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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall Street Wire

(7 October 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 40, 7 October 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Paste this one in your hat, to refer to when the Eightieth Congress reconvenes in January. President Truman’s advisers, who have been racking their brains to figure out a way to outlaw strikes in the basic industries, have come up with a plan whereby, when such a strike appears, a committee of both houses of Congress would proclaim that a “national emergency” had arisen because of the strike and would invoke compulsory arbitration. The Labor Department believes that a blanket compulsory arbitration-law would be too crude, but that if introduced piecemeal – as each strike arises – such compulsion could be put over.

The men around Truman are also preparing for a drive on Congress to repeal the statutes which exempt unions from anti-trust prosecution. Industry-wide strikes are to be designated “monopolistic conspiracies against the general interest.” The idea is to bar industry-wide bargaining by a ruling that would prevent a union from bargaining with more than one-half of the industry in joint negotiations with several companies. The aim is to smash the effectiveness of nation-wide unions and reduce bargaining to the local plant level.

Big Business knows that its policy of continuously raising prices will make inevitable new labor disputes early in 1947. It figures that, with the 1946 fall elections out of the way, the new Congress is the one that can be depended upon to hamstring the union movement.


Here are some increases in the prices of uncontrolled meat subsidies since meat was recontrolled: In San Francisco, eggs up 5–10 cents a dozen, to 95 cents; in Washington, D.C., chicken prices up 10 to 50 per cent; in Chicago, halibut up 4 cents a pound, shrimp up 10 cents a pound. The dearth of fresh meat is rapidly spreading to prepared and canned meats.

In the four days from September 19 to September 23, milk went up 1½ cents a quart in Chicago. The OP A granted increases up to 8 cents a square foot on imported skins for tanners’ leathers – granted increases of 2–3 per cent on building materials by permitting the manufacturers to add increased freight rates to existing ceilings – increased the ceiling price on casein by a substantial amount – permitted a 10 per cent increase on candy bars – and upped the price of inner-spring mattresses 12 per cent.


As the legal market in meat is turned off, the black market is turned on again by the packers. Most of the nation’s meat markets are closed or closing. The AFL Butcher Workers have nothing to propose but the program of the bosses: i.e., end OPA control of meat prices. Black market prices in New York are about double the ceiling, with 2¾-pound steaks selling for $2.10 (ceiling, $1.21). Some black market shops are predating their invoices to dates when meat was uncontrolled. Others are selling direct to the consumer’s back door through delivery boys. One operator near New York City reported that customers are beginning to ask for credit. “Apparently some people are finding such expensive meat is busting their budgets,” says the Wall Street Journal.

In St. Louis less than 20 of the largest retailers have 5,000,000 pounds of meat in cold storage.

One fact throws a lightning flash on who is profiting from the black market. Under the black market that prevailed until June 30, profits of the meat packers were at a very high rate. With ceilings off, profits of both Armour & Co. and John Morrell & Co. declined, 20.6 per cent and 12.6 per cent respectively. With the reinstatement of ceilings and the return to the black market, it will be interesting to observe if profits of the meat trust again zoom. That would be important evidence that the great packing plants are maintaining “kept” black market plants somewhere in the east, to which they divert animals from their plants in Chicago, East St. Louis and Kansas City.


Despite the continued shortages of consumer goods, business inventories reached an all-time high in July. Inventories were $18 billion at the manufacturing level, $4.6 billion at the wholesaler level, and $7.4 billion at the retailer level, for a total of $30 billion. The Treasury is concerned, and warned banks to use caution in making loans on inventories. In the past, swollen inventories have foreshadowed a curtailment of demand and a weakening of commodity prices. For the first time since V-J Day, in July the value of new orders received by manufacturers declined from the previous month’s level.


Department store sales for the week ending August 31 in 16 leading cities were 45 per cent above the corresponding period a year ago. A good share of these increased sales figures is accounted for by higher prices ... Earnings of Henry C. Lytton’s (the Hub Store in Chicago) increased 500 per cent for the first half of this year ... Montgomery Ward & Co. reported record sales of $91,864,402 for August, as compared with sales of $48,686,552 for August, 1945 – a gain of 89 per cent. Sales of Sears, Roebuck were up 55.8 per cent from 1945 at the end of the first six months. Sales of Aldens, Inc., were up 44 per cent in the same period; of Spiegel, Inc., up 54 per cent.


The Union Trust Co. of Pittsburgh and the Mellon National Bank, both Mellon institutions, have consolidated to become the Mellon National Bank & Trust Co. With a combined capital and surplus of $150 million, the bank ranks fifth in the world among commercial banks. This is the 53rd bank merger of the year in the United States.

The Mellon family and a small number of close associates control a substantial segment of the American economy. Among the industrial corporations closely held by them are Gulf Oil Corporation, Hoppers Co., Aluminum Co. of America, and the giant Pittsburgh Coal Co. Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co. is also assigned to the Mellon group, which also has large holdings in Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, American Rolling Mill Co., Crucible Steel Co. of America, and Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. The only Mellon railroad is the Virginian Railway Co. Mellon utilities are the United Light & Power Co. and Brooklyn Union Gas Co. Total assets of the Mellon group were estimated at $3,332 millions in 1939 by the National Resources Committee. During the war the family, of course, made super-profits, and the figure is doubtless much higher today.

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