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Jack Wilson

Ask CIO to Adopt UAW Wage Plank

(22 July 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 29, 22 July 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROITA demand that the national executive board of the CIO meeting in Washington on July 18 adopt the essential features of the GM strike program as a guiding policy for all CIO unions is to be presented by Walter P. Reuther, UAW-CIO president. The GM strike program proposed higher wages without price increases.

This announcement was made at the wage conference of delegates from all Chrysler locals, who voted to authorize a strike to eliminate bad working conditions and the speedup and also to reopen wage negotiations to meet the rising cost of living.

In addition, the international executive board of the UAW-CIO authorized a strike of 18,000 workers of the Briggs Manufacturing Corporation after two months of negotiations failed to settle speedup, pay docking, seniority, wage differentials and reinstatement of discharged workers. Both the Briggs and Chrysler plants in the past few weeks have been the scene of many slowdowns and spontaneous walkouts, which are an indication of the mass discontent developing in the auto industry.

Resurgence of Militancy

Three factors are responsible for the resurgence of militancy among the auto workers. They are, first, bad working conditions, centering around issues like ventilation, etc.; second, the auto companies systematically are introducing speedup in an effort to gain more productivity per man and thus actually cutting wages. The third factor, one that has hit every worker in America, is, of course, the sky-rocketing cost of living that has wiped out wage gains previously won in militant struggle in the auto and other industries.

Realization that this problem is not solely one of the auto workers and that the auto workers should not be left alone in spearheading the American labor movement, has brought more support to the excellent idea that the GM program be a national CIO policy. Time and again Reuther and his associates insist that contracts must be negotiated on the basis of higher wages without an increase in prices and that higher wages must come from profits and must not be passed on to consumers.

There is no indication as to what reception this program is going to meet at the national CIO board meeting. At the Chrysler conference, the Stalinist bloc turned down a resolution to support this program and substituted instead a resolution to reopen negotiations on wages. The fact that R.J. Thomas, opponent, of Walter Reuther, is sitting on the national CIO executive board as a CIO vice-president representing the auto workers, rather than Reuther, is hardly an indication that Reuther can expect a favorable response from Murray.

Of course, Reuther’s fight on this program will have at least this result – it must bring some statement from Philip Murray on national CIO policy. For the last two weeks in the crisis of OPA, the American labor movement has been confronted with the amazing spectacle of absolute silence from Philip Murray. This is tantamount to an admission of bankruptcy by Murray and his associates on meeting the issues around the rising cost of living, inflation and the whole problem of a national CIO wage policy.

Murray’s formula for settling the steel strike (higher wages by allowing the steel industry higher profits to be passed on to the consumer) has been exposed as disastrous to the labor movement. The inability of the GM workers to get higher wages without higher prices was caused mainly by Murray’s settlement of the steel strike on his inadequate formula. The auto workers are determined not to permit this to happen again.

In the coming struggles in the auto industry, the UAW-CIO wants CIO backing for the progressive policy of higher wages without price increases. By the end of the session of the national CIO executive board, it will be shown whether the CIO takes a step forward or a step backward on this vital question.

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