one that the strikers offered, and that was the rescinding of the WMC order in reference to the upgrading of Negroes.
There is no doubt in my mind that it was the Company’s all-out attempt to break the CIO in Philadelphia for good. The Republican Administration which is represented on the Board of Directors of PTC and also represents some of the largest stockholders realizing the growing political strength of the CIO throughout the community has intentionally been lax in its efforts to break this disgraceful strike, hoping of course, to discredit the name of the CIO.
Philadelphia Tribune, August 12, 1944.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19—With the destructive race-hate strike broken at the Philadelphia Transportation Co., seven of the eight Negroes who had been instructed to report for training prior to the strike, this week resumed training and three of them went out on trial runs, it was reported by the Fair Employment Practice Committee.
The eighth trainee resigned and the trial runs were made without incident, the FEPC, which had issued the non-discriminatory order, stated.
As Philadelphia returned to normalcy, it became the tenth American city to proceed to integrate and upgrade Negroes into the important job brackets of the transit industry. The employment of Negroes in significant occupations in the transit industry is by no means new. Since Pearl Harbor, the solution of this problem has met with some success in several American cities. Today 3,879 Negroes are now operating street cars, buses and other public conveyances in nine cities.
New York in Lead
New York City leads in the employment of 1,836 Negroes in the operating job brackets of its transit system, organized by the Transport Workers Union, CIO. The New York Board of Transportation employs, 1,079 Negro motormen, conductors, bus and streetcar operators. In addition, 702 are employed in other significant occupations such as clerks, inspectors, station supervisors, train dispatchers, clerical workers, collecting agents, car and structure maintainers.
The New York Omnibus Corporation employs 20 bus operators and seven mechanics. The Third Ave. Transit Corporation has on its payrool 14 busmen and trolley car drivers and the Madison Ave. Coach Corporation employs four Negro bus drivers and four mechanics.
Detroit is second with the employment of 1,200 Negroes as conductors, motormen, bus operators and other significant occupations by its Department of Street Railways. Of this number, 150 are Negro women. San Francisco’s Market St. Railway employs 78 Negro motormen and coach operators and 145 conductors. Its Municipal Railway system has 10 motormen and 27 conductorettes.
In Chicago 104 Negroes are operating street cars, 30 are driving buses and 23 are serving as trainmen on its elevated system. Buffalo’s International Railway Co., employs 16 bus and streetcar operators. At Cleveland 319 Negroes are employed as bus drivers, platform operators and in other significant occupations. Tulsa, Okla., employs 23 bus drivers and Winston-Salem, N.C., employs 40 bus drivers and 25 mechanics and clerical workers. Flushing, Long Island, employs one Negro bus driver.
CIO News, August 21, 1944.
The federal grand jury which investigated the PTC strike and yesterday indicted 30 employees, made a full report of their findings to the court.
They placed the blame where it belongs—on a rabid, trouble-making minority who manipulated the inexcusable strike and led thousands of their fellow-workers like sheep, into paralyzing the city’s wartime transportation system.
The jury also stipulated that “proper planning beforehand on the part of the management for such an emergency and quick action by responsible officers might well have turned the incipient strike into a forceful display of employee loyalty to their company and to their public duty.”
The jury charged that the strike-inciting minority had fed the flame in the strike in an attempt to prevent upgrading of Negroes to platform jobs for which they qualified. This was the sole issue, the grand jurors emphasized and they castigated the strike leaders who defied the constitutional rights and the inalienable rights of every citizen to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It was the expressed opinion of the jury that the great majority of the employees were not interested in striking on this basis. The report blamed the majority of PTC employees for their willingness to follow the rabid minority and the company itself for a “weakness in the PTC management that the permission to report sick and to be off for the term of illness had become a much abused term used for any purpose where the employee preferred not to work.”
Fear of the term “scab,” the grand jury decided had motivated the thousands of striking employees into what the jurors called “a curiously weak social attitude.”
There is no place in this democratic nation for those who would deny any minority the rights guaranteed by citizenship.
Millions have died in the past four years because of the “master race” theory. The enemies of this country and of the Allies have used every weapon they could muster and every sniveling agent they could enlist to spread the seeds of class and group hatreds.
As the grand jurors emphasized, the scene of the strike was Philadelphia, “the center of a district of prime importance in the efforts of the nations allied to conquer those powers (which boast the right to rule and to dominate the world) and to preserve the rights of man and of nations.”
Philadelphia Daily News, October 5, 1944.
Executive Office of the President
PRESIDENT’S COMMITTEE ON FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE
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In the Matter of
PHILADELPHIA RAPID TRANSIT EMPLOYEES UNION
Case No. 55
SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE WITH OPINION AND ORDER ON HEARINGS HELD IN PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, DECEMBER 8, 1943
On November 17, 1943, the Committee, on the basis of an agreed statement of the facts executed by the Philadelphia Transportation Company, issued its Proposed Findings of Fact and Directives to said Company and a union of its employees known as the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees Union, were parties to a collective bargaining contract containing a provision that
“All existing rules, regulations and customs bearing on the employer-employee relationship shall continue in full force and effect until changed by agreement between the parties.”
The Committee also found that the Company and the Union had interpreted this provision as prohibiting the employment or promotion of qualified Negroes in or to all job classifications not presently held by Negro employees of the Company. The Committee concluded that this contractual provision, when given the interpretation placed thereon by the parties thereto, violated Executive Order No. 9346 and it directed the Company to cease and desist from this discriminatory interpretation, and to consider all applicants for employment—particularly to position as street car and motor coach operators and conductors, guards, platform attendants and station cashiers on the Company’s elevated and subway lines—without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.
Similar findings were made as to the Union and the Committee directed the Union not to
“Interpret any section or provision of its contract with the Philadelphia Transportation Company so as to prohibit, limit, or in any manner interfere with the employment or upgrading by the Company of qualified Negroes in or to”
any job classifications with the Company not presently held by Negroes.
Sufficient factual basis for the Committee’s Proposed Findings and Directives to the Company was contained in the agreed statement executed by the Company. However, and although representatives of the Committee had held several conferences with officials of the Union, the Committee was reluctant to make or to issue final Findings and Directives to the Union before first giving an opportunity to the Union’s membership to consider the question and to agree as to the relevant facts involved. Accordingly, the Proposed Findings and Directives to each of the parties provided that the same would become final on and after November 27, 1943, “unless, prior to that date, either party shall file with the Chairman at Washington, D.C., a request for a public hearing.”
On November 24, 1943, the Union requested a hearing and by order dated December 1, 1943, and duly served upon the Union, the Committee directed that a hearing be held in the City of Philadelphia on December 8, 1943,
“for the purpose of affording to the respondent Union an opportunity to show cause, if any there be, why Executive Order No. 9346 and the Directive to said respondent issued pursuant thereto, should not be complied with according to its terms.”
SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE
The “Agreed Statement of Facts” executed by the Company and the Proposed Findings and Directives issued by the Committee, were introduced in evidence and are attached hereto. The only testimony presented on behalf of the Union was a prepared statement read into the record by its Secretary-Treasurer, Mr. Frank M. Cobourn. This statement, after reciting the issuance of the above Directive to the Union, asserted the following nine reasons in support of the Union’s opposition to the Directive:
1. The Union does not discriminate against any group.
2. Although the Company is “essential to the war effort,” it holds no contract with any Government agency, which seems to be necessary in order for the Fair Employment Practice Committee to make an order.
3. The Committee and the Company should institute an educational program among the employees first before directing a change in the status quo.
5. Compliance with the Committee’s Directives may result in disturbances which will impair the transportation of workers to and from war industries.
6. The service rendered by the Company is adequate.
7. The effect of the Directive is to single out the Company and Union while ignoring other transit systems whose employment practices are no different.
8. Compliance with the Committee’s Directive, requiring the Company to reconsider without regard to race or color all applications filed with it by Negroes since June 24, 1941, would disturb seniority and affect the transfer conditions of all employees.
9. The present relationship between the Company and the Union should not be changed without first consulting the Union’s 1,000 members in the armed forces.
No factual data or other evidence was presented by the Union in support of any of the above assertions.
After the reading of the Union’s statement, the Committee’s Chairman informed Mr. Cobourn that his assertion numbered 7 above, “arises from a misunderstanding of the Committee’s procedure,” and that other cases involving alleged violations of Executive Order No. 9346 by public transportation systems are presently pending before the Committee in the investigatory or negotiation stage. The Chairman stated further that “there was such informal negotiation in this case at one time,” and he expressed the view that the Union’s “researches” evidently had not been “quite wide enough to find out the places where the Committee has acted.”
Regarding the Union’s assertion numbered 1 above, Mr. Cobourn admitted on cross-examination that it was the policy of the Union not to permit the Company to replace white employees with Negro employees, nor to replace Negro employees with white employees; that such is the interpretation the Union places upon the “customs” clause in its contract; and that if the Company should employ Negro platform men without first getting the Union’s approval, its action would be considered a violation of the contract.
As to the assertion numbered 3 above, the witness stated that education was needed, “for the purpose of breaking down prejudices, if prejudices exist,” but that the “Union has not endeavored to carry out any campaign of education on this question.” He stated that the matter of employing Negroes as street car and bus operators, etc., had been discussed informally at meetings of the Union Delegates, “but no actual resolution on the floor had been considered.” He admitted also that the officers of the Union had been advised of the Committee’s proposed action and that the Committee, at their request, had delayed its contemplated action for a period of ten days to allow them “to take the proposition back to the Delegates;” that during this interval of time no meeting of the Delegates had been called or held; and that after the Committee’s Proposed Findings and Directives to the Union had been issued, “only these recent communications” were presented to the Delegates. The Delegates then authorized the Executive Board to request a hearing.
Mr. Cobourn was questioned regarding the Union’s assertion numbered 4 above and stated: “I haven’t heard any representations to the effect that there is available idle manpower in this area.” He admitted that his knowledge of the local manpower situation was based on the “several advertisements appearing in the paper, requesting skilled and unskilled labor classifications.”
Concerning the disruption of transportation which the Union’s assertion numbered 5 above contends “will surely follow any attempt to enforce this Directive at this time, “the Secretary-Treasurer was non-committal,” except to observe that “from my observation my contact with the various union members they would not at this time accept such a radical change.”
Mr. Cobourn’s only explanation of the sixth assertion made in the Union’s statement was, that the Company’s present advertising for additional employees “might” be due to a desire to have “an extra reservoir there for contingencies.”
The Union’s contention numbered 8 above refers to the Committee’s Directive No. 6 to the Company, which requires the Company to,
“Reconsider without regard to race or color all hiring, transferring or upgrading applications filed with the Company by its Negro employees and by Negro applicants since June 24, 1941.”
When questioned as to the basis for the Union’s statement that this Directive would alter the present procedure by which transfers were made within the Company and would disturb the seniority of present employees, Mr. Cobourn conceded that the “actual wording of the Directive” did not have that effect, but stated that the “implications” to be drawn from the Directive were “that these applications or transfers and hirings were to be considered as being of that date.” The Committee’s Chairman informed Mr. Cobourn that the date stated in the Directive was intended merely to identify the time from which prior applications to the Company were to be considered, and coincided with the date of the creation of the Committee. The Chairman ruled that the Directive did not, nor was it intended to, affect the seniority of any of the Company’s present employees; it “has no relation to any possible seniority of any of the Company’s present employees; it “has no relation to any possible seniority rolls of that time.”
No further witnesses or evidence was offered by the Union.
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Raleigh Johnson, a witness called by counsel for the Committee, testified that “back as far as 1941” he and other Negro employees of the Company formed a committee and met with the President of the Company and the Chairman of the Company’s Committee on Industrial Relations, “to ask that Negroes be employed as bus men, conductors and operators, etc.;” that, at the suggestion of these Company officials, his committee endeavored, without success, to arrange a joint conference on the matter with the Company and the Union; that his committee, eventually did meet with the Union’s President, Mr. Frank P. Carney, and one other member of the Union’s Executive Board; and that
“Mr. Carney, as we interpreted it, raised the red flag right away. He said he would not consider it; he had not been authorized by the Delegates to consider it, and we got practically nowhere.”
Mr. Johnson testified further that, following this conference with the Union’s officials, his committee sought the assistance of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and that the Association “got in touch with the Philadelphia Transportation Company also and the PRT Employees Union, but from the information I get, they haven’t made much progress.”
When questioned by Committee Member Webster whether it was his understanding that the “customs” clause in the Company’s contract with the Union, and its reference to past practices, had any relation to races involved, Mr. Johnson stated, “It was never my understanding. We were always led to believe just the opposite.” In answer to the question, “Did you know that you and the other Negro members were paying dues into an organization which had written a contract interpreted so as to freeze you in certain positions and prevent you from being employed as a bus driver or street car motorman or conductor in the event the Company desired to so do,” the witness replied,
“I did not know that. I thought just the opposite. . . . My interpretation was we knew we would not be able to interrupt the seniority, but I always felt when the time presented itself, we would be able to advance to those positions.”
Mr. Roosevelt Neal was called as a witness by counsel for the Committee and testified that he was a Delegate in the Union and was present with Mr. Johnson at the time of the conference with Mr. Carney, the Union’s President. Mr. Neal stated that he recalled the NAACP’s letter to the Union requesting a conference; that the letter was read at the February, 1943, meeting of the Delegates but no action was taken thereon; that he inquired at the March meeting what answer had been sent and was informed by Mr. Carney that no answer had been sent. He further testified that at this March meeting a motion was made and carried “that the letter be ignored;” but “a Delegate got up and stated, ‘Gentlemen, that certainly is an insult to us. If you don’t want us in the Union you shouldn’t try to insult us like that;” and that following this discussion on the floor, the motion was reconsidered and it was voted that the letter be answered.
No rebuttal testimony was offered by the Union nor did the Union at any time challenge or object to the above testimony given by witnesses called by counsel for the Committee.
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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a statement at the hearing reviewing its efforts to secure employment by the Company of Negro platform workers. According to the statement, the Association wrote the President of the Union on January 18, 1943, requesting “an opportunity to discuss this matter with you.” The Union, by its President, replied on March 2, 1943, that the Association’s communication “was brought before the Union Delegates and you are hereby advised that the matter of which you write is not a subject over which the Union has any control. Therefore, no action was taken.” This reply from the Union, according to the statement, was referred by the Association to the Company and, the statement continues, “the management stated that the company’s contract with the PRT Employees Union prohibited the extension of Negro employment beyond present customs ‘unless the Union should first agree to such extension.’”
A statement urging both the Company and the Union to comply with the Committee’s Directives was filed at the hearing by The Council for Equal Job Opportunity, an association representing 17 civic, labor, professional, racial and religious organizations in the City of Philadelphia.
The Catholic Inter-Collegiate Inter-Racial Council of Philadelphia “comprised of delegates from Catholic High Schools and Colleges and Faculties,” filed at the hearing a copy of a resolution sent by the Council to the Company, the Union and to the Mayor of Philadelphia. The resolution urged the Company and the Union “to reconsider their stand and to follow the example of other leading cities in the country and open these avenues of employment to qualified Negro men.”
The National Urban League also filed a statement detailing the effect of public opinion, sympathetic employer cooperation and enlightened Union leadership in securing the employment of Negroes in platform positions with the New York City, Detroit and Chicago transportation systems.
Finally, there was included in the record of the evidence, a summary prepared by the Committee’s research staffentitled, “Employment of Negroes in Local Transit Industry.” This summary indicated that a total of 2,121 Negroes are employed as motormen, conductors and bus drivers in the cities of San Francisco, California; Detroit, Michigan; Flushing, Buffalo, and New York City, New York; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
* * * * * * * * *
The Committee has given careful consideration to each of the contentions asserted by the Union in opposition to the Committee’s Directive, and has reached the conclusion that the Union has shown no cause why Executive Order No. 9346 and the Committee’s Directive to the Union, issued pursuant thereto, should not be complied with according to their terms.
The Union’s first, second and eight contentions are the only ones which go to the merits of the issue. These will be discussed later.
The remaining contentions of the Union are addressed to a presumed discretion in this Committee to determine whether the President’s Order shall or shall not be obeyed. In advancing such contentions, the Union overlooks the basic fact that this Committee is charged by the President, as Commander-in-Chief, with the obligation to “obtain elimination of such discrimination” as it finds to be violative of the national policy set forth in the Order. In any case in which the Committee finds discrimination prohibited by the Order, its obligation to take appropriate steps to eliminate this discrimination is fixed; and the Committee has no discretion to act or to refrain from acting according to the wishes of the party or party charged. Moreover, even if the substantive sufficiency of these contentions be assumed, the Committee is of the opinion that none of them is supported by any evidence presented at the hearing and each is refuted by the admissions of the Union’s Secretary-Treasurer, or by the several statements presented at the hearing.
Special mention, however, should be made of the Union’s ninth contention, that its “over 1,000 members” now in the armed forces should be consulted before the Committee requires it to cease its discriminatory practices and comply with the President’s Order. In the opinion of the Committee this contention can only be characterized as a device seemingly conceived by the Union’s Executive Board as a means to forestall compliance. Obviously, however, even if it were possible to poll the Union’s members who are now serving in the armed forces, their judgment could not be taken to override the President’s Order. The alleviation of the present critical manpower situation, the assurance of an adequate volume of supplies to our Army and Navy, and the successful prosecution of the war, cannot be held in abeyance pending the ascertainment of the racial views of any special group. The Committee will presume that the members of our armed forces who daily are risking or preparing to risk their lives in the cause of world democracy, as well as those busily engaged in making America the “Arsenal of Democracy,” believe in democracy at home for all citizens irrespective of race, creed, color or national origin.
There remains to be considered the three contentions of the Union, the first, second and eighth, which are addressed to the merits of the issue. The Union’s first contention—that it has not discriminated—must fail because by the testimony of its own witness it admits that its policy is to exclude Negroes from jobs held by its white members and to exclude white employees from jobs held by Negroes. Such a policy constitutes racial discrimination against both white and colored employees and applicants for employment, and violates the Executive Order. Admittedly, too, the Union’s interpretation of the “customs” clause in its contract with the Company tends to perpetuate this discriminatory policy.
The Union’s second contention is regarded by the Committee as a challenge to its jurisdiction. Executive Order No. 9346, issued by the President on May 27, 1943, states:
NOW, THEREFORE, By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and statutes, and as President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of any person in war industries or in Government by reason of race, creed, color, or national origin, and I do hereby declare that it is the duty of all employers, . . . and all labor organizations, in furtherance of this policy and of this Order, to eliminate discrimination in regard to hire, tenure, terms or conditions of employment, or union membership because of race, creed, color, or national origin.”
That Order also created the present Committee and empowered it to “receive and investigate complaints of discrimination, . . . conduct hearings, make findings of fact and take appropriate steps to obtain elimination of such discrimination.”
In the absence of legislative enactments to the contrary, the power of the President to declare what the public policy of the United States shall be and how that policy shall be effectuated, cannot be seriously doubted. It is a power inherent in his position as the Nation’s Chief Executive and in war time it is enhanced by his additional duties as Commander-in-Chief.
The provisions of the above Order, however, do not “declare” a policy; they simply “reaffirm” what is and has been our national policy for more than three-quarters of a century.
On numerous occasions—especially in recent years—the Congress has inserted provisions in its legislative enactments forbidding discrimination based on race, color, or creed. These provisions were designed to give practical effect to the policy of the National Government, implicit in the Constitution itself, that no citizen should be denied, solely because of his race, creed, or color, that equality of employment opportunity necessary to enable him to work at his highest skill, to earn a livelihood, and to contribute to the defense of his country. This principle, embedded in the framework of our democratic form of government, is not simply a plus platitude to be acknowledged and ignored; it is the cornerstone of our American way of life, amply buttressed by the power of our Government and the moral opinion of all of its citizens.
The President’s Order is thus merely declaratory of fundamental Federal policy; and the duties it declares are duties imposed not by the Order itself but by the full force of the national public opinion which it affirms.
Nor can the President’s power to create this Committee and charge it with the duty of effectuating this national policy on his behalf, be doubted. The Constitution provides that the President shall “take care that the laws be faithfully executed;” the public policy of the United States is as much a “law” of the United States as any statutory enactment.
The jurisdiction of the Committee in this particular case is likewise clear. The Company has admitted in its “Agreed Statement of the Facts” that it is supplying essential transportation services to the millions of war workers employed in the Philadelphia area; and it concedes that its operations are “within the jurisdiction conferred upon the President’s Committee.” Moreover, the Union’s statement also concedes that the Company’s activities are “essential to the war effort.” The contention of the Union, however, assumes that the scope of the Committee’s powers under Executive Order 9346 is limited to companies holding contracts with Government agencies. This assumption finds no warrant in the Order itself, nor in the purpose stated in the Order. The power of this Committee, according to the Order, extends to all “war industries.” There are numerous industries whose successful functioning and the expeditious satisfaction of whose manpower needs directly and intimately affect the successful prosecution of the war, notwithstanding they have no formal contractual arrangements with any Government agency. The Committee has consistently asserted its jurisdiction in such instances with its opinion that its power “to investigate” and to “take appropriate steps to obtain elimination of such discrimination” as violates the Order, extends to all industries classified by the War Manpower Commission as “essential” to the effective prosecution of the war. A fortiori, its power extends to all employees’ unions in those industries.
Concerning the Union’s eighth contention, the Committee is of the opinion that nothing in its Directive to the Company—to reconsider without regard to race or color all employment and transfer applications filed by Negroes since June 25, 1941—interferes with the seniority or transfer rights of the Company’s employees. Accordingly, the Committee approves the ruling made at the hearing by its Chairman on this contention.
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By virtue of the authority vested in it by Executive Order No. 9346, the Committee ORDERS:
That the Findings made its Proposed Findings and Directives, attached hereto and heretofore issued to the Philadelphia Transportation Company, and the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees Union be, and they are hereby affirmed.
The Committee DIRECTS:
That the Directive attached hereto, and heretofore issued to the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees Union on November 17, 1943, be, and the same is, hereby made effective this day.
The Committee further DIRECTS:
That the Philadelphia Transportation Company, as to whom the Directives of this Committee became final on November 27, 1943, comply with the aforementioned Directives immediately; and that, should the Company’s efforts in this respect meet with any opposition by or on behalf of the Union, or by or on behalf of any other person, the Company shall report to this Committee the nature of that opposition together with the names and addresses of the person or persons responsible’ therefore.
