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Emanuel Garrett

CIO Board’s Price Program
Is Off the Mark

(29 July 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 30, 29 July 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The CIO Executive Board which met last week advanced a program to meet the price situation. It is so far off the mark, in its essential aspects, that we propose to subject it to detailed criticism in our next issue. We can do no more in this issue than briefly outline this program and our criticism of it.

There is no doubt of the fact that Murray and the CIO Board are aware of the situation. For example, president Murray charged that “essential living costs” have risen approximately 40 per cent in the last two months, 25 per cent since OPA lapsed. And, as the CIO’s Union News Service reports, the Board “uttered a grim warning that inflation and economic chaos endanger the safety and security of 140,000,000 American people.” Unfortunately, its proposals, and those of the CIO’s Cost of Living Committee published several days after the Board report, are lacking in an equal measure of “grimness.”

Major Proposal Is Bad

In a statement that includes a number of valuable, though limited, proposals, the Board calls for a labor-management conference as the major plank in its program.

“We call upon the President of the United States,” says the resolution, “to call before him in immediate conference, representatives of American labor and industry to the end that the demand and need for immediate wage increases may be given full and official recognition, and to the end that the crisis created by the drive to cripple and destroy price control may be met quickly through adequate guarantees for a stabilized national economy.”

The last part of this sentence can be interpreted to mean anything, or nothing, and therefore we omit comment on it. It is the first part, especially as it relates to a scandalous “offer” made by Murray in his press conference, that demands critical, and severely critical, attention. We are referring to the labor-management conference.

For the CIO to go out for wage increases, is a necessary step. But it is drained of all consequence, when it is linked with a labor-management conference. Labor has at its disposal the record of the last several years of labor-management conferences. And the record is a clear one. These conferences did not, could not serve labor. In fact, at the very press conference at which Murray reported the Board’s program, reference was made, according to the CIO News, to the “fiasco of last year’s union-management confab.” Fiasco! That’s putting it mildly.

The story of this winter’s strike wave is again being repeated. Readers will recall that while hundreds of workers were either on the picket line, or ready to join a picket line, Murray was waltzing around the White House “in conference with Truman.” The result was that labor’s picket lines gains were stolen from labor in Washington. Here we have it again: Murray, the head of a powerful, many-millioned organization of workers, looking towards Truman, towards “labor-management” agreement at a conference actively attended by the government (management’s government!) instead of looking towards the strength that resides in the ranks of the CIO.

A Scandalous Offer

There is a place for labor to confer with management – at the negotiating table, the two sides meeting as the opponents they are, labor versus capital, the strength of one pitted against the strength of the other. Wage increases are necessary; and Murray, the union man, knows how to get them.

Labor-management conferences serve no purpose other than to deceive workers into thinking that something valuable is being done for them. Management, that is the profiteers, the monopolists, are not deceived.

What makes this all the more hair- raising is that at his press conference, Murray spoke of a ... no-strike pledge! It’s incredible, but true. We quote from the CIO News: “Murray said the unions might consider the granting of a no-strike pledge to show their good faith.” Good faith! Good faith, indeed! After the experience of the war years, after the indignation it justly aroused among tens of thousands of union militants, to speak again of a no-strike pledge, in, however “iffy” a sense, shows not “good faith” but criminal idiocy.

And what does he mean by saying that the “unions” might possibly be willing to consider the monstrosity of a no-strike pledge? What unions, and what part of the unions? – the officialdom, or the ranks who had more than a belly-full of the no-strike pledge during the war?

Rest of Program

The rest of the program has its good points, and “unclear” points:

  1. An eleventh hour plea to Congress to pass a price control bill free of crippling amendments. OK. But the actions of Congress have demonstrated that labor must organize its own price control action together with consumer representatives.
  2. A demand that Truman veto any bill that would be a fraud. OK. But it appears as though Truman is prepared to sign just such a fraud.
  3. A call for action to hold those in Congress who fought OPA responsible for their acts in the next election campaign. OK. But not in Murray’s way!

    We have gained nothing if we oppose one capitalist politician in order to support another capitalist politician who may have voted for OPA but committed a hundred other crimes against labor. Regardless of their votes on OPA, capitalist politicians are just that – capitalist politicians. Labor needs an Independent Labor Party, and its own candidates running on the ticket of that party. That isn’t in Murray’s program, nor will it be until such a time as the pressure for independent labor political action compels Murray to pay heed, or disregards him if he fails to do so.
  4. A plea for buyers strikes and community action “by every available weapon.” OK. But the CIO Board, and the Cost of Living Committee, did not specify what this community action should be, or did so in such a way as to give it only the meekest kind of meaning.

    Says the Cost-of-Living Committee report: “Get your union to call on the individual merchants or landlords, and on their organization heads, to make dear to them why the cost of living must be kept down.” Is that action? Hardly! Undoubtedly, small merchants can be made to work together with the unions, for their common interest. In fact, labor must align with it the little merchant. But committees to “make clear” why prices must be kept down is arrant nonsense. Shall a committee explain this to Armour or Swift? Action, not explanations, by popular price control committees is required – the kind of action the UAW is speaking about when it says it will resist evictions.
  5. A demand for immediate readjustment of “pensions, social security payments and other fixed sources of incomes.” OK!
  6. A warning that workers’ wages and purchasing power must be protected in the period before the termination of contracts and before the development of a stabilized national economy. OK. But how?

Five More Points

The Cost of Living Committee further proposes in its Labor’s Consumer Program the following five points:

  1. Don’t buy anything you can do without.
  2. The point on explaining to merchants and landlords, discussed above.
  3. “Organize shopping committees to check prices and report price gougers to the public.” OK. But the situation doesn’t call for shopping committees, but for price control committees of which the above will be one duty.
  4. Prepare for direct buying and selling.
  5. “Be ready to use picket lines if you need them, to tell the public what the facts are, and whom not to support.”

OK. But that’s a pretty limited use for picket lines.

What Is Missing?

Nowhere in the report of the Board meeting is there reference to the request made by the UAW for a national conference of all unions to discuss action on the price situation. To our way of thinking, that is the kind of step the CIO should have taken, the kind of conference it should call. Unlike the labor-management proposal, it would have meaning in labor’s behalf.

Nowhere in the Board report is there a proposal to link a demand for wage increases with a genuine program to PREVENT price increases. We arc speaking of the kind of program put forward by the GM strikers and which we have called the GM Program. This program remains the basic element in any real campaign to control prices – at their source.

Nowhere is there mention of a plan to organize real POPULAR PRICE CONTROL COMMITTEES. Buyers strikes are an excellent demonstration. But the situation demands systematic, organized activity by those who are most vitally concerned. It is proper to demand a good price control bill of Congress, but we cannot put our reliance there – even should it produce something that more or less resembles price control. OUR RELIANCE MUST NECESSARILY REST ON THOSE INSTRUMENTS THAT REPRESENT US DIRECTLY.

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