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Grace Carlson

General Motors Continues Stall in Negotiations

(8 February 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 7, 16 February 1946, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Feb. 8 – Negotiations between General Motors Corporation and the CIO United Auto Workers are continuing here, but they have slowed down almost to a crawl. Despite the presence in Detroit of “ace mediator” James F. Dewey, no real progress has been made toward settlement of the 80-day old General Motors strike.

Sent to Detroit as a special mediator by Secretary of Labor Lewis Schwellenbach, Dewey’s arrival January 29 was hailed by the local papers. The Detroit News of that date carried the front-page headline: “END OF GM STRIKE THIS WEEK NOW FORECAST.”

Committee Stands

Dewey’s record in "settling” the UAW’s sit-down strikes in Detroit and Flint in 1936 and 1937 and the strikes of tool and die workers at Chrysler, Dodge and Briggs plants in 1939 was praised in the News story. It was predicted that Dewey would “streamline” the negotiations by cutting down the size of the union negotiating committee.

But Dewey’s hope of high-pressuring the UAW into a speedy strike settlement was quickly blasted. The nine-man union negotiating committee, made up of representatives of GM locals from all parts of the country, insisted on taking part in all of the negotiations. Because of the presence of the full union negotiating committee, General Motors Corporation president, C.E. Wilson, refused to attend the sessions.

Wilson, who had absented himself from all the discussions between the union and the corporation since the first meetings last September, had promised Dewey that he would attend. But he withdrew his promise when the vigilance of the nine-man union committee prevented Dewey from following through on his plan to slash the negotiating committee to three or four top union officials.

GM’s Demands

From the first days of the renewed negotiations, the corporation has made it clear that it is sitting tight until the new government wage-price formula is announced. Only if assured of sufficiently high price increases, will the greedy GM officials, like the equally greedy U.S. Steel officials, consent to raise wages.

Meantime, the GM corporation’s negotiators are attempting to use Dewey’s presence at the negotiations to make some gains for the company. Their chief demand has been that the maintenance of membership provision, which was ordered into preceding contracts by the War Labor Board, be eliminated from the new union contract.

Like the Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, General Motors is also attempting to obtain “company security” against so-called wildcat strikes and “interruptions of production”.

“Company Security”

Agreements for an 18-cent an hour increase for the Ford workers and 18½ cents for the Chrysler workers were obtained because of the courageous fight put up by the General Motors strikers. However, these wage concessions have been tied in with dangerous contract provisions dealing with “company security.”

Considerable opposition to any such “company security” provision has developed among Ford workers and no final action has been taken on their contract as yet.

But most of the Chrysler locals have already accepted the Chrysler contract which contains this clause:

“The Union agrees that it will not oppose the discharge or discipline of anyone who instigates, leads, or induces another employee to take part in any unauthorized strike.”

Position of UAW Tops

No opposition has been expressed to this insidious clause in the Chrysler contract by any of the UAW-CIO top leaders nor by the Stalinists. In fact, the well-known Stalinist follower, C.G. Edelen, is a member of the Chrysler top bargaining committee.

But in 1937 every leading member of the UAW’s left wing, from Reuther on down to the Stalinists, joined in denouncing the reactionary UAW official, Homer Martin, for a very similar “company security” proposal.

Martin’s proposal at that time was directed against the General Motors workers who had been forced to strike in order to compel the corporation to live up to the contract signed only a few months before. Martin said:

“The International Union is determined to end, once and for all, unauthorized strikes. The International Union is ready and willing to accept full responsibility and will make every effort, not only to fix responsibility for unauthorized action on the part of members of the union, but will gladly recommend joint penalties by the union and the corporation.”


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