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Ben Hall

Ranks Kept in Dark on Ford Contract

(4 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 5, 4 February 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Jan. 26 – In secret sessions and without the presence or knowledge of the elected National Ford Negotiating Committee, Dick Leonard, director of the Ford Department of the UAW, today signed an agreement with the Ford Motor Co. providing for a wage increase of eighteen cents an hour, or fifteen per cent.

The full text of the contract which still must be ratified by the top UAW officers, has not been made public and the fate of the notorious “company security” provisions, which would fine so-called wild-cat strikers, is in doubt. According to one member of the National Ford Negotiating Committee, the union representatives dropped the original idea of fining strikers after a wave of protests had greeted this proposal. In its place they substituted a bonus plan for non-strikers similar to the plan incorporated into the Kaiser- Frazer contract. But since the members of this Negotiating Committee have been left out of the final negotiations one can only guess at what dish the secret sessions cooked up.

This agreement, negotiated by a three-man committee consisting of Leonard, Joseph McCusker, president of Ford Local 600, and Nelson Samp, secretary of the National Negotiating Committee, is a new blow at the fighting General Motors strikers. What the latter have been fighting for during two months on the picket lines is being stolen from them in the conference halls.

Theft No. One: While the GM workers were fighting for their increase, Leonard tried to buy an increase from Ford at their expense. He proposed his “company security” plan, which would put the most militant elements in the shops at the mercy of the employers. This plan was endorsed by all top UAW officials.

Theft No. Two: The union officials have agreed to a new Little Steel formula and withdrew their demand for a thirty per cent wage increase under the pressure of the Truman auto fact-finding board, which recommended an increase of 19½ cents per hour. This was accepted by the union as a final “compromise” settlement.

Theft No. Three: The top UAW officials agreed to the reinstatement of a form of incentive pay in the industry in their contract with the Kaiser-Frazer Co. Of this plan, Kaiser himself said: “It is an incentive plan that makes every worker feel that his earnings are dependent on himself.”

Theft No. Four: While the GM strikers announce their plans to intensify their battle by stopping all GM tool and die work, the Chrysler and Ford negotiators, who have not led their men in a single day of real fighting, have now cut their demands BELOW THE PROPOSALS OF THE TRUMAN BOARD.

At the very moment when Leonard and his two assistants were signing the new contract, a meeting of Ford Local 400, at Highland Park, was taking place. The session was interrupted by one local member, who excitedly waved a copy of ah early edition of the Detroit News with the headline: “Ford, UAW Sign 18 Cents an Hour Increase.”

Carl Bolton, the local’s representative of the National Ford Negotiating Committee, took the floor and heatedly denied that the headline was true. “There were no negotiations scheduled for today,” said he, “therefore no agreement could have been signed. The headline is false. It is a feeler put out by the company to see if it can get us to settle for that low figure. It is an attempt to undermine our morale.”

But Bolton was mistaken. Details of the secret sessions appeared later in the day. They had been called at Leonard’s request in an attempt by him to gain “prestige” as the first UAW representative to win a signed contract with one of the Big Three. And he won the race by only a few hours. However, it cost the Ford workers an additional ½ cent per hour. Shortly after the Ford contract was signed for 18 cents an hour increase, the Chrysler Co. signed up for an 18½ cent increase.

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