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Archive Transcript: Speeches

Morris Sigman's Speech A Plan for Peace in Our Union, 1925

A Plan for Peace in Our Union
August 28, 1925
Morris Sigman

We have emphasized many times before, and we hereby state again, that the fight in our Union was initiated not against Communism as such, but against the Communist tactics for domination of the trade-union movement. The imposition of any outside body upon the labor movement is contrary to the fundamental principles of trade unionism. Such imposition we have deemed and still deem it our sacred duty to combat with everything in our power.

This struggle against dictatorship of the Workers' (Communist) Party over our Union we have completely won. It is an undeniable fact that the so-called Joint Action Committee, composed of the three suspended executive boards, is at present divided into two factions, one of which has been convinced that the Communist tactics of domination are wrong and dangerous for the trade union movement, and the other which still believe in Communist dictatorship over the trade unions and which is therefore determined to continue its activities to the bitter end in order to carry through its slogan of "capture or destroy",--ready to go to the extent of annihilating our union if they cannot impose their will upon it.

Before, however, we make our proposals, we desire to emphasize that the impression of some who are not well acquainted with the situation, to the effect that the present struggle is aimed against the General Executive Board, is not correct. That part of our membership which has fallen under the influence of the Communist group has not done so because they have turned Communist, and also not because they have any special grievances against the General Executive Board or against me as the president of the International. There has existed for the last few years a great dissatisfaction with the way in which the Joint Board of the Cloak and Dressmakers Unions has conducted its affairs,--a dissatisfaction also with a number of officials of the Joint Board and some of the officials of the local unions who are a part of the Joint Board. Reasons for this dissatisfaction vary. Some are justified; others are not. We of course have our own opinion based upon our knowledge and convictions about these matters, but our opinion we shall not discuss at the present time. We shall do so, in a proper organization manner, at the next convention of the International.

Now, however, we shall proceed with a plan which we believe will meet the immediate just grievances of a large number of our members in their desire to reconstruct our union on the basis of more democratic government and more efficient administration. Our plan is as follows:

  1. The suspended executive boards of Locals 2, 9 and 22, now calling themselves the Joint Committee of Action, shall be given a special grant to make an appeal to the General Executive Board against the decision of the special trial committee of the Joint Board. To meet any possible claim of unfairness, the General Executive Board is ready to take up the appeal in the presence of a committee of radical and labor representatives of the New York labor movement. Should any of the above-named special committee of radical and labor representatives feel that any unfairness has been shown by the appeal committee, the General Executive Board agrees to give this committee of labor representatives full power to act as an appeal committee and agrees to accept its decision as final.

    Those to whom an appeal will be granted shall have the right to run for any office in the union and also to run as a delegate to the next convention of the International. This, however, does not include such as are proved to be Communists. For, in the case of such persons, our constitution is very clear and, not unless the next convention changes the provisions in our constitution, can such professed Communists be permitted to run for any office in our union.

    Before, however, this appeal is taken up, the so-called Joint Action Committee must immediately dissolve and must turn over to the International all the properties of the locals, all the records and documents at present in their possession.
  2. The general manager is the highest officer of the Joint Board, and it is absolutely necessary that he have at all times the confidence and backing of the members. We therefore propose that the Joint Board immediately proceed with a popular election for a general manager. This election is to be conducted under the supervision of a committee of the General Executive Board, the chairmen of the Joint Board, one representative of each local having full power in the Joint Board, the chairmen of the different local unions, in conjunction with a committee of representatives of the radical and labor movement of New York.
  3. The question of changing the representation of the locals at the Joint Board can of course not be discussed at the present time, since this is provided for in the constitution and can only be changed or amended at a regular convention of the International. However, to meet the argument concerning an equal voice for large and small locals, we propose that Locals 64 and 45 shall continue to have representatives at the Joint Board, but these representatives shall have no voice in deciding any of the questions coming before the Joint Board. We further propose that Local 21 of Newark shall be completely excluded from the Joint board and shall instead become affiliated with the District Council of the State of New Jersey.
  4. We further propose that the Finance Committee of the Joint Board shall consist of one representative of the delegation of each local with deciding vote in the Joint Board. This will give representation on that important committee to every local and will eliminate the grievance of some of the locals who have until now not been represented on it.
  5. Calling of Convention. In view of the fact that the agreements in the cloak and dress industries expire early in July, 1926, and also in view of the fact that there may be a sentiment for a change in the administration of the International, we propose that the next convention of the International shall be called, instead of in May 1926, in the month of December 1925 or January 1926; and that therefore, immediately after the above-proposed program is put into effect, the General Executive Board shall proceed to make arrangements for the next convention. Elections for the delegates to the convention shall be conducted under the above-mentioned committee who are to serve in the election of the general manager of the Joint Board.

    It is our sincere conviction that the above program will satisfy every one of the grievances now prevalent among the rank and file of our large membership who are honestly and sincerely interested in the welfare of their union, and that an understanding on this basis will lead to a complete cooperation amongst our membership and solidify our ranks, making our union a most effective and potent instrument in the struggle for the maintenance and betterment of the conditions of the workers in the cloak and dress industry of New York.

Learn more about ILGWU president Morris Sigman