From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 15, 12 April 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Even though it was sugar-coated and marked with a fancy label, “Victory Through Equality of Sacrifice,’’ many delegates or the CIO Auto Workers emergency conference found the recommendations of the executive board a bitter pill to swallow!
In proposing that the union give up its present overtime standards for Saturday, Sunday and holiday work, in reaffirming its relinquishing of strikes, in placing all disputes to mediation or arbitration, the executive board statement declared: “To the above contributions we commit ourselves without conditions.”
That is, no matter what the auto barons do or don’t do, the union leadership insisted that labor sacrifice some more of its gains. And this is what stuck in the throats of many delegates and is burning up the men in the shops.
“The story is that thousands of war workers here, as represented by the men who came out of the shops to attend this convention, are in no mood for one-sided sacrifices. They don’t like being called nasty names by the bank-president congressmen, profit-hoarding industrialists and well-paid editorial writers,” is the way PM’s correspondent described it.
“They feel it is high time for Congress and industry to start practicing ‘equality of sacrifice.’ If this new concession is just greeted by demands for more, they will get fighting mad,” he added.
The stormy six-hour debate, which the Daily Worker’s correspondent described as “the tensest as any witnessed at labor conventions in years,” ended when the combined efforts of the entire top leadership of the union and President Roosevelt’s direct intervention swung a big majority behind the proposals of the executive board.
But even these pro-UAW leadership correspondents pointed out, “the sentiment ... was far more evenly divided than the final balloting showed.”
This is extremely significant since the conference could not reflect the views of the men in the shop as well as a convention, for the executive boards and bargaining committees of local unions attended the sessions in a body, and no elections were held in many locals!
“The minor functionaries, who deal daily with the gripes and uncertainties and resentments of the rank and file, were less disposed to accept unconditional abandonment of double Sunday pay,” the PM correspondent wrote.
Since the decisions of this conference are subject to ratification by the locals, it is by no means certain that the retreat of the union leaders will be backed by the ranks of labor who are getting tired of an appeasement policy.
The ten-point program submitted to the “President and the Congress of the United States for adoption,” is contained below.
Before analyzing it, which will be done more thoroughly in subsequent issues of Labor Action, we would like to make a general point: It is a “watered down” version of the Murray plan, whose three basic objectives were along the lines of this ten-point program!
And what happened to the Murray plan? Has the CIO dropped it?
Another question: How do the auto workers’ leaders propose to carry out this plan? By retreating some more on every issue?
Do the Auto Workers Union leaders expect to kid anyone into thinking that any plan proposed by labor, whether it is good or bad, will stand a chance in a Congress packed with poll-tax politicians?
A union leadership which failed so miserably to give labor constructive and far-sighted direction, which retreats ignobly before every attack of the labor-baiters, is hardly one which will struggle effectively for any program adopted by the Auto Workers Union.
Fresh leadership in the unions and a new kind of congressman, workers’ representatives chosen to speak fpr the men in the plants as labor congressmen, are an indispensable prerequiste to carry out a militant program that safeguards labor’s interests in the war and afterward! Or to carry out the good features of the ten-point program submitted to the Auto Workers Union.
The UAW ten-point program follows:
Pros and Cons on UAW Confab
“The United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO), its membership and officers, subscribe to the proposition that the most important task facing America today is the winning of the war. Everything else is secondary!” – R.T. Thomas, president.
“Are you going to tell the President of the United States to go to hell?” – Richard T. Frankensteen, executive board member.
“What we need is more and greater national unity.” – Nat Ganley, business agent, Local 157, and Stalinist hatchetman,
“Labor will not rise to its responsibility unless it can life itself up from its own immediate problems.” – Victor Reuther, of the Reuther family.
“We’re not convinced that giving ip the double time is vital to winning the war. Labor is making sacrifices everywhere – we gave np the right to strike, our brothers and sons are dying in the trenches. Can anyone show any signs that the men who sign pay checks have made one sacrifice!” – Don McGill, Buick Local of Flint
“These men are deliberately misleading us – Congress won’t treat us any better, not matter what we give up.” – Arthur Shipley, Dodge Local delegate.
“Many of our members are fighting abroad. We must protect their rights at home. On the West Coast we have declared our willingness to work for just living expenses if management gives up profits. But they won’t give up any of their profits.” – Louis Soccone, General Motors Local, Los Angeles.
Last updated: 31.5.2013