Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hidden History: Labor Strikes During WW2

World War Two: The Good War. Rosie the Riveter. Everybody pitching in to beat the Nazis and Japanese. The American economy was the Arsenal of Democracy. Labor came through with a no strike pledge. Tanks, planes, trucks and parts were cranked out for all of the Allies by our manufacturing prowess. Everoyne was focused on beating those fascists as soon as possible. Except for the millions of labor days lost due to strikes at factories and in the coal mines.

Strikes had been on a tear in the run up to official involvement in WW2. They would return with a vengeance directly after WW2 ended (three days after the Japanese surrendered). The most fiercely communist were taking advantage of the ramp up in production to supply the allies to secure more favorable terms of employment. When WW2 began, the most fervently communist became the most docile and pro-war effort. The alliance with their Soviet brothers-in-arms had a galvanizing effect on output. The braintrust of the leading unions declared a no strike pledge, but this did not work. In a short period of time, the union mindset had so infected American workers that factory floor control was impossible.

There were many union strikes during WW2. Thousands of wild cat strikes that cost millions of labor days lost, but always in the words of our historians having "no impact on the war effort". Despite the no strike pledge, control at the factory level was not complete and many union workers went on strike during WW2. There were roughly 3,000 strikes in 1942 that idled over 800,000 workers. Even the coal miners (not part of the no strike pledge fraternity) got in on the act, causing FDR to plead with them in 1943. The Smith-Connally Act was passed to stop strikes that interfered with war production as well as force strikers to give warnings. It still did not slow them down as there were more strikes in 1944 than any previous year in US history. Check some of the links for the antics of the union men in America who worked in "awful" factory conditions while your grandfather served on a submarine, manned a tank or was a belly gunner in an unescorted bomber.

The US was not alone. Those Brits enduring the Blitz and at greater risk compared to mainland America saw unions fight for their rights and strike often. The Aussies had a major problem with this as well, with their union battle involving sabotaged ships and unloaded boats adn planes. Hidden for seventy years, the Aussie sabotage and acts of treason are recounted in a new book (hat tip Lead + Gold). Australian and American servicemen died because of them, and authorities had to call off the Allied military men from beating the longshoremen to death. This has been covered up under the cloak of a unified home front for decades. The white union vote was the backbone of the early Democrat machine when the focus was on economic egalitarian policy. They still are a huge campaign contributor today. The problem arises that historians and academics love to trumpet the victories of labor, so there is a Catch-22 about covering treasonous union actions. It gets swept under the rug, but even labor's records fo their great deeds records such events like "In September 1944, 20,000 workers struck for two days at the Ford Willow Run bomber plant against the transfer of workers in violation of seniority rules". Remember, no effect on the war effort.

Is it treason? Is this hyperbole? The war was won, tanks and planes were built and the war effort was not affected by this per the academics aligned with the unions. Maybe a day's work stoppage does not sound like much, but in aggregate, the stoppages of just one year amounted to what could have been 2,000 bombers if all workers were concentrated in bomber production. For perspective, the most B-17s the US had in commission at one time was 4,000. Those were the Flying Fortresses; the symbol of American power. Does an extra B-17 end the war sooner? No, but an extra 100 or 1000 could. Even spread out it can be a day or three difference in a breakout from Normandy. Tank spare parts, rifles, and even simple screw production for fighter planes all could make a difference. If every life and every miliary casualty is a tragedy, then what factory workers with draft exemptions, surrounded by women writing "Dear John" letters, did was treason.


Anonymous said...

Most Americans under 30 probably have only a vague idea of what a "strike" is. Hard to believe, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries US led the world in violent labor vs. capitalist conflict.

Portlander said...

Sure they do. It's when a bunch of public employees or quasi-public employees (teachers, bus drivers) refuse to show up to work, throwing everyone else's life into turmoil as they scramble to work-around the massive inconvenience, so that some mediocrity making as much or more in salary, and twice as much in healthcare and retirement benefits, can shakedown taxpayers to further feather their nest.