BEFORE THE PRESIDENT’S COMMITTEE ON FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE, WITH FINDINGS AND DIRECTIVES in the matter of PHILADELPHIA TRANSPORTATION COMPANY and PHILADELPHIA RAPID TRANSIT EMPLOYEES’ UNION
On Friday, November 5, 1943, in the forenoon, the Chairman pursuant to prior appointment, met at Philadelphia, Pa., with officials of the Philadelphia Transportation Company and counsel for the Company. As a result of this conference, the Company agreed that the attached “Statement of Facts” embodies a correct statement of the relevant facts and the position of the Company with reference to those facts.
In the afternoon of the same day the Chairman met with the President, Secretary-Treasurer, and counsel for the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees’ Union. The above mentioned “Statement of Facts” was discussed with these officials and their attention likewise was called to the attached “Supplemental Statement of Facts.” The Union’s officials and their counsel voiced no disapproval as to the correctness of either the attached “Statement of Facts” or “Supplemental Statement of Facts.” They indicated, however, that they could not speak for their Union until they had had an opportunity to present the matter to the Union’s delegates. It was agreed that an effort would be made to convene the Union’s delegates for this purpose on or before November 12, 1943.
On the basis of the agreed attached “Statement of Facts” and in the absence of any objection by the Union to the attached “Supplemental Statement of Facts,” the Committee, by virtue of the authority conferred upon it by Executive Order 9346 to “make findings of fact and take appropriate steps to obtain elimination . . . discrimination” does hereby issue to the Company and to the Union the following proposed findings and directives which shall become final on November 27, 1943, unless, prior to that date, either the Company or the Union shall file with the Chairman at Washington, D.C. a request for a public hearing.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The Committee finds the facts as set forth in the attached “Statement of Facts” and “Supplemental Statement of Facts.”
2. The Committee finds that the Philadelphia Transportation Company has refused and still refuses, because of their race or color, to to employ Negro applicants in, and to upgrade its Negro employees to positions as street car and motor coach operators and conductors, motormen, guards, platform attendants, and station cashiers on its elevated and subway lines; and in or to all job classifications not presently held by Negro employees of the Company.
3. The Committee finds further that the refusal of the Company to employ or upgrade Negroes, as set forth in Finding No. 2, above, violates Executive Order 9346.
4. The Committee finds that the Company and the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees’ Union are parties to a contract which provides, in part, “all existing . . . customs bearing on the employer-employee relationship shall continue in full force and effect until changed by agreement between the parties.”
5. The Committee finds that the Company and the Union have interpreted the above contractual provision so as to prohibit the employment or promotion by the Company of qualified Negroes in or to all job classifications not presently held by Negro employees of the Company.
6. The Committee finds further that the above-quoted contractual provision when given the interpretation set forth in Finding No. 4, above, constitutes discrimination because of their race or color, against Negro employees of the Company and Negro applicants for employment with the Company, and violates Executive Order 9346.
DIRECTIVES TO THE COMPANY
Upon the basis of the above findings of fact, the Committee directs that the Philadelphia Transportation Company, in the interest of the war effort, shall
1. Cease and desist from all discriminatory practices affecting the employment or upgrading of Negroes.
2. Cease and desist from any interpretation of its contract with the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees’ Union which has the effect of prohibiting the employment or the upgrading by the Company of qualified Negroes to positions as street car and motor coach operators and conductors, motormen, guards, platform attendants, and station cashiers on the company’s elevated and subway lines; or to any other job classifications not presently held by Negroes.
3. Give written notice to the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees’ Union, and to all other labor organizations with which the Company contracts, that it will comply fully with its obligations under Executive Order 9346 and will not discriminate against workers or employees, because of race, creed, color, or national origin, in recruiting, training, upgrading, or in any other terms or conditions of employment.
4. Issue written notice to all employment agencies whether public or private, including the United States Employment Service, and any training institution or agency operated by the Company or through which the Company recruits or trains workers, that the Company will accept workers for any and all job classifications without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.
5. Issue written instructions to all of its officers, agents, or employees having authority to hire or upgrade workers, directing them to recruit, hire, train and upgrade workers or employees without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin.
6. Issue written instructions to the Personnel Department of the Company to:
(a) Post notices in conspicuous places in the Company’s offices, stations, garages, shops, and other portions of its premises frequented by its employees, listing all upgrading opportunities and stating that applications will be received from employees, examinations given, and upgrading and training activities carried on, without regard to the applicant’s race, creed, color, or national origin.
7. Submit to the Committee’s Regional Director at Philadelphia, Pa., a copy of each of the above instructions and notices.
8. Report in writing to the Committee’s Regional Director at Philadelphia, Pa., within thirty days from the receipt of these directives, the steps taken to comply therewith.
9. File with the Committee’s Regional Director at Philadelphia, Pa., written monthly reports beginning January 1, 1944, listing the color, job classification, and wage rate of each person hired during the preceding thirty-day period and the total number of white and non-white workers employed in each job category or classification as of the date of the report.
The Company may, at any time after filing the third of such monthly reports request a relaxation of this directive.
* * * * * * * * *
DIRECTIVE TO THE UNION
1. The Committee directs that the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees’ Union, in the interest of the war effort, shall not interpret any section or provision of its contract with the Philadelphia Transportation Company so as to prohibit, limit, or in any manner interfere with, the employment or upgrading by the Company of qualified Negroes in or to positions as street car and motor coach operators and conductors; motormen, guards, platform attendants, and station cashiers on the Company’s elevated and subway lines; or in or to any job classifications with the Company not presently held by Negroes.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
PRESIDENT’S COMMITTEE ON FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE
In the Matter of
The Philadelphia Transportation Company
STATEMENT OF FACTS
A. The Company
Philadelphia Transportation Company was formed on January 1, 1940 by merger of all street railway, bus, trackless trolley and traction companies theretofore forming part of the leased system of the predecessor operating company, Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. The Company is thus the single owning and operating company of the entire street railway, trackless trolley and bus system serving Philadelphia with minor extensions into adjacent counties. This system includes the Market Street Subway-Elevated which the Company operates under lease from its wholly owned subsidiary. The City-owned Frankford Elevated and Broad Street Subway system and also the Delaware River Bridge Line high speed line are operated by the Company under leases from the City and the Delaware River Joint Commission, respectively. Under an agreement with the City made in 1907 and amended in 1939, the City is entitled to five members on the Company’s Board of Directors. The Mayor of the City is one of these five directors and the City Council elects the remaining four. Their status on the Board is in all respects the same as that of directors elected by the Company’s stockholders.
The Company employs approximately 10,900 persons, operates a fleet of 3,264 cars and buses running 325,000 miles daily, and transport daily an average of 3,300,000 passengers. Many war industries and Government war agencies are located in Philadelphia and the surrounding area served by the Company. These industries and agencies employ employees whose only practical means of transportation to and from their places of employment is the system of street, elevated, and subway lines operated exclusively by the Company. For this reason the War Manpower Commission has designated the Company “an essential organization engaged in supplying essential transportation services;” and the Company is, therefore, within the jurisdiction conferred upon the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice by Executive Orders 8802 and 9346.
B. The Complaints
The Committee has received complaints from several sources alleging that the Company has refused to upgrade or employ qualified Negroes for operating (e.g. motor coach operators, street car conductors and motormen, elevated and subway train operators, guards, starters and platform men) and clerical positions (e.g. clerks, stenographers, checkers, station cashiers), because of their race and color. The Committee also has been notified by the United States Employment Service that the Company has specifically requested that only white persons be referred to the Company for positions as motormen.
C. The Union
Most of the employees of the Company are members of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Employees’ Union, an unaffiliated local employees organization whose name was taken from the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, the corporate predecessor of the present Company. This Union has been recognized by the Company as the bargaining agent for all employees and Negroes as well as white employees are admitted to membership. Eight (8) Negroes are included in the 128 “delegates” who constitute the policy-making body of the Union, and they represent the white as well as the Negro workers in their shop or “location.” The Executive Committee of the Union is composed of the President, three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary-Treasurer. The President is the business agent for the Union.
D. Status of Negro Employees
Investigation made by the Committee indicates the following facts relative to the Company’s manpower needs and the status of its Negro employees:
In December, 1942, there were approximately 10,700 employees of the Company employed in operating its equipment and maintaining its vehicles, tracks and buildings, and in its offices. About fifteen per cent of the employees engaged in operating cars and buses had joined the Company since January 1, 1942, and due to the heavy traffic conditions during the summer of 1942, 4,500 employees passed up their usual summer vacations. In recent months the Company has employed about 220 women as operators of street cars and as starters and platform attendants on its elevated and subway lines and classes now are being conducted by the Company for the training of additional women to occupy such positions.
The Company now has in its employ 537 Negroes in the following classifications:
Practically all of the foregoing employees who are in a classification other than laborer (or in some cases, other than porter), have been upgraded by the Company. Seven of the foremen and the leadermen have white employees under them. No Negroes ever have been employed as trainmen, busmen, starters, platform attendants, car cleaners or bus cleaners, either by the Company or any of its predecessors. The only Negroes employed as bus cleaners were a few employees by an affiliated company, the interest in which owned by the Company’s predecessor and sixteen of them are now porters. Many of the white employees who now hold operating jobs with the Company were upgraded to their jobs from initial employment as bus and car cleaners. Some of the Negro porters have had previous experience as truck drivers and garage workers and several had been employed as railroad brakeman, firemen, or “make-up” men before coming to the Company. The periods of employment of the porters with the Company and its predecessor range up to twenty-three years, with one up to thirty-three years.
E. The Union Contract
The first contract between the Company and the Union was made October 5, 1937 and, except for amendments not material to this case, has remained in effect ever since.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, RG 228, Box 343, National Archives.
Enclosed is a photostatic copy of a letter received in our office on January 11, 1944 which is self-explanatory.
The envelope was postmarked from Los Angeles, California, January 7, 1944.
Because of the threats made by officials of the PRT Employees Union, the present bargaining representative of employees of the Philadelphia Transportation Company, we urge that a thorough investigation be made, of officials and PTC Employees who participated in the FEPC Hearing held by the Special Committee Investigating Executive Agencies in Washington on January 11, 1944.
The Congressional Committee is headed by Howard W. Smith of Virginia.
At the Washington hearing, definite threats were made by several PTC employees who testified.
America cannot tolerate this fascist activity and remain a democracy.
Very truly yours,
Carolyn Davenport Moore
Los Angeles, California
January 6, 1944
The Nat’l Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Being a father of 2 boys who are now somewhere in the South Pacific and who had hopes of going to work for the P.T.C. as bus drivers, but enlisted in the Navy instead, I was very well pleased to read in todays paper where the P.T.C. Union defied the F.E.P.C. order to hire Negroes.
I sure do think the Negroes of the U.S.A. have a hell of a nerve to try and pull something like this over on the white boys who are doing most of the real fighting in the war.
If you colored people would try as hard to get on the fighting front as you are trying to get the white mens jobs you would be doing some good for yourself. For the past 8 years we have been hearing so much of the great Negro fighters, Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, Bob Montgomery, Sugar Robinson, Beau Jack, Jackie Wilson, John H. Lewis, Chalky Wright, Jim Bivins, Slugger White, and out here on the West coast we have Turkey Thompson, Willie Joyce, Cecil Hudson, John Thomas, Jack Chase, and several others throughout the country. Out of the whole lot we have Louis, Robinson and Wilson in the Army. And where are they at, over in this country where most of the other Negroes who are in the armed forces are at, safe from gun fire. I was looking at Life Magazine a few months ago and it showed pictures of what a “hard time” Louis, Robinson and Wilson were having in the Army. One picture showed them sitting at a table with a table cloth on it eating with white people, another showed them with their spic and span uniform neatly pressed shaking hands with wounded white soldiers. I noted the look of disgust on two white soldiers to his left. Then it showed the great champion go thru an exhibition bout with another Negro. They should be ashamed of themselves. Why the hell don’t a few of these great Negroes fighters get over seas and do some real fighting.129
In the last 2 years you colored people are sure showing your true colors, your yellow. What happened out in Detroit last June. There is a city where they put on 1500 Negroes as motormen, conductors, and bus drivers on the D.S.R. and then riots, that is what will happen if the P.T.C. hires Negroes.
Thank God the P.T.C. does not have to depend on the nigger vote, like the politicians are doing in Phila. When you niggers try to force your way into private industry, you are asking for trouble, and you will sure as hell get it.
Hats off to the P.T.C. union, they showed you niggers how the rank and file white people feel toward you.
My sons told me if they should come home and find niggers on the P.T.C. they might mistake them for Japs and shoot them between the eyes.
John A. Davis
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Case 55, RG 228, Box 343, National Archives.
Dear Mr. Roosevelt:
PM thinks that mail from the people on the FEPC trouble will make it easier for you to know what action to take at this time.
I am greatly troubled by the attitude of a growing number of people who refuse to have “industrial democracy” while at the same time our country is fighting for a theoretical democracy all over the world. Right here in Philadelphia the Phila. Transportation Co.’s fight against hiring Negroes has produced a deplorable situation, and there has been no solution of this problem yet.
I want you to know that I am in complete agreement with the FEPC policy, and absolute Negro equality in all fields, for that matter, and am more than willing to work toward that end. But I don’t know what I can do. I talk to people . . . most of whom just aren’t interested, and I am a member of the NAACP, but that organization seems to be fighting a losing battle against the lack of interest of the majority and the active Hitlerian work of the powerful minority.
But you have the power to enforce democratic procedure, haven’t you? Won’t you, then, fight for democracy on this count, too? And if there’s anything an ordinary civilian like me can do, I will do it.
Records of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Case 55, RG 228, Box 343, National Archives.
By Ernest Calloway130
Three years have passed since a small group of red caps, station porters and ushers assembled in Chicago to form the International Brotherhood of Red Caps. Several months ago, nearly 100 delegates representing 60 local unions of the Brotherhood met in convention in New York City to review its progress and to plan the future course of the organization. To meet the growing demand of an extension of jurisdiction to service employees in allied fields of passenger transportation, the name of the organization was changed to the United Transport Service Employees of America.
Today, established firmly upon a community of interests and ideals, the United Transport Service Employees Union has gone far in uniting Negro, white and Japanese red caps in its day-to-day struggle for improved working conditions, job security and greater democracy in employer-employee relations. Today the novelty of a red cap belonging to a union of his own choosing has worn off, and the union has settled down to the routine tasks of building an effective economic weapon in behalf of the American red cap. After three years of struggle, the Union maintains a real practical interest in:
(a) The security and well-being of the red cap through contractual relations with the industry and the maintenance of such safety-valves as adequate social, labor and regulatory legislation in the industry.
(b) The general public policy of the transportation industry, which, in the final analysis, has a tremendous effect upon this security and well-being.
(c) The development of a well-informed and understanding membership, able to cope fully with any existing or future problems arising out of the collective need. The railroad industry, today, presents itself as a great battleground for
Negro employment opportunities. Present Negro employment figures represent a drastic and continuous decline in this basic industry. Once the aristocrat of Negro labor, the railroad worker is being hurriedly shoved out of the industry by various and sundry forces. Chief among these are: (1) consolidation and merging of railroads, (2) institution of time-saving machinery, (3) lack of organization among the bulk of Negro railroad workers, (4) economic consequences of racial exclusion as practiced by the dominant standard brotherhoods.
Not only is this true among Negroes, but many of these factors are responsible for the general employment decline in the railroad industry. Of 2,000,000 workers in 1920, less than a million are employed today. The 1930 census figures reveal that approximately 143,000 Negroes were employed. Today these figures have dropped considerably. Many estimate that they are as low as 75,000.
As a result, the Negro railroad worker is faced with a double problem; preserving his job on the one hand, and striving for greater security on the other. How this problem has been met by the Negro railroad worker is of tremendous importance. It in part accounts for the general lethargy among the bulk of these workers. Aside from the heroic and far-sighted struggle of the sleeping car porters and dining car employees of the American Federation of Labor, a growing crop of Negro railroad organizations has appeared upon the scene to add to the confusion and demoralization.
Blinded by the general craft dualism and racial discrimination rampant throughout the entire railroad labor movement, the general problems have been shaded from their view. Engaging in the many negative aspects of trade unionism they have been hell-bent on building a movement based primarily on extreme self-protective racial dualism. Impotent in exerting any pressure upon the industry, they exist more as fraternal orders than trade unions.
The struggle of the red cap for greater security and improved working standards, to be clearly understood, must be viewed upon this general background and his unusual past relationship to the railroad industry.
Prior to September, 1938, the American red cap had been forced to accept an inferior employee status compared to that of other workers in the industry. Disowned as a bonafide employee, the red cap was relegated to a “privileged trespasser” and “independent concessionnaire” status. Meaning, among other things, that his sole income depended upon gratuities and tips. Having become a profitable institution in railway passenger service, he was excluded from all social and labor legislation designed to improve the living and working standards of railroad workers.
Under normal conditions, the red cap found it very difficult to maintain any semblance of the highly publicized “American standard of living.” He had discovered through long experience that tips and gratuities were insufficient to provide for the needs of a home. He had learned that a family did not live by the day or week, but by the year. Some days were good; too many days were bad, and so the real story was told by the yearly average. Because of the fact that tip income varied sharply each week, a family budget had always been an unknown quantity with the red cap. These sharp variations in tip income and its effect upon living standards created the primary impulse for organization, the need for a basic wage to supplement tip income.
Briefly, this was his relationship to the industry when on a cold, bleak day in January, 1938, a group of red caps assembled in Chicago from various sections of the country to give some serious consideration to their problems as workers and citizens. It was at this memorable gathering that the challenging machinery was set into motion which was destined to throw great consternation and additional headaches into the front office of one of America’s most streamlined, efficient and powerful trade groups, the Association of American Railroads. It was out of this machinery that the red cap emerged as a consistent and militant trade unionist.
The challenge of the red caps took the immediate and concrete form of a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission. Citing several Class I railroads, the petition requested the Commission to determine the status of red caps within the meaning of the term “employee” as used in the Railway Labor Act.
The ICC answered this request by ordering all Class I railroads and Class A electric railroads to report on the various duties of red caps employed at their respective stations. Questionnaires were circulated which dealt with the nature of the work, wages received, hours of work, and methods of supervision. The findings of this investigation were reported by the selected examiners to the Commission. Substantiating the charges of the Union, the examiners recommended that the red caps be included within the term “employee” as used in the Railway Labor Act.
On July 14, 1938, attorneys for the United Transport Service Employees Union and the Association of American Railroads gathered in Washington for a public hearing on the whole question before the Commission, the Union in support of the examiners’ recommendation and the Association in opposition. Gathering nationwide attention, the case brought representatives from many organizations to appear in behalf of the red caps.
On September 29, 1938, the Interstate Commerce Commission made the following ruling on the case:
IT IS ORDERED, that the work defined as that of an employee or subordinate official in orders of this Commission now in effect be, and it is hereby amended and interpreted so as to include, the work of persons designated by such terms as “red caps,” station attendants, station porters, parcel porters, ushers, chief ushers and captains . . . whether such persons received a stated compensation or are entirely dependent upon tips, and bring the persons performing such work within the term “employee” as used in the fifth paragraph . . . of the Railway Labor Act, as amended.
This ruling of the Commission, translated into terms of job protection, meant that the red cap in his new status as an employee had recourse to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, similar to that of other employees in the industry. Furthermore, it meant that the new organization of red caps had gained a recognized legal status and was ready to take its place as an equal craft or class representative with other labor organizations operating within the railway industry. To do this involved certification from the National Mediation Board as the collective bargaining agency for the red caps employed by the various system and terminal companies. A series of elections among the red cap employees was held for this purpose.
In connection with this, the United Transport Service Employees Union, to date, has invoked the services of the National Mediation Board twenty-one times since the granting of employee status by the Interstate Commerce Commission. These cases and others where the railroads agreed to recognize the Union without the invocation of the Board’s services, involved over 2,500 red caps throughout the country, or approximately 65% of the total number of railroad red caps. Of the 2,500 red caps involved, nearly 2,200, or 90%, voted for the United Transport Service Employees Union to represent them. One hundred and sixty three, or 4%, voted for other organizations. Two hundred and one, or 6%, did not vote or their ballots were void.
Following the certification from the National Mediation Board, the Union, to date, has successfully concluded 15 signed agreements, covering nearly 50,000 miles of Class I railroads. These agreements established for the first time, seniority rights, maximum hours of service, equitable distribution of work, and recently, a basic wage. With effective grievance machinery in operation, fifteen railroad companies are covered by contracts with the Union.
* Companies agreed to recognize Union without invoking the services of the National Mediation Board.
Without these agreements already signed, and being negotiated, the United Transport Service Employees Union has jumped its first hurdle in the long-drawn-out process of building a functioning organization of workers. The full implications of the Union’s victory against the Association of American Railroads before the Interstate Commerce Commission have not yet been recorded. The far-reaching significance of this struggle can only be revealed by the passage of time.
Yet, despite the comparative success of this elementary struggle, a far greater task lies ahead of the Union in the policing of agreements and the training of members for effective service and leadership in the organization.
A comprehensive yet practical knowledge of the industry in which the red cap works will be a great asset in the handling of these common problems and the development of an intelligent and well-informed membership. The future success or failure of the Union depends largely upon the ability of rank and file members and officers to recognize quickly and understand clearly the collective problems they face; and above all, to seek their solution on the basis of this recognition and understanding.
Opportunity, 18 (June, 1940): 174–76.
CINCINNATI, O., May 30—Setting its goal for 25,000 members by 1944, the Third Biennial Convention of the United Transport Service Employees of America came to a dramatic close here as the assembled delegates of red caps, dining car employees and train porters voted unanimously to accept the invitation of the CIO to affiliate as an international union.
Realizing its great responsibility to the welfare of its growing membership, the convention adopted plans to institute an insurance department within the organization and a program of liberalization of the Railway Retirement Act which would destroy existing barriers against red caps and station porters relative to their eligibility for full retirement benefits.
President Willard S. Townsend and Secretary-Treasurer John L. Yancey were unanimously re-elected to their respective offices. New vice-presidents elected were John Hoskins of Oakland, California, and J. P. Covington, of Washington, D.C., representing the Dining Car Employees Division. Cleveland, Ohio was selected as the next convention site.
