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Auto Pay Boosts Reopen
Wage Fight

Results Show What United Action
Could Have Achieved

(7 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 23, 7 June 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Granting of limited wage increases by General Motors and Chrysler Corporation, two of the “Big Three” in the key auto industry, appears to have loosened the log-jam of Big Business opposition to any “third-round” pay boosts.

Three days after General Motors granted an 11 cents an hour raise with a sliding scale cost-of-living contract, Chrysler bowed to the 17-day strike of its 75,000 worxers, who spearheaded the wage drive of the CIO United Auto Workers. Chrysler agreed to a flat 13-cent raise and the Chrysler contract provides for reopening wage negotiations in a year.

Hard on the heels of the GM and Chrysler settlements, leading corporations in the electrical equipment industry have taken steps to reopen negotiations with the CIO United Electrical Workers.

GE Backs Down

General Electric, which had been the first major corporation . to lay down the dictum of “no wage increases,” reopened “exploratory” wage talks with the UE on May 28.

Westinghouse Electric, which for months has refused to make the UE any offer, on June 1 tossed out the first crumb in the form of a proposal for a security and welfare program that the company said would be equivalent to three to six cents an hour more in eventual benefits to the workers.

The General Motors Electrical Division, which employs 40,000 workers under UE contract, has settled with UE for the same contract as in auto. This provides an immediate 11-cent raise, with a cost-of-living escalator clause providing automatic wage increases for future price rises.

On May 31, the four major, carpet and rug manufacturers in the East came through with a 13½-cent an hour “package” raise to avert a strike of 20,000 members of the CIO United Textile Workers.

Although the wage raises in GM and Chrysler make up for only about a half of the loss in real wages due to the soaring prices of the past two years, even these meager boosts were the direct result of strike action by the Chrysler workers and the threat of a GM strike that might - have spread into an industry-wide shutdown in auto.

In spite of all their tough talk and the backing they are getting from the government, the corporations still have a healthy respect for the fighting powers of the CIO. The retreat of GM and Chrysler graphically demonstrates what great gains were possible for the CIO unions IF THEY HAD ALL BEEN UNITED IN MILITANT ACTION. There would have been no defeat of the CIO Packinghouse Workers strike, no smashing of the CIO strike against the cable companies.

The gains in auto, limited as they are, underscore the extent of the treachery of Philip Murray in capitulating to the steel companies without lifting a finger and withdrawing the mighty steel union from the CIO wage fight.

Unified Strategy Needed

Unfortunately, the new GM contract repeats the chief weakness of the steel contract by providing a two-year reopening date. Thus, next year the GM workers will be withdrawn front the firing line when the other auto workers and the steel workers, will face new negotiations.

The central lesson of the current CIO wage struggle is the need for uniform contract termination dates for all CIO unions in all major corporations and for a unified strategy of action.

Had all the auto workers hit the auto corporations at one had the steel, packinghouse and other CIO unions consolidated their forces with the auto workers into one solid fighting front, the CIO could have scored a clear-cut victory.

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