Martin Harvey

Employment in Detroit Area
Decreased by 107,000 Workers

(7 May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 19, 7 May 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT – Accompanying an announcement by the Army that the huge Willow Run Bomber plant is to be shut down by mid-summer upon completion of current contracts, a re-port was issued by the Michigan War Manpower Commission that in the year ending March 31 employment in war plants in the Detroit area decreased 107,000.

This report has a double significance – for the past and for the future. It points out the deliberate falsehood of the attacks on militant unionists by government officials, corporation executives and the UAW-CIO top leadership. In their campaign to weaken the unions and keep the no-strike pledge they shouted constantly about production needs at the same time that, workers were being laid off in every auto plant.

But the lesson for the future is even more serious. The crucial problem of reconversion and post-war unemployment can be put off no longer. It is here now. The State WMC director, Edward L. Cushman, tried to pretty up the picture of 107,000 fewer jobs by insisting that only 35,000 were unemployed. 35,000 unemployed, of course, is a fact which only a WMC director can brush aside with a casual remark. To those who are out of work in a time of fantastically high prices, the problem demands an immediate solution.

Labor Officials “Fight”

But what of the rest whose jobs have disappeared? Have they retired on their “fabulous earnings?” Have they vanished into thin air? Not at all. They are all here, big as life, and working – BUT, they are working on worked-out farms which they left a couple of years ago to make a more decent living at union wages or they are working in the low-paid non-war industries such as restaurants, laundries and the like. Those few who are not working at all have given up the search for a decent job and are forced to make a go of it on the wages of another member of the family.

In other words, 35,000 Detroit workers have lost their income altogether and 72,000 workers have had their living standards reduced.

For Detroit, this is only the beginning. In the next few months these figures will be doubled, tripled and quadrupled.

With this immediate threat against the welfare of the auto and aircraft workers the leadership of the UAW-CIO was galvanized into action. To be specific, two kinds of “action.” First they poured their hearts out – in words, which are cheap – about the sad plight of the auto worker during reconversion and how the government, the wonderful New Deal government (the same government which ordered Willow Run shut down), ought to do something about it. When they used up their words, they acted again--this time with results.

They figured out that fewer jobs means fewer union members and less dues. So they clapped extra assessment on the membership so that, no matter what happened to the auto workers, the payrolls of the union could still be padded with porkchoppers whose main function is to keep in power the two cliques which run the union.

It remains to be seen whether they can get away with this. The rank and file of the union, through its spokesmen, the Rank and File Committee, should demand a realistic, fighting program for reconversion. And they must demand that this program be fought for – not begged for at the servant’s entrance to the White House.

The barest minimum to take care of the needs of the workers is the following:

Last updated on 7 December 2017