The convention went on record condemning the attack of Westbrook Pegler against the Negro press and the trade union movement and voted the institution of a boycott against all Scripps-Howard newspapers and others using Pegler’s column. It also called for the passage of stringent federal legislation embodying the principles of the President’s Executive Order which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee.
It voted to support the nation’s war effort and set as its goal for 1942 the purchase of $250,000 worth of war bonds by the members, and commended the Negro and the liberal press for fair handling of labor news stories.
UTSEA President Willard S. Townsend set the keynote to the mass meeting when he declared that “We of the UTSEA are here to lend every effort towards winning the war. But in this fight, surely one or two things must be sacrificed by those in the control of America. Either they must give up their freedom or they must sacrifice their prejudice, and if they think more of their prejudice than freedom, then surely we will lose our freedom.”
CIO News, June 1, 1942.
New York—In a long distance telephone call to the national office of the NAACP here April 4, Dr. James J. McClendon, president of the Detroit branch of the association, stated that the youth council and the senior branch had hired a sound truck to urge Negroes in Detroit not to be strikebreakers in the strike at the Ford plant.131
The sound truck circulated all through the area adjacent to the Ford plant, Dr. McClendon said, and through the Negro residential and business districts.
“Do not fall for that Homer Martin-AFL stuff,” the speakers yelled. They were referring to Martin’s proposal, backed by the AFL., that the Ford plant be opened by force, if necessary.
The Ford company, it was reported, is sending letters and telegrams to Negro workers asking them to return to work at once. Ford money arranged a mass meeting of Negroes at which they were told to stay out of the union and stick with the company.
NAACP ASKS FORD STRIKE ACTION BY DEFENSE BOARD TO AVERT RACIAL CLASH
New York—Acting on reports from Detroit that an interracial clash might break there after the city election Monday, April 7, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on April 4, requested immediate certification of the Ford strike by Secretary of Labor Perkins to the national mediation board.
Walter White, NAACP secretary, wired both Miss Perkins and President Roosevelt urging this step. Fears in Detroit were aroused by the resentment of the striking union against Negro workers who have not joined the walk-out.
Text of the NAACP telegram to President Roosevelt:
“Reports from Detroit state that after city election on Monday, Governor Van Wagoner and others will attempt back to work movement in Ford strike. We are informed by reliable newspaper men and other competent observers that disastrous race riot may take place. Apparently all efforts mediation locally have failed. To avert disastrous riot we are urging Secretary of Labor Perkins to certify immediately to National Mediation Board Ford strike. May we urge you to request such certification by Miss Perkins.”132
NAACP PROTESTS BIASED NEWS OF FORD STRIKE
New York—A protest against “news which gives the impression that Negro Ford workers form the majority of non-strikers” was lodged with the Associated Press, the United Press and the International News Service April 4 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The NAACP telegram declared this type of news service “is a serious distortion which sharpens feeling against the whole Negro race and may lead to interracial violence.”
“The truth is,” said the protest wire, “that many Negroes have joined the union and are working shoulder to shoulder with their white fellow workers to win the strike.”
The NAACP protest stated that even if the union had a majority of Ford workers signed up out of the 85,000 total, there must be thousands of white workers who have not joined. To feature, in stories and pictures, the Negro non-strikers while saying nothing about the white non-strikers is “unfair news treatment” the NAACP declared.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People press release, April 5, 1941, Group 2, NAACP Papers, Library of Congress.
Walter White, Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who has been in Detroit since Monday, made the following statement:
“The Ford strike faces the Negro with the toughest decision he has ever had to make in the matter of jobs and his relations with his fellow workers and employers. Widespread discrimination by some employers, even in national defense industries financed by taxation of Negroes as well as whites, has driven the majority of Negro workers to the ragged edge of existence. Henry Ford has not only hired more Negroes than any other Detroit employer but has given some of them the chance to rise above the menial ranks which contrasts sharply with Knudsen’s General Motors.
“The attempt to use Negroes as a club over the heads of those who wish to organize themselves in unions in the Ford plants, however, is a dangerous move in times like these. It may make for increased racial tensions which would hurt the defense program. I regret that a few colored workers, in their desperation for jobs have lent themselves to staying in the River Rouge plant. They are not helping themselves, the cause of the Negro, nor labor relations generally. Especially when every one knows that the Ford company could evacuate the plant in fifteen minutes if it really wanted the thousand or so white and Negro workers out of there. I again plead with the men in the plant to leave, to remove this source of friction, and to let the issue be peaceably settled by the vote which has been ordered by the NLRB.
“Gratitude of Negro workers to Henry Ford for jobs which other plants have denied them is understandable. But I want to remind Negro Ford workers that they cannot afford to rely on the personal kindness of any individual when what the worker wants is ‘justice.’ Death comes eventually to every one of us. It will some day come to the present heads of the Ford industrial empire. No Ford employee, colored or white, knows what the future heads of Ford may do. Honest industrial democracy in the Ford and other industries of our country offer the only real guaranty of present and future security for workers.
“The A.F. of L. has played a sorry role in the strike in its futile attempt to dupe Negro workers who are well aware of the constitutional clauses, ritualistic practices, and other devices by which a number of A.F. of L. unions maintain “lily white” unions which shut Negroes out of jobs. The UAW-CIO has conducted itself admirably in trying to remove the color line in this strike. It needs to do much more to wipe out distrust based on sad experiences of the past with union labor which Negroes have had and in teaching white labor that it will never be free as long as black labor can be exploited. If the UAW-CIO wins the right to represent the Ford workers, as now seem inevitable, it has a golden opportunity to demonstrate to Negro workers everywhere in the country that some labor unions are straight on the race question.
“In view of statements made by the UAW-CIO in this particular strike and in view of the stated policy of the CIO nationally, opposing racial discrimination, I am confident it will take advantage of this opportunity.”
Group 2, NAACP Papers, Library of Congress.
By Louis Emanuel Martin133
The Crisis, 48 (September, 1941): 284–85, 302.
DETROIT, Mar. 14—Labor’s support for Negro families whom the Ku Klux Klan and other reactionary groups have tried to bar from the Sojourner Truth federal housing project here, today won all-out praise from Paul Robeson, great concert singer.
A riot occurred at the project 10 days ago when the Negro families attempte to move their belongings from their squalid high-rent slum homes into the new federal development, named in honor of a Civil War Negro woman leader. Police arrested 109 persons, 107 of them Negroes, but made no apparent effort to stop the burning of a fiery cross by the Ku Kluxers.
Atty. Gen. Francis Biddle has already ordered a federal grand jury probe of the affair to determine if a conspiracy exists against the Negroes occupancy of the homes.
Meanwhile, Pres. R. J. Thomas of the CIO United Automobile Workers reiterated his stand in favor of Negro occupancy of the housing project originally planned by the government.
At the same time the union leader asserted that “I believe Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-minded individuals on the other hand are involved in some of the opposition to Negro occupancy.”
Thomas said he was offering U.S. Atty. J. C. Lehr “eye-witness evidence of direct invitation to violence by at least one leader of the group that is opposing Negro occupancy.”
Thomas pointed out that “particularly during this war we must have the cooperation of all races. Neither the Negro nor any other racial strain in our American life, whether it be Polish, Italian or any other minority, should be denied the rights of democracy for which our nation’s fighting men are now shedding their blood.
“Any selfish un-American group which attempts to deny such rights must be held to complete accountability under the law.”
Robeson Hails Labor
Robeson, after completing a magnificent song recital under the auspices of the United Automobile Workers Ford local, discussed the issues involved before a Sojourner Truth citizen’s committee meeting.
“The big thing in this housing dispute,” he told a cheering audience, “is that labor here is firmly on our side.”
In a moving, persuasive address, Robeson urged Negro support of the war, but warned that racial hatred and oppression such as that being stirred up by the Klan, can only injure national unity and the war effort.
War For Freedom
“This war is for freedom, and particularly for the freedom of the colored races,” he declared, “Don’t think that because the Japanese are colored, that they are leading the fight for freedom.
“A small ruthless minority in Japan persecutes all the rest of the Japanese and all the other colored races they can reach.
“Don’t think that the Japanese propaganda isn’t using this Sojourner Truth issue against the United Nations. That is why it’s important to settle this issue right.”
CIO News, March 16, 1942.
RESOLUTION No. 5
On Racial Discrimination
WHEREAS, (1) It has always been the policy and the practice of the CIO and the SWOC to fight for equal treatment for all workers, regardless of race, creed or color; and
(2) Inherent in labor’s wholehearted support of the Victory Program is its hatred of doctrines of racial and religious prejudice characteristic of our Axis enemies; and
(3) Our war effort requires complete unity of all sections of the population regardless of race, creed or color; and
(4) The practices of these industries which discriminate in employment on the basis of race, creed, or color violate our democratic principles, impede our program of production for Victory and constitute direct threats to the success of the national war effort; and
(5) Policies of segregation, Jim Crowism and discrimination in our armed forces, in housing and in any sphere of our national life undermine our democratic institutions and serve to demoralize and disunite our people; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, (1) That the United Steelworkers of America declares its firm opposition to any discrimination in industry, in government, and anywhere else on the basis of race, creed or color; and
(2) That the United Steelworkers of America pledges itself, its members, and its local organizations to the fight to secure equality of treatment for all workers, Negro and White, and all races and creeds in industrial employment and promotion, in vocational training, in union leadership and service in government and in the armed forces.
This resolution is a substitute submitted by: Local No. 1422, Chicago, Ill.; Local No. 65, South Chicago, Ill.; Local No. 1743, Buffalo, N.Y.; Local No. 2600, Bethlehem, Pa.; Local No. 1708, Oakland, Calif.; Local No. 1199, Buffalo, N.Y.; Local No. 2604, Lackawanna, N.Y.; Local No. 1477, Sharon, Pa.; Local No. 1193, Farrell, Pa.; Local No. 2523, Sharpsville, Pa.; Local No. 1126, Cleveland, Ohio; Local No. 2590, Bethlehem, Pa.; Local No. 1330, Youngstown, Ohio; Local No. 1104, Lorain, Ohio; Local No. 1014, Gary, Ind.; Local No. 1418, Campbell, Ohio; Local No. 1331, Youngstown, Ohio; Local No. 2273, Los Angeles, Calif.; Local No. 2079.
A motion was made and seconded to adopt the report of the Committee.
Delegate Fountain, Local 1212: I would like to say a few words out of appreciation. I have listened intently to everything that has gone on here in this convention. It has made my heart surge to know that the USA-CIO has gone on record staunchly, pulling no punches, outspokenly against all types of Hitlerism both at home and abroad.
The delegate from Houston, Texas, this morning hit the keynote. I for one know that my group must be educated toward unionism. Forthright and outspoken statements are coming from our Resolutions Committee. That in itself should be the basis or a springboard to launch an educational or a unionization program among my people, particularly in the Southern district.
I know that with the efforts of the CIO that dastardly bill that Mr. McDonald spoke of, that poll tax will be done away with. That is the thing that is going to help organize labor.
It is rather ironical. The poll tax law, as you know—at least I hope you do—was originally intended to keep my people from voting. It so happens that it was a boomerang; it kept not only Negroes from voting, but the poor white as well—18,000,000 of my people and almost twice that of poor white people.
Just as Mr. McDonald said, those who are in the Senate and on the floors of Congress have perpetuated themselves in office year on top of year—some of them have been there 50 years—through their political machines, with just five per cent of representation. Those are the things that helped Huey Long make a little dictatorship out of Louisiana.
I know I am expressing the sentiments of all Negro delegates here when I say that the CIO is going to make this work. You know and I know that we have these laws on the statute books of our Constitution of these United States of America, but when they were put on they were just put on as a gesture. They haven’t been made to work.
I know from looking into the faces of the delegates here, from the fellowship that I see throughout the hall and the nods from persons from Coast to Coast who, when they see you as a delegate—they don’t see you as a Negro, but you are to them, another steel worker—I know, yes, indeed I know, and I am not ashamed of the fact that there are tears in my eyes right now, because I feel that way.
After all, every Negro you see represents one out of ten Americans, I emphasize that fact—Americans—and here in the USA (almost said SWOC), here in the USA one in every ten. We are Americans; we are not Negroes and we are not Japanese Americans, and we are not German Americans, nor are we Italian Americans. We are Americans.
It is along those lines of racial friction that the Axis powers have been working. Yes, they play up the incidents, the unfortunate incidents that occur and are blotches to this country, but such things shall not be said of the USA-CIO. I know.
So, without further say, because I am all choked up, I pledge everything I have got, everything, to see that unionization and organization among my people everywhere in these United States is carried out.
The delegates stood and applauded vigorously.
Delegate Burches, Local 1066: I would like to take this occasion to urge a more practical carrying out of the fine humanitarian principles embodied in the resolution just presented.
The situation in my Local does not indicate that this is being done at all Despite the fact that we have been organized for practically six years and have been working under a contract for six years, we still have “Jim Crow” departments—that is departments where no colored people are permitted to work.
Now, this is an indication of laxity on the part of our representatives, and it should be abolished. I would like at this time to urge all of the Negro delegates to raise this issue more strongly in their Local Unions, because as Frederick Douglas, the great leader of the Negro people, has said, “He who desires freedom must strike the blow for freedom.”
Director Bittner: Mr. Chairman and fellow delegates—It will take me about a minute to explain to you that first the Committee has a report to make on other phases of this question, such as the Poll Tax and the Civil Liberties, that will come under resolutions that we have to report to the convention.135
In order that every delegate here may understand the substance of the Committee’s report, it is an all-out resolution on legislation against any kind of discrimination because of race, creed, color, or nationality. That’s what it means; it means that and it is an all-out declaration without any qualifications whatever. We are all God’s human beings, and we should all be treated as God’s human beings.
Delegate Cook, Local 1029: Mr. Chairman and delegates—The resolution speaks for itself, but I feel that I want to say how much I appreciate the sentiments embodied in the resolution. So far as racial discrimination is concerned in my Local, it is scarcely noticed, but in the plant in which I work there are only nine Negroes, eight of whom are in the Union, five of whom are holding office. I have been the president since 1937, without any opposition.
In the Chicago district and throughout some of the Middle Western sections recently there have been some forms of organization showing up here and yonder among Negroes. One was the Progressive Negro Steel Workers of America, which held its meeting last month in Chicago. They said the Steel Workers Committee had written on paper that there shall be no discrimination against race, creed or color, and they pointed out all the way back to 1869 at the time of the Civil War and what happened after that war, and said that it was soon forgotten. They had high respect for Mr. Murray, but they said that Mr. Murray will not live always, and we will be hampered with Ku Klux and Black Legions and the whole CIO will turn against us, as things happened at the time of the Civil War.
There could not be any finer resolution presented today. There is discrimination against all people, minority groups; and we know that on every street corner in Chicago, especially in the black belt section, nine Negroes out of every ten each day are met with some agent of the Axis powers attempting to destroy the unity which the CIO and the United Steelworkers of America are now about to create.
We who are in the leadership of our Unions say that they shall not pass. We are going to work hand in hand with our Union and see to it that the demonstrations of this Union are upheld before the enemies, the reactionary forces both within and without. We can now return to our people at home and into our communities, the Negroes and white delegates, and break down the Fifth Column Nazis who are trying to destroy and weaken our national front, in order to destroy the morale of the United Nations of the world.
The Japanese are also busy in large cities, not the Japanese themselves, but they are under cover. You can notice their influence in trying to make this appear to be a color war. With the agents of Hitler, they are working within our trade union movement in order to stir up dissension against the leaders and members of the Union.
This resolution will bury all of that. We, as one of the speakers said before—and I would like to repeat it to the Negro steel workers of the United States—we are not going to have any trouble with the members of our Union, those who are loyal to its constitution and its cause; but we will have trouble with the forces within our Union who are seeking to destroy this Union by stirring up hatred among the Negro people.
We ourselves will see to it that all forces of reaction are driven from the American shores.
The delegates arose and applauded vigorously.
Delegate Tolveroso, Local 1798: I am not questioning the sincerity of our officers, which I know is sound, especially the sincerity of our great Chairman, the President of the USA-CIO, Brother Murray. But there is a question in my mind and in the minds of the delegation from our Local in California, as to why the Arrangements Committee sent out a notification to all Locals giving us instructions that white delegates in Cleveland would have arrangements in different hotels, and the colored delegates would have arrangements made in other hotels. That is what I would like to ask from the Arrangements Committee, why they did a thing like that, if we are going to be consistent.
Chairman Murray: Secretary McDonald can answer the question.
Secretary McDonald: I think the brother is a bit mistaken. The notice which accompanied the Call for the convention did not say anything at all about the colored delegates going to certain hotels, but it just so happens that there are some colored delegates who want to go to colored hotels. For the information and guidance of those brothers who do want to go to colored hotels, we put that information in the notice.
The motion to adopt the Committee’s report on Resolution No. 5 was carried.
Proceedings of the First Constitutional Convention of the United Steelworkers of America, 1942, Vol. I, pp. 136–39.
Name and Affiliation
This Organization shall be known as the United Steelworkers of America, hereinafter also referred to as the International Union.
The International Union shall be affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
First. To unite in this industrial union, regardless of race, creed, color or nationality, all workers and workmen and working women eligible for membership, employed in and around iron and steel manufacturing, processing and fabricating mills and factories in the United States and Canada.
Second. To establish through collective bargaining adequate wage standards, shorter hours of work and improvements in the conditions of employment for the workers in the industry.
Third. To secure legislation safeguarding the economic security and social welfare of the workers in the industry, to protect and extend our democratic institutions and civil rights and liberties and thus to perpetuate the cherished traditions of our democracy.
Eligibility of Members
All working men and working women, regardless of race, creed, color or nationality, employed in and around iron and steel manufacturing, processing and fabricating mills and factories, or in any other place now under the jurisdiction of the International Union, in the United States and Canada or officers staff representatives or employees of the International Union or of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, are eligible to membership.
No person having the power, in the management of any mill or factory, to hire or fire shall be eligible for membership.
Persons having supervisory power, excluding the right to hire and fire, shall be eligible to membership subject to the approval of the Local Union and the International Executive Board.
International Officers, International Tellers, International Executive Board and Delegates to the Conventions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations
Section 1. The International Officers of the International Union shall be the International President, the International Secretary-Treasurer and two Assistants to the International President. There shall be one District Director for each District, three International Tellers, and a National Director for Canada.
Sec. 2. The term of office of the International Officers, International Executive Board members, International Tellers and Delegates to the Convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations shall be two years, except that the International Officers and Executive Board shall be one year.
Constitution of the United Steelworkers of America, CIO, adopted at Cleveland, Ohio, May 22, 1942, pp. 3–5
Following is a summary of the program submitted to the late Mayor William Dee Becker by the St. Louis Industrial Union Council, CIO, to prevent a repetition of the Detroit tragedy in St. Louis.
1. Appoint a citizen’s committee representative of white and Negro groups, churches, labor, and industry, to promote racial understanding, and to study the underlying factors of inter-racial problems.
2. Call upon all citizens to conduct themselves so as to advance national unity, regardless of race or creed.
3. Call a representative conference of the clergy, labor, and industry, to promote inter-racial unity for victory in the war, with special attention to the full use of all manpower for war production.
4. Isolate and suppress any incident that might lead to racial strife by calling in federal troops to supplant the police in the event of the slightest incident. Announce a policy that, in the event of a riot, inciters will be prosecuted for treason.
5. Prevent friction on crowded street cars and buses by equal treatment of all passengers, and by having persons casting racial slurs for disturbing the peace.
6. Check the circulation of inflammatory rumors, with the help of the FBI.
7. Ask President Roosevelt to address the nation over the radio on interracial understanding.
8. Issue a proclamation embodying these actions.
Mayor A. P. Kaufmann has announced that he will continue the work of the late Mayor Becker on this program, and will name the committee proposed in Point 1. Before his untimely death, Mayor Becker had shown a generally favorable attitude on the whole program. The CIO Council is taking it up further with the new mayor.
Flier in possession of the editors.
WHEREAS, 1) The need for war materials is so great and so immediate that the rejection of the services of able men and women by industry because of prejudice against them for reasons of race, creed, and color is an inexcusable risk to national security, and
2) Prejudice and discrimination in our industrial life, against the Negro particularly, has long been a shameful blot on our national record which becomes less and less tolerable as citizens are called upon to make equal sacrifice in the defense of the country, and
3) The President’s Committee of Fair Employment Practice, of which representatives of organized labor are members has already shown in a number of hearings held in various parts of the country that while many corporations working on government war contracts give lip service to the national policy of non-discrimination, in practice they find many subtle ways of evading their obligation to deal fairly and impartially among workers and among seekers for jobs, and
4) The experience of many CIO organizations shows that discrimination for racial reasons, particularly against Negroes, is widespread throughout our war industries, and constitutes a condition which cannot be tolerated indefinitely by a free nation fighting for the rights of plain people everywhere in the world; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, 1) That the CIO condemns the practices followed by some employers which prevent the full utilization of our productive man-power in the war effort as a result of the discriminatory exclusion of workers from war production plants by reason of race, creed, or color, and calls upon progressive business management everywhere to direct its attention constructively to this problem, with a view to fostering harmonious relationships among workers of different nationalities, religions, and races within their plants, and the elimination of the discriminatory procedures now as widely practiced by managerial personnel and
2) That the CIO reaffirms its traditional stand against discrimination on grounds against race, creed, or color, in American industry, and urges its affiliates to bend every effort to help in the elimination of prejudices and discriminatory practices in their respective fields.
CIO News, March 30, 1942.
Washington, July 18—Assurances that a declaration “re-defining the citizenship rights of Negro Americans” will be discussed with President Roosevelt were received by a delegation of Negro union and civic leaders that visited the Justice Department here this week.
The delegation, led by Ewart Guinier, president of the N.Y. District of the CIO State, County and Municipal Workers and Dorothy Funn, of the Teachers Union, of N.Y.C., called at the Department to protest recent Negro lynchings and to point out the dangers to national unity and the war effort that are involved in continued anti-Negro discrimination.
The delegation presented a statement adopted by the Negro Labor Victory Committee in New York, which said in part:
“We call upon our Commander-in-Chief, President Roosevelt, to issue a proclamation re-defining the citizenship rights of Negro Americans; to ask the governors of the 48 states and the mayors of our cities to issue like proclamations; and to order all Federal agencies, especially the Department of Justice, to take swift and appropriate action to safeguard the rights of Negro Americans.”
