Friday, May 24, 1946

The Charlotte News

Friday, May 24, 1946


Site Ed. Note: The front page news is, with one small exception, entirely devoted to the railroad strike, the first time since the war that any single subject had so occupied front page news, indicative of its impact on the country.

Government mediator John Steelman reported that it was unlikely there would be a quick settlement of the strike. Only 50 of the 17,500 passenger trains normally operating continued in operation, despite the Office of Defense Transportation seizure of the roads.

The railroad strike directly impacted 250,000 workers of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen's unions, but another 1.2 million were indirectly affected. The number directly involved were less than either the 700,000 in the prior steel strike or the 400,000 in the current coal strike. The strike was the first nationwide rail strike since 1922 and was the largest in the country's history.

The Office of Defense Transportation limited out of town mail service to first class and airmail, imposing a one-pound weight limit. The Army and Navy would assist commercial airlines in carrying the mail.

Major cities would suffer food shortages within a few days from the strike and industries were threatened with shutdown. Brownouts would be ordered by the Civil Production Administration the following week in Eastern and Midwestern coal-producing areas.

New York City stood virtually isolated from its normal commuter traffic via train, causing workers to be hours late, clogging available alternative means of transportation and thumbing rides on the side of the road. The New York stock exchanges ordered normally abbreviated Saturday operations suspended.

Senator Harry Flood Byrd called upon the President to urge immediately the Congress to pass legislation to curb further strike activity. He said that the President was considering an address to a joint session of Congress on the issue, which the Senator hoped would come the following day. Debate was proceeding on a labor bill, with a cloture vote set for the following afternoon.

Harold Ickes, in his column, discusses the coal strike, indicates that the Government seizure of the coal mines meant that the Government and UMW had reached an agreement in principle as to the contract; for, if Mr. Lewis did not want the miners back in the mines, he only needed to give the order, even after seizure. Secretary of Interior J. A. Krug would not have taken over the mines unless there had been a prior agreement that the miners would return to work, and such a promise would likely have carried with it an agreement on basic contract terms.

The pending bill in the Senate introduced by Senator Byrd suggested that there would be joint administration by the miners and operators of the welfare fund in some, as yet undetermined, manner. He believed there would be reduction of the percentage of gross profits from the demanded 7 percent to 3 percent to constitute the fund, or to a nickel per ton of coal mined. The miners would work a 35-hour week and receive an 18.5 cents per hour wage increase, meaning annual wages would increase from about $2,800 per year to $3,400, making the coal miners the highest paid workers in heavy industry. The consumer would likely have to pay an additional 35 cents per ton of coal.

He further predicts that other industries would want similar benefits and a welfare fund as well. The only thing the public could find in the likely scenario which was positive was that Mr. Lewis would not be controlling a 70 million dollar fund.

Meanwhile, the legal advisers of Mr. Lewis were reported to be studying the Smith-Connally Act before any statements would be issued to the miners. There were hints that the FBI was investigating possible interference with mine operations by some of the striking miners.

On the editorial page, "For a Reassertion of Authority" discusses the paralyzing effect on the country from the railroad and coal strikes, favors abandonment of the theory that Government could effect unity between labor and management, that the attempt by President Truman to do so had failed.

It advocates legislation, starting with denial of unemployment compensation to strikers, to deal with the excesses demonstrated by labor, able to shut down the country at will to obtain what it wanted. It also favored legislation to subject the unions to antitrust restrictions, preventing restraint of trade. It also wanted removal of administration of the laws from the control of partisan interests—presumably, though not specifically so stating, advocating the setting up of a court system for hearing labor disputes, as previously recommended by Congressman Sam J. Ervin.

"The Old Guard Won't Surrender" comments on the story out of Pennsylvania during the week that the Old Guard Republicans had achieved a large victory over the more progressive elements of the party. It suggested a harbinger for 1948, similar to every election year during the previous 14 years, save 1940 when Wendell Willkie had been the Republican nominee.

The ultra-conservative Southern interests within the party would also sway it toward the right, especially given that the party chairman was now Representative Carrol Reece of Tennessee.

The Republicans of North Carolina had cheered progressive Harold Stassen, former Governor of Minnesota, when he addressed them earlier in the spring, but had privately stated behind the scenes that his candidacy was doomed, that Senator Robert Taft or former Governor John W. Bricker, both of Ohio, would carry the party banner in 1948.

With the Democrats absent their leader, FDR, the Old Guard Republicans saw an opportunity to return to power and thus would not yield to the progressive interests within the party.

By 1948, they would, as usual, however, regret it—except in Chicago.

