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Jack Wilson

CIO Workers March on Every Front

Rank and File Makes Demands on Corporations Swollen with War Profits

(February 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 5, 3 February 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CIO workers struck on every front this past week in a determined effort to resist the shifting of the war-burden on their shoulders.

A wave of strikes, temporary walk-outs and general demands for higher wages and better working conditions reached a high point. In steel. auto, packinghouse, aircraft, rubber and other basic industries the CIO was on the march again.

Impatient with the dilatory tactics of SWOC officials, workers in the huge and powerful Bethlehem Steel Corp. went on spontaneous walk-outs last week.

Bethlehem is the open shop steel company which is glutted with a billion dollars in war orders, while it maintains the lowest wage standards and the lousiest working conditions.

The mood of the Bethlehem workers is very significant. The rank and file is pressing the SWOC leadership to fight. It is restless and resentful. Bethlehem, a citadel of open shop-ism, is ready to be taken to town by the CIO.

The Allison-Chalmers workers in Milwaukee went on strike, officially called by the UAW-CIO.

Packinghouse workers in the meat packing areas are stirring and demanding CIO signed contracts with some improvements in their miserable existence.

Demands of the U.S. Rubber Co. workers on a national scale brought signed contracts at its various plants again because of the unrest among the rubberworkers involved.

Want More Pay

Phillip Murray, chairman of the CIO and SWOC chief, announced that a demand for a general ten per cent wage increase would be given to the U.S. Steel Corp. employing 250,000 steel workers. For a long time considerable dissatisfaction has been evident among those workers because they felt the union should fight harder for some demands. And the sentiment of the mineworkers for more wages because of the squeeze of the rising cost of living, has led to reports that John L. Lewis is going to ask the mine owners for a two dollar a day raise in miners wages.

Negotiations between the Crucible Steel Co. and the SWOC are under way too. Crucible steel workers have pulled many strikes in the last two years for better pay. The spontaneous walk out at the Carnegie-Illinois $700,000,000 plant at Irvin was ended only after strong insistence by Murray.

The Ryan aircraft victory, the drive at Douglas and Consolidated, the recent Vultee and Brewster strikes tell the story in aircraft.

Yes, the steel workers are finally stirring. And this despite the go easy, bureaucratic leadership of the SWOC which has kept an iron hand on the rank and file.

Of course, the CIO top leaders will compromise, and temporize, and retreat more and more in the future as the heat is turned on. But they have the powerful pressure of the rank and file on them. The spread of “unauthorized” walkouts is the best sign of this development.

The rapid drive of the Roosevelt regime towards all-out participation in war can only intensify the crisis in mass production industries between the bosses and the workers.

Despite the Churchills and Bevins, and war and bombings the English workers have gone on 184 strikes during the past year ... despite a slew of compulsory arbitration laws passed by the government.

American workers will do better. The economic impulsion of the phoney war boom makes this inevitable, and Roosevelt has less chance of smashing the labor movement in war-time than Churchill.

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