CIO News, July 10, 1942.
NEW YORK, July 18—Failure of the Spring Products Manufacturing Co., of Long Island City, to secure war contracts may force the plant to close down, throwing 450 workers, 95 per cent of them Negroes, out of work, unless Government officials heed the protests of CIO and Negro groups.
Local 91 of the CIO United Furniture Workers, which has a contract with the firm, is planning a mass meeting here to arouse interest in the plight of these 450 workers who face the loss of their jobs and $300,000 in annual wages unless War Production Chief Donald M. Nelson acts at once to prevent the sale of the plant at public auction.
A delegation of CIO union officials, including Morris Muster, international president of the UFW, and a co-chairman of the Negro Labor Victory Committee conferred in Washington with McNutt and other government officials, and also told their story to Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York, who promised to help them.136
As explained by members of the delegation, Spring Products, a plant covering more than a city block, manufactured box springs, studio couches, steel beds, inner springs for mattresses and units for upholstered furniture.
A part of the plant had already been converted for the production of war materials. The firm won high praise from the government when it completed a war order for 800,000 bomb springs more than a month ago. It has also turned out thousands of army cots.
For several months, the head of the firm, working closely with officials of the union, has attempted to get war contracts from Washington. He offered to spend $50,000 to complete the conversion of plant machinery for war work, and sent a detailed report to the War Production Board on 16 types of war materials which his plant can turn out. These include ammunition belts, steel helmets, army cots, bunks for ships and other articles needed in the war.
A few weeks ago he notified the union that unless he was able to get war contracts, the plant would be forced to close. Horace Small, vice president of the UFW local and a member of the labor-management committee at the plant, called a union meeting, and plans were formulated to conduct a campaign to get war contracts for the plant.
“Loss of these jobs,” Small said, “hits Negro workers a body blow, particularly because of prejudice as usual on the part of many employers, makes it difficult for them to get jobs in war industry, despite their skills.”
Action in support of the Spring Products workers was taken by the N.Y. CIO Council which sent a request to the War Production Board urging that war contracts be given to the plant.
CIO News, July 10, 1942.
By Horace Cayton
CHICAGO, Aug. 13—The United Auto Workers, CIO—the largest body of organized workers in the world—held its seventh annual convention here last week, with approximately 75 Negro delegates among the nearly 1800 in attendance.
Highlighting the convention activities were the resolutions endorsing The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Double V” campaign and the strong condemnation of racial discrimination.137
The latter resolution, worded in exceptionally strong language, was passed at the insistence of both white and colored rank and file convention delegates. It urged Congress to give FEPC “enforcing powers,” asked for a probe of Klan activities, instructed the union to integrate Negro women into industry, sought integration of Negro workers in plants where none are employed, called upon responsible heads in the government to establish mixed regiments in the Army and cited the UAW Constitution which reads in part, “To unite in one organization regardless of race, creed, color, political affiliation on nationality, all employees under the jurisdiction of the International Union.”
Issues Draw Fire
This union, which met here last week, is the youngest, largest, roudiest and most democratic union in the country. It came dangerously close to kicking over all traces, as several points came out in direct opposition to the careful plans of the union’s administration. Nothing is sacred to those boys in the automobile industry, and the questions of rank and file control time and again upset convention deliberations.
The officers of the union shared to an extent the dissatisfaction of the rank and file delegates as to the equality of sacrificing principle to voluntarily make a pledge of “no strike” for the duration.
They did not want the union to go as far as it did in challenging the A.F. of L. and company unions, who still receive premium pay for overtime and Sunday work. Other issues which the administration lost to the delegates who could not be ruled and in some cases could not even be controlled, were those pertaining to the amount of wage increases for national officers and an increase in dues to build up a post-war fund.
Delegates Fail to Elect Board Members
Negro delegates early in the convention, started working to elect candidates of their own choice in their respective districts.
They also began work towards two major objectives—the election of a Negro board member and the introduction of a resolution on the Negro question “with teeth.” The resolution sought to cope with the numerous wildcat strikes in plants upon the introduction of Negroes in the war production program.
Walter Hardin, veteran organizer and chairman of the interracial committee of the International was favored as a strong candidate when the convention opened. He had the personal backing of the international president, R. J. Thomas. Hardin, it was reported, favored the introduction of a constitution change which would make a position for a Negro “board member-at-large.” This resolution was reported out of committee and Hardin’s chances faded.
Sheffield Beaten in Last-Minute Shift
In a caucus of the Negro delegates called shortly after the convention began, it was agreed to try and elect a Negro from one of the regional offices without attempting to change the constitution.
Oscar Noble of the Pontiac local, young international representative now attached to the Ford plant, was chosen as the delegate to run from his district. With a change in regional lines which affected the Ford plant from which Noble had expected much of his strength, it soon became apparent that he couldn’t win.
Most of the delegates then met again, and it was decided that Horace Sheffield should run from the Ford district in spite of a hasty last-minute campaign. Sheffield was defeated for office and no Negro was elected from the convention to the international board.
Strong Resolution Passed by Delegates
Delegates were successful in obtaining a strong resolution on the Negro problem. Seven or eight resolutions were presented to the committee, which voted to present the convention with one which took a “middle-of-the-road” position on the problem of integrating Negroes into the union.
“In all previous conventions, we have passed these beautiful resolutions stating we are opposed to discrimination against the Negro race. However, we have now reached a juncture in American life where Negroes are no longer going to receive just membership only in a union or in the American way of life.
“We have reached the point where we, too, are human and want a change of equitable participation in the affairs and economic fruits of American life. We want full integration into this Union.”
Sheffield’s speech was wildly applauded. The “middle-of-the-road” resolution was overwhelmingly voted down and referred back to the committee. The more powerful resolution, referred to above, was then brought in and immediately adopted.
Pittsburgh Courier, August 15, 1942.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22—CIO Pres. Philip Murray of the CIO today announced appointment of a CIO committee to investigate and study the entire problem of equality of opportunity for Negro workers in American industry.
Named to the committee were James B. Carey, secretary of the CIO; and Willard S. Townsend, president of the United Transport Service Employees of America, a CIO affiliate with headquarters in Chicago. Townsend is the first Negro member of the CIO executive board.
President Murray instructed the committee to report on its investigation to the next meeting of the CIO’s general executive board.
In announcing the survey, Murray reiterated the CIO’s affirmative stand against anti-Negro discrimination as a danger to American democracy, especially in war time. The CIO head is a member of the Fair Employment Practices Committee with John Brophy serving as alternate member. This committee has investigated discrimination against Negroes and other minority groups in a number of areas throughout the country.
Carey and Townsend, in announcing their survey, charged:
“Discrimination against Negroes and other minority groups has always been a blight and a paradox in this democracy, the very existence of which is based on a declaration that ‘all men are created free and equal.’
“Since its inception, the CIO has vigourously opposed racial bias and intolerance. The constitution of the CIO expressly outlaws membership barriers based on differences of nationality or race. In every national CIO convention, and in hundreds of regional and local meetings, members of the CIO have indicated their opposition to discrimination.
“The war has taught many Americans a long-needed lesson; that a divided nation cannot stand up against the Axis, that a solid unity of all the people is a vital necessity if we are to preserve and amplify our American democracy against its foes at home and abroad.
“We are gratified that some progress has been made in recent months toward bringing about the equality of opportunity which is the goal of labor and progressive Americans. The Fair Employment Practices Committee has served a highly useful purpose in putting the spotlight on some of the worst examples of Hitlerite discrimination and bias in industry, and its work should be supported and strengthened.
“It is the intention of this committee to make a thorough investigation of race relations among the workers of this country, and of the employment practices of industry in general. We know that passing resolutions in conventions is not enough.
CIO News, August 24, 1942.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12—Establishment of a national CIO Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination was one of the highlights of last week’s CIO Executive Board meeting here. The committee consists of Willard S. Townsend, president of the United Transport Service Employees and James B. Carey, national CIO secretary.
At the same time, the Board adopted a resolution again calling on the government to move strongly against discrimination in war jobs, which is costing the victory effort the services of hundreds of thousands of efficient and patriotic American workers.
Both the resolution and an accompanying report praised the work of the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices, now part of the War Manpower Commission, and reaffirmed full national CIO cooperation.
They also warned against the possibility that Manpower Commission officials might “be induced to bow to the wishes of big corporative interests, particularly in the Southern states, and throttle the Committee’s highly commendable activities,” and called on the Commission to give the Committee full aid and scope for its anti-discrimination work.
The report called for legislation to implement the executive order against discrimination and make it permanent, and urged a detailed survey of war plants, community meetings on the problem, and similar steps to abolish jim crow throughout government and industry.
CIO News, September 14, 1942.
Courier Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for the CIO As Against the AFL
The American Negro, more labor conscious in the last decade than ever before in his history, expressed to The Pittsburgh Courier’s Bureau of Public Sentiment this week a preference for the policies of the Congress of Industrial Organization, rather than those of the American Federation of Labor.
In response to the question, “Do you believe the AFL offers more to the American Negro than the CIO?” a completely sampled cross-section of the colored population answered “No” 72.6% of the time; “Yes” 12.5% of the time and a rather large proportion of 14.9% could not make up their minds one way or the other.
“A Raw Deal in Both”
Such answers in the latter classification as: “Don’t believe either offers much.” “Much room for improvement in both,” “The Negro has gotten some raw deals in both,” definitely proves that the race is not unaware of the faults in organized labor.
Poll reactions in general, however, gave credit to the attempt made by the CIO in recognizing the industrial worker as a component part of the labor movement. Resentment is still held by a great majority against the AFL hierarch and the admitted biased attitude which many in that group possess in regard to the Negro worker and his aspirations for better living conditions.
Acts of discrimination as practiced by both organizations were brought to the front by the alert and sensitive Negro thinkers. The annual “Randolph humiliation” was a factor strongly involved in anti-AFL sentiment. This yearly insult to the Pullman porter president hurts that organization’s chances for Negro sympathy, if indeed, say poll followers, they really want it.
On the other hand, the CIO has consistently welcomed the Negro into most of its locals and one finds him integrated actively into the affairs of that organization. Appreciation and approval for this trend was expressed more and more as the poll progressed.
Women Were Different
Other factors favoring the CIO were cited. These included: (a) the admission of the United Transport Workers (Red Caps) into the group and Willard Townsend’s inclusion on the international body; (b) Phil Murray’s attempt to exclude unfair employment practices in industry; (c) recognition of menial employees as important cogs in the labor movement.
The low percentage of women (53.9%) who approved of the CIO, as compared with the poll norm, remains unexplained except that the Negro woman has not entered into the industrial picture in great numbers as yet, at least in those occupations which are highly organized.
Negroes are labor-conscious. This fact is irrefutable.
Next week’s question: DO YOU BELIEVE THE NAVY OFFERS THE AMERICAN NEGRO GREATER OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE HIS COUNTRY THAN THE ARMY?
Pittsburgh Courier, November 14, 1942.
Murray Demands End of Discrimination as CIO Convention Opens
By Horace R. Cayton138
BOSTON, Mass., Nov. 12—A wildly cheering assembly of CIO delegates, meeting here Monday in the ballroom of the Hotel Statler, heard President Philip Murray keynote the fifth annual convention by insisting upon labor unity, which must guarantee the abolition of racial discrimination.
Speaking with studied deliberation, the CIO chief said:
“It is wise to remember that any kind of unity must needs comprehend the complete abolition of all forms of racial discrimination.”
The delegates vigorously applauded Murray’s obvious reference to the practice of some AFL unions, which deny membership to Negroes.
Disclaiming all personal political ambitions, Murray said his prime interest was in achieving “a real unity, and not a policy of appeasement. The interests of the CIO and the individual must be protected.”
Murray’s keynote speech gave added official recognition to the status of Negroes in his organization. Unlike the ‘back-of-the-scene’ manipulations of government, industry and the armed forces, Negroes have had a place in the policy-making committees.
Willard S. Townsend, a member of the powerful resolution committee, has been working since the middle of last week, shifting and redrafting resolutions which have poured in from every national and international CIO union in the country.
John L. Yancey, secretary and treasurer of the United Transport Service Employees of America, is doing yeoman work on the convention’s constitution committee.
Other important Negro trade unionists who are here or are expected any moment are Shelton Tappes of Ford Local No. 600 in Detroit; George Hardin, chairman of the Interracial Committee of the United Automobile Workers CIO; Ferdinand Smith, international officer of the National Maritime Union and Boyd Wilson from steel.
Although there probably won’t be over 75 Negro delegates, they will represent approximately 250,000 Negro workers scattered throughout the country in the CIO.
The issues to come up before the convention are of the utmost interest to Negro workers. First, there is the problem of an overall planning and a unified approach to the manpower problem which, incidently, is the heart of the whole war production job. The CIO and its president, Philip Murray, want a voluntary approach to the problem and are against compulsory legislation for the mobilization of men.
Of special interest to the Negro workers is the possibility that the government may “freeze” men to their present jobs, which would be particularly disastrous as it would prevent upgrading of Negroes throughout industry. The opportunity for advancement during the war then would be completely lost and new white workers might even be able to do, in cases of labor shortage, come in over experienced Negroes who were frozen at the unskilled or janitor level.
Another question of great importance to the convention will be the report of the Committee on Racial Discrimination. Although the CIO has been more liberal than the AFL in this respect there are instances where there has been some discrimination and the problem of upgrading has not been met squarely.
Townsend Member of This Committee
Recently, President Murray appointed James B. Carey and Willard S. Townsend as a committee to draw up a program to deal with this problem. An excellent resolution has been prepared and this committee will proceed to work as soon as the convention appropriates the necessary funds for a full time director, and President Murray appoints this individual. In view of the plea for national unity now being voiced on every side, and of the smarting rebuke which the AFL gave to A. Philip Randolph, this resolution will be watched by Negroes throughout the country and will do much to make or break the faith in which Negro workers hold the Congress and its international officers.
There is also the question of John L. Lewis and his miners who will undoubtedly be expelled from the Congress. This relationship between 50-to-75,000 Negro coal miners and the Negro membership of the CIO will undoubtedly follow organizational lines. If Lewis continues his raiding of CIO unions, there will be a civil war in labor, with Negroes lined up on both sides.
No Chance for Labor Double-Cross
Although the opening days of the convention were relatively uneventful, this in all probability, will turn out to be the most important convention of the CIO’s history. The role of labor in the national efforts has been under fire from many quarters. The political situation where labor faced the reality of a reactionary congress also gives them much concern. Finally the complete loss of labor’s independence by compulsory legislation and the freezing of wages and men in positions may strip union organizations of most of their power.
All these questions affect Negro workers. But Negroes have in addition the problem of racial discrimination and the necessity to push the union towards some sort of action which would be more effective than the important efforts of government to fully integrate black workers into industry.
Pittsburgh Courier, November 14, 1942.
By Horace R. Cayton
BOSTON, Mass. Nov. 19—“It isn’t my object to come to this body this afternoon and plead for the rights of the Negro,” said Willard S. Townsend, president of the United Transportation Employees of America, before the fifth annual convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the Statler Hotel in Boston.
“If you think more of your prejudices,” continued Townsend, “than you do of your freedom, then, by all that is holy, you will lose that freedom.”
President Philip Murray of the CIO further said to the 500 delegates:
“The fate of our nation must necessarily comprehend complete abolition of all forms of racial discrimination.”
These two speeches indicated the tone of the convention which made unprecedented commitments to the Negro and for abolition of racial prejudice in industry.
Four significant actions of the convention indicated the extent to which an “all-out” fight against prejudice and bigotry was a central theme of the convention.
It was unequivocally stated that, on a number of occasions, any labor unity between the CIO and the AFL would have to have as one of its prerequisites abolition of race prejudice in both organizations.
Murray, the first day of the convention, indicated the convention would take a stand on this question. It was not, however, until Tuesday, when the discussions of the non-discrimination resolution was introduced, that the delegates had a field day on race prejudice.
After the speeches by President Willard Townsend, Ferdinand Smith of the National Maritime Union, Walter Reuther of the United Automobile Workers, there could be no question but that the Negro had come into a new day and was receiving a recognition he had hitherto never obtained even from the Congress.
But later, there was a debate on the Labor Unity Resolution which provided:
“Unity should assume that all forms and practices of racial discrimination within unions be abolished.” At long last, the verbal, and perhaps oratorical, promise of Philip Murray before the United Auto Workers’ convention in Chicago some months ago, was reduced to writing, in a form which would bind Murray, the international officers and the executive committee by being unanimously passed.
Takes Same Stand as Courier
The anti-discrimination clause went further in stating the policy of the convention than had any previous resolution. Following the precedent set by the United Auto Workers’ convention, the delegates committed themselves to a similar position for labor as that advocated by The Pittsburgh Courier for Negroes. The resolution stated in part:
“We of the democracies are fighting Fascism at home and abroad and we are welding all races, all religions, and all peoples in a united body of warriors for democracy. Any discriminatory practices within our ranks against Negroes or other groups directly aids the enemy by creating division, dissension and confusion.”
Following this resolution which held the floor over an hour and a half,
John Yancey, secretary-treasurer of the United Transport Service; President Philip Murray, Van A. Bittner of the United Steel Workers’ organization, Walter Reuther, member of the executive board of the United Automobile Workers; Ferdinand Smith of the United Maritime Workers and Willard Townsend spoke at length.
The appointment of a committee for abolition of racial prejudice in the CIO and in industry was made some months ago. Members of this committee will now be able to act as they have the full endorsement and approval of the executive board.
The board consists of James B. Carey, chairman of the CIO and a liberal in its ranks; Willard S. Townsend, the militant and fighting president of UTSEA; Ferdinand Smith, international officer of the NMU which has made such a splendid record in race relations; Boyd Wilson, special assistant to Murray in race relations in United Steel, and James Leary, secretary and treasurer of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.139
Negroes shared in an unprecedented fashion in the policy-forming bodies of the convention. Townsend was a member of the powerful resolutions committee and it can safely be said that the clause on the abolition of racial discrimination as a prerequisite for labor unity was due almost entirely to his efforts in the pre-convention discussion of this resolution.
In contrast to government, industry, and the armed forces, it is only in the ranks of labor that Negroes are finding a method of expressing their wants and expectations and through this medium it would be possible to influence to an extent the policies of those sections of the society from which he is excluded except as puppets to carry out orders. Ferdinand Smith was a member of the Rules and Order of Business committee, and John Yancy was a member of the Constitution committee. All these men serve not only the cause of the Negro but made definite contributions to the respective committees with which they work.
There were fifteen Negro delegates among whom were Charles Brown of Omaha, Nebraska, from the Packing Workers’ Industrial Union; Richard Bancroft of Washington, from the United Federal Workers of America; Rose Burrell of Baltimore, from the newly formed Domestic Service Workers’ Union; Moses Lee of East St. Louis from the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers; Leonard Simpson of New York from the United Sugar Workers, and Noah Walter, New York, of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers.
A number of visitors were also present, including W. Richard Carter, member of the international executive board of the Shipbuilders of America; Boyd L. Wilson, international representative and assistant to Murray in steel, and Oscar Wilson of the Packing House Workers.
Pittsburgh Courier, November 21, 1942.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9—The Fair Employment Practices Committee of the federal government must be given additional funds to increase its effectiveness in ending racial discrimination declared this week.
Members of the committee are CIO Secretary James B. Carey, chairman, President Willard Townsend of the United Transport Service Employees, secretary; James J. Leary, Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers; Ferdinand Smith, National Maritime Union, and Boyd L. Wilson, United Steelworkers.
Text of their statement follows:
“The existence of discrimination against Negroes and other minorities is not only a continuing blot on American democracy, but even more seriously a drag on the total mobilization of all our people needed to win the war against Axis slavery.
Every war industry and plant in the country is crying for more manpower, desperately needed to keep the weapons of war rolling out to the offensive fighting fronts of our armed forces and our allies.
“Negro Americans are as anxious as any to work for victory, just as they are fighting for victory in the Army and the Navy. To allow employers or any other agencies to bar them from jobs as worse than unjust, it is an active help to Hitler.
“The CIO, in setting up the Committee on Racial Discrimination at its November convention, moved to implement in industry and government the policy it has always held to in its own ranks—of absolute opposition to discrimination in any form, and of complete equality of opportunity for all.
“This policy has been made national in the Executive Order of the President No. 8820 and in setting up of the Fair Employment Practices Committee. The CIO concurs fully in these steps, as it concurs in every move to promise national unity for winning the war.
“At the same time, we must point out that the job of wiping out racial discrimination is far from complete, and at the present rate of progress will scarcely be completed in time to make full answer to the needs of all-out war, or to the needs of a people’s peace.
“Too often more lip service is given to the principle of equal opportunity. Too often an employer or a whole industry, ordered to stop discriminating against Negro workers, has evaded the order by offering token employment to a handful in place of opening jobs to all who are qualified. Or again Negro workers are confined to the lowest paid, least skilled or even the menial jobs, regardless of their experience or training.
“Of course there are notable exceptions to these disruptive practices. The exceptions, however, could easily become the rule if the national policy were made completely effective. This cannot be done as long as the Fair Employment Practice Committee lack sufficient funds and sufficient personnel to do the needed job.
FEPC Lacks Funds
“At the present time, the FEPC lacks funds and personnel to do the necessary following up on each of its orders. Trained paid investigators are needed to patrol every section of industry where discrimination is suspected or found. More cooperation from other government agencies responsible for war production is needed.
“The CIO Committee on Racial Discrimination is determined to press for these and all other measures to end this gross injustice and criminal waste of needed manpower. We intend to press for more funds and more authority for the FEPC. We plan to work closely with other government agencies and with employers in the solution of the problem.
“Victory requires the full effort of every person in this country and in the United Nations. Many millions of people among our allies are looking to our country to end inequalities that hold back a speedy United Nations victory.”
CIO News, January 11, 1943.
By Neil Scott
NEW YORK, Feb. 25—Philip Murray, James Carey and Lin Coe were in town last week to participate in the TWU Madison Square Garden Rally. On Tuesday I succeeded in getting an interview with Mr. Murray, the CIO president, which lasted for the better part of an hour and a half.
