Election 1944: Fred W. Perkins columns

The Pittsburgh Press (July 24, 1944)


Perkins: Democrat-CIO tie-up to help GOP strategy

AFL resentment may split labor vote
By Fred W. Perkins, Scripps-Howard staff writer

Washington –
Republican plans to drive a wedge in the organized labor vote and to produce an approximate balance which might swing the November election got a shot in the arm from the events in the Democratic conventions.

The obvious plan is to encourage belief among leaders and members of the American Federation of Labor that if President Roosevelt is elected again, the CIO will be more firmly anchored as a political partner of the administration, and thus in position to expect more of the governmental favors about which the AFL has already complained publicly.

The factor on which the Republicans are counting is the tie-up of the CIO with the Democratic ticket, making it apparent that a Dewey victory would leave the AFL in more favorable position than if Mr. Roosevelt goes in again.

AFL suspicious of CIO

Although some AFL leaders and a number of local organizations are backing Mr. Roosevelt, the existence of a Republican chance for votes among the 6,500,000 claimed members of the AFL was shown by the watchful eye which AFL leaders kept on CIO activities in Chicago.

What some AFL leaders think of their politically active rivals is indicated by an article in the AFL News Service. Answering the question, “How much weight will the CIO Political Action Committee swing in the November elections?”, Philip Pearl, AFL publicist, wrote:

It’s hard for the public to tell because the PAC is a rather tricky outfit. Already it has gone underground and left a new organization to front for it, called the National Citizens’ Political Action Committee.

This is in accordance with the typical Communist technique. The reason given is that unions, under the Connally-Smith Act, are forbidden to make political contributions and that therefore a new committee was necessary to raise campaign funds by voluntary contributions.

The AFL article continued:

But a more practical reasons is apparent. That one is to take the CIO name out of the organization’s title. The Communist stooges behind the PAC are canny enough to realize that the initials CIO are enough to give any outfit a black eye.

This article also asserted:

If the President is elected to a fourth term, it will be in spite of rather than because of the CIO’s help. As for candidates for lesser office, they are likely to find that the benison of the CIO in 1944, as in former years, will turn out to be the kiss of death.

UMW attacks

Republicans believe that such ideas, if accepted widely among the rank-and-file AFL membership, would produce a real split.

The CIO and its political views and works are under steady attack in the publications of the United Mine Workers, whose president, John L. Lewis, will make an effort in a September convention to convince the half-million coalminers that their interests do not lie with the political leader they have followed in three elections.

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The Pittsburgh Press (July 25, 1944)


Perkins: Lewis ignores plank written for him in Democratic platform

Promise to aid coal industry stands out as one of few definite New Deal pledges
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Washington –
John L. Lewis, who is trying to shepherd the United Mine Workers and their voting relatives away from support of President Roosevelt, didn’t show at the Democratic National Convention, but a platform plank was written for him just the same.

It is a peculiar plank because it is definite. It stands out amid the many general and the ambiguous statements. It pledges “federal legislation to assure stability of products, employment, distribution and prices in the bituminous coal industry to create a proper balance between consumer, producer and mine worker.”

This is a restatement of the aims of the now-defunct “Guffey Act” – first enacted in 1935 and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, reenacted in 1937 and upheld, extended experimentally twice by Congress, and finally allowed to die a year ago, because the legislators were in no mood to do anything desired by Mr. Lewis. He was then in the middle of his long strike-punctuated fight against wartime wage policies.

New bills pending

Bills to revive this legislation are now pending in both Senate and House, but not one bears the name of the original sponsor, Senator Joseph F. Guffey (D-PA). The coal operators who brought about the introductions decided they could do better without the Guffey label. Nor have Mr. Lewis nor any of his legislative aides appeared prominently in support of the proposal.

But the mine workers leadership is much in favor of this kind of a law as a means of maintaining coal prices so that miners’ wages can be saved from a nosedive at the end of the war.

The story of how this plank got in the Democratic platform includes an appearance on its behalf by Charles O’Neill, operator who leads the industry school of thought that the coal industry cannot prosper without federal maintenance of prices; and also a belief by some Democrats, said to include Frank Hague of New Jersey, that it would be a good idea for the purpose of stopping what they were told was a trek of miners away from the Democratic Party.

GOP not committed

No corresponding promise is in the Republican platform, but GOP Chairman Herbert Brownell Jr. said he sees indications of a heavy miner vote in favor of the Dewey-Bricker ticket. Incidentally, a large part of this vote is in states where it might swing electoral votes – such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

A difference between this year and 1940 is that the Lewis declaration of four years ago was made only a short time before the election, while now the miners’ leader will have several months in which to spread his anti-Roosevelt doctrine through his organization. This union will open its convention, of about 2,500 delegates, in Cincinnati on Sept. 12. The political intentions of the leadership, and some indication of the response from the rank and file, are expected to come into the open at that time.

