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Auto Locals Start Drive to Elect
Reuther as Next UAW President

(9 March 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 11, 16 March 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Mar. 9 – The General Motors strike has been turned into a lockout! A formal charge that the billion dollar GM Corporation is engaged in a lockout to force an ending of the 109-day walkout was filed here March 7 with the National Labor Relations Board by the CIO United Auto Workers.

The same charge against the GM Corporation was made in a statement issued on the preceding day by UAW officers, R.J. Thomas, President; George Addes, Secretary-Treasurer; and Walter Reuther, Vice-president. An opening gun in the UAW’s campaign for a national program of mass pressure against GM, the statement was “an appeal to all organized labor and all American citizens who believe in justice to come quickly and generously to the aid of the GM workers.”

The union action followed a rapid series of moves and counter-moves, charges and countercharges, which marked the 15th week of the GM strike.

GM’s Arrogant Reply

On March 3, GM flatly rejected the UAW’s offer to arbitrate the remaining issues in dispute. This offer had been authorized by the 250 UAW delegates at the March 2 GM Conference. Earlier in the Conference, the delegates had turned down the Corporation’s “final” offer because it failed to meet the standards set up by the President’s Fact-Finding Board for a 19½ cents an hour wage increase and reinstatement of the old contract..

In the Corporation’s arrogant rejection of the union’s proposal, reference was made to “the novel economic and social theories which your union advanced at the beginning of this dispute.” The GM strikers, with Reuther as their spokesman, had raised the demand that they be allowed to examine the company’s books to determine whether GM was able to pay wage increases out of profits without raising prices.

Attempting to drive a wedge between the GM strikers and the union leadership, the Corporation statement hinted that union politics was delaying a strike settlement and that the differences between the union and the company were slight. The open charge was made that Conference delegates had not given the company proposals the full and detailed consideration and discussion they deserved.” The 1,000 word GM statement concluded with a proposal that the NLRB “conduct a secret vote among our employees to determine whether they wish to return to work under an agreement embodying our latest offers.”

Union Counter-Proposal

Picking up the company challenge, the union made the following counter-proposal on March 4:

“We accept your proposition that a secret vote among the membership in GM plants be conducted by the NLRB ... provided that the question is put as follows,

“Do you favor returning to work and ending the current dispute on the basis of the Corporation’s offer of 18½ cents an hour increase and its latest proposals on basic contract matters, or

“Do you favor returning to work on the basis of the corporation’s 18½ cents wage increase offer and its latest proposals on basic contract matters with the understanding that all issues still in dispute shall be submitted to arbitration by the President of the United States?”

Replying to Corporation charge that the differences between the union and company positions were slight, the UAW statement listed the questions in dispute in addition to the wage increase. These included elimination of speedup and piece-work systems in 15 plants: correction of health and safety hazards in 41 plants; equal pay for equal work for women in 15 plants; general questions for all GM plants on promotions and transfers; maintenance of membership; vacation pay, etc.

Again GM Says “No”

General Motors’ answer to the UAW vote plan was a swift and unequivocal “NO!” “Who would not vote to accept the increased wages and other favorable proposals made by the company if they could still retain the opportunity for further gain by referring to an arbitrator all additional union demands which have not been fully granted by the company?” the March 6 Corporation letter to the union angrily asked.

UAW-GM negotiating sessions continue in Detroit under James Dewey, special Federal mediator, but they are almost at a stalemate. In a recent press conference, GM Vice-president Harry W. Anderson was quoted as predicting that the strike would not be settled until after the UAW convention which opens in Atlantic City on March 28. Concern of the UAW’s top officers over their union jobs would prevent an immediate strike settlement, according to Anderson.

GM Attacks Reuther

UAW members know that this Corporation attack is directed against Walter Reuther, whose progressive leadership of the GM strike has aroused the fierce hatred of the GM officials. The union’s Top Negotiating Committee exposed GM’s lies in a blast against the Corporation on March 6.

“The General Motors strike is being unnecessarily prolonged because the General Motors Corporation is trying to interfere in the internal affairs of the UAW-CIO. Such interference is part of the Corporation’s long- range program of fighting the economic policies advanced by the union of increasing wages without Increasing prices,” the Committee’s statement opens.

Other sections of the statement follow:

“General Motors doesn’t want the strike to be settled until after the UAW-CIO convention, March 23–31.

GM’s Motives

“General Motors wants to use the strike as a political weapon to influence convention decisions and to turn the union membership against its leadership in order to defeat the higher purchasing power policies which the union has so effectively advanced since V-J Day.

“The Corporation recognizes that the UAW-CIO and its leadership have put up the strongest fight of any group in the nation to maintain purchasing power and hold the price line. They know that the price line has been held as well as it has largely as a result of the UAW’s fight ...

“In their greed for profits and power and in their contempt for the national welfare, the people who control General Motors abhor any kind of economic thinking which threatens to reduce to respectable size the outrageous profits they had anticipated by plundering the huge consumer demand built up during the war years ...

“Delegates to the UAW convention will appraise the actions of its officers and their policies during this period without regard to the wishes or activities of the General Motors Corporation. If the General Motors strike is still in effect at that time, the delegates will know where to put the blame. They will condemn, as we do now, the shabby ethics and morals of a Corporation that tries to play politics in the union of its employees.”

Defense of Reuther

Considerably importance is being attached to the Top Negotiating Committee’s spirited defense of the strike leadership – in actuality, a defense of Reuther. The nine members of this Committee represent UAW Districts in all parts of the country and are in close touch with the rank-and-file GM strikers.

From another source comes further proof that the majority of GM workers have faith in the UAW strike leaders. Edwin Lahey of the Detroit Free Press, writing from Flint, where he had talked to a large number of GM strikers, says in a March 9 article, “Whether you like it or not, it appears that the GM executives who hoped that a long strike would destroy Walter Reuther have outsmarted themselves in this fight.” He admits that the morale of Flint’s 40,000 GM strikers is still very high and that they have faith in their union and in its strike leaders.

Reuther for President

A group of 17 GM local union presidents in the Michigan area have called a “Reuther for President Committee” meeting for Sunday, March 17, in Pontiac. Their action follows the lead of Detroit’s Chrysler Local 490, which on March 8 announced that it is “drafting” Walter Reuther for the UAW presidency. William Jenkins, Local 490 President, said, “Reuther has demonstrated his able leadership not only in the General Motors strike but also on countless other occasions.”

Truman’s Policy

Meantime, President Truman continues his do-nothing policy toward the 175,000 GM strikers, who have now gone through the longest strike in auto history. Despite the fact that the union accepted his Fact-Finding Board’s proposals while GM arrogantly turned them down, Truman has not lifted a finger to bring the Corporation to terms.

The Fact-Finding Board’s proposal of 19½ cents represented a chiseling down of the UAW’s just demand for a 30 per cent increase. The 19½ cent increase – approximately 17 per cent – is even considerably lower than the recommendation of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.

In a report issued a few months ago, economists of this government agency demonstrated that industry would be able to raise wages 24 per cent after taxes without raising prices. But no government official or agency has taken any .effective action toward giving the GM workers even a part of their just demand.

In the UAW’s March 8 appeal for aid to the GM strikers, the road to victory for the GM strike was pointed out – the path of working-class solidarity.

“The morale of the GM workers is high and their determination is great. The moral and financial support they will receive from others so that their wives and children do not suffer will make their ultimate victory certain. They will not surrender!”

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