The Ambassador in Panama (Hines) to the Secretary of State

No. 2004

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch No. 1891, July 2, 1946, Subject: “The Canal Zone Workers Union”,87 and to report that Leonard Goldsmith, Director of the United Public Workers of America of the CIO, in a press interview several days ago stated that the Canal Zone Workers Union now had a membership of 10,800 and that he estimated that it would soon exceed 13,000.

He said that the Union, which would have the backing of Philip Murray and six million CIO workers in the United States, would be open to both “gold” and “silver” workers in the Canal Zone and that its program will consist of the following six points:

Elimination of the “gold” and “silver” rolls.
Establishment of classifications of skilled and unskilled labor such as those existing in the Uinted States.
Establishment of a decent minimum wage, the figure to be determined later.
Improved housing.
Greater job security.
Establishment of a retirement plan to eliminate cash relief.

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He promised the Union that it would receive the support of the CIO’s Political Action Committee in achieving these aims by Congressional action.

Goldsmith referred to the “intolerable conditions” and “intolerable discrimination” he had found in the Canal Zone and to the “disunity” that existed among the workers in the Canal Zone between the “gold” and “silver” personnel and between the West Indians and the Panamanians. He said that he plans to assign a permanent CIO member from the United States to the Canal Zone.

Goldsmith said that the entire question of discrimination must be ended and that he was confident he would receive the cooperation of the Governor and the Executive Secretary of The Panama Canal in the elimination of the economic inequalities that exist at the present time. He stated that he would cooperate with organizations established in the Canal Zone which are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (the powerful Metal Trades Council open only to American citizens) and he stressed the no-strike policy of the CIO.

Meetings of the Canal Zone Workers Union took place in Colon in July when reportedly 4,000 workers voted that they would join the CIO and on July 18 in Panama at which time 7,000 “silver” roll workers voted for affiliation with the CIO. Goldsmith announced at the meeting in Panama that the officers of the Panama Canal West Indian Employees Association (see Embassy’s despatch under reference) had voted unanimously to become affiliated with the CIO. References by various speakers at this meeting were made to the exploitation of the “silver” workers in the Canal Zone and to “Yankee Imperialism”.

It is interesting to note that, although the new Constitution of the Canal Zone Workers Union indicates that its headquarters are in Panama City and that it will form an integral part of the Federación Sindical de Trabajadores de Panamá (Panamá branch of the CTAL), at a secret meeting held several days ago Goldsmith told the Union heads that the Canal Zone Workers Union would be open only to persons working in the Canal Zone.

The Embassy will continue to keep the Department informed of any new developments of the Union and of the activities of Goldsmith.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
V. Lansing Collins, Jr.

Second Secretary of Embassy
  1. Not printed.