A big pro-Roosevelt labor convention will run almost concurrently. It will be the annual gathering of the CIO United Auto Workers, opening Sept. 11 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. R. J. Thomas, Richard Frankensteen and other leaders of the auto workers were foremost in the fight for Henry A. Wallace at last week’s proceedings in Chicago and were disappointed, but, like all other CIO spokesmen, are pledged to go down the line for the Roosevelt ticket.

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The Pittsburgh Press (July 28, 1944)


Perkins: Casey, battling for UMW, sure hits that ball

Lewis editor raps Hillman, Democrats
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Washington –
Casey’s at the bat, and really swinging.

Casey is K. C. Adams, one of John L. Lewis’ favorite authors. He is editor of the United Mine Workers Journal, the official Lewis program, and in today’s issue, Casey really hits hard.

It is not difficult to detect that Casey and his Journal and the eyebrowed boss of the Miners’ Union are against:

  • “Sidney Hillman, self-appointed head of the CIO Political Action Committee, with Roosevelt approval, which… changed its name to cover up its ‘Commie’ domination… Phil Murray…. Reduced to a stooge… at Hillman’s side.”

  • “Marshall Field III, richest man in America, who imagines he can become a newspaperman by spending money on newspapers which hardly anybody reads.”

  • “The Democratic Party running on its record… The Little Steel formula and all other devices intended to freeze the American workingman as a political servant of the New Deal Party.”

** The Democratic platform, which “doesn’t exactly claim the war is the private property of the Democratic Party, but does claim the Roosevelt administration saw the war coming and got ready for it. Naturally enough, the sinking of eight battleships at Pearl Harbor by the Japs in a surprise attack, and the destruction of most of our oil tankers on the Atlantic Ocean, are not included in the platform boast of foreseeing the war.”

GOP answer is yes

Casey also tells his constituents, the half-million miners and their families, that the Republican platform answer is “Yes” and the Democratic answer is “no,” on the issues of:

  • Unfreeze wages.

  • Unshackle labor from being frozen to the job.

  • Restore the Department of Labor to union labor.

  • Reorganize, consolidate and simplify government boards and bureaus handling labor relations, and administer the laws on a basis of equality.

From now until the November election, the same arguments will be hammered at the coal miners and their voting relatives in an endeavor to accomplish what Mr. Lewis failed to accomplish four years ago – their diversion from voting the Roosevelt ticket. In 1940, Mr. Lewis had only a few weeks in which to work actively and in the open; this year he has several months.

Not as vicious as AFL

The Mine Worker attacks on Sidney Hillman and the CIO-PAC are not quite as vicious as those directed at the Hillman organization by publicists for the American Federation of Labor, who go farther in alleging a Communist background.

While Mr. Lewis and his union have not been taken back into the AFL, there is an apparent political sympathy between them – with the difference that Mr. Lewis is openly anti-Roosevelt, the AFL uncommitted on him, but definitely anti-Hillman.

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The Pittsburgh Press (July 30, 1944)


Perkins: The Hatch laws say

By Fred W. Perkins, Press Washington correspondent

Washington –
The job of enforcing the laws against undue political activity of federal employees will be greater in this election campaign than in any preceding one, for two reasons: (1) There are many more such employees, under the wartime expansion; (2) a large proportion have not had time to become indoctrinated with the politically-passive etiquette that is supposed to govern public servants, and many regard themselves as only temporarily on the federal payroll, with a consequent lesser fear of the principal penalty, expulsion.

The size of the job is indicated by the fact that the number of federal civilian employees, in and outside the continental United States, is now greater than the total number of employees of all the states, counties, cities, towns and other local units of the entire country.

The latest figure of the Civil Service Commission for the federal service shows 2,862,449 federal employees within the continental United states, plus 415,100 outside, a total of 3,277,549. The latest available figure on the total of state and local government is 3,069,600.

Congress has recognized the larger job of enforcing the political activities laws through adding $40,000 to the usual annual $50,000 of the Civil Service Commission for this purpose. That money will not be used for organization of a corps of official watchers of the behavior of federal employees. There is no such corps, and none is planned.

This is the law

The theory is that a federal employee cannot become active in party politics without making himself conspicuous and obnoxious, subject to being reported on or complained against by persons who are on the other side of the question.

