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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(26 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 21, 26 May 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Thomas’ Bright Idea

After fumbling around with the problem of employment for the thousands to be laid-off with the closing of the huge Ford Willow Run Bomber plant, R.J. Thomas, president of the CIO United Automobile Workers finally burst into print with an “inspiration.”

The government claims it has no more war contracts for this government-owned plant. Henry Ford, who operated it most profitably during the war, says it would be a white elephant to him. So Thomas proposed on May 15 in Detroit that Henry J. Kaiser, shipbuilding tycoon and government contract promoter, buy up the plant and produce automobiles.

Evidently, Thomas has swallowed without even chewing the myth about Kaiser, the “industrial genius.” That “genius” consisted exclusively of the ability to wangle new plants and profitable contracts out of the government. On that basis, Kaiser ran a $100,000 investment up to a profit of $27,274,487 on just two of his west coast shipyards. Even Thomas himself, whom no one describes as a genius of any kind, could have done as much if the government had handed him the plants and stuffed the dough into his pockets, as it did with Kaiser.

It’s a funny thing, though, that Kaiser the “industrial genius” has run dry in the shipyard industry with the turning off of the tap of government orders. He can’t even provide jobs for the tens of thousands of shipyard workers he employed on war orders. Most of them will he on the street by the first of the year.

Why should Thomas ask that the government turn over the Willow Run plant, built with the people’s taxes, to some plutocratic profiteer like Kaiser? He ought to be shouting for the government to operate this and all other government-built plants to produce consumers goods. And the auto workers should control these plants to ensure their efficient and uninterrupted operation.

* * *

“Work or Quit” Order

Sixty-four soaking pit workers, members of the United Steel Workers, CIO, went on strike last week at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp., South Side plant in Pittsburgh.

It’s a sign of the times that the company didn’t howl for the government to drive them back to work. Instead it sent them individual telegrams to return to work within 24 hours or be considered as having “quit your job,” and forfeiting “all vacation, pension, seniority and other rights.”

Just a short while ago the corporations and their government were insisting that a worker couldn’t “quit” his job. There was a job freeze, draft threats, government plant “seizures” and even troops to force strikers back to work.

Evidently the corporations are now beginning to feel in position to revert to the pre-war pattern of pressure on striking workers. That is the threat that a jobless worker is standing outside the gate waiting for your job and if you strike you are merely “quitting” to make room for an eager job applicant.

* * *

How Low Can They Go?

How low can the Stalinists bend in order to lick the boots of the employers and capitalist government, is a question being asked more and more frequently these days.

The answer can be seen in the statement of Stalinist John Anderson, president of the Detroit East Side Tool & Die Local 155, UAW-CIO, before the emergency meeting of nearly 40 local UAW presidents in Detroit, May 15.

Anderson just spilled all over with the auto corporation propaganda about the high pay of the auto workers in attempting to refute R.J. Thomas’ absolutely correct statement that a return to the 40-hour week with no overtime pay would reduce average auto wages to around $32 a week.

Anderson called Thomas’ statement, substantiated by the other local presidents present, “eyewash” and “union propaganda.” He further expressed the fear that such “union propaganda” would hurt “labor-management relations” – thereby showing he prefers to expound the corporation propaganda.

* * *

What Price “Peace”?

An editorial in the May 18 Toledo Union Journal, organ of 60,000 Northwest Ohio CIO members, states:

“Today, to millions of American workers, the threat of sudden peace is almost as terrifying as the sudden coming of war, for many realize that at no time has peace ever provided an adequate number of jobs for the workers. The talk of 60,000,000 jobs up to now is just talk and headlines which mean nothing to the worker awaiting with misgivings the doubtful blessing of a peace which may again bring him unemployment and want.”

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