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Jerry Kirk & R. Weston

Auto Militants Broadcast Strong Appeal
for Revocation of The No-Strike Pledge

(21 January 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 5, 3 February 1945, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Jan. 21 – The rank and file campaign to revoke the no-strike pledge in the current CIO United Automobile Workers referendum is daily gathering momentum and support despite the terrific flag-waving propaganda of the CIO and UAW leaders, backed by the corporations, government and rabid Stalinists.

A high point in the auto militants’ drive to win a majority vote for rescinding the pledge was the half hour radio program presented last evening over Station WJR, Detroit, by the powerful Briggs Local 212, which has been taking a leading part in the struggle against the no-strike surrender policy. WJR is the largest radio broadcasting station in Michigan.

Thousands of Michigan auto workers heard the hard-hitting appeal from the Local 212 members. From all over the state supporting messages are already beginning to pour in, testifying to the widespread sympathetic response the broadcast has evoked. The addresses of Local 212 President Jesse Ferrazza, John Murphy, Chairman of the Briggs Hamtramck unit; Ruth Bailey, rank and filer from the Briggs Mack Avenue plant; Gordon MacDonald, Local 212 Vice-President; and Leo Ellery, Chairman of the Local 212 Skilled Trades Committee, struck the militant chord that the auto ranks have wanted to hear.

Ferrazza quoted the statement of a delegate to the UAW 1942 convention assailing the fraudulent “equality of sacrifice’’ slogan and the War Labor Board, who declared, “We haven’t had collective bargaining in this union since we gave up the right to strike.”

That complaint voiced over two years ago, declared Ferrazza:

“... has been heard over and over in one form or another by workers employed in plants under United Automobile Workers contract from coast to coast. And herein lies the crux of the no-strike issue. To ask: ‘Shall we or shall we not have legitimate collective bargaining?’ Collective bargaining means that labor can, by its organized strength, resist the downward pressure on its living standards and working conditions by organized capital. But without the right to strike labor’s combined strength means little or nothing.”

Ferrazza pointed out that the employers fear only a threat to their profits, which cease when the workers withhold their labor power. “In the last analysis, manufacturers understand only one language – the language of the pocket book, the language of profits.”

The Local 212 President charged the corporations with unleashing a campaign of provocations against auto workers, but:

“the Union is helpless to stop this war of nerves because it is paralyzed by the no-strike pledge. The union now is like a powerful giant with his hands securely shackled behind his back. And because he is defenseless, others treat him with contempt instead of with the respect his strength should inspire ... Take off his bonds and his adversaries would soon change their tactics and keep a respectful distance.”

John Murphy described the function of Roosevelt’s War Labor Board as an agency for stalling the worker’s demands and grievances. “Experience has convinced us that the WLB is a sorry substitute for the right to strike.”

WLB Runaround

“A mountain of evidence can be submitted,” Murphy asserted, “to prove that the WLB exists not to expedite grievance settlements, but to delay, to stall and to hinder collective bargaining. And this is not all. The WLB’s recent act of refusing to even bend the Little Steel Formula shows that it also functions to hold wages down at a time when corporation profits are zooming.”

Answering the “unfair and dishonest cry from big business executives and editorial writers” about the “boys in the foxholes,” Ruth Bailey asserted:

“Many of those boys helped to form the UAW-CIO back in the organizing days. They walked the picket lines and served on committees and endured the hardships without which the union could never have been built. We don’t want them to come back to low pay, long hours and the vicious speedup once so notorious in mass production industry. We don’t want them to return to company unions.”

Gordon MacDonald charged that the promises of the UAW leaders about “equality of sacrifice” turned out to be “as insubstantial as a dream – or as insubstantial as the Atlantic Charter.” He exposed the fraud of the promises about controlling prices, limiting executives’ salaries, “taking the profits out of war.”

“One has only to read the last issue of the United Automobile Worker to learn how empty that promise was. The front page headline of the paper informs us that WARTIME PROFITS TRIPLED INDUSTRY’S PEACETIME TAKE. The aircraft industry, in which our members work, showed dividends 33 times bigger than in peacetime.”

He asked:

“Were our leaders actually so innocent and so green as to believe all those fine things written in the equality of sacrifice program? Or did they merely sugarcoat a bitter pill in the hope that the men and. women in the shops would swallow it (no-strike pledge) without too much fuss?”

He concluded: “Revoke the No-Strike Pledge and put a stop to industry’s offensive against Labor!”

Leo Ellery described in detail the innumerable corporation provocations and the piling up of grievances since the surrender of the strike weapon.

“From the time our leaders gave up the right to strike it has become increasingly difficult to get grievances settled. Important grievances are shunted from stage to stage until they reach management’s front office. There management all too frequently says: ‘Take it to the War Labor Board!’ This is almost equivalent to saying: ‘Take it to the Cemetery!’”

Stalinist Tactics

The UAW top bureaucrats, whose main support comes from the strikebreaking Stalinists, are attempting to counter the offensive of the militants with every dirty trick and flag-waving jingo appeal they can devise. A typical example of their methods was demonstrated this afternoon at the regular monthly membership mass meeting of the Press Steel unit of Ford Local 600, attended by approximately 800 persons.

The Stalinist-dominated leadership took advantage of the meeting, called to honor the parents of a union brother shot down in the South Pacific who survived a 30-day ordeal on a life raft, to try to shove through a resolution supporting the no-strike pledge.

W.G. Grant, Local 600 President and notorious Stalinist frontman, gave a frenzied speech, terming the hundreds of thousands of UAW militants opposed to the no-strike pledge as “enemies of labor.” Following this hysterical tirade, the no-strike resolution was introduced.

A rank and file worker demanded the floor to secure the same courtesy of the chair as Grant to oppose the no-strike pledge. The meeting chairman tried to stall him off, but was hooted by the workers. The worker who took the floor then gave a well-prepared, sharply-pointed talk, which frequently brought cheers from the audience. He was interrupted half-way through by the chairman, a Stalinist vice- president, who ruled his time-limit at an end. This almost created a riot. But, in order to permit the meeting to proceed, the speaker yielded the floor.

A leading Stalinist in the unit was then given the floor. His rantings were accorded a chilly reception. This time the audience halted the speaker when he began to exceed his time. But the Stalinists hauled out a whole stable of speakers, whose reactionary ravings caused the disgusted workers to leave the meeting in droves. It was only when the Stalinists had reduced the meeting to a skeleton that they succeeded by a narrow margin in putting over their no-strike resolution.

An evidence of the real sentiments of the workers at this meeting was their warm reception and favorable comments on The Militant, which was distributed for the first time at the Press Steel meeting. A large number of Pioneer Publisher’s new pamphlet, American Workers Need a Labor Party, written by Joseph Hansen, were also sold.

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