Big, black “WARNING” signs have been posted in hundreds of thousands of places where they will reach the attention of the persons most concerned. They cite first, THE LAW:

It shall be unlawful for any person employed in the executive branch of the federal government, or any agency or department thereof, to use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or affecting the result thereof. No officer or employee in the executive branch of the federal government, or any agency or department thereof, shall take any active part in political management or in political campaigns. All such persons shall retain the right to vote as they may choose and to express their opinions on all political subjects and candidates.

Other legislation applies the same restrictions to employees of the District of Columbia, and to state or local employees “whose principal activity is in connection with any activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or by any federal agency.”

Depends on degree

Terms of the law indicate one of its main difficulties – that the propriety of political activity frequently depends on its degree. For instance, while the federal employee retains the right to express his opinions, if he does so in a public speech, he would be stepping over the line.

He may display a political picture in his home if he so desires, and the Commission apparently sees nothing improper about that. And he may wear a political

They may not–

The following are some of the forms of prohibited political activity:

  • Serving on or for any political committee, party or other similar organization.

  • Soliciting or handling political contributions.

  • Serving as officer of a political club, as member or officer of any of its committees, addressing such a club or being active in organizing it.

  • Serving in connection with, preparation for, organizing or conducting a political meeting or rally, addressing such a meeting, or taking any other active part therein except as a spectator.

  • Engaging in political conferences while on duty, or canvassing a district or soliciting political support for a party, faction or candidate.

  • Manifesting offensive activity at the polls, at primary or regular elections, soliciting votes, assisting voters to mark ballots, or helping to get out the voters on registration or election days.

  • Acting as recorder, checker, watcher or challenger of any party or faction.

  • Publishing or being connected editorially or managerially with any newspaper generally known as partisan from a political standpoint; or writing for publication any letter or article, signed or unsigned, in favor of or against any political party or candidate.

  • Becoming a candidate for nomination or election to office, federal, state or local, which is to be filled in an election in which party candidates are involved.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 2, 1944)


Perkins: Steel pay case unique factor in election

President’s decision due before balloting
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Washington –
The 1944 election campaign includes a factor never before in political history: The President running for reelection will be called on, probably two or three weeks before the balloting, to decide whether a large group of his supporters shall get an increase in pay.

This was the picture presented today at the War Labor Board through statements that the factfinding panel in the “Big Steel” wage case is working to present its report before Aug. 31. That would give the board two months before the November election to prepare a recommendation that the “Little Steel” revised upward to meet the demands of the United Steelworkers and other CIO unions.

Final decision Roosevelt’s

Only President Roosevelt can make the final decision, because under his orders defining the duties and jurisdiction of the WLB, that agency must have White House approval before it changes the wartime wage standard. WLB states:

In a number of wage dispute cases pending before the War Labor Board and its agencies, including the dispute in the Steel case, unions have presented demands for general wage increases admittedly beyond the limits of the existing wage stabilization policy. The Board is, of course, without power to approve such demands.

Treasury will pay

The steel union, headed by CIO President Philip Murray, is leading the attack on the administration wage policy. This union is also the keystone of the CIO Political Action Committee, which has announced its intention of spending large sums in its efforts to reelect Mr. Roosevelt and to elect a Congress in sympathy with his policies.

If the steel workers and other CIO unionists get the wage boosts they have been battling for, the costs will be paid first by the steel and other companies concerned, but eventually will come out of the U.S. Treasury, because all the companies concerned are working on war contracts.

Leaders of the unions involved are the source from which the PAC, headed by Sidney Hillman, expects to collect several million dollars for use in the Roosevelt campaign.

From two factors

This wage-decision situation is an outgrowth of two factors:

  • The President’s insistence on keeping all the strings of the labor situation in his own hands.
  • The drive begun last December by the Steelworkers to break the “Little Steel” formula.

If Mr. Roosevelt ups the formula for the steel union, it will go up simultaneously for all the other unions, AFL and CIO, that have wage demands on ice. It may mean a major operation on the administration’s anti-inflation policies.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 16, 1944)


Republicans missing fire?
Perkins: Two labor developments give Democrats edge on GOP

Roosevelt coal program woos UMW; Dewey ‘too busy’ for AFL Labor Day message
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Washington –
Two developments on the labor front here today were favorable to the Democrats, indicating that if the Republicans intend to try to crack the organized-worker vote they had better move fast:

  • President Roosevelt, it was learned, has signed a letter advocating enactment of a new law for stabilization of the bituminous coal industry – this legislation being desired by the United Mine Workers as well as a large group of coal operators. The Roosevelt letter might have the political effect of cramping the style of John L. Lewis in getting the coalminers to change their habit of voting pro-Roosevelt.