"Don't Forget the Sheriff's Scramble" advises voters going to the polls Saturday to consider closely the candidates for Sheriff. There was great interest in the race, though the Sheriff's duties were limited to service of process, acting as bailiffs for the courts, and tending the jail.

Drew Pearson writes an open letter to Attorney General Tom Clark, advising Mr. Clark to seek again before the Supreme Court a hearing on the issue of whether the Sherman Antitrust Act could apply to John L. Lewis's monopoly exercised on the coal industry through the UMW, permitting him to shut down the nation's coal industry, having achieved his power through the Wagner Act.

Mr. Pearson realizes that it was not good law, based on the Court's prior rulings that the Clayton Act and Norris-La Guardia Act specifically exempted unions from antitrust restrictions and penalties imposed by the Sherman Act. He hoped, however, that the Attorney General might prevail upon the Court to reconsider in light of the paralyzing strike now gripping the country.

He further advises that if Mr. Clark felt that he did not have the legal basis to do so, then he should advise Congress to pass new legislation—indeed, the only way the two acts exempting the application of antitrust laws to unions could be circumvented or overturned at this juncture.

The Supreme Court was not going to repeal plain statutory language not in any way violative of the Constitution or beyond the powers of Congress to enact; that had to be the exclusive province of Congress.

Marquis Childs points out that when Frances Perkins had been Secretary of Labor, it used to be remarked during labor troubles that if a man were Secretary, such problems would not be happening. John L. Lewis was prone to so remark. But now that Lewis Schwellenbach had been in the position for a year, the country had experienced its worst labor trouble in history. Yet, it was not fair to blame either Secretary Perkins or Secretary Schwellenbach for these problems. Both had almost hopeless jobs.

Mr. Schwellenbach, however, could not be rated thus far a strong Secretary, often seemed overwhelmed by the problems.

Civil Production Administrator John Small had advocated, to the surprise of both Mr. Schwellenbach and the President, implementation of a six-month ban on strikes. Such interference was not helping the Secretary to settle strikes.

Ms. Perkins now wrote a weekly syndicated column but not on current strike issues, only in a detached manner, most recently on the full employment bill and price control.

Richard Boeckel discusses the history of organized labor, informs of the vast increases in unionization since 1917, going from 3.5 million union members to five million after World War I, to 15 million in 1946, out of 35 million total non-agricultural workers. Of the union members, about 13.5 million were covered by collective bargaining agreements, about 45 percent of whom were in closed-shop or union-shop agreements and another 29 percent in maintenance-of-membership agreements.

Unions had first begun in the country around 1800 and the first national union, the Typographical Union, started in 1850, with the Locomotive Engineers following in 1863. The first national federation of labor unions began in 1866 and the AF of L was formed in 1886, as trade union membership reached a million the following year. The 1890's depression cut membership in half, such that fewer than a million workers belonged to unions by 1900, but rose to two million by 1904.

A letter from a World War II veteran accuses the News of seeking to foster World War III in order to sell newspapers, such as by the publication of abstracts from I Chose Freedom by Russian defector Victor Kravchenko, which had begun serialization on May 20.

It asks rhetorically whether the editors believed that Americans were in danger of embracing a Soviet-type system and that publication of the abstracts would cause them to turn away from the temptation. The writer accuses Mr. Kravchenko of simply wanting "sucker money" by writing his account.

Such commentary as that of Mr. Kravchenko, he continues, was only breeding distrust and not informing the people, who already disliked Soviet Communism and needed no further push against the wartime ally whose efforts were indispensable to victory.

He concludes by saying that he had been a member of Patton's Third Army, was wounded in combat, and did not want his ten-year old son to have to fight in another war.

"Think it over! I wish I could think differently."

The editors respond that the series was being published because it provided a readable look into Russia's dark side, to show that it was not taking the same route as the United States, equally as informative as a piece by Ilya Ehrenburg, one of the three visiting Soviet journalists.

"As for pandering to the public taste by publishing sensational stuff, we expect no more increase in readership from this series than we would from a serialization of The Bobbsey Twins."

A letter finds the devotion to ideals of equality to be dragging the nation down, as in the case of a black man who had fired a gun and killed two American soldiers in Germany, determined to be an accident. The writer finds this accident determination to be a white-wash, in deference to the skin color of the man who had fired the weapon, and that a German soldier who had killed two American soldiers would have been summarily tried before a military tribunal and shot.

So, implicit in his argument is the notion that denying equal rights to some because of their skin color is the way to be free in a democracy, not following those starry-eyed idealists.

A letter seeks reprinting of the housing situation in light of Morris Field being turned over to the City, to be used as temporary housing for veterans.

The editors oblige, responding that of the estimated 3,500 housing units needed in the community, Morris Field would supply 400.

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