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Walter Jason

News and Views from the Labor Front

Showdown in UAW Coming

(2 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 46, 18 November 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Nov. 2 – In spite of three major developments in the auto industry during the past week, the fact is that the UAW-CIO is marking time in the struggle on the wage front until after the steel workers’ wage policy conference on December 15.

  1. The crisis at Ford, where the company, taking advantage of the notorious “company security” provisions of the contract signed by the UAW-CIO, fired 18 shop leaders for participation in the foundry strike – this crisis is subsiding under the powerful pressure of the UAW-CIO top leadership backed by Philip Murray, CIO president.
  2. Wage negotiations at Chrysler are being stalled until after the steel workers conference, when a definite policy will be worked out, Norman Mathews, Chrysler UAW-CIO director; admitted during a speech at Dodge Local last week.
  3. Many local unions’ in the Detroit area have signified their intension of reopening wage negotiations and in some cases, like Packard, negotiations already have begun.

Reason for Slow Tempo

The reason for the slow tempo of developments in the fight against the auto barons is that Philip Murray, CIO president, insisted at the recent UAW-CIO executive board meeting that the UAW-CIO pull in its horns and follow his leadership and the policies which he expects to have adopted at the steel, workers’ wage policy conference, if not at the CIO national convention.

Take the Ford situation: the local union executive board unanimously voted for the policy of calling for a. strike vote on the basis of demanding that Ford eliminate health hazards at the foundry plant, where a ten-day shutdown in protest over conditions took place recently. But effort to soft-pedal this move has been made, and the union demand that the hazards be eliminated and the union men fired be reinstated immediately, remains unsettled.

Some compromise formula is expected to be adopted this week. Incidentally, the whole leadership of the Ford Local 600, as well as the top leadership of the UAW-CIO, maintain nothing but embarrassed silence over the fact that signing of the “company security” provisions gave Ford a technicality to try to punish the union militants in the foundry strike.

At a meeting of presidents of the Chrysler locals, the policy outlined by Norman Mathews was adopted unanimously, even though many local union leaders are not really in agreement with the idea of stalling along until Murray and the steel workers do something. But Murray’s curt dismissal of any talk of a real auto strike against all major companies to force a wage increase has quieted down the UAW leadership. The evasion of the UAW leaders on specifying a concrete figure for wage increases comes from Murray’s demand that steel set the amount, and not the UAW-CIO.

Leaders Under Pressure

In view of the close bloc between Walter Reuther, UAW-CIO president, and Murray, the anti-Reuther factions have been very cautious on uttering any statements criticizing the present policy in fear of a joint Reuther-Murray blast.

Of course, the present conservative policy being pursued has very definite limitations since a continuation of the trend toward reopening wage negotiations will in itself pose a major crisis which will be very difficult to evade. Certainly a coordinated steel union-auto union strategy is a sound idea, but not at the expense of retarding the kind of struggle which has made the UAW-CIO the spearhead of the labor movement. At every turn^of events in the present developing strike struggles, the ranks of the UAW-CIO have forced the leadership forward. It shall remain so in the next period, even though the top leadership of the CIO hopes otherwise.

The major move of John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America, to obtain new concessions for the coal miners likewise adds pressure on the top CIO leadership to produce some results. The inevitable showdown cannot be postponed for too long.

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