Anonymous said...

Rubbish. Witholding your labour isn't treason under a capitalist system. Which the US was during WW2 (not so sure now...).
If you're going to demand labour from people under duress, you're in a command economy and that would kind of negate the point of the Free Countries vs the Axis propaganda, no?
Also, not sure I'd want to be 20,000ft in the ball turret riveted together by a sumbitch who was only doing it at gunpoint.

Big Bill said...

Treason for going on strike? Yeah. That is the legacy of Napoleon, who also nationalized his whole country. Men, women, children. It was Total War, baby.

Napoleon invented it, for Chrissakes. Everyone had to contribute to Napoleon's war effort. No one could escape.

But that is the whole point of being eternally at war with Eastasia, isn't it? Male everyone a subject to the regime. Why that is why obama has his indefinite detentions and Gitmos and NSA soys. It is all for the war effort. Nothing shall escape big brother. So, yeah. Let's execute them all for treason. Hell, execute those damn fascist right wing fundamentalists. Execute those weak t!tty Rosie the Riveters who won't work round the clock.

Execute Snowden. Execute Glenn Greenwald. Execute Matt Taibbi. They are all traitors. They ALL give "aid and comfort" to the Enemy.

By God, when Obama says work 12 hours shifts YOU WILL WORK.

God, I am glad you have gotten past this pussy "civil rights" stuff and "freedom of speech" stuff, and "walkout" stuff.

When the man says "Jump" , white boy, you ask "how high"!

Gladys B said...

I really don't think you want to charge them with treason and have them executed.

Better you federalize all people (formerly known as "civilians") of working age (say 14-70) for the duration of the war and charge them with "mutiny".

That way you can imprison them whenever they strike like the Fed imprisoned the striking stevedores after the Port Chicago Disaster, and still get some work out of them.

As a further advantage, not executing Gramps for treason when he goes on strike means you could apply MORE pressure to his surviving relatives.

That was the mistake the Nazis made with their civilian slave laborers during WWII. They executed them when they wouldn't work (i.e. went on strike).

How enlightened America would be to the world if it only imprisoned its striking civilian laborers rather than kill them as treasonous, don't you think?

I really think you should reconsider your death-for-striking-during-wartime policy. I think it would be counterproductive.

Then again, you are a New Yorker at heart and therefore probably know a bit better than I about extracting work from poor peasant people.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Comments got dark quickly. FDR had a good method for dealing with the worst of strikers by threatening to change draft exemptions. That worked in returning employees to work.

I first read about the Australian union theatrics and then looked into the American scene. What the Aussie longshoremen deserved beatdowns and its suppression in coverage is horrible. Reviewing the US information, it was wildcat strikes mostly by employees with little minds. To have a bomber plant strike in the middle of a war when the US had land forces and air forces engaged in two theaters over 'seniority transfers' is an example of power of the people. Some union strikes make sense, and others are selfish acts.

Inane Rambler said...

Something tells me the Soviets didn't take to kindly to workers who decided they didn't want to sacrifice for the war effort.

peterike said...

but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries US led the world in violent labor vs. capitalist conflict.

Indeed, much of the labor agitation was driven by Communist Jewish immigrants from Europe. They used the labor movement as an entry point to gain political and economic power, as it was one of the few available routes open to them at the time.

Well it worked. But when Jews became the dominant power in America -- the old WASP establishment collapse in the face of Jewish power occurring from the 60s to the 70s -- then suddenly labor was the enemy. Strikes started to dry up. Industry began to be outsourced. Rootless globalism triumphed.

The Democrats -- the party of the Jews -- continue to give lip service to "labor" as they put a knife in its back by flooding the nation and universities with immigrants. Union labor is now mostly government union labor, and it's real purpose is to funnel taxpayer money back into Democratic political campaigns. It's really just a blatant form of graft and extortion, but boy oh boy does it work wonders.

High Arka said...

What a pleasant read--to think of people resisting the ZOG genocide of Europe, despite the greatest (at that point) propaganda push yet seen in the world...!