I asked Mr. Murray if he thought Negro leaders were giving the labor movement sufficient support.
Mr. Murray replied quite frankly “No.” Then I asked why he thought Negro leaders were, as a general rule, so uncooperative. Mr. Murray indicated that he didn’t believe the situation could be isolated to any one specific reason but was the accumulated result of numerous and varied attitudes and ideas concerning the trade union movement.
I then questioned if Mr. Murray would be willing to sit in conference with a representative body of Negro leaders and work out a unified plan for such common objectives as: destruction of the poll tax laws of the South, lynchings, and the Dies Committee. Mr. Murray affirmed that he would be glad to, and had been wanting to do just that for a long time.
Now it is a tragic situation which threatens us as a race that our leaders cannot see the light of hope in organized labor. Even the most illiterate realize that the majority of colored people are unskilled and need protection from exploitation. Our American heritage has been that of the scab and forcefully exploited worker. This has been the case largely because colored men even to this day, have not learned the power of organization.
We have not learned to combine our strength with our friends, regardless of the color of their skin and fight for a common victory. Every Southern white man is not a poll taxer and all Northern white men don’t feel the same as Abraham Lincoln. The colored man, north and south, must find his true friends and then work toward a common goal.
Unionism Has Virtues
Despite many glowing examples to the contrary, unions represent the medium through which members of the working class, colored and white, can combine to protect themselves from the brutal lashes of their would be masters. The manufacturers’ association represents a medium through which managements can operate to keep the working class unorganized and subjected. Manufacturers have many other mediums—the anti-union press, and radio being the most potent, while workers only have their unions. “A house divided cannot stand,” and it is equally true that workers divided because of race, creed, skill or color, will be crushed by any and all who would dominate them.
James Carey, secretary-treasurer of CIO, said that he was present at a recent important meeting of colored leaders in Washington during which the personalities were so hostile that they nearly broke up the assembly. I am not taking Mr. Carey’s statement as the only basis for my belief that even our Negro leaders cannot get along among themselves. The papers have carried in detail the difference of opinion between our Northern and our Southern leaders. Leadership is not an easy capacity to assume. Leadership demands of those who wear its girdle, correct guidance to a common goal. In the case of the Negro, we assume that we all have one goal in mind—complete freedom. Then what do our leaders have to quarrel about? Who is going to be leader of the movement? Who should be on the committee to wait on the President or Mr. McNutt? Or is it, who is to be sergeant-at-arms? Certainly it could not be for such reasons so petty, for the cause is too great and we’ve paid so bitterly for our limited scope.
The fact that we have more than our quota of organizations is one of the keys to our problem. These organizations are headed by self-styled philosopher kings who hold their positions by right of “divine authority.” These organizations never hold an election of officers and are supported by the wealthy of the North who own the run-away slave shops of the South. Let us finish with so many organizations and establish an all-inclusive one. Let that organization have regularly scheduled elections so that the people might have their choice for leadership. Colored people could then move under one leader toward one common goal. Then, for God’s sake let this organization support the union movement!
Pittsburgh Courier, February 27, 1943.
DETROIT, March 4 (ANP)—A new wave of protest against working with Negroes was spread by white workers at Packard Motor Car Company during the last two weeks as anti-Negro demonstrationists employed a new technique in “hate strikes” and G. James Fleming, FEPC investigator, pressed for an early hearing in this area.
The new technique calls for short stoppages while Negro workers are booed lustily by whites who ignore the pleas of foremen and union stewards to keep production rolling. All new Negro employees at Packard’s are roundly booed as they enter the factory and union stewards report as many as four stoppages have occurred at the plant in a single day because whites protested working with Negroes.
Pittsburgh Courier, March 6, 1943.
99. OSCAR NOBLE TO VICTOR REUTHER (BOTH OF THE140 UAW WAR POLICY DIVISION), JANUARY 5, 1943
Attached is a report that was gathered by the Urban League and our own Research Department covering some 85 plants within this area as to the total number of negro women employed. There is also a confidential report attached. Guard this report as it is not for publication.
These reports along with the report of the Board of Education will give as complete a picture of the available manpower as it is possible to get at this time.
UAW War Policy Division, Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
At the present time the UAW-CIO is conducting a strike against the Ford Motor Company in order to settle discharges, grievances and discriminations. We did not want to strike the Ford Plants. We hoped that our just grievances could be settled around the conference table in a peaceful and democratic manner. The Ford Motor Company evidently does not believe in true collective bargaining that has lawfully been established by the Wagner Act. The company did everything it could to provoke a strike. The discharge of eight (8) committeemen by the company touched off the spark that led to the present strike.
THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY IS UNAMERICAN!
The Ford Motor Company has been found guilty of violating the federal Wagner Act by the Labor Board. The board’s position has been upheld by the District Circuit Court and the United States Supreme Court. The Ford Motor Company has been ordered to rehire over a thousand workers with full back pay.
FORD IS NO FRIEND OF THE NEGRO!
The Ford Motor Company has played no favorites in firing Ford workers. Negro Workers as well as white workers have been fired who have dared to improve their status as workers by using their democratic rights of joining a Union.
Today the Ford Motor Company along with the AFL is posing as the champion of the Negro people. The present role that the company is playing is not new to the labor movement. Employers have always tried to divide the workers on racial, religious, nationality and other bases. Today the Ford Motor Company is trying to pit the Negro workers against the white workers in order to attempt to break the strike of the UAW-CIO. The Negro must not allow the company to use them as strikebreakers. They must demonstrate to the world that they recognize the fact that the interests of Negro workers are the same as the interests of white workers. You can strengthen the position of the Ford workers in their struggles by joining with them to bring the present strike at the Ford plant to a successful conclusion. Unity and solidarity of the Negro and white workers will lend to a splendid victory for the Ford workers.
“THE AFL STABS THE NEGRO IN THE BACK!!!”
Our message to you would not be complete unless we said something about the role that the American Federation of Labor (better known as the American Separation of Labor) is playing. The AFL is trying to use the Negro workers in a back to work movement in their futile efforts to break the strike of the Ford workers. These tactics on the part of the AFL are not new, they have performed the same role for the bosses on many occasions in the past.
The record of the AFL does not warrant the support of the Negro people. The AFL has always followed what is commonly known as a “lily-white” union policy. Negro workers have been barred from membership in many AFL unions. This policy of discrimination against the Negro workers by the AFL has led to serious unemployment problems for the Negro people. The most recent racial discrimination against the Negro people is found in the Boeing Aircraft Plant that has a closed shop contract with an AFL Federal Union which bars Negro workers from employment.
“DO NOT BE MISLED!!”
Do not be fooled or misled by false promises on the part of the Ford Motor Company or its agents including the agents of the American “Separation” of Labor. These paid agents of the Ford Motor Company are trying to lay the burden of the ill treatment of Negro workers on the organized labor movement. Negro workers have been oppressed and exploited for many years by the bosses. The CIO is the only labor union that has endeavored to end the persecution and discrimination of the Negro worker in American Industrial Life. We do not contend that our union is a cure all for all of the ills of the Negro people. We do contend, however, that the UAW-CIO is the vehicle through which the Negro worker can completely emancipate himself.
THE UAW-CIO HAS BENEFITTED THE NEGRO WORKER
In organized shops, the UAW-CIO has given the Negro worker a voice in settling grievances and other conditions of employment by establishing grievance machinery which enables the Negro worker to settle his grievances with the full power and strength of the union. The union has established “equal pay for equal work” for ALL workers, regardless of race, color, or creed. The union has established a greater degree of security for Negro workers through the establishment of seniority rules which govern hiring and lay-offs. The union has given the Negro worker a higher standard of living by establishing higher wages and vacations with pay. The UAW-CIO is not content to rest on its laurels. We know that our task will not be completed until every worker in America can be guaranteed an opportunity of earning a decent standard of living.
We wish to call upon ALL NEGRO WORKERS to rally behind the Ford workers in their struggle for industrial DEMOCRACY. UNITED WE STAND—DIVIDED WE FALL!
Ford Organizing Committee,
United Automobile Workers of America,
Affiliated with CIO
THE CIO IS YOUR ORGANIZATION!! “JOIN NOW!!’
Leaflet, April 3, 1941, Nat Ganley Papers, Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
We of the Detroit Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are impartial towards your view of the Union in the Ford Strike situation.
Our only purpose in this matter is to avoid race riots and bloodshed.
DO NOT BE USED AS STRIKE BREAKERS
Only those who have official passes should attempt to enter the plant.
Let this Strike be mediated peacefully by the government.
The Future of The Negro Worker is With the CIO!
THE NEGRO AND WHITE WORKERS IN THE FORD RIVER ROUGE PLANT ARE ON STRIKE FOR:
A Seniority System
A General Wage Increase for All Employees
Immediate Reinstatement of All Workers Discharged for Union Activity
Abolition of the Ford Spy System
Recognition of the UAW-CIO as Sole Bargaining Agent
AN END TO THE HELLISH CONDITIONS IN THE FOUNDRY
Equal Benefits for Negro and White UAW-CIO Brothers!!!!!
60,000 Negro Workers—-
—Are Members, Stewards, Chief Stewards, Committeemen, Executive Board Members and Officers of the UAW-CIO.
Don’t Be a Strikebreaker!!!!!
The UAW-CIO is Fighting for Equal Rights for Negro and White Workers Alike. No Color Prejudices—No Racial Prejudices.
Don’t Scab for Ford!!!!!
60,000 of Your Organized Negro Auto Workers Call on You to
You Are Invited to Become a Member Today By
LOCAL 600, UAW-CIO—9018 Michigan Avenue Or at Any Local Union UAW-CIO Office
UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKERS OF AMERICA, CIO
R. J. Thomas, President
George F. Addes, Secretary-Treasurer
Michael F. Widman, Jr., Director, Ford Division
CIO IS BEHIND YOU—ONWARD TO VICTORY!
Flier, probably 1943, Nat Ganley Papers, Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
Brothers John Conyers, Local Union No. 7; Samuel Fanroy, Local Union No. 7; Horace L. Sheffield, Local Union No. 600; Francis Glenn, Local Union No. 3; J. B. Hill, Local Union No. 490; Otto Johnson, Local Union No. 3; Theon L. Scott, Local Union No. 600; and Dan Carter, Local Union No. 600.
On behalf of the committee, Brother John Conyers asked permission to read the following letter:
Mr. Chairman and Board Members:
We, the committee, composed of Representatives from Dodge Local 3, Chrysler Local 7, Chrysler Local 490 and Ford Local 600 appear before this Board for the purpose of presenting discriminatory conditions as it applies to the Negro section of our International Union.
Our International Constitution and our contracts with these companies clearly states that there shall be no discrimination and promotion shall be based on seniority, also a supplementary agreement enters this picture with the National Defense. Transfers to the Defense Plants should be based on seniority and ability to do the work desired. We have Negroes with both of these requirements who have been constantly denied the right to work in this particular industry.
We have used every avenue of local procedure without any favorable results. It is the consensus of opinion of the Local Officials that this matter cannot be handled adequately by the Local Unions in question, due to many conflicting opinions, recognizing the rights of Negroes, coupled with the hesitation on the part of the Regional Directors to interpret this question in clear language, wholly understandable to the Local Unions. Such has created a situation where outside organization has been sought by the membership in the hope that they will furnish them the leadership, capable of leading them out of this situation.
The committee recognizes this as a union problem and fully believe that the International Executive Board should assume this responsibility, realizing that such has been the position of the Board in a number of other cases involving the welfare of union membership. In each case, the Board acted upon the authority invested in the constitution. While the present controversy may differ in content from previous stands on the part of Board, however, it does involve a question acknowledged by the constitution of our Union.
Therefore, it is only natural that we should come to the highest tribune of our International Union between conventions. With this question, may we further add that the lengthy controversy that has come around this question of defense work as it affects Negro Labor, should carry a public statement from our International Board, fully interpreting the policy of our Union and the position of our leaders on this matter.
Such a statement would serve to reaffirm the membership, together with outside forces that this was a Union problem and would be handled by the Union. It is not our intention here to be looked upon or referred to as a pressure group. Our presence before this International Board is representative of a legitimate grievance and we feel that the International Executive Board is the logical and proper place to bring a grievance, especially when Local Unions are reluctant to act on question of this nature.
Therefore, it is with this thought only, that we seek the audience of the International Executive Board. Having the above mentioned industries, we would appreciate that these workers from industries be heard.
|John Conyers||Local 7|
|Samuel Fanroy||Local 7|
|Horace L. Sheffield||Local 500|
|Francis Glenn||Local 3|
|J. B. Hill||Local 490|
|Otto Johnson||Local 3|
|Theon L. Scott||Local 600|
|Dan Carter||Local 600|
The above mentioned members of the committee each stated their experience in the securing of transfer of Negro workers from non-defense work to defense work. (An itemized list of a number of cases refused non-defense work may be found in the files of the Secretary-Treasurer).
All stressed the fact they desired no special concession, but in the case of where a colored worker has seniority and is able to do a certain job he be given a chance to apply for defense work.
UAW Executive Board Minutes, September 15–23, 1941, pp. 19–21, R. J. Thomas Papers, Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
By Earl Brown
On Sunday, June 20, 1943, one of the most serious race riots in American history broke out in the city of Detroit. Before it was brought under control some thirty hours later, twenty-five Negroes and nine white persons were killed and property worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars had been destroyed.
The forces which led to the outbreak in that city exist, to a greater or lesser degree, in most of our cities. Similar outbreaks have occurred elsewhere. A study of the factors leading to the outbreak in Detroit is important because it can show us how to avoid similar outbreaks, not only in Detroit, but in other cities. . . .
My first visit to wartime Detroit occurred in July, 1942. I found that although Detroit is the munitions capital of the United Nations and its war production is essential to victory, there was a disturbing lack of unity of effort. The atmosphere was tense, and the tension was increasing. There were sudden gusts of strikes for unimportant reasons—a strike occurred at the Chrysler Tank Arsenal because the men were not allowed to smoke during work.
But racial feeling was the most alarming of all. Groups of Negro zoot-suiters were brawling with gangs of young white toughs; the determination of Negroes to hold the war jobs they had won was matched by the determination of numerous white groups to oust them. There were many signs of trouble.
Eleven months later, in June, 1943, came the Detroit riot, the most serious racial conflict in this country since the East St. Louis riot in 1917. Said Mayor Jeffries: “I’ve been conscious of the seriousness of the race problem here for more than a year.” “We felt the riot coming,” said William E. Dowling, the Prosecuting Attorney of Wayne County. “Race tensions have been growing here for three years.”
Here is something of a mystery. If these responsible officials had reason to fear riot, why didn’t they take steps to prevent it? Since continuous production of munitions is vital to the prosecution of the war, why didn’t the federal government act? In March, 1943, a local newspaperman wrote to Attorney General Biddle about the critical state of affairs in Detroit. Mr. Biddle replied: “Your letter has received careful consideration, although it does not appear that there is sufficient evidence of violation of any federal statute to warrant action by this department at this time.” The federal government did not act until nearly midnight on June 21, when President Roosevelt declared a state of emergency and troops began to patrol Detroit—long after the murder, the burning, and the pillage began. . . .
One of the features of Detroit that in many ways sets it off from many other cities is the presence of great numbers of religious and political fanatics. Even before the last war Detroit was known as the city of “jazzed-up religion.” Today all shades of opinion are to be found in the city, all races, all creeds, all political attitudes and beliefs. The first figure to attract national attention was Father Charles Coughlin. Railing against Hoover and Wall Street from his radio pulpit, he soon attracted a great following in Detroit and through the Middle West. Next came the Black Legion, an organization of native white Americans and an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan—with hoods, grips, and passwords. It was organized originally for the purpose of getting and holding jobs for Southern whites, but it quickly developed into an elaborate “hate” organization—its enmity directed against Catholics, Jews, Negroes, and “radicals.” After the conviction of the Black Legion leader, Virgil F. Effinger, a former Klansman, for the murder of a Detroit Catholic named Charles Poole, the police had the clues to a long series of unsolved crimes which included several murders, arson, the bombing of Father Coughlin’s house and the Workers Book Store as well as the homes of a number of labor organizers. An investigation by a grand jury resulted in the listing of eighty-six persons as members of the Legion. In this list were found names of a member of the state legislature, the manager of the state sales tax, a city treasurer, sheriffs, and other officials.
By the middle 30’s Detroit had a representation of every kind of panacea, political nostrum, and agitation. There were the Anglo-Saxon Federation and an anti-Negro organization called the National Workers League. But the most steady, day-in and day-out exhortation came from the sensational preachers. Of these the best known are the Reverend J. Frank Norris and the Reverend Gerald L. K. Smith. Norris was born in Alabama and has held pulpits in a number of Southern towns. He was an energetic politician and brought his brimstone gospel clear to New York City, where he teamed up with the Reverend John Roach Straton and preached in a gospel tent west of Central Park. In 1935 he came to Detroit and took over the Temple Church, commuting to Fort Worth by plane in order to shepherd two flocks.
Gerald Smith has been even more active in politics than Norris. Smith was a minister and had a number of midwestern congregations before he went to Shreveport, Louisiana. He was great for muscular good will; he harangued luncheon clubs; he loved the radio; and then he fell for Huey Long. He fell so hard that he quit pastoring and became one of Huey’s lieutenants, only to have his Share-the-Wealth ambitions paralyzed when Huey was killed. There followed a dismal period when the shepherd was busy looking for a flock among the Townsendites and other unhappy souls. Finally he showed up in Detroit as the founder and manipulator of The Committee of One Million, and in Detroit he has stayed ever since. Last year he ran for the Republican senatorial nomination on a “Tires for Everybody” platform and corralled comparatively few votes. But that has neither dampened his restless ambition nor stopped his noise. In April, 1942, he brought out the first issue of a monthly periodical called The Cross and the Flag. The magazine announced that its slogan was “Christ First in America” and recounted Smith’s fight for justice and his numerous escapes from death by violence. Now he is trying to round up the remnants of the Detroit America First memberships into an American First Party.
These three men—Coughlin, Norris, and Smith—are the best known of the Detroit religious-political demagogues, but there are thousands of others. Some have been in Detroit for years; others came during the recent migrations. It is estimated that there are more than 2,500 Southern-born evangelists of one kind or another in Detroit alone, not counting those in near-by communities. This war has caused an upheaval among the little shouting sects in the South; they have split and split again, and new sects have been formed. When the flow to the war industry towns began, numerous piney-woods and sandy-bottom clerics went along representing the Last Days Church of God, the Church of God (Reformation), all brands of the Assemblies of God, the Firebrands of Jesus, the Pillar of Fire, the Pentecostal Baptists, the Christian Unity Baptists, the Two-Seed-in-Mind Baptists, and various splinters of the Holiness sects. One of the militant sects in Detroit is the American Bible Fellowship headed by a former Methodist preacher who refused to accept the merger of the Northern and Southern Methodist churches. Some of these pulpit-thumpers have gospel tents (complete with oilcloth signs, saxophone, and microphone); some have regular churches; some are radio preachers; the humbler ones have “storefront” churches or work in war plants and preach in their spare time.
There is a connection between the apocalyptic doctrine of these sects and religious and racial intolerance. The appeal is not only highly emotional but is grounded on old traditions—which in the South mean White Protestant Supremacy. A local preacher described it this way: “Their forerunners for generations preached from the crossroads and schoolhouses that ‘Christ came to His Own and His Own received Him not’—‘His Own’ being the Jews.” On a Friday night in January, 1943 at Missionary Tabernacle, the Reverend R. H. W. Lucas said that Jesus had destroyed Jerusalem because it was a Christ-crucifying city. The next Sunday morning it was stated over a national radio hook-up that the history of the Jews for the last 2,000 years is proof that God punishes a nation because of its sin. Many of these exhorters are members of the Klan off-shoot organizations, defiantly “American,” suspecting “radicals,” and completely at home with White Supremacy. For more than a decade—and increasingly during the past three years—these rustic preachers have been spreading their brand of the Word. As feeling in Detroit became more aroused over the race issue, the effect of this kind of preaching was like pouring gasoline on a bonfire.
Feelings also have been kept on edge by labor conflicts. Detroit had never been a union town, but in the bad days of the depression a number of attempts were made to organize the auto workers. The Communists, through their Trade Union Unity League, led four little strikes of auto workers in January and February, 1933. Other groups made several attempts, mostly futile, to organize the auto industry. These moves excited the alarm of the local manufacturers, and the Detroit Union League called for strong measures against labor agitation. Many prominent industrialists were members of the Union League and its utterances were judged to be the voice of business.141
Efforts to organize automobile unions—in the shape of the Associated Automobile Workers, the Automotive Industrial Workers Association, the Mechanics Educational Society of America, and others—were increased after the passage of the National Recovery Act. Gradually, the results began to show. The early unions were consolidated into the United Automobile Workers (affiliated with the CIO), and in October, 1936 the Chrysler Corporation recognized the union. Early in 1937 General Motors also made a contract with the union.
Ford was left as the only big open-shop employer in Detroit. In order to assure its position with the other firms, the new auto workers’ union had to organize Ford. It hesitated to act, however, not only because of the size of the job but because of Ford’s Negro employees. There were thousands of Southern whites in the union, and it was too clear what their attitude toward Ford’s Negro workers would be. Further, many of Ford’s Negro workers were anti-union. They were loyal to Ford as the one big industrialist who would hire Negroes.
When a Negro migrant from the South arrived in Detroit looking for a Ford job, he generally discovered that it was a good thing to get a letter from one of the Negro preachers before applying. Many of these pastors warned the migrants against listening to talk about unions and urged them to remember at all times that the one powerful friend the Negro had in Detroit was Henry Ford.
For years Ford had maintained a private police and detective system, and a part of the system was devoted to the oversight of Negro employees. What Ford’s colored workers did at home and during their hours of recreation were matters of great interest to these Ford detectives. Organization of Ford’s colored employees by the union meant not only overcoming their devotion to Ford, but also combating the influence of the spy system. Finally, in 1940, the campaign was undertaken. The CIO sent money and its best organizers to help in the campaign. The full strength of the UAW was enlisted in the effort, and the color line was declared to be a thing of the past.
