The Right Not to Strike

Westbrook Pegler

Tampa Tribune/February 23, 1949

Counter-balancing the right to strike, the American citizen has a right not to strike or to take a striker’s job and break strike. This is unpopular conduct but it is legal and it calls for more courage and higher character than picketing which is mob action and a form of lynching.

Regardless of their relative virtues, however, the non-striker or strike-breaker, being a law-abiding citizen, always deserves police protection against violence and insults. There are laws against insulting behavior in public by the one man or mob toward other individuals. The non-striker or strike-breaker deserves full benefit of their enforcement by police, sheriffs, prosecutors and governors.

The law-abiding citizen also has a right to shoot to kill if he is attacked or threatened by a mob in a manner to give him reasonable fear that he is in danger and the police fail to protect him. When a law-abiding citizen is forced to shoot to protect himself he should always shoot to kill because no man should shoot at another except in desperation.

Not enough pickets were killed by law-abiding citizens during the anarchy which gave birth to the CIO in 1937, when the government forsook the good citizens. A few killings then would have preserved the right of the citizens to go about any lawful business unmolested, no matter what any other citizen or group might think of him or his business.

However, we have had two salutary killings within the last year which have been endorsed by trial juries in homicide cases. Both defendants were Negroes.

One killed his man in Waterloo, Iowa, the other got his picket in National City, Ill., just across the river from St. Louis.

Here I go into particulars. I want to recall that the Governor of Minnesota gave partisan encouragement to rioters involved in the same chain of strikes at sore spots in Minnesota. This was the chain-strike action of the packing house workers of the CIO against plants in several Midwestern states. Goons crossed state lines many times as reinforcements rushed to this and that plant to overawe or overpower government.

Both of the shootings occurred last May.

In Waterloo, Iowa, Fred Lee Roberts, age 50, a citizen of good reputation, went out on strike against the Rath Packing Company where he had worked for three years. He had previously worked more than 25 years in the shops of the Illinois Central Railroad and thus had a record of industry. Five local white citizens of position testified as to Roberts good character, including the sheriff and the county treasurer.

Roberts job was killing pigs on the night-shift. He is the father of 13 children, all living, nine of them at home and dependent, the youngest a little over one year old. He got relief from the Salvation Army first and then from the county, a common phenomenon by which charities and public taxes are used to support men made idle through union action. Theoretically, unions are supposed to pay strike benefits to their strikers but the Roosevelt reign relieved them of this drain because they were Roosevelt’s political auxiliaries and transferred the burden to charities and public treasuries.

County relief was discontinued when the Rath company called on the strikers to come back to work. The union was willing to lend, not give, Roberts money, demanding an assignment of future wages.

Roberts announced that he was going back to his job to support his family. Two Negro strikers approached him and one said; “If you do, I have a club that I will use to beat your head to a jelly.” The other said that if the first one didn’t do a good job he would finish it.

Roberts killed his man, William (Chuck) Farrell, a striker and picket, with a wild, frightened shot out the right window of his car as he was being mobbed from the left side and front. Roberts got him through the head with a .45 automatic. When he fired, 10 or a dozen policemen within 100 feet were doing nothing to protect him.

Frank W. Edwards, of Waterloo, defending Roberts, proved that he was abandoned by the government to the fury of a CIO mob and argued that a law-abiding citizen so attacked and so abandoned has a right to use reasonable means to defend himself and his property.

The charge was manslaughter and the jury took 34 hours to acquit.

The other defendant was Oscar Perry, charged with murder in defending himself from a mob of pickets at the Armour and Company plant at National City, Ill. By a change of venue, his trial was held in Waterloo, Iowa. After a little more than one hour of deliberation the jury exonerated Perry who shot Jim Hucks during a lynching foray by a mob of CIO goons at night. Hucks and three other pickets chased Perry, who tried to climb a fence to get away. Someone grabbed his leg and he shot in the dark. Two other pickets, who were in the mob with Hucks chasing Perry and others, testified for the state.



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