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The Four Railroad Brotherhoods and the Outlaw" Strike
The four brotherhoods of railroad employees, with about a half million members, have thus far not affiliated themselves with the American Federation of Labor, although various proposals have been made to effect an amalgamation, and it has been recently stated that two of the brotherhoods have arranged to affiliate in May and the other two perhaps later. Meanwhile, a strong attempt to undermine the brotherhoods' organization, has been made during the recent unauthorized so-called "outlaw" strike of railway employees, a strike which the brotherhoods have recog nized as a direct attack on their organization.
These four brotherhoods are:
(1) The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, headed by W. S. Stone;
(2) The Order of Railroad Conductors, headed by A. B. Garretson;
(3) The Brotherhood of Firemen and Enginemen, headed by Timothy Shea; and
(4) The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, headed by W. G. Lee.
The locomotive engineers organized in May, 1863; the conductors, in 1868; the firemen and enginemen, in 1873, and the trainmen, in 1883. These powerful brotherhoods have been recognized as conservative in character and as working harmoniously with the more conservative leaders of the American Federation of Labor. In fact, it is precisely this character of the organization that has encouraged the present disturbance. The members have felt that the organizations have not exercised strong enough pressure to secure increased wages and better hours, after a consideration of the claims of the men had been referred to the railroad commission that was to be appointed by President Wilson.
In this conservatism of the brotherhoods they have differed very strongly from the corresponding organization in Great Britain which belongs to the famous Triple Alliance, and which is a leader in the radical labor movement.
We are publishing elsewhere the description of the Plumb Plan for running the railroads of the United States, a plan which is considered to be the most radical move taken by the brotherhoods. Mr. Plumb is the attorney for the brotherhoods, and all four of
the brotherhoods adopted the Plumb Plan in 1919, and it was presented to Congress in their name in the Sims bill. In the statement that was handed in at this time, signed by Stone for the locomotive engineers, by Lee for the trainmen, by Shea for the firemen and enginemen, by Sheppard for the conductors, and by Jewel for the railway employees, department of the A. F. of L., we find the following:
"Labor faces a persistently serious situation, due to the cost of living and the impossibility of wages keeping pace with the depreciation of money. No fundamental changes are being advanced to save workers from continued defeat in the economic struggle of life. The railroad employees are in no mood to brook the return of the lines to their former control, since all the plans suggested for this settlement of the problems leave labor essentially where it has stood and where it is determined not to stand.
"We realize that in the strife for wage increases we cannot win any permanent victory. It is not money, but value, which counts. The vicious circle is infinite; increased wages are over-capitalized, for inflated profits and the cost of goods mount faster than the wage level. A few grow wealthy and the multitude is impoverished.
"Any basic change must begin with the railroads.
Our proposal is to operate the railroads democratically, apply-
As we know, the Plumb Plan was not adopted, and the railroads were returned to private ownership. But the Plumb Plan still remains an ideal in the minds of the brotherhoods. In this connection, therefore, it is interesting to quote the opinion expressed at the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, held in August, in Seattle, which characterizes the Plumb Plan as follows:
"Demands of the railroad workers constitute a definite program for government ownership. The overwhelming
trend of sentiment through the United States is opposed to government ownership. Such ownership would increase the total debt twenty billion dollars, severely strain the credit of the nation, and depress the value of the Liberty and Victory Bonds held by millions of people. Government ownership, characterized as disastrous wherever tried, would retard development of the railroads and throw the lines into politics."
In connection with the revolt against the brotherhoods that culminated in the "outlaw" strike referred to above, which spread from Chicago to the whole country and for a time tied up, to a great extent, both freight and passenger service, it is interesting to note that the Communist Party took advantage of the situation as did also I. W. W. sympathizers and leaders to intensify the unrest and increase the power of the strike. This is exemplified in the distribution of handbills, the details of which are published as follows in the April 15th issue of the New York "Sun":
"STRIKERS BETRAYED, SAYS COMMUNIST HANDBILL
"The subjoined handbill is being distributed among the strikers. It made its appearance yesterday. The copy printed below was sent through the mails to the Sun' and New York Herald.' Agents of the Department of Justice have been unable to find the distributors.