The thing that eventually brought success in this campaign was an unexpected strike, which was not initiated by the union at all. Once the strike had developed, it became a question of whether Ford’s Negro help at the River Rouge plant would go out or stay at work and break the strike. The union decided to make the strike official and redouble its efforts to win over the Negroes. A group of prominent Negro citizens of Detroit urged the Ford Negro employees to stand by the union. The result was a tremendous victory for the union in the ensuing National Labor Relations Board election and the collapse of the last opposition to the UAW. Today the largest union local in the world is UAW—CIO, Local 600, the River Rouge Ford plant local. It has about 90,000 members, of whom 18,000 are Negroes. . . .
It is interesting to note that despite the racial collisions and the frequent enforcement of Jim Crow practices in Detroit, Negroes have succeeded in getting some political preferment. There are two Negro assistant prosecuting attorneys, the State Labor Commissioner is a Negro, and one of the State Senators is a Negro. The Detroit Street Railway Company, which is owned by the city, employs about a thousand Negroes—both men and women—as motormen, busdrivers, conductors, and workers of other kinds. With the police it is another matter, and this has been a burning issue. Out of 3,600 policemen, only forty are Negroes. In addition, Southern whites have been taken into the force freely, and they have frequently shown a hostile attitude toward Negroes.
The local political machine was perfectly willing to cooperate with Negro gamblers, but they had no interest whatever in the fact that most of Detroit’s Negroes lived in two wretched slum areas. The two principal Negro districts in Detroit cover about thirty square blocks on the West Side and a larger district on the East Side called Paradise Valley. This latter name goes back to First World War days and the wonder of $5 a day. “Goin’ to Paradise” meant going to a job that paid more money than there was in the world. But the section did not look like Paradise in the beginning and it does not now. There are few city areas in the United States more jam-packed. Hastings Street, a dirty thoroughfare lined with dives and gin mills, is filled from dawn to dark and until the small morning hours with a dense crowd. Here—on the East Side—live most of Detroit’s Negroes. Almost everybody now has plenty of war wages to pay for lodging, but decent houses simply do not exist. The only recourse the Negroes have is to cram themselves into the filthy valley tenements. . . .
The war naturally aggravated Detroit’s underlying instability. Anti-Negro sentiment was particularly strong in the Polish districts of Hamtramck, a suburb. As early as July, 1941, gangs of Polish paper youths provoked a series of minor riots. An editor of a Polish paper reports that anti-Negro handbills were distributed on the steps of St. Florian’s Church in Hamtramck during the Sojourner Truth riots.
For many months the Negro press in Detroit and elsewhere busily promoted a “Double-V” campaign for victory at home as well as abroad. This campaign was based on the assumption that victory in the war against the fascists abroad did not mean much if there was Jim Crow at home. Colored soldiers had told a thousand bitter stories of discrimination and lack of respect for the uniform. The killings of colored soldiers at Alexandria, Louisiana, and in other Southern communities were taken to heart. The hopes roused by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802, issued June 25, 1941, forbidding job discrimination in plants with war contracts slowly faded. The Committee on Fair Employment Practice, set up by the President shortly after the issuance of the Executive Order, was left to pine away without money or authority and was finally placed under the War Manpower Commission. If the government would do nothing, there was nothing left but the union and the determination of the Negroes themselves. Colored workers who had been promoted to more skilled jobs were ready to hold on for dear life to their new jobs, and the brimstone evangelists, viewing with alarm this resolution of the Negroes, whipped up resentment.
Shortly after the beginning of 1943 a series of anti-Negro strikes broke out in the plants. Aside from fights between individuals, there was no violence in the plants, but much bitterness was aroused. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists anti-Negro strikes in the following plants from mid-March until the end of May: United States Rubber Company; Vickers, Incorporated; Hudson Motor Car Company; Hudson Naval Arsenal; and the Packard Motor Car Company. In the Packard strike, which brought the climax, 26,883 men left work when three Negroes were upgraded. The circumstances of this strike were so peculiar that union leaders were convinced that it had been engineered by one of the anti-Negro groups in the city, but nothing was ever proved.
Shortly after the Packard strike Mayor Jeffries called together the editors of the three local dailies, the Free Press, the News, and the Times, to take counsel. The conference over, nothing was done. A procession of Negro leaders and a few prominent white citizens besought the Mayor to take heed and act before the explosion. The Mayor listened, but appeared to be more confused after these visits than before. Then everyone relaxed to await the inevitable. It came on the evening of June 20, 1943.
Belle Isle lies in the Detroit River, connected with the city and Grand Boulevard by a bridge. There were probably a hundred thousand persons in the park that hot, humid Sunday, and the greater number seem to have been Negroes. The atmosphere was anything but peaceful. Tension had increased to the breaking point. An argument between a Negro and a white man became a fist fight and the fighting spread.
A hurry call was made for the police, but by the time they arrived the brawl, involving some two hundred white sailors by this time, was eddying across the bridge into the riverside park on the mainland near the Naval Armory. The news that fighting had broken out traveled like the wind. A young man in a colored night club on Hastings Street is supposed to have grabbed the microphone about 11:30 and urged the five hundred customers present to “come on and take care of a bunch of whites who have killed a colored woman and her baby at Bell Isle Park.” The rumor was, of course, false. It was matched by another story which spread through the white districts that Negroes had raped and killed a white woman on the park bridge. By midnight fighting and looting had spread into a dozen different districts and Paradise Valley was going crazy. By two o’clock that morning a crowd of Negroes stopped an East Side street car and stoned white factory workers who were passengers. White men coming from work at the Chevrolet Gear and Axle plant, three miles away from the center of Paradise Valley, were attacked by a Negro mob.
Alfred McClung Lee, chairman of the Sociology Department of Wayne University and Norman Humphrey, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the same institution, have pieced together a remarkable time-table of the violence in Race Riot, a report on the riot. Both the authors were present and moved about the city while the fighting was in progress. Their report shows that:
At four o’clock in the morning (Monday, June 21) there was a meeting in the office of Police Commissioner Witherspoon to determine action. Mayor Jeffries, Colonel Krech (the U.S. Army commander of the Detroit area), Captain Leonard of the Michigan State Police, John Bugas (in charge of the local office of the F.B.I.), and Sheriff Baird were present. Colonel Krech told the Mayor that the military police could be on duty in Detroit in forty-nine minutes after a request from the Mayor had been cleared through the Governor and the proper U.S. Army officials. Nothing was done about this at the time, and by 6:30 A.M. Commissioner Witherspoon decided that there was a let-up in “serious rioting.”142
But there was no let-up. At 8:30 in the morning a Negro delegation asked the Mayor to send for troops. At nine o’clock Commissioner Witherspoon asked the Mayor for troops. Mayor Jeffries telephoned to the Governor, who transmitted the request by telephone to the Sixth Service Command Headquarters in Chicago. By eleven o’clock it was known that troops could not come unless martial law was declared. Governor Kelly hesitated to do so. By this time gangs of white hoodlums were roaming the streets burning Negro cars.
The police had already shown themselves to be helpless or negligent. On the previous night, police had been stationed outside the all-night Roxy movie theater. A witness reported that a threatening white crowd assembled at the entrance and every time a Negro came out of the theater the mob went for him. When the witness asked the police to get Negroes a safe-conduct through the mob, the officers replied, “See the chief about it!”
At four o’clock on Monday afternoon Major General Aurand arrived from Chicago. By that time, according to Lee and Humphrey, “the crowds of whites were increasing in size on Woodward Avenue. Milling packs of human animals hunted and killed any of the easily visible black prey which chanced into the territory.”
At 6:30 Monday night, just as Mayor Jeffries was going on the air with a plea for a return to sanity, four white boys, aged 16 to 20, shot down Moses Kiska, a middle-aged Negro, “because we didn’t have anything to do.” Still no troops, and all through the evening, after even the Mayor had admitted that the city administration and police were unable to deal with the situation, there went on an endless amount of official confusion until, at last, it was discovered precisely what had to be done to get federal intervention. Just before midnight President Roosevelt proclaimed a state of emergency, and by Tuesday morning 6,000 troops in trucks and jeeps were patrolling the city. The hold of the city authorities had so completely collapsed that it took the United States Army to get twenty-nine Negro members of the graduating class of Northeastern High School away from the closing exercises in safety.
Two days later Governor Kelly decided to ease restrictions a little, and by degrees the city began to breathe again. On Monday, June 28, Commissioner Witherspoon made a report to the City Council justifying his conduct and that of the police. “This was not believed to be the proper time,” he said, “to attempt to solve a racial conflict and a basic antagonism which had been growing and festering for years. Such a policy could well have precipitated a race riot at a much earlier date and one of much more serious proportions. The fact remains that this department did not precipitate the riot.”
Councilman George Edwards urged that a grand jury be called to investigate fifteen unsolved murders. Both the Council and Police Commissioner rejected the idea.
“Don’t get the impression that I’m afraid of a grand jury,” Commissioner Witherspoon said, “but it would be an unfair position to put any judge in.” In the end the Council smothered any action likely to uncover unpleasant facts, but it did appoint a five-man committee to plan and finance new housing and recreation facilities.
In the succeeding days and weeks there was much dodging of responsibility. The easiest “out” was to blame the Negroes, and this was done. On June 30, Mayor Jeffries said that he was “rapidly losing patience with those Negro leaders who insisted that their people do not and will not trust policemen and the Police Department. After what happened I am certain that some of these leaders are more vocal in their caustic criticism of the Police Department than they are in educating their own people to their responsibilities as citizens.”
Shortly after this, Prosecutor Dowling was visited by some members of the Mayor’s Interracial Peace Board. Apparently unaware that a reporter was in the room, the Prosecutor not only announced himself as opposed to a grand jury but declared that in his opinion the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Michigan Chronicle, the local colored weekly, were responsible for the riot. The report of the Governor’s investigating committee, issued August 11, also attempted to whitewash the local authorities. In the official statements about the riot no real effort has been made to deal directly with the more obvious reasons for it.
One of the most extreme proposals for meeting the situation came from Attorney General Biddle—a proposal that has cropped up in other circles. It will be recalled that in the previous March he had written to a Detroit reporter that he, the Attorney General, could see no basis for action by the Department of Justice. But on July 15, he wrote a letter to President Roosevelt in which he suggested “that careful consideration be given to limiting, and in some instances putting an end to Negro migrations into communities which cannot absorb them, either on account of their physical limitations or cultural background. This needs immediate and careful consideration. . . . It would seem pretty clear that no more Negroes should move to Detroit. Yet I know of no controls being considered or exercised. You might wish to have the recommendations of Mr. McNutt as to what could and should be done.”
In commenting on this statement, John Chamberlain, economic and political specialist, declared that: “Only a severe case of emotional shell-shock could have pushed Attorney General Biddle into suggesting that Negroes be chained to their places of abode, for all the world as if they were serfs on medieval manors, or slaves on the Roman latifundia. In Booker T. Washington’s day the Negro might have taken Biddle’s suggestion lying down. But no longer. Every Negro leader of any importance stresses the necessity of being polite but firm in insisting on the full protection of the Bill of Rights. This time the Negro is not going to be smacked down without making a fight of it.”
Earl Brown, Why Race Riots: Lessons from Detroit (New York, 1944), Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 87. pp. 1–3, 6–11, 14–15, 18–24.
Statement by R. J. Thomas, president, UAW-CIO
“Prosecutor William E. Dowling’s statements are the most serious incitation to race riots we have had since the riots themselves. They contribute nothing toward solution to Detroit’s racial problem. They sound like the hysterical alibi of a public official who either cannot or will not do his duty.
“I have said before that all hoodlums, regardless of color, who were responsible for the tragic riots should be punished. If Dowling has any evidence pointing to Negroes as instigators of the riots, I am sure the decent people of the Negro community will join with the non-colored citizens of Detroit in approving the prosecution.
“If Dowling believes that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is responsible for the riots, it is his sworn duty to present evidence before a Grand Jury and not to run off at the mouth in public. I think the NAACP will welcome investigation of all factors in the situation, including its own role.
“It is up to Dowling to produce any evidence he may have against the NAACP, but frankly I am of the opinion that he is attacking that organization only to cover up his own ineffectiveness or unwillingness to act.
“The NAACP is an organization of which all Americans, regardless of race or color, may be proud. It includes among its warm supporters and members Wendell L. Willkie, Judge Ira W. Jayne, Justice Frank Murphy, General Theodore Roosevelt, and Herbert H. Lehman.143
“The NAACP is a trouble-making organization in the sense that any organization that protests against injustice is a trouble-maker, in the sense that unions are trouble-makers for unfair employers, and in the same sense that those who believe in liberty are trouble-makers for Hitler.
“We must have a Grand Jury investigation of the causes and incidents of the tragic race riots. Thirty-five people cannot be killed in the streets of an American city without thorough investigation and punishment.
“It is obvious, however, that Mr. Dowling’s office is not the one to conduct such an investigation. We need a fearless, highly competent attorney who will not be subject to political or racial pressures of any kind.
“I suggest that a Grand Jury be constituted and that the American Bar Association be requested by the City of Detroit to recommend a special prosecutor. He should not come from Detroit. Our choice of such an attorney will not be a reflection on Detroit but rather an indication to the country that we are anxious to have an investigation without restriction and without interference from any individuals or pressure groups.”
United Auto Workers of America War Policy Division, Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
The mob violence and race hatred that have swept like a pestilence through a number of American cities of late constitute the worst kind of war sabotage.
They have halted or diminished war production. They have caused many deaths and serious injury to hundreds. They have turned Americans to fighting each other instead of fighting the Axis. They have disrupted national unity. They have furnished propaganda ammunition to the enemy to divide the United Nations and to throw scorn on our country.
Axis agents have unquestionably played a part in provoking this race hatred and mob violence, which so closely follow the Fascist pattern and so clearly do Hitler’s dirty work.
The authorities are working to hunt out such agents and their accomplices. Drastic measures against them are essential for our national security.
But it is equally important that all Americans should give thought to the prejudice, discriminations and injustices that provide the powder to which war saboteurs may set the match.
Job discriminations, poll tax denials of political rights, unequal community treatment of racial minorities—these are some of the dark spots in American life where race hatred is bred.
Organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, as well as direct Axis agents, whip this hatred into dangerous flames. And many Americans unthinkingly contribute to this war sabotage by repeating racial jibes and insults and spreading lying rumors from mouth to mouth.
The sound patriotism of the CIO’s position on these questions is amply demonstrated by recent events.
The CIO opposed all forms of discrimination against minorities. It fights to abolish the poll tax and other denials of equal democratic rights.
Its unions organize all workers, regardless of race, creed, color or nationality. They fight for equal treatment and equal job opportunity for all. They carry on educational work against racial prejudice and intolerance. They seek to promote the closest fraternity between all racial and national groups.
This is true Americanism at any time. But it is also a war necessity that such a program should be promoted throughout our national life.
For only so can a recurrence of the recent disasters be prevented.
CIO News, June 28, 1943.
The last three of eight important resolutions adopted by the CIO Executive Board last week are printed in this week’s CIO NEWS. The resolutions, which follow, outline in detail CIO’s policy condemning racial discrimination, CIO’s recommendation that affiliated unions intensify their legislative work to help win the war, and CIO’s proposals for post-war planning, calling for “an income for everyone . . . adequate for health and happiness.”
Let Congress Hear from You
WHEREAS, (1) During the past few months events in Congress and out have sharpened the issues before the nation and before the labor movement and have made clear the kind of fight which the CIO faces during the coming months.
Opponents of the Administration in Congress have made clearer than ever the motivation behind their program of sniping and general attack on the Administration’s war activities and organized labor.
(2) These forces have opposed effective action to bring about real economic stabilization and to assure full protection against inflation.
They have harried and attacked the price control and rent control policies. They have impeded where possible the institution of grade labeling so necessary to real price control. They have impeded and seek to prevent the adoption of an effective subsidy program so necessary to the complete roll back of prices to the September 15, 1942 level.
They have slashed appropriations of important war agencies carrying on important functions on the home front. Their special targets of attacks have been such agencies as the OWI, the Office of Civilian Defense, the OPA, the National Youth Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, and the United States Employment Service.
They have also, as part of this entire drive enacted vicious anti-labor legislation such as the Smith-Connelly Act, and the emasculating amendment to the National Labor Relations Act.
(3) These are progressive forces in Congress, anxious to furnish their support to President Roosevelt’s policies directed against inflation and for economic stabilization as indicated by the coalition of 50 Congressmen, which recently convened a conference of representatives of organized labor, consumer groups, and other interested organizations in Washington in the effort to stem the tide of opposition against the program of our Commander-in-Chief.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
(1) The CIO must recognize the need of directing its attention to ever more effective action on the legislative front.
Great progress has been made during the past year toward the awakening of the CIO to the importance of these legislative issues. Legislative committees in local unions throughout the country have begun to function with great activity because of the growing awareness that labor must act as effectively in the sphere of congressional action as it has heretofore in the sphere of collective bargaining.
(2) It is extremely important that during the coming recess period of Congress that the Senators and Congressmen be fully acquainted with the needs and demands of their constituents and to make sure that on and after their return to Washington in September Congress will be more attuned to the needs of the nation.
Toward this end the CIO pledges itself that during this Congressional recess it will seek to have organized in every community or Congressional district in which there is CIO membership a conference of representatives of organized labor, consumer groups, public and civic officials, all other interested organizations to which the Congressional representatives will be invited and at which there will be a full discussion and formulation of the important policies covering our domestic front consistent with the CIO program.
In addition, such conferences should designate special committees to visit and attend their Congressional representatives for the purpose of obtaining assurances that their future legislative actions will be in support of this basic program.
Plan for Peace: Jobs for All
Constructive plans must be made immediately for the months after the war ends or the nation may suffer economic dislocation even more disastrous than that of the early 1930’s. Preparation for as orderly and speedy transition to full consumption and employment is nearly as important as victory itself. Yet Congress has killed the National Resources Planning Board without holding any committee hearings on its own on post-war problems.
A new agency should immediately be established to plan for peace at home. War problems cannot be permitted to interfere with the essential minimum of preparation in defense of the people’s welfare in peacetime. The kind of world we shall have five years from now is being shaped today by inaction as well as by conscious intent.
A planning body must be given power and responsibility not only to secure material but, in cooperation with other agencies to draw up concrete detailed proposals for action.
Otherwise prospects for the post-war period are bleak indeed. Although the circumstances under which peace will come cannot be foretold exactly, millions of workers will probably lose their jobs within a few months after hostilities cease.
Millions of additional men and women will no longer be needed by the armed forces and will wish to return promptly to civilian life. Although there will be a large demand for goods, many huge plants will inevitably be idle for six or nine months as they change over from war production.
The tremendous need for civilian supplies will not in itself guarantee continued full production and employment. Even more likely than an immediate depression, is an inflationary boom followed by collapse.
The nation cannot afford to risk such a disastrous outcome of war-time sacrifices. The danger of economic chaos exists, and therefore must be faced and averted. Some businessmen and some state and local governments are making post-war plans on aspects of the problem that are within their own control. Many governmental and private agencies are studying the question.
Federal Action Needed
But useful as such activities may be, they are far from sufficient for grappling with a matter of basic importance to the entire nation and affecting every aspect of its existence. Only the federal government can act for the nation as a whole and can effectively control economic forces that ignore state lines.
In rebuilding its economy on a peacetime basis, the nation should seek not merely avoidance of disaster but the achievement of positive goals which our productive resources now make possible. These should include:
2. Production of adequate supplies needed here and abroad to maintain decent levels of living.
3. Improved facilities for education, medical care, recreation, housing, transportation and so forth.
4. An income for everyone, including the unemployed, adequate for health and happiness.
5. Full, stable and efficient production and employment, with prevention, of both inflation and business depressions.
6. Participation by all Americans in political and economic decisions that affect their welfare.
7. Cooperation with other nations to give all peoples everywhere a chance to earn a decent living, to enjoy democratic institutions and to live at peace.
Wipe Out Race Discrimination
The current wave of race riots is seriously endangering the war effort. The Mobile riot, the Beaumont, Texas, riot, the Detroit riot are but manifestation of an American brand of fascism that is as great a menace as the Japanese or Nazis. In every instance the riots have followed the familiar pattern of dissemination of false rumors, the occurrence of a provocative incident, and the development of mob psychology and hysteria.
The causes of racial tension and conflict arise out of fundamental defects in our democracy. Unless these basic causes are recognized by the entire nation and effective measures adopted and pursued to eliminate them, racial conflicts in other crowded industrial areas are inevitable.
Labor must recognize that the forces which foment racial strife are identical with those that would destroy the organization of the labor movement.
As a means of strengthening democracy and for its very self-preservation, labor must wage an all-out attack on these disintegrating forces and deal resolutely with the basic causes in its day-to-day operations.
The absence of conflict in the shops during the recent Detroit riots is a tribute to CIO leadership in Michigan.
Curative measures are not sufficient. A nationwide program of prevention is imperative. It must include every segment of our community life.
The CIO through its National Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination, working with similar committees set up in our industrial union councils must make real the basic racial policy of the CIO throughout every community in which we are organized.
It is incumbent upon the National CIO Executive Board to recommend to the Federal government that it recognize the conditions that lead to race riots and take the initiative in formulating a positive program to eliminate these conditions both in government and outside it. Such a program should include the following:
1. Development of an overall program for the various Federal agencies to include full and complete support for the President’s Fair Employment Practices Committee, with White House directives to these agencies for the carrying out of the program.
2. A national radio broadcast by President Roosevelt on the program, outlining the situation and the remedies that the Federal government is to undertake.
BE IT RESOLVED, That the Executive Board of the CIO goes on record again sharply condemning all evidences of mob hatred and violence against Negro citizens and people of other minorities, wherever they occur or under whatever circumstances.
We petition President Roosevelt to order the Department of Justice and other appropriate agencies to make the fullest investigation of the origin and perpetrators of these outrages, with special attention to the presence and activity of Axis agents among them, to punish those guilty with the utmost severity, and to proceed immediately against such individuals as Gerald E. Smith of Detroit and the Ku Klux Klan who have notoriously been fomenting the very mob hatred and violence against Negro citizens and people of other minorities.
We express our solidarity again with our Negro fellow citizens and fellow workers, and renew our fight against discrimination and persecution of any of our people as a necessary part of our common fight against the enemies of our country and of the United Nations.
CIO News, July 19, 1943.
By Willard Townsend
The Crisis, 50 (October, 1943): 299–300, 312.
