Glotzer Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Sam Adams

R.J. Thomas: Caught in WLB Revolving Door

(December 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 49, 4 December 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It takes a great deal of patience and fortitude to follow the thinking of some labor leaders on the War Labor Board and the Little Steel Formula. It is no secret, of course, that Labor Action is unalterably opposed to the War Labor Board, the Little Steel Formula and the No-Strike Pledge which has bound labor’s hands and made possible the maintenance of a wage freeze robbing workers of their wages.

We are not alone on at least two counts of the above position. Nearly all of the labor leaders feel as sharply as we do about the wage freeze and the activities of the WLB. Their trouble is that they do not see or, more correctly, they refuse to see that the maintenance of the one-sided no-strike pledge, for which they are responsible, is what has made possible the wage freeze and the WLB,

Murray’s Position

However, taking them at their word, we cannot help but conclude that the minds of these labor leaders operate in a most peculiar and disastrous way for the workers. Last week we showed this to be true in the case of Phil Murray, president of the CIO. We quoted at length from Murray’s speech to the CIO convention in which he castigated the WLB for maintaining the wage freeze and refusing to budge on the question of revising the Little Steel Formula, at a time when all facts showed it to be out of line and a means of cheating the workers.

Murray cited chapter and verse to show that the figures of the WLB justifying their refusal to grant overall, general wage increases were false; that these figures were at least 15 per cent below the real figures; and most important of all, by the Board’s own figures, a nation-wide increase of 30 per cent in the Little Steel Formula was indicated. Murray’s position, like that of the rest of the labor leaders, was unassailable.

But what did this leader of millions of workers then conclude? Mustn’t quit the WLB, mustn’t break the political alliance with Roosevelt, who is the person first of all responsible for this situation, and mustn’t, of course, break the no-strike pledge, which is, finally, responsible for the whole situation.

R.J. Thomas in a Whirl

Now, take the case of R.J. Thomas, president of he largest union in the world, the United Automobile Workers, which decided at its last convention to take a referendum of the membership on the no-strike pledge. Asserting his agreement with Murray’s criticism of the public members of the Board, especially Mr. Taylor, whom the President of the CIO held responsible for the Little Steel Formula. Thomas said in effect:

I am even more critical of the WLB than Murray. I apologize for my membership on the WLB, having joined the board “under the false pretense” that the Board would give an even break to labor. Labor has not received fair treatment.

Then, after declaring how hard he worked for the re-election of Roosevelt, Thomas stated: “Here is an issue which I think the President himself must move on and move quickly. We cannot go out to the workers much longer and sell them on the idea that the President is the greatest man in the World unless the President moves to equalize conditions of all classes of society.” Just read that over again. The President must move quickly on the matter of wages. Why? Is it because the workers need higher wages in order to live? We are sure Thomas believes that. But the reason he gives is that he “cannot go out to the workers much longer and sell them on the idea that the President is the greatest man in the world unless the President moves to equalize conditions of all classes of society.” Who told Thomas, to go out and sell the workers the President?

Why didn’t Thomas go out and tell the workers the truth, namely, that the President is responsible for the wage freeze, for the Little Steel Formula and for the War Labor Board? Why didn’t Thomas quit playing boss politics in supporting and working for a capitalist political party and a capitalist candidate?

Why didn’t Thomas spend some of his time and energy working for a party of labor and for labor candidates?

Why didn’t Thomas try working for a program for labor that would defend and advance the interests of the workers?

Why didn’t Thomas try thinking like a worker and a genuine labor leader rather than thinking like a capitalist politically and acting like a capitalist agent in reality? Why doesn’t he stop thinking of getting a capitalist President to act like a socialist?

Then the issues would have been clear cut. Instead, Murray, Thomas, Hillman, Green and others worked like Trojans for Roosevelt, without even a promissory note. They gave everything toward Roosevelt’s campaign, just as they have supported him through thick and thin all these years while labor was getting it in the neck – all for nothing except endless insults.

Well, now, you would think that Thomas, after halving unburdened himself on the WLB, would sit down satisfied with having made the record. No, the man must needs talk on. And we get this:

He is critical of public members Davis and Taylor and referred to Davis, the chairman of the WLB, as “a weak, worn-out old man.” But then he declared that the CIO had made a mistake when it did not send telegrams of congratulations to the three public members of the WLB who submitted their resignations to the President.

Let us rest here with this repetition: Thomas thought the CIO made a mistake in not sending a congratulatory telegram to the three men on a board (for which he apologized serving on), who were mainly responsible for refusing to recommend a revision of the Little Steel Formula, who were mainly responsible for labor’s run-a-round, who remained adamant in their refusal to grant wage increases, and who consistently maintained the wage freeze. ’Nuff said, we think.

Top of page

Labor Action 1944 Index | Writers’ Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 18 February 2016