Ben Hall Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Present and Future of U.S. Labor


Books in Review

Mild Book by a Mild Man

(February 1954)

From The New International, Vol. XX No. 1, January–February 1954, p. 63.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Review And Reflection
by Cyrus S. Ching
Forbes Pub. Co. 204 pp.$3.95

Cyrus Ching was labor relations director for the Boston Elevated Co. and then the United States Rubber Co. before becoming Federal Mediator. In 1951, during labor’s walkout from all war boards, he served as chairman of the Wage Stabilization Board; during the 1952 steel strike he was director of the Federal Mediation Service.

In his book of discursive reminiscences, Review and Reflection, he tells of the time he and a co-thinker addressed the employers Metal Trades Council in 1920, suggesting the establishment of joint worker-management plant committees. “We did not suggest anything so ‘radical’ as unionization of the plants.” When they had been finished, the chairman, a they had finished, the chairman, a prominent industrialist, commented, “Gentlemen, you have just heard two talks on Bolshevism. We will now proceed with the business of the meeting.”

Such an attitude, he deplores. His homely philosophy belongs to the “There’s a lot to be said on both sides” school; and he says it. He stands firmly for the happy medium applying himself to the Taft-Hartley law, as follows: “I do not think the law is half as good as industry thinks it is and I do not think it is half as bad as labor says it is.” He looks forward to an era of peaceful understanding between enlightened management and labor; an attitude publicly shared by most labor officials but still unable to avoid big strikes and political struggles over all decisive matters.

The book is of occasional interest for its sidelight stories of important events. The UAW gets credit for the defense of wage levels during the 1951 fight over wage freeze.

“I realize,” he writes, “that the reason this ‘escalator’ principle was approved was that it had been written into the big automobile industry contracts, and apparently the emergency was not considered great enough for the government to override existing contracts.”

Because he is a mild man who hates to make a categoric statement when an ambiguous one will serve as well, his testimony on the question of “emergency” strikes is significant.

“Although there is a terrific amount of shouting about the ‘grave’ problem of ‘national emergency’ strikes and how to handle them, I don’t think this country, as a whole, ever really suffered seriously as a result of a strike, for the last 50 years ... A good case can be made for the statement that the nation has never really suffered seriously from a strike. I am not ignoring the impact of strikes on certain of our industries and communities but there have been few, if any, real national emergencies resulting from labor-management conflicts.”

Ben Hall Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 25 April 2019