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Albert Gates

Prices Go Up, Up, Up – But They’re

Still Stalling on Wages!

At This Late Date “Holding the Line on Prices”
Proposed to Forestall Little Steel Revision

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 48, 27 November 1944, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The fight against the War Labor Board is coming to a head with the new attacks made upon it by the AFL and CIO, now meeting in their annual conventions. In official statements made public last week the two labor organizations opened up a barrage on the board for its adamant refusal to recommend a revision of the Little Steel formula.

Several things stand out sharply. First, wages of the workers as a whole are low and have not kept pace with the rising cost of living. Second, the WLB has refused to concern itself with the acute living problems of the majority of the workers and has constituted itself as a force to guarantee the profits of big business while reducing the living standards of the mass of American people. Third, the labor leaders, fully cognizant of these facts, and sharp in their criticism of the board – criticisms which actually belong to the President and his directors of wage stabilization – refuse to take the necessary steps which could end this disgraceful situation.

The WLB refused to certify contracts arrived at jointly by the unions and companies. It has delayed handling cases where there were disagreements between the unions and the companies. No matter what the type of case, the WLB stood like granite in its refusal to grant labor its just demands.

In face of some severe criticism, it merely shrugged its shoulders, admitted the justification of labor’s demands and then placed all responsibility for its refusal to act on the shoulders of the President and his directors, claiming that the board could, do nothing so long as the Little Steel formula and the wage freeze existed.

Labor took the board up on this position. It presented figures and material to show that the cost of living had far surpassed the levels agreed to in the Little Steel formula. In response to this pressure by labor, the President directed the board to appoint a committee to investigate the rising cost of living. This committee horsed around for a long while and then produced a report which was completely refuted by the labor members of the WLB and countered by the latter’s report.

The contrast between the two was clear. The WLB’s report (compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) on the cost of living showed a rise of only 23.5 per cent, while the labor report demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was 45.3 per cent. Accepting the figures of the WLB report, it would show that the Little Steel formula should have been revised upward by 8.5 points. But the board did nothing; the President and his directors did nothing.

WLB Cowardice

In more recent weeks, the dispute on the rise in the cost of living was again brought before the board as the pressure of labor increased and the ranks of the union movement began to press for rescinding the no-strike pledge. This time the board accepted part of the labor position on the cost of living and agreed that it had risen some additional three or four points to almost thirty per cent. That means the Little Steel formula needs to be revised upward by at least 15 per pent.

What did the WLB do? Nothing. It sent this report to the President without making a single recommendation!

Any way you look at it, that is, any figure you accept from the WLB, still demands a revision of the formula. But the board says no.

What About FDR?

How do the President, his advisers and directors meet this situation? Director of Economic Stabilization Fred M. Vinson issues a statement that the Administration does not contemplate a general upward revision of the Little Steel formula. He accepts as accurate the false report of the WLB. He realizes that even this report calls for the aforementioned revision.

The lessons, however, are clear. Labor has been duped by the President and his Administration. His directors and the WLB, carrying out his politces, have cheated American labor out of its due wages – a wage bill amounting to eleven billion dollars, according to the AFL!

The lesson is: Quit the WLB! It is the graveyard of labor’s wage demands! Rescind the no-strike pledge which has made labor the impotent captive of big business and the Administration! Restore genuine collective bargaining and the union movement to its former stature!

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