  • The American Federation of Labor leadership was reported by a spokesman to have a pronounced case of peeve with Governor Dewey because the Republican candidate, pleading pressure of other business, has declined to write a Labor Day message for the AFL weekly news service and the 300 labor papers which it serves.

Held for right time

On the coal matter: The Roosevelt letter is said to be in the possession of Rep. John W. Flannagan Jr. (D-VA), who will make it public when he thinks the time is ripe. Mr. Flannagan is one of eight Congressmen who have introduced identical bills on the subject.

There is a ninth coal bill in the House, by Rep. Jenkins (R-OH). It differs from the others in that it would set up a commission to stabilized and regulate the coal industry, the commission plan being favored by Mr. Lewis. The other bills would leave regulation in a bureau of the Interior Department.

UMW opposes ‘domination’

The Roosevelt letter is said to straddle on the point of Lewis controversy, and to leave that decision to Congress. A Lewis spokesman says, “We will never consent to bureaucratic domination” – meaning by a bureau in the Interior Department. Lewis’ foes have charged he prefers the commission plan because a UMW representative would be included in the membership.

The Lewis union is reported incensed about the Bureau of Mines. UMW spokesmen say it is steadily becoming “more bureaucratic,” doing less and less of what the Lewis union thinks it ought to do.

On the AFL matter: AFL columnist Philip Pearl, who is regarded as an indicator of the thinking of AFL President William Green, recounts with apparent pain that his request for a Labor Day message from the Republican candidate brought the reply from a Dewey assistant:

Due to the pressure under which Governor Dewey is working at the present time, it is impossible for him to meet the requests for specially written messages, and I am sorry to say it will not be possible for him to write one at this time.

Mr. Pearl wonders, if Mr. Dewey can’t find time to write a Labor Day message, how much time he would be able to spare for labor if and when he is elected; and also whether Mr. Dewey’s assistant “considers us naïve enough to believe that Governor Dewey prepares his own messages.”

The Pittsburgh Press (September 8, 1944)


Perkins: CIO union ignores Dewey’s presence in same hotel

Already committed to Roosevelt, office workers weren’t interested in speech
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania –
The United Office and Professional Workers of America (CIO) resumed its sessions today with hardly a ripple to show that for more than 10 hours the 300 delegates had lived under the same hotel roof with the Republican nominee for President, Governor Dewey.

The Dewey entourage was on the ninth floor of the Bellevue-Stratford. The CIO unionists were meeting on the 18th but there was no communication between the two despite the fact that both are interested in politics.

The reason is, the union is already committed, like all other CIO unions, in its presidential choice. The Office Workers did not wait to see whether the Republican nominee, in his opening campaign speech last night might make some statement or display an ability indicating his fitness for the Presidency.

Declared for Roosevelt

Following the lead of CIO leaders who turned an early thumb down on any Republican who might be named for the high office, they declared for a fourth Roosevelt term early in this week’s convention. They also announced a plan to raise $50,000 for political expenditures by the CIO Political Action Committee.

In his speech here, Governor Dewey promised to discuss the labor question in detail during the campaign and he asserted.

Of course, the rights of labor to organize and bargain collectively and fundamental. My party blazed the trail in that field by passage of the Railway Labor Act in 1926.

One of several unions

The Office and Professional Workers Union is one of several labor organizations cultivating the white-collar workers who are generally described as “including but not limited to office workers, typists, stenographers, clerks, salespersons, bookkeepers and accountants, attorneys, draftsmen, engineers and agents.”

Among all the groups, the Office and Professional Workers Union is regarded as most leftish and its president, Lewis Merrill, has drawn charges of Communistic sympathies from Congressman Martin Dies.

A principal accomplishment of the convention is authority for its officers to proceed with plans to try to induce Congress to legislate a “national white-collar commission” which would be a part of the War Labor Board, with exclusive jurisdiction over salaries including those now under control of the Treasury Department. A general increase of 35 percent is sought in white-collar pay levels, and to this end the white-collar union has endorsed the efforts of other CIO unions to break WLB’s Little Steel wage formula.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 10, 1944)


Perkins: Railway union paper blasts Hillman’s PAC

Attack on McCarran called ‘brazen lies’
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Washington – (Sept. 9)
Denunciations of CIO political activities continued today with a blast from Labor, organ of 115 railway brotherhoods and unions, against Sidney Hillman and the CIO Political Action Committee for unsuccessful efforts to unseat Senator Pat McCarran (D-NV).