By Monroe Sweetland
New jobs and classifications have been opened to thousands of Negroes in war industries. These workers have found improved working standards and security through their industrial unions.
To the American Negro the coming of the CIO has been the most important historical experience in 75 years of struggle for a chance to live and achieve. This is true also for millions of white industrial workers, but it is true in double measure to the forgotten black workers of American industry.
Nearly all Negroes are workers in industry or agriculture. On the farm there is still nothing approaching security for farmers, either black or white. But in industry Negro workers were at a special disadvantage under the old regime—they had neither jobs nor security. CIO, with its insistence on equality, has meant that Negro membership in organized labor is today six times what it was six years ago. With this has come opportunity for promotion, seniority protection, recognition of ability, and increased and stable income. Thousands of new jobs and classifications, heretofore for whites only, have been opened to Negroes and other minority races.
There is a long, long row to be hoed before Negroes have anything like equal opportunity, but the row is being hoed. No longer do you have to set stakes to measure the progress. Support from Government, the press, and large sections of white public opinion has been won by Negroes in the last 5 years. Much of this support has grown out of the rejection by CIO of the self-defeating anti-Negro policies of the old regimes in American labor.
Until the coming of the industrial unions of CIO the comparative standards of American Negro life had been only slightly ameliorated. In a number of fields occasional Negro celebrities won recognition—all too often for themselves and all too seldom for the race. Occasionally a concession was wrenched from the indifferent or hostile white majority, but by and large the gains made in one salient would be cancelled off by set-backs elsewhere. A base for future progress was laid in the improvements in Negro education, but the number of college graduates among the porters, waiters and Red Caps of American railways bear testimony to the narrowness of opportunity. None of the palliatives offered by the well-intentioned-acquaintance, good-will, proximity, or education—provide any solution in themselves so long as the poison of economic inequality is present. Democratic understanding grows out of job equality, and is not a condition precedent to it.
Only with the coming of industrial organization in steel automobiles, stockyards, packinghouse and other mass production industries where Negroes are largely employed, did the clouds begin to lift for the scapegoat of American industry. The old, indisputable truism that the Negro was the “last to be hired and the first to be fired” began to lose its validity. Today the Negro worker finds tens of thousands of jobs open to him which heretofore were closed. Even the labor shortages of the war boom would not have opened factory gates for him had he not had the protection of the pan-racial policy of CIO. This policy, together with the union grievance committee and seniority rating, make many exceptions to the old truism.
The self-conscious period, when the Negro members were strange and new in the CIO unions, is passing. The leaders of the CIO knew from the beginning that their policy was to organize every worker, black or white, and that effective industrial unionism was color-blind. But this theory did not take effect gracefully, noiselessly and automatically. At the outset many unions placed one Negro on the executive committee—usually as vice-president—with a flourish of patronizing sponsorship. This period is passing rapidly, and in the older locals we now find Negroes elected or defeated for union office on the basis of their ability to do the job. A few Negroes have now been elected to responsible offices in international CIO unions by preponderately white membership. They also serve as shop stewards, and are on hundreds of important grievance and negotiating committees.
There are many ragged edges on the race front in CIO. A smooth pattern was not guaranteed by the national policy of equality. White men and women in CIO ranks do not abandon automatically a life-time accumulation of prejudice when they sign a CIO membership card; neither do all Negroes discard automatically all Uncle Tom-ishness in the presence of their white brothers and sisters. For the most part the rank-and-file has accepted and supported the policy of job equality.
Social idealism was not the overwhelming factor in bringing about CIO’s policy. It was the practical necessity of organizing all the workers into one big union. The growing political power of Negroes in the Northern and border states also assisted the development, although that power in turn is reaching new pinnacles as part of the general labor movement.
It is no political accident that the first Negro member of the Michigan Legislature is a member of the United Automobile Workers, elected largely by labor votes, or that the first Negro member of the New York City Council is elected on the American Labor Party ticket, or that the fight against the poll tax, against the Red Cross blood-segregation policy, for decent Negro housing and for abolishing Southern wage differentials has been led by CIO.
CIO has paid a price for its policy. More than one Labor Board election has been forfeited to the AFL or to company unions because CIO locals stood by their guns on the score of race equality. Only recently CIO’s convictions were tested in a bitter New Jersey aircraft election, where victory was of great importance to CIO’s aircraft drive nationally. Some compromise or hedging on race policy was warranted here, the argument went, to insure other open-shop citadels which would fall thereafter. But CIO stood its ground and was defeated by a company union which waved the bloody shirt of white supremacy during the campaign. In Detroit, Columbus, Indianapolis and other cities the powerful automobile workers have been confronted with organized resistance to their policy of equality. In some plants strikes occurred against giving seniority to Negro workers, or against the first Negroes placed in skilled jobs. But in every case R. J. Thomas, Walter Reuther, and the other leaders of UAW-CIO have carried out the CIO policy by persuasion or by heavyhanded discipline. R. J. Thomas, president of UAW, has risked the wrath of the unenlightened thousands of transplanted Southerners in his union by his firmness in enforcing the union policy, and in pressing an educational program which will make it understood by the shocked and bewildered Southerners.
But still CIO wins some two-thirds of its NLRB elections, and the battle for pan-racial industrial unionism is being won. The AFL, under the impact of CIO competition, has also relaxed its discriminatory policies. Some of its affiliated international unions have large Negro membership, but the powerful Machinists and most of the railroad affiliates still discriminate by policy and practice.
The full effect of CIO’s pioneering upon the life and character of America’s Negroes will not be apparent for a generation. Already it has changed the way of life of the million-and-half Negroes in CIO families, and for uncounted millions of white Americans who see things differently because of their experience in CIO.
CIO’s policy has given the Negro a stake in American democracy he never had before. The war may be won by that sound and courageous action. Every Negro family which has won a degree of security and status in industry, which has enough income to give its children a chance, and which shares in community life, is an anchor of loyalty in a Negro population which has been rocked by Axis propaganda. CIO’s policy has already shown the Axis that Negro and white America can live and work together in peace. CIO’s policy has eased the tense labor supply problem, which could never have been surmounted under the old system of “whites only.” In short, a substantial percentage of America’s Negroes now have something to fight for. It is very largely this hope for the future which gives our polyglot nation the degree of unity we have achieved in the midst of war. Only a beginning has been made. But in that beginning hope is replacing fear—faith in the future replacing distrust—as the dominant undertones in American Negro life.
Opportunity, 20 (October, 1942): 292,294.
WASHINGTON, Mar. 4—A double-barreled polltaxer attack on the Fair Employment Practices Committee, which fights anti-Negro and other minority discrimination, shaped up in Congress this week, with an affiliate of the AFL playing the shameful role of stooge.
In the Senate, the polltaxers, led by Sen. Russell (D., Ga.) are openly seeking FEPC’s abolition, through the familiar trick of cutting off its funds. The pretense is that all FDR-established agencies must be subject to Congress review after 12 months of operation; the real intention, as Russell admitted, is to get FEPC.
The second barrel is being shot off in the House, where the Smith (polltaxer, Va.) smear committee is holding what it likes to call hearings on whether or not the FEPC is “exceeding its authority” as a U.S. war agency.
With the exception of one member, Rep. John Delaney (D., N.Y.), the whole committee is sure that the FEPC is committing a serious offense by trying to get Negro war workers into war jobs where they are needed to keep up war output.144
Also being smeared by the Smith gang is the War Shipping Administration, which is “guilty” of assigning Negro seamen to ships carrying war cargoes. And the sorry stooge that give them a dash of union color is the AFL’s Seafarer’s International Union, hollow relic of the old, corrupt and very dead Intl. Seamen’s Union that was sent to the junkpile by CIO’s Natl. Maritime Union some years ago.
The SIU, which has about 5,000 members on the east coast compared to the NMU’s 85,000, believes in anti-Negro segregation, admits it, and is proud of it. John Hawks, one of its officials, said this during Smith committee testimony.
What’s more, the SIU takes the amazing position that the FEPC and the War Shipping Administration are violating the President’s order against discrimination by shipping Negro seamen together with white seamen, since this promotes “racial friction.” The FEPC and the WSA, therefore, ought to be abolished, and besides, their officials are all a bunch of “fellow travelers.”
Sharply contrasted with this is the NMU-CIO policy of an absolute ban on discrimination in the union and its record of Negro and white seamen working and risking their lives together with a total absence of friction.
This is what Frederick N. Myers, NMU vice-president, had to say this week in his testimony before the Smith committee, after he had pointed out that more than 8,000 of NMU’s 85,000 are Negroes:
“Not one NMU ship has been delayed or missed a convoy because of a shortage of manpower. Our vessels have been fully manned with skilled and experienced seamen . . . We have been able to do all this by strict adherence to a policy of no-discrimination and by giving full opportunity to all seamen to make their contribution to the war effort, regardless of race, creed or color.
“The war has now reached the stage where a showdown is in the offing. The coming land invasion of Europe will call for a more extensive application of this policy than ever before. In such a perspective, there is no room for segregation or discrimination.”
The lynch spirit being whipped up against Negro war workers isn’t confined to the polltaxers in Congress alone. This week, the South Carolina state legislature passed a resolution praising the segregation policy and threatening to kick the “damned Northern agitators” out.
This resolution, written in the true Hitler style of race baiting, was loudly applauded by Sen. Smith (polltaxer, S.C.) on the Senate floor and was widely distributed to the daily newspapers by the Associated Press.
This is a campaign year, and every year polltaxers have tried to use race hatred to defeat the New Deal. This time there’s also a war on, a war that Hitler tries to win by promoting race hatred in America and in all his enemies.
CIO News, March 6, 1944.
Negro Steel Workers
During the war the number of Negro members of the USA-CIO has doubled. In 1940 there were approximately 35,000 Negro members of the union. Approximately 20,000 were members of local unions in steel producing mills and 15,000 were members in fabricating and processing plants. At the end of 1943 the Negro membership of the union had increased to 70,000 members. Roughly, half are in steel-producing mills and the other half in the fabricating and processing plants.
Since the inception of the union the employment of Negro workers in the steel and allied industries has steadily increased and their position inside the plants has been constantly improving. The war has increased the opportunities of Negro workers for greater employment and improved jobs in the steel and allied industries.
The policy of the USA-CIO from the outset has been to advance the interest of all of its members, regardless of race, color, creed or nationality. In a comprehensive study of ORGANIZED LABOR AND THE NEGRO, by Dr. Herbert R. Northrup, it was found that “the CIO and its constituent unions have sedulously adhered to (their) non-discrimination policy in organizing Negroes . . . (and) the national officers of the CIO unions have, by and large, a consistent record of practicing what they preach in regard to the treatment of Negroes.”
In improving the position of Negro workers, the union’s work and record have been outstanding. Following the 1942 convention, Boyd L. Wilson, international representative, was assigned to look into, survey, and assist in the solution of any problems which arise in connection with Negro members and potential members. Not only has the union improved the economic position of all of its members, but it has also afforded greater opportunities to the Negro workers in the steel and allied industries.
In the post-war period the union will likewise pursue its untiring efforts to extend the full protection of collective bargaining to all workers in the steel and allied metal industries. Seniority provisions of the union’s collective bargaining contracts will be strictly adhered to without discrimination because of race, color, creed or nationality.
Resolution No. 9
WHEREAS, (1) It is a cardinal principle of our Union that all steel workers, regardless of race, creed, or color, shall be admitted into membership and receive equal treatment;
(2) We have not rested upon pious hopes or expressions but have effectively improved the economic conditions of the Negro steel workers and afforded the full protection of our Union to collective bargaining contracts to all of our members, white and Negro alike;
(3) Today more than ever as a demonstration of the full meaning of American democracy as against the practices of the Nazi regime, we must make certain that every vestige of Negro or other discrimination be eliminated from our national life; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, (1) Each member and officer of our Union must recognize his solemn obligation to prevent and eliminate the exercise of any discrimination within our organization, by any employer, by the government or elsewhere. We must persist with untiring efforts to protect all our members against any form of discrimination, because of race, creed, or color;
(2) This convention desires to express its vigorous condemnation of the specific acts of brutal treatment and vicious discrimination that have occurred or is being practiced against the Negroes in our armed forces and call upon responsible Army and Navy officials to forthwith eliminate this evil.
Substitute for resolutions submitted by Local Unions 65, 1011, 1299, 1330.
Committee Secretary Millard moved the adoption of the resolution. The motion was seconded.
Delegate J. R. Moore, Local Union 1331, Youngstown, Ohio: I rise to support this resolution. No doubt many of you in this hall remember many, many years ago when you white brothers caused strikes that the colored brothers were used as human guinea pigs and to break strikes caused by white brothers.
I am here to say that that era is passed. For years colored brothers were used to break strikes and for a time it seemed like that would be his only destination. But, thank God, things have changed. There was a time, as undoubtedly you all know, when many labor unions were getting organized he was looking for something he would be able to find and in looking he didn’t find anything that was quite suitable to give him the situation that he was looking for. Then there appeared on the scene the Congress of Industrial Organizations and he thought for a time that this was not his salvation. But, looking forward and looking ahead and reading its constitution and the constitution of the International Union, he found that truly in trade unions, and especially in the United Steelworkers of America, this was, his salvation.
He immediately began to take steps to come into this great Union, and when he came in he found the doors open wide, he found that he was to take a part, not as a back-seat driver, but that he was to attain all the advantages he was ever able to attain, if he was able to do the job and do it in the right way. And to that end he came in and took his rightful place and in the United Steelworkers of America he found consolation and peace that heretofore had never been known to him. And in that peace he found that all he had to do was to qualify, and in his qualifications he gained the seat of high rank.
We wish to thank the International Union and the United Steelworkers of America for this great opportunity, for this privilege. We wish to thank them who have taken the stand on the armed forces which, no doubt, not one of you in this hall have not read about and how Negro people in the armed forces are being treated. That is what I like about the United Steelworkers of America. When they believe in doing a job they do a big job. They will bring satisfaction to every human being on the face of the earth. To them and to our boys in the armed forces when the time will come when they return home again, we know that the United Steelworkers of America will keep that light burning, not only burning, but it will be brighter, that they will find the peace they are longing for and the comfort that they all need when they return home.
Delegate Marsden, Local Union 2457: Mr. Chairman and the delegation, we in America are just one great big American family, 130,000,000 strong, representing one of the greatest commonwealths on the face of the earth. We realize that if we keep our shoulders to the wheel and the workers agree with one another, there is no Axis power on the face of the earth that can defeat us.
I realize it is necessary to have the cooperation of the two races in this country, and the only way to do that is for each and every one of us to be fair to one another.
I thank God for the existence of the CIO. I thank God that it came into the South to organize the workers in the South, because all of us have benefitted, white and Negro.
With the coming of the CIO into the state of Texas I was one of the first Negroes in that state to get behind this movement. I said on this floor two years ago that I hoped the time would come when the entire South would be organized. I am happy to say that since that time we have made wonderful progress in our District. The job is not done, but we are well on the way. I am thankful for the effort that the CIO has put forward to eliminate discrimination in the plants throughout the country and in the armed forces. This is going to be necessary in our war effort. It is going to be necessary that all manner of discrimination be eliminated, because it is so vitally important to the thing that we are trying to do.
I am glad to speak in behalf of the resolution, and I thank you.
Delegate Sallie, Local Union 1557: Unless this resolution is carried back home, not by word and not by deed, but physically, it is not going to be worth the paper it is written on.
There has been a seniority clause in our contract since the inception, back in 1937, but that seniority section was an empty clause so far as the Negro worker was concerned. He would move so far, then stop. Other workers would come in and detour around him. In the last two years it has been possible, through the process of education in the various groups, to bring about a reality as far as seniority was concerned. But then what happened? Whenever a Negro was placed on a job, especially when it upgraded him, the other boys decided they wanted to go out on strike. What for? To stop a fellow member from progressing.
I can speak from experience on this particular angle because it happened to me. So you see the job is up to the membership of the Union itself to solve this problem.
In the course of two years we had eighteen cases that went into the fourth step dealing with seniority, and each one of those cases was turned back—“no ability”—in spite of the fact that some of the men had as much as twenty-five years, had worked at the job effectively seventeen or eighteen years, but yet “no ability,” and the cases were turned down. Within the last year we have been able to advance exactly one man to the top in a particular department.
We had a stoppage a few months ago dealing with the very same problem, but now there has been set up a promotional sequence and the boys are beginning to move. But they can’t move if the rest of the boys decide they are not going to by shutting the plant down. So if we are going to stick together we will have to do it that way or else hang separately when this thing is over.
Delegate Branzovich, Local Union 2726: I was going to talk on the same line as the brother who just spoke. Now I will have to change my little talk. What I want to bring out is that some of our labor leaders, for some reason or other, hesitate to put into effect a clause of no discrimination because of race, creed or color. They use little, petty arguments that they may cause cor ruption within a Union. I don’t think so, because a number of times things like that have come up in our Local, and if the white brothers get behind the colored brothers I don’t think there will be any corruption.
As the colored speaker just pointed out on that, what really is lacking is a real understanding of the problems of the colored people. We are taking an interest in it, because in my opinion I don’t think the white brothers wholeheartedly want to discriminate against the Negroes of our Locals, any more than you or I or anyone else. Under our own constitution they have the same right we have, because they are American citizens.
I firmly believe, as the last speaker pointed out, that if everyone of us will get behind it, not in lip service but in reality, it is possible that with the poll tax bill coming up and with the possibility that Negroes will be permitted to vote and express their opinions, in the future we can have a greater Union, with more representation by the colored people. I think if we all get behind it we can have a successful organization.
Delegate Owen, Local Union 1044: Mr. Chairman and delegates, I am happy to be within your midst. Some of the things I had in mind to say have been covered by other delegates, but there is one particular point I would like to bring out, and before I get to that I want to say something else. I have been in the labor movement for over twenty-seven years. Our wonderful President was my President years ago in the coal fields of Pennsylvania, District 5. I was on the picket line when John ______ and Fanny Sellins were shot down in Brackenridge. I have followed the labor movement from there to the steel mills.145
In 1917, at the Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Company in Brackenridge there were only two colored persons working at that time, and when that strike was called, as the brother mentioned a few minutes ago, you know and I know that the industry went throughout the length and breadth of this country and brought Negroes here in order that they defeat the progress of organized labor. Some of you called them scabs, etc., at that time, but they were not union men, they had no other chance to advance, and they took the jobs for the betterment of their own conditions at that time because they were not welcome in the ranks of organized labor.
We are happy that organized labor has awakened to the fact that no substantial progress can be made unless all of us pull together, not from the standpoint of lip service, but from our hearts.
You delegates must have some influence, you must have a certain measure of intelligence, otherwise you would not have been elected over and above the rest of the membership of your Local Unions. We can resolve and whereas from now until doomsday. I am heartily in cooperation with this resolution and I intend to vote for its adoption, but here is what you delegates can do: You can go back home, as I have heard said so often here, and roll up your sleeves. Within this great organization we have locals where a Negro as a skilled man cannot get a job. That is true of the puddlers in the wrought iron industry. I have been a puddler now for twenty-two years at the Penn Iron and Steel in the Allegheny Valley. Ninety per cent of the puddlers are colored men. In our mill any white puddler from any other mill can come there and get a job. We are carrying out absolutely the no-discrimination propaganda that has been put out by our organization, but there isn’t another puddling mill in the whole United States that a Negro puddler can go in as a brother of the organization and ask for a job and get it. Why? When the committee went down and asked for a job for a man the superintendent would tell us that the men wouldn’t work with a colored man. All right, we went out in the mill and asked the committee and they told us that the company wouldn’t hire us. We all belonged to the same Union. That is only one mill, and all except one belongs to this organization, and we can’t get a job. If we want to break down discrimination we should clean it up in our own homes before we send our resolutions and whereases to the Congress of the United States. If we do that we will not have one group looking down on us, we will have a united front and we can carry out what we are asking them to do and we will be recognized.
I have boys in the Army and I know about the discrimination. The 15th day of June one boy will be in four years, and I know all about the discrimination and I don’t agree with it. I am happy to see this sentiment here, and I am praying to God that when this war is over and my boys come back, or if they are lying under the clods in some foreign country, I want the boys that come back to be in a position where they won’t say that it was like 1918, when we went out and fought for democracy and came back and found it a mockery. I want it to be the United Nations with the Four Freedoms that Roosevelt has declared for to be spread throughout the length and breadth of this and every other country, so that we can work hand in hand, because some day we must meet on the other side, and we might as well get together here. I thank you.
President Murray: I might remind the delegation that we are running against time, of course. This convention has got to conclude its sessions tomorrow at noon, and I am merely passing that reminder on for whatever it may be worth to you, because you will have to have your tickets and your bags ready for tomorrow noon.
Delegate McCloskey, Local Union 1193: I have come up here to talk on the colored members, and I mean our new members that are coming in here during the war. I mean the colored women. Down in our plant they are using colored women to take the place of the men. They expect those colored women to do the same work as a man, driving them like they did down in the South. There was a war on that to do away with slavery, but you are bringing it right back into the North. We have been fighting to do away with that, too.
Under your contract you have a provision for a probation period of three months. They can start these women out to work, work them eight or nine days and use them to put the fear of hell in their hearts of the other women that are working there, use them to fire these other women.
We have a grievance up now that has been in the fourth step, and I am going to ask Brother Murray to see that that is carried through with the Farrell Steel Plant.
Another thing we had in our last election of Local officers. I didn’t go out there to use politics on it. We got out and talked to the boys. We have in our plant officers of all nationalities. We have one man here today, delegated here by his Local Union, a colored man, a Vice President, and he is doing a fine job. He has been organizing these people, not only organizing them as a Union, but by way of political action also.
I think our Local can go on record, even before political action was started down in our end of Pennsylvania, as bringing out people who never registered before. These colored people got out and worked, and we know how they have been using these colored people for years back, your corporations bringing them up from the South and using them to vote for one purpose.
I promised President Murray I would be brief, but I am going to ask him to go along and see that these grievances are carried along, where these two colored women have been fired in our steel plant. We feel that is discrimination not only against the colored people but the white people as well.
Delegate Merriweather, District 4, Local Union 2603, Buffalo: I would like to speak in favor of this resolution. I am very much in favor of this resolution, but the thing that aroused me to speak is the way resolutions are handled after being acted upon and passed.
