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Jack Wilson

FDR Would Knife Wage Raise for Ship Workers

(May 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 19, 11 May 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President Roosevelt intervened directly in the conference of shipyard workers and employers to demand that the contract signed under the stabilization agreement be violated in favor of the industrialists, and labor take a wage cut!

It was a devastating example of what Roosevelt’s seven-point program means in practice to the union movement!

Under the agreement signed one year ago, the base rate for skilled mechanics is $1.12 an hour in all four zones except the gulf zone, where it was set at $1.07 an hour.

Increases in the cost of living, as reported by the Department of Labor, would bring the base rate on the Gulf Coast to about $1.34 and on the Pacific Coast to about $1.27.

That is, if labor is to keep the same real wage level that it had one years ago, these increases in wages per hour are needed.

There is no question of a general wage increase. That is, of labor getting more real wages than a year ago! No question of labor getting part of the fabulous profits which the shipyard owners are enjoying.

If labor doesn’t get this hourly increase to meet the higher cost of living, the shipyard workers are taking a wage cut!

The President presented his demands in a telegram to the stabilization conference which has been deadlocked for two weeks over this problem.

All that the unions have asked is that real wages be kept at the same level. And Roosevelt insisted that this was “irreconcilable with the national policy to control the cost of living.” But his “controlling” is a controlling downward, while Bethlehem and the other major shipyards continue to hold the fabulous profits they reaped during the past two years from war contracts, and which they are still taking in!

Instead of the war profiteers and the industrialists in general being squeezed hard, the squeeze is being put oh the union movement, which already has sacrificed many vital gains and standards and rights.

The action of President Roosevelt is a precedent for all the CIO negotiations with employers.

If the CIO permits it – and Philip Murray is wavering all over the lot, along with other CIO leaders – the demands of the auto and steel workers to obtain a $1.00 a day increase to meet the higher cost of living are also sunk.

Another national wage cut for all important CIO unions looms as a result of this action of President Roosevelt.

The policy of “letting the poor pay for the war” will win a major battle unless the CIO rejects the Roosevelt demands.

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