Election 1944: CIO-PAC causes split in ranks of organized labor (8-4-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 4, 1944)


CIO-PAC causes split in ranks of organized labor

Rebuffs come from all sides and labor movement is worried over outcome of stand

Few political ventures in recent years have aroused the intense interest caused by the CIO Political Action Committee, and its effort in the 1944 elections – and few have so completely split the ranks of organized labor.

Both the American Federation of Labor and the United Mine Workers Union, in their national publications, have rebuffed the PAC.

Railway papers caustic

Most biting of all labor comment, however, has come from the weekly publication of the railway brotherhoods, Labor. In an editorial entitled “Mr. Hillman’s Fantastic Proposal,” that paper declares flatly the PAC will “strengthen the hands of organized labor’s foes, and increase the demand for more rigid regulation of labor unions.”

Because of the great interest in the PAC, and because the Labor editorial has been discussed but briefly in articles published here, the text of the editorial is reprinted today:

Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, is chief director of the CIO’s political activities. In order to comply with the provisions of the Smith-Connally Bill, he proposes to operate through two committees, one made up of members of the CIO and the other of citizens who sympathize with the CIO’s objectives.

Mr. Hillman says that each of these committees will have a campaign fund of $3 million. That’s a total of $6 million. In addition, he proposes to “freeze” what is left of a fund of $700,000 raised influence this year’s primaries.

Never before attempted

Never has any group in the labor movement attempted to raise such huge sums for political purposes. for example, the Standard Railroad Labor Organizations, which during the last 25 years have been more active in the political field than any other labor group, have never spent in any campaign as much as one half of one percent of the amount Mr. Hillman says he and his associates will throw into the 1944 campaign in order to reelect Mr. Roosevelt and members of Congress approved by the CIO.

Parenthetically, it might be pointed out that the CIO “tests” for candidates are not trade union “yardsticks,” and frequently emphasize issues of no direct concern to the working man.

As a consequence, candidates with good labor records are being viciously and even viciously opposed by the CIO, while candidates with comparatively poor labor records are ardently approved by the CIO.

Labor movement worried

However, that is a comparatively minor issue. What concerns us at the moment is Mr. Hillman’s proposal to raise great slush funds to carry the coming election.

Coupled with Mr. Hillmans open alliance with the Communists in New York States and elsewhere, we have a situation which is full of ominous possibilities for the entire labor movement.

No fair-minded American can question the right of workers to organize for political purposes and to ardently support their friends and oppose their enemies.

However, if Mr. Hillman, or anyone else, imagines that a proposal to raise $6 million to control a presidential campaign will not cause the most serious repercussions from one end of this country to the other, he simply does not know the American people.

Inevitably Mr. Hillman’s program will strengthen the hands of organized labor’s foes and increase the demand for more rigid regulation of labor unions.

If only the CIO were affected by such hostile popular reaction, we might shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s none of our business.” Unfortunately, while the great majority of trade unionists have no interests in or sympathy for Mr. Hillman’s grandiose plan, the entire labor movement is likely to feel the sting of popular disapproval.

Reds dominate organization

Mr. Hillman’s alliance with the “Reds” is also a matter of moment to all trade unionists. For years, AFL unions were plagued by Communist efforts to penetrate their ranks. There were successfully resisted, but only after long and bitter and costly struggles.

Now, with the approval of the CIO, Mr. Hillman has thrown the doors wide open to the “Reds.” They dominate his political organization. They write the propaganda the CIO circulates in political campaigns. They will direct the expenditure of the millions Mr. Hillman proposes to raise for this campaign.

Labor seriously questions if Hillman’s tactics will aid the Roosevelt-Truman ticket. It is much more likely to injure it. But whatever the effect may be on the presidential campaign, Labor fears the consequences may be most disturbing to the regular labor movement. Therefore, it seems advisable to repudiate Mr. Hillman’s unprecedented program at the very beginning.