The white-haired chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who recently severely condemned administration procedure in the Montgomery Ward seizure of last spring, won renomination this week, defeating Lieutenant Governor Vail Pittman, brother of the late Senator Kay Pittman.

Labor charged the Hillman committee with “lies,” with having “united with reactionaries,” and with using Communistic tactics in an effort which the publication asserted was thwarted by the railway unions and the American Federation of Labor.

Other AFL attacks

That was one of a series of attacks on the CIO politicos from labor sources. In a recent one, Philip Pearl, publicist for the AFL, characterized the CIO-PAC as “the strongest anti-labor force in America today” and predicted it would prove not only to be “a fearful boomerang for the CIO but that it will do a lasting harm to the cause of the entire labor movement of America.”

To this Len de Caux, publicist for the CIO, replied in print that the AFL had been deceived into repeating slanders which had been originated by “anti-labor sources,” including some newspapers that were charged with being anti-union.

‘Brazen lies’ circulated

Today’s Labor article said:

Reactionary Democrats in Nevada have always been against McCarran because of his outspoken support of labor and other progressive measures. They thought they could “get him” this time.

Hillman’s outfit, which apparently had money to “throw at the bords,” was not interested in McCarran’s labor record. It opposed him because he refused to embrace its peculiar “ideologies” and circulated the most brazen lies concerning his work in the Senate.

Some workers were deceived. They were not familiar with Communist tactics and imagined Hillman’s propagandists must be telling the truth.

Chiefs of the standard railroad labor organizations and the AFL put on a staff campaign for McCarran and succeeded in neutralizing the vicious work of the CIO crowd.

‘Menace’ to labor program

Labor also gave some observations on the overall effect of the CIO’s political efforts.

It said:

More and more, as the campaign develops, it becomes evident that Hillman and his Communist colleagues are a serious menace to organized labor’s political program. The CIO never had many supporters in Congress and now it is so discredited that the foes of labor have discovered the most effective argument they can use against a measure favored by the workers is to brand it a “CIO bill.”

That’s bad enough, but now the CIO under Hillman’s leadership is invading states and Congressional districts, assailing candidates who have sturdily championed the cause of the workers and bringing the entire labor movement into disrepute among voters who do not appreciate that the noisy Reds who are on Hillman’s payroll do not speak for the American labor movement.


Perkins: Job-separation formula

By Fred W. Perkins, Press Washington correspondent

Washington –
The general hope is that indefinitely after the war there will be a job for every man and women who wants a job, including the returned veterans. The political importance of the question is shown by the main theme of Governor Thomas E. Dewey’s opening campaign speech, when he portrayed the Republican Party as best able to produce and maintain the private industrial activity necessary for full employment.

But support economic conditions so shape themselves, no matter who wins the election, that dismissals from industry will become seriously numerous? What will be the fairest way of choosing the workers who will have to leave private employment and depend for a while at least upon whatever form of public works or public unemployment compensation that may be provided?

Discussion has started here, but has not reached the stage of official public comment, on the possibility of adapting to industry the rating system that the War Department announces it will use in selecting the men (not officers) to be discharged first from the Army after the defeat of Germany.

Army credits

Priority of separation from the Army (for men who want to be separated) will be determined by the number of points the veteran can compile for himself from the following four factors:

  • SERVICE CREDIT: Based upon the total number of months of Army service since Sept. 16, 1940.

  • OVERSEAS CREDIT: Based upon the number of months served overseas.

  • COMBAT CREDIT: Based upon the first and each additional award to the individual of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Purple Heart and Bronze Service Stars (battle participation stars).

  • PARENTHOOD CREDIT: Which gives credit for each dependent child under 18 up to a limit of three children.

The fairness of this scheme is attested by the War Department’s statement that:

Opinions expressed by the soldiers themselves became the accepted principles of the plan. As finally worked out, the plan accepted by the War Department as best meeting the tests of justice and impartiality will allow men who have been overseas and men with dependent children to have priority of separation. Ninety percent of the soldiers interviewed said that that is the way it should be.

Could such a plan be adapted to the unwelcome task (supposing that it becomes necessary) of choosing the men and women to be separated from the production end of the war machine? Some who have studied the subject think it could be, but with the No. 1 essential requirement that it would have to be applied without suspicion of unfairness, and with complete and unselfish cooperation from management and the representatives of labor.

It has been suggested that it might be a good subject for investigation by the labor-management organization which has functioned in the War Production Board, with local branches in several thousand war-production plants. Another suggestion is that to be fully effective the plan would have to be applied nationally in industry.

