Trouble in Philadelphia

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The great city of Philadelphia, the nation's No. 2 center of war production, lay half-paralyzed last week, its transit-nerves cut by the worst U.S. transportation strike in World War II. Its 900,000 war workers (who make everything from hub caps to vital radar equipment) hitch hiked, trudged miles on 'sweltering side walks—or stayed home. At least 500,000 man-hours of war production were lost, Army & Navy officials estimated. Philadelphia's taverns and liquor stores were shut by police; department stores lost thousands of dollars of trade. All this was bad enough. But there was something worse: the City of Brotherly Love had been split open by its first serious out break of race trouble.

Mock Sickness. In predawn darkness, hundreds of Philadelphia's streetcar, subway and bus operators clumped into the sprawling, grimy carbarns as usual at 4 a.m. one morning last week. But as they checked in, one after another of them begged off work. They had an agreed excuse: "I'm sick — sick to my stomach." The cause of their mock sickness: eight Negro employes, who had been upgraded to motormen, were scheduled to make their first trial run that morning.

Hardly a street car or subway train left the barn. Flying squads in automobiles chased after the few that were already in operation. By noon every one of the city's 1,900 street cars, 632 buses and 541 subway and elevated cars were idle.

Strikers set up headquarters in the city's largest carbarn (without audible protest from the company). Up on a toolbox jumped burly, bull-voiced James Henry McMenamin, 43, to take command. He shouted: "It's white against black!" He well knew that the company's 600 Negro employes had hitherto worked peacefully (in menial jobs) beside other workers. But now, he pointed out, as motormen, they could sit on the same benches as whites. Cried McMenamin: "The colored people have bedbugs!"

Husky James McMenamin was no union official. He belonged to a union which is the smallest of four among the Transit Workers. But he was shrewdly assisted by tobacco-chewing, 200-lb. Frank Carney, president of a potent independent union. And the militant young C.I.O Transport Workers Union, which has a plant majority and endorses the promotion of Negroes, was unable to keep its members at work. Together McMenamin and Carney were powerful enough to tie up Philadelphia's entire transportation system, keep 6,000 transit employes idle and defy for five days the U.S. Government, including two generals and 8,000 troops.

Placid Surface. Philadelphians general ly accepted the discomforts and irritations of the tie-up with Quakerlike placidity—and even with some good humor. Ration boards stayed open until late at night, issuing emergency gasoline rations to any A-card holder who promised to carry a earful with him. The Army & Navy pressed hundreds of jeeps and trucks into service to keep production going at the Army Ordnance Depot and the Navy Yard. But the Philadelphia transit system regularly carries 1,150,000 persons a day. Thousands had to walk, on days when the thermometer shot to 97 degrees. At the huge General Electric, Westinghouse and Budd plants, production slumped more than 10%.

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