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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(16 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 24, 16 June 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Now They’re ‘Slackers’

Even the most benevolent of capitalists pay off with a lay-off. That’s what half the 8,600 employees of Jack and Heintz Company, Cleveland, found out last week. Some 4,300 of them were “requested” to “resign” because of war contract terminations.

It was quite, a shock to the workers, called “associates,” to find out how quickly the bosses would make them “disassociates” when they were no longer needed to make profits. Jack and Heintz were highly publicized as the “ideal” employers. By working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, the “associates” pulled down relatively high “take home” pay. The plant was run like “one big happy family,” – call the boss by his first name, music while you work.

On May 29, President William S. Jack broadcast over the plant loudspeakers asking women and professional workers particularly to “come to their foremen and say ‘Here is my resignation’.” He added: “You have done well by your country in its greatest trial and we appreciate it. The time has come for us to help your return to your families and professions.” When only 20 “associates” accepted this “help” to return to their families – jobless; Jack and Heintz “benevolence” evaporated. On May 31, the company announced that there were a bunch of “slackers” and “discord seekers” in the plant who were to be purged.

Although the AFL Machinists have a contract in the plant, the union is almost completely “housebroken.” The “purge” will be conducted through the union grievance committee, a company official stated. The union stewards, he said, have an “eye” on the “disrupters.” They don’t seem to have an eye on the contract, however, because the layoffs are being conducted in ruthless violation of seniority provisions.

* * *

No Union Conventions

The Office of Defense Transportation recently announced that for the next 12 to 15 months the government would hot permit conventions of more than 50 people. This decision was turned primarily at the unions, several of which were preparing to hold their annual conventions this summer and fall.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians use the railroads and buses daily, with most business men and their families still managing to take their vacations and trips. It would seem that a few union conventions, numbering usually from a couple of hundred to one or two with as many as 2,000 delegates, would not interfere appreciably with the transportation problem.

But the government doesn’t think union conventions are “essential.” Millions of workers are facing layoffs. “Take home” pay is being drastically slashed through reduced hours and loss of overtime, while prices and shortages mount. Meanwhile, the administration has put new rivets in the wage freeze.

The rank and file of the unions are beginning to put up a fight. All over the country they are starting to scrap the no-strike pledge in action. The workers ere demanding a real program against unemployment and wage cuts. And that’s the real reason Why the administration doesn’t want any conventions – especially big rank and file union conventions.

And its a mighty fine decision from the standpoint of the top union leaders. They’re having a hard time holding the ranks “in line.” They’re not anxious to hold conventions where “anything” might happen.

* * *

Avery Rides Again

Although the WLB rulings in the Montgomery Ward case go back several years, and several of the company’s 800 stores and warehouses were “seized” by the Army a year ago, the mills of the capitalist courts finally ground out a decision upholding the “seizure” only last week, on June 8.

In a two-to-one decision, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous ruling of a Federal District Court and declared the “seizure” constitutional. The Army officers in charge then announced that they would finally put into effect the WLB orders which the company so far has defied successfully. This includes payment of $1,342,000 in retroactive pay to the Ward workers, members of the CIO Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Employees.

S.L. Avery, Ward’s board chairman and No. 1 Open-Shopper promptly announced the company would fight the latest court ruling to the Supreme Court. Company lawyers sought a stay of execution until the Supreme Court could act. Another long legal stall might mean the complete destruction of the union, which has already taken a terrific pounding. The plea of the company is that payment of the back pay due the workers would mean “irreparable injury” to it.

But only a few days before, Montgomery Ward reported that for the first quarter of 1945, it had upped its net profits, after all taxes and costs, 44 per cent over the same quarter in 1944 – $4,767,955 as compared with $3,439,324. That’s just for three months. And yet it claims it will he “ruined” by paying $1,342,000 in back wages stolen from the workers.

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