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The Militant, 28 February 1949

UAW Opposition Paper Answers Reuther

(21 February 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 9, 28 February 1949, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


DETROIT, Feb. 21 – The Committee for a Militant and Democratic UAW, a progressive grouping of CIO United Auto Workers numbers, last week published the first issue of its new paper, the Auto Union Builder. This committee was formed after the 1947 UAW convention to fight for a militant program and union democracy against UAW President Walter Reuther’s policy of “peace at any price” with the corporations and his attempt to impose one-man rule over the traditionally democratic auto union.

In its main article, the Auto Union Builder answers a factional statement aimed at the Committee “on the eve of the local union elections” by the four top officers of the UAW and issued in the January United Automobile Worker, official UAW paper.

The Auto Union Builder calls the Reuther faction statement “a cheap and dishonorable attempt at a smear” for falsely linking the opposition group to the Stalinists and “people outside the union ... circulating literature and resolutions among local unions.” The Committee, says its paper, “is composed exclusively of UAW members and includes some of the pioneer union builders from various locals in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac and elsewhere.”

The answer to the Reutherites states that the reason for the organization of the Committee for a Militant and Democratic UAW was the “deep sense of dissatisfaction” among many members and local union officers with the policies of the Reuther administration.

“We refer particularly,” says the Auto Union Builder, “to the administration’s soft policy toward the corporations on speedup and its collusion and collaboration with management against militant members of the UAW; we refer particularly to the signing of the two-year outrageously inadequate contract in General Motors, which moreover takes one-quarter of our union membership out of wage and pension negotiations in 1949: we refer particularly to the throttling of the democratic processes inside our union and the attempt to fasten upon the membership the dictatorial rule of a self-perpetuating machine.”

The progressives’ paper calls attention “to such well-known and universally recognized facts that in the past year over 5,000 GM workers have been disciplined by layoffs of from 3 to 90 days and dozens more, have been fired for attempting to resist the raising of production standards.” It charges the Reuther administration has pot fought the speed-up and has “refused to permit the ranks to defend themselves against this evil.”

Against Reuther’s policies, the paper urges the UAW members to support its Program of Action to Meet the Needs of 1949. The first point in this 8-point program calls for a “Real Campaign for Wages and Pensions.”

The program calls for industry-wide bargaining as the only means to break the “log-jam” created by the fact that the GM contract permits no separate GM negotiations this year and the Chrysler contract is closed for pension demands until 1950. It likewise calls for “common termination dates of all contracts” and “rejection of ‘one-at-a-time’ strategy.” The fight for this wage and pension program should be launched by a “broadly representative” national UAW conference, says the paper. Unless these provisions are adopted, the paper says, “the whole Reuther economic program must be viewed as nothing but a hoax.”

Other points of the program are: An all-out campaign against speed-up; for democratic and rank-and-file control in the union; for the elimination of wage differentials and organization of the unorganized; for abolition of all forms of discrimination in the plants and in the union; for a shop steward system in every plant; for the 30-hour week at 40 hours pay to combat layoffs; and for a United Conference of Labor of all unions to fight for labor’s program in Washington.

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