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Grace Carlson

G.M. Strikers Hold the Line for Full Terms

(16 February 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 8, 23 February 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Feb. 16 – With the final settlement of the U.S. Steel strike, news of the end of the 88-day old General Motors strike is expected here almost hourly.

Negotiations between the General Motors Corporation and the CIO United Auto Workers which were broken off by the union last Tuesday, were again resumed yesterday.

In breaking off negotiations February 12, the UAW Top Negotiating Committee charged the corporation with trying to put over “a contract that would leave the union in a helpless bargaining position.” In a letter of explanation sent to all GM local unions, UAW Vice-President Walter Reuther said that the union would resume negotiations only on the following basis:

  1. “The prompt and satisfactory settlement of all local union demands.
  2. “Reinstatement in full of the cancelled contract.
  3. “Payment of a cash wage increase across the board of the full 19½ cents an hour recommended by the President and his Fact-Finding Board.”

Reference was also made in the Reuther letter to the corporation’s proposed changes in the 1945 contract – wiping out of the maintenance of membership clause, equal pay for equal work for women, changes in grievance procedure, etc. The net result of the corporation’s proposals would mean a “return to the 1940 contract,” Reuther concluded.

Special Labor Department Conciliator James Dewey, who is handling the GM-UAW negotiations, has so far refused to comment on whether agreement has been reached on the question of the reinstatement of the 1945 GM contract – or on the wage question.

Stalinist Double-Cross

The stab in the back dealt the UAW strikers by the leaders of the Stalinist-dominated CIO United Electrical Workers Union who signed a separate agreement with the General Motors Corporation last week will never be forgotten nor forgiven by Detroit union militants. A vigorous denunciation of the “double-crossing” strike policies of the Stalinist leadership of the UE who secretly accepted an 18½-cent settlement for 30,000 GM electrical workers, was made at the February 11 meeting of the UAW’s General Motors City-Wide Strike Committee here.

Fisch Backs Sell-Out

Cadillac Local 22 had previously adopted the resolution condemning the UE leadership. Its delegates to the City-Wide Strike Committee were instructed to introduce it in that body. In presenting the resolution, Dave Miller, Local 22’s President, made a sharp attack on the UE leaders, characterizing their act as a “sell-out” of the GM strike. Miller’s attack on these Stalinist trade union leaders aroused considerable comment in Detroit labor circles because Miller has been known in the past as a consistent supporter of the Stalinists.

Fred Fisch, Stalinist delegate from Detroit Transmission Local 735, was one of the two or three delegates who spoke against the resolution. He attempted to defend the treacherous deal which his Stalinist friends of UE had made with General Motors by pleading that a question of “union autonomy” was involved. His argument that UE had just as much right to sign a separate contract as did the Ford and Chrysler unions was quickly demolished by speakers who followed him. They pointed out that the Ford and Chrysler unions were not on strike and were not fighting the same corporation.

Text of Resolution

Fisch is the same individual who has been leading the Stalinist drive to prevent distribution of The Militant to Detroit picket lines and who pushed a motion on January 23 in the City-Wide Strike Committee to “discourage” the distribution of the paper to GM strikers.

The text of the resolution condemning the UE-GM settlement, which received the support of all but three of the delegates to the City-Wide Strike Committee, is as follows:

WHEREAS: The United Electrical Workers Union, CIO, gave assurances to the Strategy Board of the UAW, as reported to the National Conference of GM delegates “that their struggle for higher wage rates would be coordinated with the plans as outlined by the UAW International Executive Board" and

WHEREAS: A departure from this pledge was made when the UE failed to take joint action with the UAW in calling out their membership in GM plants, and

WHEREAS: Secret and separate negotiations have apparently been conducted by UE top officials which have culminated in an offer of 18½ cents per hour and is reported acceptable to said officials;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the GM City-Wide Strike Committee emphatically condemns this inferred “double crossing” of the UAW-GM workers by the UE leadership, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That we call upon President R.J. Thomas and President Philip Murray to exert all necessary pressure to prevent ratification of this proposed settlement until GM meets the legitimate demands of the auto workers, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That copies of this resolution be sent to R.J. Thomas, Philip Murray, George Addes, W. Reuther, and that all UE Locals in GM plants be urged to refuse to return to work until a settlement has been reached with the UAW.

Reuther’s Statement

After the above resolution was adopted, Walter Reuther, who had been invited to the Committee meeting to report on the union-corporation negotiations, devoted a considerable part of his speech to the treachery of the UE leadership. Reuther accused the Stalinists of demagogy because while they were calling for a “general strike” in words, they were attempting to undermine the GM strike in fact.

Although Reuther did not name them as Stalinists, he left no doubt in any delegate’s mind as to whom he was aiming at when he spoke in scathing terms of “these people who say one thing and do another.”

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