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Ben Hall

The Meaning of Company Security Plans

(11 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 6, 11 February 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This is the second of a series of educational articles by Comrade Ben Hall on the Kaiser-Frazer and Chrysler plans. In the first article, which appeared several weeks ago, Comrade Hall discussed the incentive pay scheme. In this article he discusses certain aspects of the company security plan. Other aspects of this plan have already been discussed in Labor Action, as in the article by Comrade David Coolidge in last week’s issue. We propose to continue hammering away against this scheme – Ed.)


The workers who man the picket lines in defense of their union rights and working conditions see the fruits of their inspiring solidarity slipping out of their hands as union officials concede one form or another of so- called “company security” plans. Contracts with Ford, Chrysler and Kaiser-Frazer already incorporate provisions for punishing participants in “unauthorized” stoppages. The penalties range from discharges to fines to the loss of wage bonuses. Other companies, encouraged by the capitulation of the union leaders to the demands of the auto monopolists, are demanding the same concessions. General Electric and Westinghouse, for example, are insisting upon some form of company security as a condition to signing new contracts with the United Electrical Radio & Machinists Union.

A “No-Strike” Pledge

The Chrysler contract reads as follows: “The union will not oppose the discharge or discipline of anyone who instructs, leads or induces another employee to take part in any unauthorized strike.”

All through the war the labor movement was shackled with a no-strike pledge. To the aggressive union militants who fought to free their organizations from these chains, the official labor leadership replied: “Don’t you know there’s a war on? You can’t strike now.”

But now the war is over and ... the same labor leaders propose another no-strike pledge under a new name – COMPANY SECURITY.

“But,” one might answer, “the no-strike pledge renounced strikes under ALL conditions. The unions agreed not to authorize ANY strike, no matter how justified. Now, however, the leaders simply agree to punish unauthorized strikes but do not promise that they will not authorize strikes themselves when they are justified.”

True, there is a certain difference between the pledge made during the war and that made now, but we must understand that despite this incidental difference both pledges are based upon the same fundamentally false idea that the workers and the capitalists have common interests and must cooperate amicably for their mutual benefit. During the war, the labor leaders preached the myth of national unity between the workers and their employers. The capitalists of this country – so went the hypnotic dream – after capturing the markets of the world would establish a life of plenty and prosperity for all. The no-strike pledge was part of the “higher strategy of labor” to achieve our “brave new world.”

The new no-strike pledge has more modest but similarly illusory aims. The latest fantasy which has captured the imagination of the labor leaders goes as follows: If the company has security, production will rise. The capitalists will get richer. If the capitalists get richer some of this increased wealth will dribble down into the hands of the working men in the form of increased wages.

This is no wild guess. Read, for example, the joint statement by Norman Matthews, UAW Chrysler director, and Robert Conder, labor relations director of the Chrysler. Co. Here is what they say:

“In reaching the new agreement, which will run until January 26, 1947, the union recognizes the importance of company security against unauthorized strikes and the need for productivity on the part of the employees.”

Wages and Productivity

All the big companies have argued, and still do; that they cannot and will not grant substantial wage increases until they are guaranteed increased productivity. What does this talk signify?

The productivity of this country is already the greatest on earth. The experience of the war has demonstrated that with its present productive capacity, the United States could raise the entire population to a higher and genuinely decent standard of living – to PLENTY FOR ALL.

What stands in the way? The capitalist class wolfs the greatest share of the fruits of this productive capacity.

The working class, the men and women who actually produce the goods of life, has been fighting on the picket lines to raise its own share of the national income at the expense of the share ALREADY received by the idle capitalist parasitic class. The capitalists, on the other hand, fight like the wolves they are to guard every ounce of their unearned share. If the workers were defenseless and without unions and democratic rights, the capitalist class would rejoice in the ability to buy labor as cheaply as possible. Then they could pay the workers only enough on which to live and to raise new families of workers.

But the working people are NOT defenseless. They have formed powerful and aggressive unions. The capitalists must therefore be a little more modest and choose the second best method of dealing with their workers. “We refuse to reduce our share of the national wealth and income,” they say, “but if you will work harder for us, If you are loyal enough, if you pledge yourself to strain even harder to enrich us, then out of our immodestly swollen profits we will consider giving you a modest increase in pay.” Thus they propose incentive pay, production bonuses, piece work, and company security.

While the workers battle to increase their share of what they already produce, their labor officials, adopting the outlook of the capitalists, agree to increased productivity through company security as the means to gain wage increases.

Now you can understand why the anti-labor Detroit Free Press praises Richard T. Leonard, Ford director of the UAW, and Norman Matthews, Chrysler director, for their “statesmanship in industrial labor conflicts.” You see, they had just agreed to scale down their wage demands below that of the GM strikers and to accept company security.

A “labor statesman” is a labor official who accepts the point of view of the big capitalists. When the workers are able to win big gains, the labor statesman is always able to “win” half as much. Then he goes to his members and says: “See what I won for you. Of course you will now have to work harder and more loyally than before.”

But company security plans as a means of buying wage increases with the workers’ own sweat are a dangerous trap for the union movement. We will discuss this again in a coming issue of Labor Action.

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