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Labor Leaders Denounce Vinson’s
Fraudulent ‘Reconversion’ Report

Disprove His False Figures on Coming Layoffs, Pay Cuts

Unionists Seek Shorter Work Week, Higher Wages
to Hold Jobs and ‘Take Home’ Pay

(26 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 21, 26 May 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

War Mobilization and Reconversion Director Fred Vinson’s report on the economic outlook for the workers and returning veterans, analyzed in last week’s Militant, has touched off a volley of protest from virtually all sections of organized labor.

It is charged that Vinson’s report conceals more than it reveals. It deliberately distorts the prospects for employment and gives only glib reassurances and unsubstantiated “estimates” about the real extent of war production cutbacks. At the same time, it offers not a single detail of a genuine program to maintain employment and wages.

The reaction of the CIO leaders to Vinson’s vague and misleading optimism was expressed by Ted F. Silvey, chairman of the CIO’s Reconversion Committee. He charged on May 12 that Vinson’s report “gives no cognizance of the possible deep cutbacks and cancellation of war orders right now being determined by the military which are about to descend on the country in a rushing flood of unemployment.”

Vinson’s extremely conservative figures on cutbacks, Silvey declared, are “inaccurate” and thoroughly discredited” as “every informed person in Washington knows.”

CIO Protests

“It is ridiculous to use these figures,” said Silvey, “which the military procurement officers themselves know to be wrong, and in some pollyanna manner expect that unemployment will somehow or other work out all right if we don’t talk much about it. But the CIO will talk about it and shout the danger of mass unemployment from the housetops.”

Following Vinson’s report, in which he attempted to minimize the tremendous decline in weekly earnings facing the workers, CIO President Philip Murray on May 13 addressed a statement to Vinson reviving the CIO Steelworkers’ demand for a general 17 cents an hour wage increase “and similar amounts in other industries.”

In fact, stated Murray, a 20 per cent increase in hourly wage rates would be the minimum necessary “simply to restore prewar relationships between wage rates, prices and productivity per man-hour.”

Under pressure of the hundreds of thousands of aroused auto workers in the Detroit area, R.J. Thomas, CIO United Automobile Workers president, Walter Reuther, UAW vice-president, and other auto-union leaders, have added their voices to the growing clamor against the administration’s hunger and unemployment program for labor, and price-boosting and fat tax rebates policy for the war profits-bloated corporations.

Reuther declared in a letter to Vinson on May 12 that the administration’s “optimistic report ... finds no confirmation in the current experience of automobile workers.” He asserted that “sharp and disastrous curtailment of workers’ spendings is the fact, now and in the immediate future – deflation of total spending power is not merely a prediction for the Detroit area, it is here.” He recited the reduction in “take- home” pay of the Ford workers alone, whose weekly earnings have been cut $2,500,000 by a return to the 40-hour week.

False Propaganda

Vinson’s report, it is clear from the overwhelming testimony of all sections of organized labor, is part of a planned propaganda program to delude the workers and veterans about their immediate future under “free enterprise” monopoly capitalism. A prize example of the nature of this propaganda, campaign were the reports last week on “reconversion” plans in auto.

On May 16 Washington officials issued a statement that the auto industry would need eight months to produce at a rate of 2,060,000 cars a year, “enough to make money.” In 13 months, they would be producing at the rate of possibly 6,500,000 cars a year.

On May 17, the War Production Board issued further details. Actually its plan called for 200,000 cars by the end of 1945; 450,000 cars within the next 12 months. But the next day, James H. Marks, executive vice president of Packard Motor, termed the WPB’s figures “a little misleading.” They could turn out 200,000 or 450,000 cars “if the necessary materials can be obtained,” which he “doubted.” To which R.J. Thomas added: “The outlook for auto workers in Detroit is not promising.”

Outlook for Bosses

But the outlook is most promising for the big banks and corporations. Truman and Morganthau have given their approval to an excess profits tax- rebate and tax-cut program which will swell corporation coffers by six billions within the next two years. As for “price control,” the new OPA policy announced last week is summed up in the phrase, “in case of doubt, raise prices,” according to Donald Montgomery, chairman of the CIO Cost of Living Committee.

“OPA now changes the rule as to prices (to permit a profit on every single item produced),” said Montgomery, “while Vinson, Economic Stabilizer Davis and WLB Chairman Taylor unanimously announce that the wage freeze continues indefinitely.”

The top union leaders are not short of proposals on how to protect the workers from mass unemployment and big slashes in their “take-home” pay. The principal demand is for the spreading of work by reducing the work week and the maintenance of the workers’ weekly incomes by a big increase in hourly wage rates.

Latest Demands

This demand is expressed in the auto union’s program for a 40-hour week at 48 hours’ pay. It is the essence of Murray’s plea for a 17 cents an hour increase in steel.

The latter demand was first raised in the fall of 1943. It was stalled until January 1945, when the WLB, under the late President Roosevelt, flatly rejected it. Today Murray has no other way of attempting to secure this demand than the demonstrably bankrupt methods he has employed in the past.

Thus his latest bid for higher wages is accompanied with the assertion that “wage controls must be maintained, at least until V-J Day, if we are to maintain the no-strike pledge.” Also the WLB must be given “greater authority.”

In short, Murray’s demands and those of the other union leaders are just plain bluff if they are not accompanied by a fighting program which can enforce these demands.

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