This for industry?

The job preference of a civilian worker might be evaluated on such factors as the following:

  • His length of service in industry (what unions call seniority).
  • His efficiency rating as an able, industrious and productive worker.
  • His age, with some allowance to older men below the usual years of retirement.
  • The number of his dependents.

There might be, in addition to the merit factors, some of demerit – for instance, in the individual’s record on unexcused absenteeism.

It is generally agreed that the plan could not be expected to work without a higher degree of sympathetic cooperation between management and the unions than apparently now exists in some important industries. It would requite a completely different atmosphere from that repotted in some industrial centers which fear that the end of the war in Europe will mean a resumption of domestic warfare between labor organizations and employers.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 13, 1944)


Perkins: Lewis vs. Roosevelt debate touched off at UMW’s convention

Routine program disrupted as fiery words fly thick and fast and pro and con
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Cincinnati, Ohio –
John Mascaro, a delegate to the United Mine Workers Convention from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, touched off a hot floor debate today on the outstanding issue of whether the union’s rank-and-file should follow John L. Lewis in opposing a fourth term for President Roosevelt.

The Canonsburg delegate objected to repeated criticisms by the leadership of the Roosevelt administration.

Mr. Mascaro said:

We lost President Lewis for his courageous leadership, but we will not turn down the savior of humanity – the man who opened the gates to union organization and allowed us to build this great union.

The boys fighting this war want him, and the rank-and-file of miners want him.

Tom Farmer, Negro delegate from Morgantown, West Virginia, took the opposite side, saying: “We’ll follow Lewis, not Roosevelt.”

‘No bread under GOP’

Another Pennsylvania delegate, George Gernot, from Adah Local 6548, declared:

We are 100 percent behind John L. Lewis, but the people in our state haven’t forgotten how they couldn’t get a piece of bread under the last Republican administration.

Ralph Bartimioli, also from the Adah local, wanted to know, “What is this – a political convention or a United Mine Worker convention?”

Discussions was finally stopped by a motion to resume regular business. Applause for the two points of view seemed about equal.

Officers’ report adopted

A heated debate followed a charge by Frank Hefferly, president of UMW District 13, that the government had exceeded its authority “by permitting the War Manpower Commission to regiment United Mine Workers and the people of this country when Congress refused to give that authority to the President.”

Mr. Hefferly said:

You go to the polls next November and apply the real remedy by voting this administration out of power.

After the debate subsided the delegates unanimously adopted the officers’ report.

Meanwhile, it was learned that the leadership of the United Mine Workers is preparing a blast against President Roosevelt that will be even more startling than the charge of John L. Lewis yesterday that the President is a party to efforts to “dethrone” him.

The new attack, according to men close to Mr. Lewis, will be cut loose during the convention here of 2,500 delegates, before whom Mr. Lewis yesterday demonstrated that he is still an effective orator.

‘Rebels’ assailed

In this speech, the self-called “old man” – he is 63 – used all the stops of his pipe-organ voice in his old-time form. He skillfully placed himself on a par with the man in the mines, drew ovation after ovation, and apparently killed off any chance of success of efforts within his union to challenge his leadership of his policies.

Under one of these policies, now under attack, the district officers in more than half of the mine worker empire are appointed by Mr. Lewis and are not voted upon by the rank-and-file.

Ray Edmundson, former president of the Illinois District (there is a disagreement as to whether he resigned or was ousted) is the spearhead of the home-rule forces here.

And it was obvious to Mr. Edmundson, sitting in the back of the crowded hall, that Mr. Lewis was speaking of him when he said “no lace-pantied gigolo is going to dethrone John L., in his own organization.”

Nobody seems to know why Mr. Lewis chose this way of referring to Mr. Edmundson, who is a big, handsome fellow, fairly young, whose he-man belligerency doesn’t check with that description.

Just before that, Mr. Lewis had confided to the delegates in a tone that taxed the loudspeaker system:

Browder, Hillman and Roosevelt hired a man to come down here and throw out the old man. They gave him some money and he put out some pamphlets and he had himself interviewed by the newspapers.

Mr. Lewis referred to Sidney Hillman, head of the CIO Political Action Committee, as “a Russian pants maker,” and included him and Mr. Roosevelt among the owners of “smug faces” he would like to confound with a recital of the coal miners’ production and military performances in this war.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 14, 1944)


Perkins: Lewis risks repudiation if he doesn’t back up on Roosevelt issue

Mine workers demonstrate that big boss doesn’t do all the union’s thinking
By Fred W. Perkins, Scripps-Howard staff writer

Cincinnati, Ohio –
John L. Lewis, for 25 years the boss of the United Mine Workers, today faces a choice of risking a repudiation of his political leadership or of soft-pedaling his attempts to get this big union on record against a fourth term for President Roosevelt.

