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Ben Hall

‘Security’ Plan Is Aimed at Shop Stewards

(4 March 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 9, 4 March 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Granting the capitalist class contracts to guarantee their “company security” makes as much sense as prescribing strength-building vitamin pills to Superman. Their “company security” is guaranteed in advance by their monopoly over vast resources and wealth, and by their ownership of the machinery of production in the basic industries. How explain, then, that the union leaders appear so ready to concede to “company security” clauses in the recently signed contracts?

At a recent meeting of Chrysler Local 7, where the new contract was finally ratified after a bitter debate in which the shop stewards were unanimous in their opposition, R.J. Thomas tried to explain away the decision to yield to the “security” demand. He argued that the strike wave revealed a conspiracy on the part of the capitalist glass to destroy the union movement, to wipe it out completely and to return to open shop conditions. “Under these circumstances,” said R.J., “we did the best we could.” Company security, according to this line of argumentation, is a concession to the employers to buy them off, a ransom or blackmail payment to hold off the thugs of capitalism.

The Fruits of Granting Concessions

This, however, is a familiar theory. Do you remember the arguments in favor of the no-strike pledge? Remember how we were told that we had to surrender the strike weapon lest Congress pass anti-labor legislation and abolish the right to strike? That was an appeal to the labor movement to pay blackmail. Its fruits? We won ... anti-labor legislation and anti-strike legislation.

Yes, the employers want to destroy the unions. But blackmail payments cannot stop them. Every concession of this kind is a sign of weakness and only leads to greater boldness on the part of the capitalist class.

The anti-union conspiracy continues. But the big business elements have been compelled to retreat from outright union busting BY THE POWER AND SOLIDITY OF THE STRIKE WAVE, BY THE SUPPORT GIVEN TO THE STRIKERS FROM NEARLY ALL SECTIONS OF SOCIETY.

The company security provisions now give the employers a tool with which they hope to whittle down the solidarity and strength of the unions IN PREPARATION FOR THE BATTLES OF TOMORROW.

Aimed at Shop Steward System

Against whom is the. “company security” system aimed? Answer: AGAINST THE SHOP STEWARDS AND COMMITTEEMEN.

In Chrysler, the “company security” plan is accompanied by another provision, the notorious section 2 which reads as follows: “The Union recognizes that the Corporation has the exclusive right to manage its plants and direct its affairs and working forces.” Every shop steward knows what this means. Instead of being free to handle grievances and leave his job when necessary. he can expect to be chained to his job.

During the Ford negotiations, the company demanded and still demands dozens of new restrictions on the stewards. It wants to cut down their number, to reduce their pay for lost time, to tighten up on their rights, and to eliminate many of their prerogatives.

Who will be penalized, under the company security plans? Answer: THE STEWARDS AND COMMITTEEMEN. When a walkout occurs, On whom does the company pin the blame? The steward. If anything at all goes wrong in a department, who are always picked out as the “leaders,” as the “instigators”? Always the stewards.

No one knows these facts better than the committee- men and stewards themselves and that is why they are so bitter against company security. THEY KNOW IT MEANS INSECURITY FOR THE UNION.

Stewards Are Vital to CIO

Why do the employers aim their arrows against the shop stewards? Because they know that the shop steward system is the very heart, of the CIO. If they can pierce that heart they can proceed to destroy the rest of the body at their leisure.

Who defended and preserved the unions during the war? The shop stewards and committeemen. The official leadership, the R.J. Thomas’, the Phillip Murrays and their kind, voluntarily gave up the class struggle. They renounced the right to strike and fought down their own membership when it tried to defend itself.

But the capitalist class did NOT give up its struggle against the working class. It tried to demoralize and destroy the unions and their rights. It was the shop stewards who led and carried on the defensive struggles of the working class, deserted by its top leadership. Thousands of so-called “unauthorized” strikes took place. It was this “unauthorized” class struggle, led by the stewards, which held the unions together and preserved the solidarity of the working class which is now being displayed in the picket lines.

In fighting against the company security plans we are fighting to defend the shop steward system.

Ben Hall Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 22 January 2019

Ben Hall Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 22 January 2019