"The popular method of getting the dodgers to the strikers is to throw small bundles of them into groups of the men. Generally it is done by someone speeding past in an automobile. They are to be found in large numbers in all the halls where the strikers meet. The handbill, with its headings and typography reproduced, reads as follows:
66 "DOWN WITH THE BETRAYERS OF THE WORKERS! "PROCLAMATION TO THE STRIKING RAILWAYMEN BY THE CENTRAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF AMERICA.
"You are on strike. You have been compelled to quit your jobs to enforce your demand for wages which will enable you to support your families. You are fighting to protect yourselves from the bosses.
"You did not go on strike independently until you were convinced that those who were chosen to protect your interests had betrayed you and were unworthy of your trust. Your strike is the result of the discontent of the masses of the workers with your appointed 'leaders.' It is action by the rank and file to secure wages that will enable you to live, because you are convinced that your reactionary officials cannot be trusted.
"Your strike is a part of the great class struggle of the workers against the capitalists. In this struggle there are only two sides the workers' side and that of the capitalists. Any man, any official, who is loyal to the workers would have supported you in your strike once it was begun.
"But in place of supporting you, in place of bringing to your support all the resources of your organization and thus helping you to win the fight against the bosses, the officials of the great unions of those employed on the railroads are calling your strike 'ILLEGAL' and calling you' OUTLAWS.'
"In their eyes it is illegal for you to demand more comforts for your families unless they approve of your demand. It is illegal for you to want to take action against the bosses without their consent. Having betrayed you by not taking up your struggle in the beginning, now that you have taken matters in your own hands, they betray you further by helping the bosses to break your strike.
"Striking railwaymen, your officials are teaching you the lesson which the workers of this country must learn before they can hope for better things for themselves.
"The reactionary heads of the Railroad Brotherhoods as well as of the American Federation of Labor, are the enemies of the masses of the workers. They betrayed the coal miners in their strike AND THEY ARE NOW BETRAYING YOU.
"The workers will never get anything for themselves so long as they follow these reactionary officials who help to uphold the bosses. These reactionary officials are the chief supporters of the whole rotten system of
capitalism. The president of the Trainmen's Union W. J. Lee, has even gone so far as to endorse General Leonard Wood for the presidency - General Wood whom the capitalists are grooming for the presidency so that they can put down the strikes of the workers with bullets!
"Sweep aside the traitors to the working class in your organization! Throw them out! Make your organization the militant expression of the masses of the workers! Keep it out of the reactionary American Federation of Labor! Make it REAL fighting organization against low wages, bad working conditions, AND, MORE IMPORTANT, AGAINST THE CAPITALISTS AND THE WHOLE CAPITALIST SYSTEM!
"Stand firm in your present strike. Do not let the cry of illegal' and 'outlaw' frighten you. These cries are merely the means through which the reactionary betrayers of the workers maintain their power.
The masses of the workers in other industries do not care a hang whether your strike is 'illegal' and you are 'outlaws' in the eyes of these betrayers. They know you are right in your demands. They know you are fighting against the bosses who rob and oppress you and that whatever workers fight the bosses -the workers are right.
"Other workers are joining you. The miners of Kansas are striking in spite of state laws and the 'illegality' of their strike. The Communist Party of America is in full sympathy with you and its members will give you their support. "Stand firm! Fight it out! Fight it out! Force the bosses to grant your demands. You have the power to win if you stick to the finish.
"THEN REBUILD YOUR ORGANIZATION, THROW OUT THE REACTIONARY BETRAYERS OF THE WORKERS WHO HOLD FAT JOBS, LIVE IN COMFORT AND CALL YOUR DEMANDS FOR BETTER THINGS ILLEGAL.' MAKE IT A FIGHTING MACHINE FOR THE WORKERS, MAKE IT ONE BIG UNION OF