The delegates to the convention here, now numbering 2,800, support their leader unanimously on economic subjects. But this unanimous support does not carry into the political field, where the miners have opinions of their own. By expressing themselves publicly, they are proving it isn’t true that John L. does all the thinking for this union, or that his control is so complete that men are afraid to express contrary opinions.

Should they risk fight?

There was to have been a sizzling anti-Roosevelt resolution, containing allegations more “startling” than any Mr. Lewis has yet voiced and it may yet come through. But overnight, the UMW boss and his straw bosses have been questioning whether to risk a floor fight that conceivably might go against Mr. Lewis, who has never suffered a conspicuous defeat in his own union. And whether to take the chance of a public row that might leave bad scars in the union and on the Lewis reputation.

John Mascaro, a delegate from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, took over the loudspeaker system yesterday and objected to the reiteration of these anti-Roosevelt opinions, adding:

We love President Lewis for his courageous leadership, but we will not turn down the savior of humanity, the man who opened the gates to union organization, for this great union and others. That, my friends, was not done under a Republican administration.

Compromise may come

The choice of Mr. Lewis is whether to press for an outright anti-Roosevelt declaration, with a direct endorsement of Governor Dewey, or to compromise on a less savage denunciation of the Roosevelt administration. A compromise appeared most probable.

Most opinions are that it is the same among the miners as among most other labor groups: They are mostly for Mr. Roosevelt, but not as much as in 1932, 1936 and 1940.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 15, 1944)


Perkins: UMW backing renews Lewis fighting spirit

Roosevelt criticism report approved
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Cincinnati, Ohio –
John L. Lewis had more courage today for a broadside attack on President Roosevelt, courage gained through his smashing victory in the United Mine Workers convention.

The courage of Mr. Lewis, like that of any labor leader, is based on the support of his own organization. Mr. Lewis got a 20-to-1 vote in his favor among 2,800 delegates when he went to them with a personal plea against changing the system under which he appoints more than half of the union’s district officers.

The 64-year-old labor labor’s overwhelming victory over the autonomous wing, led by former UMW Illinois district president, Ray Edmundson of Springfield, came after he had delivered an impassioned plea for delegate support on the convention floor.

Delegates cheer

His voice dropping to emphasize his points. Mr. Lewis charged the autonomy movement was an operator-inspired effort to weaken the UMW internally before next March, when the unions present wage agreement with the mine owners expires.

At the conclusion of his address, the delegates gave the faintly-smiling Lewis a rising ovation, punctuated with handclapping, cheers and cries of “Pour it on, John.”

This issue – home rule – was the first of two major questions in the convention. The second came today when the UMW approved a report which strongly criticized the Roosevelt administration and praised Republican presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey, while reframing from a direct presidential endorsement.

Indispensable man

The Lewis victory over the proponents of home rule was won partly through a preponderance of delegates speaking in favor of government from UMW headquarters in Washington, and partly through Mr. Lewis’ speech, which established him as “the indispensable man” in the United Mine Workers.

Mr. Lewis charged that a group of UMW members had gone to Washington to ask the U.S. Attorney General “to send me to prison” or suppressing civil liberties.

“And in due time,” Mr. Lewis continued with a smile, “I shall find out who these men are who wanted to send me to prison.”

Hints of operator conspiracy

He said:

I think I also shall find out that one of them stayed in a luxurious suite paid for by a coal operator.

I have no doubt the coal operators would make important contributions to weaken this union before we go into wage negotiations next March, and I’m not sure some of their money hasn’t already been spent in this campaign of slander.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 17, 1944)


Perkins: Selling Dewey to miners next job for John L.

Convention’s policy will need propaganda
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Cincinnati, Ohio –
The next political task of John L. Lewis and others of the United Mine Workers leadership, following adoption of an anti-Roosevelt and pro-Dewey statement in the convention here, will be to propagandize this policy down through the rank and file of the union’s membership.

The importance of this from the political standpoint is that the miners’ union has large memberships in several key states whose electoral votes may decide the presidential contest. For instance, in Pennsylvania, with 36 electoral votes, which most polls have been giving to Mr. Roosevelt on a narrow division, the Mine Workers have 230,000 members.

Could swing election

Mr. Roosevelt won Pennsylvania in 1940 by approximately 280,000, so the Democratic margin could be reversed if all the other sections of the electorate cast their ballots as in 1940, and if the miners follow the advice of their national convention.

