B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Walter Jason

Slate Backed by Reuther Wins
UAW Chrysler Local Election

(9 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol, 11 No. 11, 17 March 1947, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, March 9 – The important election campaign at Chrysler Local 7, the home local of R.J. Thomas, UAW-CIO vice-president, ended last week in the overwhelming triumph of a pro-Reuther unity group, and a disastrous personal defeat for Thomas.

Joe Hattley, a militant shop committeeman and a war veteran, defeated the Thomas-backed incumbent, Tom Cunningham, three-time president, by a record majority of 4,361 to. 2,526, the largest proportional vote in the history of the local. All other executive office candidates of the unity group were swept into office in the landslide.

The election results exceeded the fondest hopes of the Reuther forces in the local union. Only two weeks ago, Walter Reuther, international union president, had appeared before the Chrysler local membership to repudiate the wild charges hurled at him by R.J. Thomas, in connection with the Allis-Chalmers strike. The contrast between the programmatic speech of Reuther, and the irresponsible reply of a Thomas spokesman helped the election campaign of the unity group.

The unity group was a bloc of former Thomas supporters, Reuther supporters, and independents, including a substantial majority of the shop committee and the chief stewards. It presented a seven-point program as its platform.

This program was:

  1. For an immediate wage increase without a price increase to meet the rising cost of living, an endorsement of the policy originally presented by Walter P. Reuther.
  2. Automatic wage increases to cover any rise in the cost of living.
  3. For a guaranteed annual living wage.
  4. For an alert, vigilant, and militant body of shop stewards. The threat of speed-up never ends. For a body of stewards who are constantly improving working conditions in the shops and guarding against the deadly speed-up.
  5. To pledge the local to fight against discrimination of any kind because of race, color, creed, or sex. We support and participate in the struggle for a Fair Employment Practices Act.
  6. Urging labor to fight for the rights and benefits of veterans. A pledge to carry on a struggle for adequate housing, immediate cash payment of the state bonus out of a tax on corporation profits; for a federal bonus.
  7. Independent Political Action. It has become increasingly clear that both the Democratic and Republican parties do not represent the interest of labor. Labor must protest its gains on the economic front by changing the activities of the PAC of the CIO in the direction of independent labor political action.

In the face of this militant program, the Cunningham-Thomas-Stalinist bloc had nothing to offer until the last few days of the campaign when they mailed out an imitation of this same program, but with one important addition. They denounced the unity group program as “cut and dried programs and a lot of empty slogans written on behalf of outside interests,” a good red-baiting formula, typical of the red-baiters, and of the Stalinists in the Cunningham camp. It was directed against a group of militants in the unity group tagged as “socialists and Trotskyites”

Outside of this one leaflet by the Cunningham camp, the election campaign was the cleanest in the local’s record. Of course, the inevitable undertones and undercurrents of Jim Crowism, red-baiting, personal character assassination, were not absent but they were definitely submerged by the major programmatic campaign conducted by the unity group.

The selection of Joe Hattley by the unity group for presidential candidate helped the campaign considerably, for Hattley has an enviable record as a militant shop committee-man, a founder of the union, a war veteran, and a “non-factionalist.” The rest of the slate compared very favorably to the Cunningham caucus candidates, with one exception.

The whole campaign of the unity group was energetic and effective compared to the Cunningham fight. A demonstration, a motor caravan, stickers, lapel cards, attractive leaflets on speed-up problems, featured the drive of the pro-Reuther forces.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 6 January 2022