I realize we have various committees throughout our organization which are functioning in certain capacities, but they can do nothing without the support of the rank and file. I hope that this resolution is passed. But, I say this, in the event that you do not mean to put the resolution in action, then I would ask you to vote against it. Of course again there is the question in my mind whether you actually mean to put this resolution in action or not, and if you do not mean to put this resolution in action, then I will ask you to vote against the resolution because the common class of people or the working class, or particularly the Negro are no longer satisfied with just merely resolutions. We realize that the resolution is a step forward for breaking the bars before the Negro people, but we do not hope to realize the delegation taking this step if that step is to remain for the next Constitutional Convention.
So, delegates, we call upon you to vote in favor of this resolution, but if you do not mean to put the resolution in action, then we will ask you to vote against it and thereby you will avoid all acts of hypocrisy.
The question was called for.
President Murray: I merely wanted to make a few observations about the resolution in order that our delegates may have an appreciation of what the organization is doing to eliminate all forms of discrimination. The CIO movement and the United Steelworkers of America have done more in the past seven years to eliminate the causes of discrimination in American industry than any other group in the United States of America.
Our Constitution, the Constitution of this organization, provides that there shall be no discrimination against anyone regardless of creed, color or nationality. That is basic. That is fundamental. That is essential, and no individual affiliated with our Union is entitled under our Constitution to retain his membership in the organization if he practices discrimination. Who is it in the United States of America, outside of the CIO movement and the United Steelworkers of America, the past six or seven years in the steel industry, that has fought harder for the economic emancipation of all groups employed in industry than has the CIO and this Union? Who is it that is constantly to the forefront in the newsprints of the nation advocating the elimination of all forms of discrimination, racial or otherwise? It is the CIO, and of course organizations like the United Steelworkers of America. Who is it that has assumed the leadership in the United States for the elimination of the poll tax and inequities in the Southern States of the United States? It has been your Union. It has been the CIO. Who has been organizing the South for the economic and political emancipation of the workers down there, both white and black? It has been the CIO. Who has stood foursquare against intolerance in any form in the United States of America? It has been the CIO; it has been the United Steelworkers of America and other affiliated organizations attached to the parent body.
I don’t think that I need make any extended speech here about these services your organization, the United Steelworkers of America, has rendered the workers employed in this great industry, particularly the colored groups.
We have incorporated in almost every collective bargaining contract negotiated between employers and this Union provisions to protect the rights of colored workers against discrimination. We have created grievance committees to see to it that those rights are fully guaranteed. The position of your International Union has been one of insisting constantly upon the rights of colored workers being protected whilst on their jobs under collective bargaining contracts. The only hope that I know of that colored workers have anywhere in the United States of America is in affiliation with some CIO organization. Their eventual emancipation, lies in their willingness to affiliate with the CIO labor organization. We practice what we preach. We preach the elimination of all forms of discrimination and we practice that one thing. We do it in the shops. We do it in the factories. We do it where-ever the CIO movement is.
I know that the colored workers all over this country have a deep seated affection for this CIO movement. Just as the colored brother from the Allegheny Valley said a few minutes ago, a colored man whom I have known for over twenty-five years, a former coal miner, he knows what discrimination means. He knows that up until a few years ago a colored worker employed in heavy industry in the United States of America outside of coal mining could not hope to affiliate himself with a labor union. But the CIO was created and it embraced all groups, regardless of creed, color or nationality. It says, “Come on. We’re all the same. We’ve all got the same aspirations.” We are against discrimination. We mean it. We are going to practice it. I think that is understood. It requires no extended argument to prove the position of either this Union or the CIO.
The day that this organization of ours loses interest in protecting the colored worker or any other group, that day this organization will start to decay. It will begin to go down. It must constantly and militantly fight all forms of persecution and discrimination. That is your job. That is my job. That is the job of the CIO. That is the job of the United Steelworkers of America. Now remember that.
We are not merely passing a resolution here and going back home to forget all about it. We have not been doing that. It is the job of our grievance committees in our Local Unions and our District Directors to make this provision in our Constitution and in our collective bargaining contracts workable, to apply it diligently, equitably, to all groups, regardless of creed, color and nationality. That is your business. That is my business. That is my job and that is your job.
The colored worker, like all other workers, is entitled to the fullest measure of protection that this organization can give him. Well, I shan’t go any further with this thing, because I imagine we could talk for days about it, a lot of matters could be brought to the attention of the convention concerning discrimination.
The question of discrimination against the colored men in the United States Army is brought out in the resolution, but it is equally true and has been proven that active members of our Union, CIO Unions, who have either enlisted in the Army or have been inducted into the armed services, whether they were black or white, have been discriminated against, and I know it. I have brought those matters to the attention of the authorities in the city of Washington repeatedly.
There are many instances of actual, forthright acts of discrimination that have been practiced against men simply because they were members of the CIO Union. There are men in this hall who perhaps a week from now may be in the United States Army, not black men but white men who have gone before draft boards in the state of Ohio, and who have been told by officials of city draft boards in this state that because they were officials of CIO organizations here in this state they were going to see to it that when they got into the Army, this question of advocating the upbuilding of trade unions was going to be driven out of them. We have had cases brought to our attention affecting representatives of this Union who were actually enlisting in the Army only a few months ago and who were told in the offices to which they reported for enlistment, “Well, we’re glad you came, and when we get you in here we’re going to see to it that you are not going to be a union man when you get back home.” So these discriminations are not confined merely to the colored people. No. I have hundreds of letters from colored people and white people over in my office in the city of Washington, members of CIO Unions who have reported to me these acts of discrimination against them because of their affiliation with a CIO Union, and don’t forget we can’t make these problems of discrimination merely Negro problems. The Negro, to me, is a creature of God just the same as a white man. As an American citizen he is entitled to equality of treatment. I believe deep down in my own heart and soul that the problem of discrimination, particularly racial discrimination, leads to religious and other kinds of hatred. You can’t tolerate racial discrimination, because if you do so, unquestionably you will have to meet the problem of other kinds of discrimination. So this organization, being a democratic institution, dedicates itself to the furtherance of these democratic principles to which we will adhere, and it must of necessity, see to it insofar as we are able, all forms of discrimination, racial or otherwise, should be eliminated from our life. That is our goal. That is our objective. That is why we organize. We don’t organize to create prejudice and hatreds amongst groups. We bring people together to have people work together and be happy working together. If I thought this Union that I preside over, the Steelworkers’ Union, is going to practice racial discrimination or religious discrimination or any other form of discrimination, if I thought that this Union was going to do that I would say to you, “Boys, give this job to some other man. I don’t want you. I don’t want you.” That’s how I feel about it and I know that you feel like I do.
Discrimination is ungodly; discrimination breeds distrust, it breeds hate, it breeds prejudice, it creates disunity. Discrimination has broken up families—yes, it has broken up homes. Discrimination has wrecked lives. Discrimination has perpetrated many injustices upon the human race, not only in the United States but all over the world.
It is important, therefore, that this Union of yours and mine should constantly dedicate itself to the provisions of this one task, to the elimination of all forms of discrimination. That is your job and that is my job.
Now I will put the motion, with your permission.
The motion to adopt the resolution as submitted by the committee was carried by unanimous vote.
Resolution No. 10
WHEREAS, (1) Discrimination against any individual or groups of people because of race, religion, or country of origin is an evil characteristic of our Fascist enemies. We of the Democracies are fighting Fascism at home and abroad by welding all races, all religions, and all peoples into a united body of workers for Democracy;
(2) Any discriminatory practices within our own ranks against any group directly aids the enemy by creating division, dissension and confusion. Such discrimination practiced in employment policies hampers production by depriving the nation of the use of available skills and manpower.
(3) We have already seen in this country in Los Angeles, Beaumont, Texas; Detroit and elsewhere the results of the effort of the fifth column in the United States as represented by Gerald L. K. Smith and the Ku Klux Klan who are doing the work of our Axis enemies to foment riots and insurrection, to stir up Anti-Semitism, thereby creating division and disruption to weaken our war effort, now therefore, be it
RESOLVED, (1) This convention reiterates its firm opposition to any form of racial or religious discrimination and renews its pledge to carry on the fight for protection, in law and in fact, of the rights of any racial and religious or minority group, to participate fully in our social and political life.
(2) This convention commends the work of the Fair Employment Practices Committee established by President Roosevelt under Executive Order, to eliminate practices of discrimination in industry, urges such committee to carry forward vigorously to effectuate this vital policy and urges Congress to enact appropriate legislation to place the committee and its work on a permanent basis with effective enforcement authority.
(3) This convention calls upon President Roosevelt and the Department of Justice to take immediate steps to prosecute those individuals and groups within the nation, such as Gerald L. K. Smith, the Ku Klux Klan, and the seditionists, which deliberately seek to foment civil strife and discord by setting one race against another, whipping up hatred against minority groups and encourage discrimination. Any vestige of Nazism which rears its ugly head tc our glorious Democracy must be immediately and decisively eliminated.
(4) This convention rededicates itself to continue with determination its efforts to eliminate completely the economic factors which are the fundamental causes of discrimination in its most vicious form.
Substitute for resolutions submitted by local unions 65, 1014, 1066, 1104, 1330, 2860, 3126.
Committee Secretary Millard moved the adoption of the resolution.
The motion was seconded.
Delegate Trallo, Local Union 2715: Mr. Chairman and fellow delegates: I was not going to speak on this subject because I thought the matter could best be handled by one of the colored delegates speaking for themselves, but something has occurred in our own delegation that I think should be brought to the attention of this convention. Personally, I think it is a serious problem, not only because it involves discrimination against one of the colored race, but because it involves discrimination against the rest of the delegation.
Upon arriving in this city Sunday evening, we of Local Union 2715, had in our delegation a colored man. We made reservation at a hotel, and after the hotel found out we had a colored man in our delegation, we were refused admittance to the hotel. You can well imagine the feeling of the rest of the delegation, after traveling all day long, arriving in Cleveland tired, dirty, wanted to wash up and rest a bit. We arrived in the city at 8:20. Finally, after a lot of bickering—incidentally we found other quarters for our delegates—we finally got our rooms at about ten-thirty or quarter to eleven.
You can well imagine that this delegation is pretty sore. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would think. I wonder, if Abraham Lincoln was here today and he could see the discrimination that is practiced against the colored people—well, I would hate to think what he would say. If he knew what was going on today he would turn over in his grave.
Do you think that President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, when we said that we should have the Four Freedoms, and especially freedom from want and freedom from fear, were excluding the Negro race? No, they meant all races.146
Therefore, gentlemen, I am not going to take up much of your time, but I would like to impress upon you that in our resolution it says in part that it renews its pledge to carry on the fight for protection, in law and in fact, of the rights of any racial and religious or minority group, to participate fully in our social and political life.
A motion to close debate was adopted.
The motion to adopt the resolution was carried by unanimous vote.
Proceedings of the Second Constitutional Convention of the United Steelworkers of America, 1944, Vol. I, pp. 43–44, 188–96.
Revolutionizes Politics and Labor in North Carolina Tobacco Metropolis
By Rev. Marshall Shepard
It is not safe to speak against the CIO anywhere among the Negro workers of Winston-Salem, N.C., the largest tobacco manufacturing city in America. Of the 12,000 employees of the R. G. Reynolds tobacco factory, about 9,000 are Negroes and over 6,000 are CIO members with a passion.
Negroes Go CIO
At the first few meetings in October, 1941, to organize the tobacco workers of the Reynolds plant, there were only a half-dozen persons in attendance, but by the spring of ’43, the meetings increased to six to seven thousand. When the election was ordered by the U.S. Labor Relations Board, June, ‘43, seven thousand Negro workers were holding membership cards in the R. G. Reynolds Employees’ association, but when the election figures were tabulated, the Reynolds Employees’ association polled only 3,175 votes, while 6,833 had voted for CIO. The officials of the association denounced the workers for what they termed a “double cross.”
CIO Denounced as Race Agitator
Jasper Redd, president of the R. G. Reynolds Employees’ association said in an interview that the CIO was menace to interracial goodwil. It had taught Negroes to disrespect white leaders and had brought about ill feeling between the masses of Negro workers and their own business and professional leaders. Mr. Redd was bitter in his denunciation of the Negro pastors, many of whom he charged were bribed by CIO.
According to Mr. Redd
There were two ministers, Rev. A. H. McDaniel, pastor of the Union Bethel Baptist church and Rev. S. G. Thomas, pastor of the Congregational church, who refused to support the CIO and were almost forced to leave their pulpits. Rev. Thomas was taken back into his church only after he publicly recanted. Rev. Thomas has ceased all anti-CIO activities. Mr. Redd said that in his own church and Sunday school, the people avoid him.
Dr. A. H. Ray, a prominent physician of the Twin city was dropped from his position as company physician for the Safe Bus company, an all-Negro concern, after CIO protested his anti-union activities.
Negroes Registering to Vote
Heretofore, the number of registered Negro voters in Winston-Salem were only a few hundred. The CIO and NAACP put on a drive for increased Negro registrants. Speakers were sent to churches and fraternal meetings to urge the people to register. It is estimated that CIO alone registered over 2,000 of its members and the total registration of Negroes will perhaps reach 5,000 in Winston-Salem. Many of the registrars at some of the polling places it is charged were officials of the Reynolds Tobacco company, and they resorted to many and devious methods to slow up Negro registration.
Negroes Register Democratic
The CIO claimed their members were registering Democratic because they intend to support President Roosevelt for a fourth term. Also they said to vote Republican in North Carolina was a waste of time. All candidates for public office have been sent questionnaires seeking their views on labor and race issues.
I accepted an invitation to attend a weekly meeting of the shop stewards of the CIO union. There were about 500 in attendance. They met at 7:30 promptly. The meetings are held in a Holiness church. It seems that the Holiness pastors, many of whom work in the factory side by side with other workers are close to the working masses and are not easily influenced by pressure from the owners.
The meetings were opened by a 15-minute devotional service led by ministers, four of them elected chaplains of the local.
Then the workers are carried through a quiz program on a well-thought out plan of workers’ education. The enthusiasm with which this program was received and the intelligent grasp of labor problems that these people were getting was indeed thrilling to one who had once been appalled by the lack of all these things among the Negro workers.
As I moved among these workers, white and black, and talked to many of them in all walks of life, I was conscious of a growing solidarity and intelligent mass action that will mean the dawn of a New Day in the South. One cannot visit Winston-Salem and mingle with the thousands of workers without sensing a revolution in thought and action. If there is a “New” Negro, he is to be found in the ranks of the labor movement.147
Pittsburgh Courier, June 3, 1944.
By George L. P. Weaver
The Congress of Industrial Organizations, like other forward-looking groups, began to demand the full utilization of all available manpower as soon as the defense program got under way in 1939 and 1940. That demand, backed up by unremitting efforts, has broken down many barriers that have been a half-century in the making. A great number of industrial plants now hire Negroes that had never hired them before. Similarly, Negro workers are joining unions in greater numbers than ever before. But even with this decided progress, the job that must be done has just begun.
One direct result of this new union membership of Negroes is an increase of problems that grow out of our varied racial community practices. Another result is the emergence of a new Negro trade-union official, particularly in the CIO. These officials are operating on all levels of authority with a growing number of Negro local presidents, local grievance committeemen, and members of other key local committees. In the larger Internationals we tend to have an ever increasing number of Negro International Representatives. And this thread of progress leads up to the highest councils of the CIO, where there are now two Negro members serving on the CIO Executive Board. The first to be placed was Willard S. Townsend, President of the United Transport Service Employees, who blazed the trail for other Negroes to follow. The second was Ferdinand Smith, Secretary of the National Maritime Union, who was selected by his union at the 1943 CIO Convention.
No Special Group Problems
Willard Townsend’s service on the CIO Board has been marked by his interest in all trade-union problems, instead of problems that can be considered as solely “Negro problems.” In this Mr. Townsend offers the key that all Negro trade-unionists must use in order to advance their racial as well as their general interests in the labor movement. All of us need to realize that so-called racial problems are in reality only part of a worker’s problem. The Negro neither wants nor needs special attention—he is looking to his trade-union for equal opportunity and the right of an American worker to advance up the ladder in whatever industry he may be employed. One of the most dangerous pitfalls that Negroes in the labor movement can fall into is that of allowing themselves to be maneuvered into a position of demanding special racial rights and consideration. In far too many instances, Negroes have fallen into this very pitfall.
The National CIO Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination has received complaints from Negro workers, Mexican workers, Jewish workers, Japanese-Americans, and the largest minority of all—women workers. Investigation discloses that each one of these groups thinks its problem the most important of them all. Our Committee’s approach to all minority problems follows the theory that are all workers’ problems—part and parcel of the same fabric. As long as one of these vexing racial or cultural problems remains unsolved, the rights and privileges of all other workers are threatened.
If we Negro trade-unionists allow ourselves to become engrossed in the Negro’s problem to the exclusion of the others, we run the risk of creating a dangerous racism, an evil that no one has ever been able to control and direct constructively. There are dangerous trends leading in this direction. The March on Washington Movement is the most outstanding manifestation of this “black chauvinism.” And this writer has been puzzled and alarmed at the attitude of many local Negro trade-union officials. Too frequently ordinary trade-union grievances are blown up into charges of discrimination. Every local problem involving a Negro is laid on the doorstep of discrimination, regardless of the attitudes and principles of the white officer or brother union member involved. Such an approach robs the complainant of the necessary objectivity that he must possess to be a useful trade-union official in his local. A Negro elected to a post in a local union is expected to function as an officer for all the members, not for a Negro minority—or even majority. Then, too, by placing primary emphasis on the whole trade-union point of view, Negroes are much more apt to win the support of white members who recognize the trade-union approach, but who might become opponents if the issue were presented as a race issue.
The recent convention of the United Auto Workers, held in Buffalo, furnishes an example of this kind of danger. That union’s race relations’ record is second to the record of no other American union. Its convention was thrown into an uproar by a minority report on an amendment to the constitution which would create a Minorities Department in the International, headed by a Negro who would also have a seat on the Executive Board.
Thoughtful observers must agree with the position of R. J. Thomas, UAW President, who firmly opposed this proposal. If Negro workers are entitled by race alone to a special place on a union Executive Board, that same argument could be used to justify segregation on a streetcar, in a hotel, and in a restaurant. To carry this principle to its logical conclusion would mean insuring places on the Board for women, Poles, Jews and Catholics, since there is a sizable representation of each group in the UAW. Many union officials would be strongly tempted, if this proposal were adopted, to pass on to the Negro Board member problems that should be solved by the whole Board.
A number of Negroes took this position at the UAW convention because they recognized the inherent dangers contained in the proposal. Oddly enough, they were castigated as anti-Negro and reactionary. Horace Sheffield, a Negro Inter national Representative, was bitterly condemned and several Negro delegates have stated to this writer that “they are out to get him.” Paul P. Shearer, labor editor for the Ohio State News, and an officer in Local 927, UAW, Columbu Ohio, lumped together all opponents of the plan as members of anti-Negro factions and reactionaries. His list included Victor and Walter Reuther. When Shearer had pointed out to him the dangers and inconsistencies of this line of reasoning, he agreed and unconsciously explained the predicament that many Negr trade-unionists are in. They ride into office on the race issue in locals with large Negro memberships, and their thinking and approach to most trade-union questions constantly starts off from the point of “how do they affect Negroes?”
Negroes are also pushed along toward their pitfall by certain kinds of white support. For example, at the recent National CIO Convention in Philadelphia, Abram Flaxner, President of State, County and Municipal Workers, in speaking on the anti-discrimination resolution, said, in part, that he felt it would be in the interest of the CIO to elect a colored Board member to the International Executive Board—not from any one organization, but as representing all of the organizations on that Board. When the Flaxer proposal is examined, it seems patronizing, to say the least. Why should a Negro be elected to the Board, floating around without any anchor when all other members of the Board represent their International Unions? If the Board lacks Negro membership, there is nothing to stop Brother Flaxer’s organization, or any other organization from electing a Negro to represent it.
Separation Creates Ignorance and Suspicion
To think clearly on this question, we must keep firmly before us our long-time objectives. If we are working towards the goal of complete economic equality and are using the trade-union structure toward that end, it seems a tragic paradox to consider any kind of proposal that dignifies separation. It may be held axiomatic that anything which separates people into sharply distinguishable groups—whether it be a racial difference, a difference of religious groups, or a class distinction—will produce between the groups thus separated: first, ignorance of one another; then, suspicion growing out of that ignorance; then, misunderstanding growing out of that ignorance and suspicion, and finally conflict. A safe general approach for Negro trade-unionists is one that considers questions affecting the black worker’s welfare from the standpoint of sound trade-unionsm, rather than the much narrower one of race. Time will prove the wisdom of this view. What harms the Negro harms all workers. What harms workers in general also harms the Negro. Trade-union leadership has come to recognize today—certainly in the CIO—that if the rights of Negro workers are not made secure exploitative management will not long hesitate before pushing white workers down to the Negro’s level. Just as white workers through their leaders have rapidly come around to this point of view, so Negro workers and members of their race who aspire to leadership in the trade-union movement must accept their responsibility for protecting the interests of organized labor itself.
Opportunity, 22 (Winter, 1944): 12–13.
A round table discussion on “Which Union Is Fairer to the Negro: AFL or CIO?” is featured in the June issue of Negro Digest. CIO Pres. Philip Murray, Willard S. Townsend, pres., Transport Service Employees and Ferdinand Smith, sec, Natl. Martime Union, present the CIO’s case.
The AFL position is given by Pres. William Green and Dr. D. G. Garland, Negro organizer in the South.
“In all the history of the American labor movement,” states Pres. Murray, “no union can match the sterling record of the CIO in battling racial discrimination.”
Contrasting the CIO and the AFL policy on race discrimination, Murray asserts that unlike the AFL, not a single CIO union bars Negroes from membership, or sanctions Jim Crow locals, but on the other hand, Negro trade union leaders hold high office in most CIO unions.
“The enemies of the Negro are the enemies of the CIO,” he declares.
Mr. Townsend explains that Negroes do not expect or want special treatment in the labor movement, but only their democratic rights, and this is what they get in the CIO, which offers them “an equal opportunity to assume their responsibilities and obligations as organized working men and women.”
A poll taken by Negro Digest of a cross-section of the Negro population shows that most Negroes favor the CIO over the AFL: Here are the figures:
CIO News, June 11, 1945.