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Jerry Kirk

Company Provokes Second Walkout
at Kelsey-Hayes

(21 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 17, 28 April 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


DETROIT, April 24 – The firing of thirteen workers along with seven others by the company after the WLB had ordered their reinstatement caused a renewal of the walkout of 5,500 Kelsey-Hayes employees here today.

* * *

DETROIT, April 21 – After nine-days of militant strike action, 5,000 Kelsey-Hayes workers at three plants here have won a smashing victory. The striking members of Amalgamated Local 174, CIO United Automobile Workers, have forced the Regional War Labor Board to order the reinstatement to their jobs of six fired committeemen and a chief steward. This is the first time the WLB has ever issued such an order while a strike was still in progress.

The strike began on April 9 after the company attempted to transfer a foreman into a leader’s job just vacated by a worker who was drafted. The management insisted on jumping over the union’s list of ten workers, with 5 to 10 years seniority and the proper job qualifications. The company refused to negotiate the issue, and the provoked workers on April 9 escorted the foreman from the department. The company then responded by firing 4 committeemen, and another committeeman and chief steward during the strike.

The strikers refused to submit to demands of the WLB and their own local officials that they return to their jobs while the fired men were still out. Just one hour later after the WLB was finally compelled to make its unprecedented decision, a telegram came from the UAW International Executive Board meeting in Milwaukee threatening drastic penalties against the Local 174 officers and members for non-compliance with the no-strike pledge. This telegram enraged the strikers. As one of the reinstated committeemen said: “If the telegram had been sent a day earlier or an hour earlier, our chances of getting back would have been jeopardized.”

The company, following the deliberate policies being pursued throughout the industry, had been attempting repeated provocations in order to get a pretext for firing union militants. But the determination of the strikers, plus the fear that their action might lead to a tie-up of some 12 Kelsey-Hayes plants and set off a huge strike wave in Detroit, forced the WLB and company to retreat.

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