SATURDAY, OCT. 30-th 1920
The Fight For Shop Committees in the I.L.G.W.
By William Potter.
About ten months ago the active membership,
the wide-awake element of local No. 25, Ladies
Waist and Dress Makers' Union of Uew York,
demanded a different system of control and ad
ministration of the affairs of the local. They
demanded a method of control whereby the rank
and file would be able at any time to remove of
ficials or compel them to carry out their wishes
without any of the lengthy procedure and red tape
which at present makes it almost impossible either
to remove them or to force them to act.
The new system of control and administra
tion, which the active members were fighting for,
provided that every shop should elect a shop com
mittee and a shop chairman. These were to be
subject to immediate recall by the workers in the
shop. The shop committee was to be given full
authority to settle all shop troubles and to enforce
its decisions with or without the intervention or
assistance of a business agent of the union. Power
was to be in the hands of the shop committee.
The committee was to be directly responsible to
the workers in the shop who elected them and
who were to have the right to recall them.
AH Power To Shop Delegates
For the purpose of controlling the entire labor
power in the trade, every shop was to elect one
or more representatives to a central shop delegate
body, or industrial council. These delegates, who
were also to be subject to recall by those who
elected them, were to meet once a month in the
central lody. Here they would take up and decide
the essential and important work of the union,
pass upon reports, decide union policies, etc.
It was proposed that this central body of shop
delegates should elect the executive committee
of the union ; that they should retain control over
the committee and have the right to recall it, in
whole or part, at any regular monthly meeting.
This executive committee should then be entrusted
with the responsibility of regulating all purely
routine work and of appointing and removing the
personnel of the office. Under this plan, you see,
the officials would be liable to lose their jobs at
any time, just like you and me. They would have
to carry out the wishes of the rank and file or go.
Tactics Of The Officials
The officials met the strong demand for this
new system by some of the slick manoeuvering
that has become typical of the Socialist Party
labor fakirs in the Garment trades. They seemingly
acceeded to the wishes of the active members and
agreed that the new system should be adopted,
providing it should be endorsed by a referendum
vote of all the members of the local, about 30,000.
They calculated that it would be defeated by the
indifferent mass which is always more or less
hostile to new ideas and which usually votes for
things to remain as they are.
As an extra precaution, however, these "social
ist" officials took a lesson from the capitalist law
makers and put a joker in the proposition which
they submitted to the members. This provision,
inserted by the officials in the referendum, limited
the delegate body of rank and file delegates to
merely advisory functions. The Kaiser, in the olden
days, had his Reichstag which operated on just
such a basis. Maybe that is where the kaisers of
the Ladies Garment Workers' Union got their idea.
Won On Referendum
The referendum brought an enormous major
ity in favor of the shop delegate system, thanks
to the work of the active minority which lost no
time in explaining to the rank and file the true
facts and convinced them of the necessity of it.
Of course, the active minority is composed of
"Bolsheviks"; everybody says so. Those damned
Bolsheviks simply use the dictatorship on you.
They talk, talk, and talk till you are so damned
sure they are right that you march along with
But here is what happened. The shop delegate
body, once organized, was the only body that the
rank and file would recognize and in a short time
the shop delegates came to be the whole thing and
the officials of the union nothing. Plans were laid
by the officials to extricate themselves from this
unforseen calamity, especially when the other
locals became restless and disposed to institute
the delegate system. The convention of the I. L
G. W., representing some 250,000 members, was
on hand. At that convention, with the help of the
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