‘Destroy the Injunction!’ statement of the Trade Union Educational League from Labor Herald. Vol. 3 No. 3. May, 1924.
THE most menacing weapon of the employers against the labor movement today is the injunction. Hardly a strike occurs but the courts of America, local, State, and Federal, intervene against the working class with orders and injunctions designed to cripple the unions, tie-up their funds, prevent effective action, and defeat the strikers. The latest injunctions of Judge Sullivan of Chicago, against the striking garment workers, under which the police and court officials are arresting hundreds of men and women, sentencing them to jail and to pay outrageous fines for the crime of walking in front of scab shops when Judge Sullivan orders them to keep away, is but another crime against the working class by the corrupt capitalistic governmental machinery in a long history of such tyranny.
Since the days when Wm. H. Taft, father of the labor injunction and present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, issued the first writ of this kind against the American Railway Union Strike in 1894, under which Eugene V. Debs was sent to jail for six months, the use of the injunction and court orders against Labor has developed into one of the most specialized branches of capitalist law, into a complete system of suppression. The most crushing blows delivered against the trade union movement by this weapon were the Anderson injunction against the miners, in 1919, and the Daugherty-Wilkerson injunction against the railroad shopmen in 1922. The attempt to fasten industrial courts upon the back of the working class, led by Henry Allen in the Kansas Industrial Court Law crusade, was an extension of the principle of injunctions, or the rule of Labor by judges.
In the fight against injunctions, the workers have been victims of the treachery and cowardice of the official leaders of the labor movement. In 1919, John L. Lewis submitted to the Anderson injunction without a fight, covering his betrayal under the hypocritical cloak of patriotism. The leaders of the shopmen’s unions were almost equally as cowardly in face of the Wilkerson injunction, confining themselves to futile arguments in court as their only weapon of defense for the men whose interests they were sworn to protect. They shamefully neglected the thousands of workers thrown into jail under the injunction. Fearful of their own comfort, the officials of Labor have licked the boots of injunction judges.
The only basis upon which the injunction can be defeated was laid down in the 1916 Convention of the A. F. of L., when the following was adopted as the official policy of Labor on injunctions:
“We therefore recommend that any injunction dealing with the relationship of employer and employee be wholly and absolutely treated as usurpation and disregarded, let the consequences be what they may. Kings could be and were disobeyed, and sometimes deposed. In cases of this kind judges must be disobeyed, and should be impeached.”
There is only one thing wrong with this declaration of the A. F. of L. That is, it has not been put into practice. Gompers has advised violation of injunctions, but he has never gone to jail himself. His Grand Dukes have discreetly followed his example.
The proof that defiance and violation is the effective weapon against court orders, as advised by the A. F. of L., was given by Alex Howat, in his glorious and successful fight against the Kansas Industrial Court. Basely deserted by the A. F. of L. officials, who had advised his course of action, Howat led his fellow miners again and again on strike in disregard of injunctions and courts. He went to jail for 18 months, but the ‘Industrial Court’ was smashed, never to be heard from again. The same thing can be done with injunctions generally by the same methods.
The Trade Union Educational League calls upon the militants to lead an aggressive fight, according to the principles laid down by the A. F. of L., to smash the use of injunctions against Labor by totally disregarding them. Open defiance and violation of such usurping orders on a mass scale will shortly make injunctions as dead as the Kansas Industrial Court.
National Committee, T. U. E. L.
The Labor Herald was the monthly publication of the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL), in immensely important link between the IWW of the 1910s and the CIO of the 1930s. It was begun by veteran labor organizer and Communist leader William Z. Foster in 1920 as an attempt to unite militants within various unions while continuing the industrial unionism tradition of the IWW, though it was opposed to “dual unionism” and favored the formation of a Labor Party. Although it would become financially supported by the Communist International and Communist Party of America, it remained autonomous, was a network and not a membership organization, and included many radicals outside the Communist Party. In 1924 Labor Herald was folded into Workers Monthly, an explicitly Party organ and in 1927 ‘Labor Unity’ became the organ of a now CP dominated TUEL. In 1929 and the turn towards Red Unions in the Third Period, TUEL was wound up and replaced by the Trade Union Unity League, a section of the Red International of Labor Unions (Profitern) and continued to publish Labor Unity until 1935. Labor Herald remains an important labor-orientated journal by revolutionaries in US left history and would be referenced by activists, along with TUEL, along after it’s heyday.
Link to PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/laborherald/v3n03-may-1924.pdf