Spartanburg Herald-Journal/October 29, 1940
New York, Oct. 28.—Sidney Hillman is president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and a member of the national defense advisory commission as the representative of labor. Membership in Hillman’s union is compulsory in the closed shops. This union is a member of the CIO, and Hillman is a vice president of that organization.
With this brief preamble I now cite an act of presumption and coercion so arrogant and pernicious that Hillman’s dismissal from any government post having to do with the national defense should follow as the night the day.
On the fourth of this month Mr. Hillman sent out to union members in New York a circular letter signed by Jacob S. Potofsky, the general secretary-treasurer, the like of which if circulated by any large-scale employer of labor would bring the fly-cops swarming up the fire escapes with writs and leg irons from the labor relations board. By the standards which that board has established for the protection of workers against coercion by employers, this is a flagrant offense by a member of if you will, a sub-member of the national government.
“Dear Member,” the document says, “you cannot vote for President Roosevelt unless you register during registration week.”
“A Roosevelt supporter who is eligible to vote and doesn’t register might just as well be supporting Willkie,” it continues.
And, finally, Mr. Hillman’s message declares, “We are mobilized in a crusade to re-elect our great president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Let’s pitch into this job in the true amalgamated spirit. And let there be no slackers in our midst.”
The facsimile signature is that of Mr. Potofsky, but Mr. Hillman’s name is printed on the letterhead, so there need be no question that the sentiments are those of the leader himself Mr. Potofsky acknowledges its authenticity.
There is here revealed an assumption that because a man or woman is, perforce, a member of Hillman’s union that individual’s choice of a candidate may be dictated by the union, which is to say by Sidney Hillman of the national defense advisory commission. The union not only tells him where and when he may work and how much of his earnings he may keep for himself but relieves him of the responsibility of deciding which man he prefers for president of the United States. The only reference to Wendell Willie, who happens to be an American and the nominee of a regular America political party, is a contemptuous back-of-the-hand swipe which suggests a vote for him would be an act of treachery.
“Remember what the outcome of this election will mean to your wages and hours, your living standards and, most important, your civil and industrial rights,” the circular says.
Not to be naïve about it, this is a way of insinuating that Willkie would reduce wages, stretch the hours, depress living standards and impair the civil and industrial rights of the members of Sidney Hillman’s union, who would be quick to protest if General Motors or any other firm employing an equal number of workers were to distribute a similar document.
The warning “and let there be no slackers in our midst,” following all that goes before, is a plain, crude act of intimidation, for it must be kept in mind that this union has more power than the employer over the individual.
Any intelligent interpretation of the text must show that a vote for Willkie will be regarded as an act of slackerism, and on this basis it may be assumed that a speech in meeting in opposition to the “crusade” would be treason. To be sure, the individual subject may still vote for Willkie in the privacy of the polling booth, but slackerism, undetected, is slackerism still and obviously a heinous offense. If a vote for Willkie is as bad as that, offenders should be discovered and punished by means appropriate to the end or, better still, Mr. Hillman should propose methods to make such treachery impossible.