The same applies to West Virginia, with only eight electoral votes, but with 115,000 coal miners. It is true to a lesser extent in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois – where the miner vote is less important but where Republican claims are more confident than they are in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The convention proceedings have shown that it will not be easy for John Lewis to get anything like a unanimous anti-Roosevelt vote from coal miners in the November election. The proportion of miners who do not believe in swinging away from the Roosevelt allegiance is believed to be greater than the size of the convention minority when the anti-Roosevelt statement was adopted.

Speakers favor Roosevelt

Before debate was cut off, most of the rank-and-file speakers were pro-Roosevelt. There were only a few anti-Roosevelt speakers, but when the standing vote came the majority on the anti-Roosevelt side was tremendous – some observers said 3–1, and others as high as 20–1.

The Mine Workers’ convention has been adjourned for a weekend recess.

The statement on which the convention approved charged a number of sins to President Roosevelt against the United Mine Workers and labor in general, and concluded:

Governor Dewey, the Republican nominee, during his two-year incumbency as Governor of New York, has worked in complete harmony with the legitimate trade unions of his state. Dewey has not met the expectations of the betrayers of labor, the misleaders of labor, or the Communists who dominate the CIO and the Political Actionites… in the election to come the Mine Workers will know their enemy and can be relied upon to protect their home, their country, and their union.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 18, 1944)


Perkins: Lewis expected to widen his fight on Roosevelt

Drive to filter down through UMW union to wives and families of his mine workers
By Fred W. Perkins, Press Washington correspondent

Cincinnati, Ohio –
The concluding days of the United Mine Workers Convention are expected to develop more of the reasons why John L. Lewis is so dead set against the reelection of President Roosevelt.

These arguments will be filtered down through the mine workers organization to the half a million members and their families in states that may decide the presidential election, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky, and to a lesser extent, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

Mr. Lewis epitomized some of his reasons in a speech before the Ohio United Construction Workers, a division of the UMW’s District 50, in which he declared that policies of the Roosevelt administration are directed toward making labor in general “a political company union.”

Sarcastic comment

He added the sarcastic comment:

What a record for one who likes to call himself the savior of mankind and the defender of the poor. He would strike down the unions that are not subservient to his wishes.

Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Lewis charged, “joined in intrigue with his man Friday, Hillman, the cringing officers of the American Federation of Labor and the present officials of the CIO” to hinder the organization of the United Construction Workers. He shot an oratorical blast at what he called “cowardly leadership” that would permit labor to become “indentured servants.”

He asserted that under such leadership, “the officers of unions would become a police patrol to hold labor in subjugation to the will of its economic and political masters.”

‘Sympathy’ for management

In a press conference, Mr. Lewis showed a sympathy with the problems of management in the coal industry – in direct opposition to the Communist school of thought.

He argued against proposed further government development of hydroelectric power as “a vicious and destructive victory” that would “create widespread unemployment and harass invested capital in the coal industry.”

Having disposed of the controversial political and autonomy issues in a manner satisfactory to the leadership, the convention will take up a subject about which there will be no argument – the United Mine Workers want a big pay raise and they want it badly.

The details probably will not be decided definitely until a few weeks before the mine workers meet the bituminous coal operators in the regular wage conferences next March. A demand for a pay raise is sure on the basis of the volume of more-pay resolutions from local unions that are now before the convention’s “Scale Committee,” and also from the fact that Mr. Lewis has not yet won the $2-a-day raise which he spent most of 1943 trying to get.

Little Steel formula

It has been emphasized here that the apparent victory won by the miners’ union in 1943 did not raise the basic pay scale. The miners were making considerably more money, but much of it comes from premium pay for overtime, which is likely to disappear after the war. The rest of it comes from portal-to-portal pay arrangements.

Forecasts, now backed by War Labor Board panel reports in the CIO steelworkers wage case and the general case of the American Federation of Labir, are that President Roosevelt will soon authorize an upping of the Little Steel pay formula.

The WLB timetable indicates this action may be expected no later than two or three weeks before the November election.

The mine workers, like all other unions whose basic pay scales have been held to this formula, undoubtedly will line up for their share.

Best information is that the March demands will include a boost in basic pay of at least a dollar a day, and more probably the still-unsatisfied two-dollar prescription. Also, the miners are expected to demand full pay for the time spent in traveling between mine entrances and actual working places underground (portal to portal). According to the hard-to-understand settlement finally worked our by the War Labor Board, the miners get pay for only about two-thirds of this travel time.