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Emanuel Garrett

Break the Meat Trust!

Nationalize Meat Industry Under Workers’ Control!

(7 October 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 40, 7 October 1946, pp. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The packinghouse workers in the most recent issue of their union paper call it: “By Order of Congress – SCORCHED EARTH IN MEAT INDUSTRY”

And it is exactly that, The packing monopolists have deliberately created a meat famine, aided and abetted by Congress. There is virtually no meat available, except what can" be bought on the black market. And in this situation 40,000 PACKINGHOUSE WORKERS ARE IDLE.

It is a case of profits versus the people. It is a case of an industry that reveals the operations of capitalist “free enterprise” in its crassest form. It is a case of callous robbery.

There Is Plenty of Meat!

In a speech at Albuquerque, N.M., Secretary of Agriculture Anderson referred to “short supply” in meat. But he carefully added that the supply of “range cattle” was adequate, and in some cases more than adequate.

Said Anderson: “That to a nation that already has 80,000,000 cattle – 52,000,000 of them beef cattle – may have serious imputations.”

The implications are indeed serious. And Anderson, who played the packers’ and rangers’ game by granting a rise in the price of meat, will never draw them. The real implication is so plain that it cries for a statement:

Nationalize Meat Industry!

Meat is plentiful on the range. Anderson admits it. The New York retailers who marketed and slaughtered their own cattle proved it too.

Why then do the packers, in collusion with big rangers with whom they operate check by jowl, refuse to bring meat to market?

The answer: their only allegiance is to their own wealth, their profits, and not at all to the people who must have meat. They are socially a bankrupt lot. It is time that this vital industry was wrested from their grasping hands.

Therefore, we say, as has UPWA, the packinghouse workers union: nationalize the meat industry. And we add —

Under Workers’ Control!

By itself nationalization will not meet our ends. We have gained little if the management and control of this industry is shifted from the hands of the monopolists to their servants in the governmental apparatus.

Can Anderson control the meat industry in our behalf? He stated the case against himself when he permitted this unscrupulous gang an unwarranted increase in prices. Or Truman? All these men are part and parcel of the capitalist system; they live by it, they uphold it. They CANNOT serve the people.

But the packinghouse workers CAN. They are not interested in profits. Their interests are identical with those of the great mass of people – including the poor farmers who are equally gouged by the packers and big rangers.

The packinghouse workers have the know-how. It is they who slaughter the animals, prepare the meat for market. They have no need or use for the gang of brigands whose sole contact with meat is the profit they draw from it.

And the packinghouse workers are alive to the problem. Read the current issue of their paper, and you will see that it speaks, in defending the welfare of the packinghouse worker, for the welfare of the people as a whole.

Expose Huge Profits of Trusts

The packinghouse workers use the phrase: profits versus the people. They detail the enormous profits of the meat trust – including its Latin American subsidiaries. Frequent mention is made of Argentine beef, for example. But this beef is largely controlled by Swift, Armour and Wilson. And, as the Packinghouse Worker says, there is gold in beef!

In 1945 Swift made $5,250,000 on Latin American operations, and $25,600,000 in operations outside Latin America. Armour that year made a total profit of $30,000,000; Wilson, a profit of $12,900,000.

How much they have gouged from the consumers for 1946 remains to be seen. But Lyle Cooper, UPWA research director, offers the following evidence:

Between September 1, 1945 and August 31, 1946 the packer paid the farmer an increase of 43 per cent per hundred pounds of hogs ($14.75 to $21.13); THE PACKER CHARGED THE RETAILER AN 87 PER CENT INCREASE (24.21 CENTS PER POUND TO 45.28); the retailer charged the consumer a 76 per cent increase (29.35 cents per pound to 51.65).

These are facts. The facts explode the lies of the meat trust. And they show that the end sufferer is the consumer, with a squeeze on the retailer in passing!

Requisition the Meat!

The meat is available. It is there on the hoof. More than that, we say it is there in the warehouses too!

You remember that in July and August cattle were rushed to market even where they were not ready. Meat output during these months was 2,644,000,000 pounds – 308,000,000 pounds more than during the same two months last year.

Where is this meat? The army is not taking as much as it was in 1945. Perhaps there was increased consumption, although the fantastically high prices during those months made it impossible for the poor consumer to “indulge” himself. The Packinghouse Worker says: “It’s a safe bet that hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc., and a lot of wealthy people hoarded at least that 308 million pounds.”

