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Mary Bell

Profits Keep Rising, Living Costs Are Up, But —

WLB Refuses to Unfreeze Wages!

(October 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 43, 23 October 1944, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The latest round in the epic battle of labor to obtain a wage increase goes to the employers. The National War Labor Board, with the usual gang-up of industry and “public” members against the labor members, refused, eight to four, to ask Roosevelt to end the wage freeze by modifying the Little Steel formula. The majority stated it was not within its province to say what effect a wage increase would have on the price structure of the country as their excuse. This does not incapacitate them, however, to make recommendations on wages for the reconversion period.

Labor Action does not need to labor the point further which has so often been stressed in its columns, of the validity of the, demands of the ten millions of organized workers in the AFL and the CIO. The daily strain of making ends meet on the part of workers and their families is more damning evidence of the justice of their demands than a table of figures, although the figures prove their case too.

This latest reprehensible blow delivered to workers is one more proof of what we have said about the WLB since its inception. It is not an impartial body, mediating fairly between right and wrong, between labor and the employer. It is a tool of the capitalist administration, designed to stave off the demands of labor and keep wages down. Roosevelt, too, has stood pat on the wage freeze, and it is therefore unthinkable that; the WLB should reverse his policy. He is so certain that the labor leaders can deliver the vote of union and labor supporters through the PAC that he can afford to be arrogant and hold the line on wages.

What about the labor members on, the WLB – George Meany, Matthew Woll, R.J. Thomas and Emil Rieve? They castigated the majority report. The board’s statement that it could not go beyond presenting data on the relationship of wages to living costs they called “tantamount to an admission by the public members of the board that they are not competent to perform their duties.” The labor members, you can see, were plainly very bitter about the decision.

What the labor members did not, say, but what is as transparent as a plateglass window, is that the WLB carried out, as usual, not the wishes of labor, nor of the “public,” but of industry. The industry members issued a statement saying that the board was not the correct administrative body to investigate whether the wage freeze should be changed and “that the matter is one for Congress to consider.”

The industry members know whereof they speak. They realize that the WLB is their show, and furthermore, that passing the buck to Congress means that Congress will pass a few more bucks to the capitalist magnates of industry. This has been amply demonstrated by the solicitude of Congress for industry during the reconversion period and after, to take care of its losses and guarantee its profits. Our story in this issue on steel profits shows how industry is faring. As far as labor is concerned, Congress does not wish to destroy its individual initiative and pamper It by guaranteeing substantial unemployment compensation or jobs.

The labor members were reported as saying they would not resign from the board, even though they will make, their own recommendations to the President.

“Hit me again, I love it!” is their credo.

For labor to achieve a wage increase two things are necessary. First: no fiddling around with the WLB. Labor members should withdraw. Second: rescind the no-strike pledge. This is the lever necessary to pry open the lid on wages.

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Last updated: 17 February 2016