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Shirley Lawrence

For a Labor V-Day:

Jobs For All!

(10 September 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 37, 10 September1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Reports culled from all over the country tell a grim tale of shutdowns in shipyards, aircraft plants, instrument plants and munitions industries. As we go to press, cutbacks and layoffs are getting into full swing, hours are being cut, workers are being down-graded, entire plants ore being closed. The great planners in government and business – planners for war and destruction – simply have “no plans” for these workers and plants in peacetime.

Here are reports of current layoffs in some of the most important industrial centers of the country, and the figures are growing everyday, but fast!


Militant CIO auto union locals have begun setting up unemployment committees and making preparations for a monster Labor Day parade and demonstration against layoffs, which this week threw more than 350, 000 Detroit workers out into the streets. Demands are being raised by the more advanced auto unionists for full compensation for time lost in layoffs, a thirty per cent general wage increase, a thirty-hour week, and operation of idle plants by the government under trade union control.

Monday, August 30, will go down in history as “Black Monday” for the “heroes of production” in this key center of American industry. Hundreds of thousands were dumped out of the plants like so much scrap. Regional WMC Director Edward L. Cushman admitted that no more than 33, 000, less than 10% of those fired will be re-employed at the end of 60 days.


Over 7, 000 unemployed CIO workers demonstrated in the Coliseum auditorium and the streets of Chicago’s Loop on August 20, demanding jobs, severance pay and adequate unemployment insurance. Lay-offs here are expected to exceed 500, 000 within a few months. Marching in the parade were contingents of workers from Dodge, Buick, Studebaker, Bendix and other war plants, which had closed their doors, turning close to 100, 000 workers into the streets with only a few hours’ notice in many cases. They marched, shouting “WEWANT JOBS, ” and held aloft hundreds of banners and militant slogans and demands such as, “THERE WILL BE NO PEACE WITHOUTJOBS, ” “WORK OR FIGHT, ” “IT HAPPENED INENGLAND, IT CAN HAPPEN HERE, ” “THE LITTLE STEEL FORMULABE DAMNED, ” “NEGRO AND WHITE UNITE FOR JOBS!”


“Brother, don’t you know there’s a ‘peace’ on?” is the grim jest circulating among the approximately 70, 000 war workers in Philadelphia who have been fired since V-J Day. The total is still rising and government reports reveal it may soon reach 100, 000. Hardest hit are the shipyard workers at Cramp and Sun. The fast-mounting sentiment for decisive action among the union ranks was shown in the membership meeting of which called on the CIO to initiate a national labor holiday to force Congress to act immediately.

A proposal to retain laid-off members in the local and establish a“Jobs Now” Committee to lead the fight for the unemployed was adopted. As its first assignment, the committee was instructed to prepare for a mass CIO unemployment parade and a sit-in at offices of the local War Manpower Commission. Other resolutions were adopted calling for the formation of a local Labor Party and raising the demand for the 30-hour week at 48-hours pay.

Other Areas

Plant shutdowns affected 175, 000 in North Jersey thus far;52, 000 are due to lose their jobs in the Twin Cities; 10, 000 are being laid off daily in the Massachusetts area; 50% unemployment is seen for General Motors at Flint; 200, 000 fired in Los Angeles;two-thirds of Toledo’s working force are on “holiday, ”with 45, 000-75, 000 jobless; scores of thousands of shipyard and aircraft workers in Seattle face a precarious future; Kaiser disregards seniority in heavy Portland layoffs; 5, 000 jobs in Buffalo for 50, 000 jobless. The list can be extended but the stories are painfully alike. In New York, CIO United Electrical Workers, Local425, representing some 7, 000 members, staged a mid-town demonstration march in protest against widespread layoffs at the Ford Instrument Corporation plants.


Top union officials seem paralyzed in the face of these wholesale layoffs. They merely issue statements and send wires and letters of protest, but give no thought to mobilizing the workers in demonstrations and mass actions. Pressure of widespread unemployment, however, is bringing about a resurgence of militancy among the union workers of the country and is crystallizing sentiment in some locals for independent labor political action. Workers are refusing to abide by the complacent advice to collect unemployment insurance at $18 a week for 20 weeks, or to take jobs at lowered salaries.

In the meantime they are reassured by War Production Chief A.J. Krug in his report last week on the first three weeks of reconversion that: “the rate of reconversion is much better than we had expected!” His appraisal was based on a survey of 5, 000manufacturers in sixty-two industries which are now “swinging back to peacetime production.”

This is all very jolly for the optimistic corporation owners; the government merely guaranteed them millions in profits for “tiding over” purposes in the reconversion, but the workers have to do their “tiding over” at the old prices, on twenty miserable dollars a week.

Why doesn’t the government give the workers a living wage during this period? The answer is simple: the government is run in the interests of big business and not in the interests of the majority of workers. Nor are the workers being promised post-reconversion jobs by their bosses. Here again the answer is simple: no guaranteed profits, no guaranteed jobs. Now, as before the war, the boss’s greed for profits motivates his actions. Now, as always, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

Full Employment

True, there are proposals before Congress, which has benevolently decided to curtail its vacation period, to (1) increase unemployment benefits to $25 a week for 26 weeks to tide over persons made jobless by reconversion and (2) for a Full Employment Bill, which would instruct the President to prepare an annual estimate of potential employment, and propose, if he thinks necessary, measures – not specified – for providing jobs through government aid if“private enterprise” is not expected to offer sufficient employment. The bill stipulates that government funds shall be used for such purposes only as a “last resort.”

Thus while most of the witnesses before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee on the Wagner-Murray Bill agreed that full employment was “desirable, ” there were also those who would like an army of unemployed big enough to knock down wages and weaken the labor movement.

CIO President Murray’s threat that “if private enterprise fails to give workers jobs at good wages, turning out things we all need, the people will recognize the failure of private capitalism and vigorously call for government operation, ” fools no one. The repercussions in this country of the British Labor Party victory, the economic crisis precipitated by the end of the war and the growing clamor of the American workers have convinced an important section capitalists and their political agents that they must now make a gesture of offering labor “something” –that something is the Full Employment Bill.

Failure of Capitalism

It is the belief of Labor Action and the Workers Party that the workers cannot rely on the capitalist system, the capitalist government or a piece of legislation projected by capitalist politicians to solve the evils of the private profit system. Unlike Murray who warns “that the people will recognize the failure of private capitalism if the bill is not passed, ” we recognize now the failure of capitalism which has already proved itself unable ogive the people either economic security or peace. Therefore, labor must project its own demands for full employment, and should be ready to enter the political arena with a class party of its own and to fight for its own program.

(See Workers Party program for organized labor.)

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