We suspect there is also plenty of meat in warehouses. Months ago while the packers were howling about a meat shortage, the packinghouse workers revealed that there were millions of pounds in cold storage, awaiting a rise in prices.

Governor Tobin of Massachusetts and Mayor O’Dwyer evidently share the same suspicion. One day’s raid in Boston revealed 8,000,000 pounds of stored meat!

It is a rare phenomenon when capitalist spokesmen such as they feel compelled to speak out. They are impelled by the severity of the situation and the widespread demand for action. They want a check on warehouses, but they are not the ones to make this check. It needs to be made on a scale that disregards the “sanctity” of “free enterprise” – and not only in Boston and New York, but in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and everywhere. It is a job for

Consumer-Labor Committees

We have many times spoken of the necessity of organizing price control committees composed of housewives and labor representatives.

These game committees are urgently needed today to check on meat supplies. Housewives’ committees, ACTING WITH COMMITTEES OF PACKINGHOUSE WORKERS, TRUCK DRIVERS AND SO FORTH, can ferret out the meat, and take ACTION.

They can mobilize thousands and tens of thousands in front of warehouses where meat is stored and kept from market They can force the placing of meat on the market at a low price within the means of every consumer.

Break the Black Market!

Labor and consumer action, concretized in price control committees and committee of packinghouse workers designated to examine the books of the corporations, can break the black market.

It is strange that when meat is unobtainable on the open market, it is plentiful on the black market. In a highly centralized industry such as meat, it is impossible for anything more than a lone carcass to get on the black market. The meat industry is controlled by Swift, Armour, Wilson and Cudahy. These four also control the American Institute of Meat Packers.

These packers claim that on two days in September 77 per cent of cattle received in Chicago went to eastern packing plants. But these eastern packing plants are owned by the same four.

Now, asks Lewis J. Clark, UPWA secretary-treasurer:

“If 77 per cent of the cattle received on the aforementioned dates were shipped to eastern markets, and presumably to the black marketeers, as charged, who received them? Where were they unloaded? ... Who bought them in Chicago and from whom did he purchase them?”

The packers cannot answer without admitting their responsibility for the black market!

Back the Union Demands

The packinghouse workers are engaged in a struggle for higher wages. Theirs is an extremely legitimate demand – to which we think must be coupled the demand that this wage increase be granted WITHOUT any price increase. The profits of the corporations are more than sufficient to provide for this increase. And just as the General Motors workers proved this to be a fundamental demand for the auto industry in their strike last winter, so is it a fundamental demand for the meat industry – with the additional argument that meat prices affect us more intimately than auto prices.

The packinghouse workers want a guaranteed annual wage. It is an essential demand that we must join them in achieving. The action of the packers in locking out 40,000 workers from employment is an added argument for the demand. To be truly effective, we think, it ought to be coupled with an escalator clause providing for an increase in wages with every jump in the price graph.

These are two of the immediate demands, along with such demands as retroactive pay for time lost in unemployment, that are raised by the union. They are only initial steps, however. A more far reaching policy is required.

That the union realizes this is evidenced by its seven-point program on the meat crisis which begins with a plank calling for making the meat industry a public utility.

We have, in effect, already commented on the weakness of this formulation. It is a demand for nationalization without the equal demand, for workers’ control. Without workers’ control it cannot be of fundamental benefit to the packinghouse workers specifically, and the people generally.

We are glad to see the packinghouse workers raising the demand for nationalization; we look forward to their making it genuinely meaningful:for labor and the people by calling for nationalization under the control of committees of packinghouse workers.

Organize a Labor Party!

The union includes in its seven-point program the necessity of political action. It rightly calls attention, to the dismal record of Congress.

Political action may appear to be far removed from meat on the table. But the union is absolutely right in linking the two. They are inseparable. The packing meat monopolists conspire with their agents in government.

The union is wrong, however, when it argues that PAC as it is now set up is a vehicle for this political action. It is not. It could become one, but only on the condition that PAC WAS TURNED INTO A LABOR PARTY.

Rewarding our “friends” and punishing our enemies is a political line with a long record of disaster. These so-called “friends” are equally servants of capitalism, and as such preserve the basic interests of capitalism regardless of what concessions they deem it wise to toss labor along the way.

We require a party that will speak labor’s interests, that will contest for governmental power in the name of labor and on behalf of the people, a party that will inscribe in its program:

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