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Walter Jason

Morale in Chrysler Strike
Shoots Up as Miners Win

(6 March 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 11, 13 March 1950, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, March 6 – An air of tense expectancy has developed around the Chrysler strike following the victory of the coal miners against odds which seemed insurmountable to many of the fresh strata of auto workers.

This mood is reflected in the local union halls of the Chrysler strikers in this area, and is going to be a spur to the UAW negotiators to get results which the ranks will consider equivalent to the coal miners’ settlement.

In this connection, the maneuver which Walter Reuther, UAW president, pulled last Friday in Chrysler negotiations disturbed many union militants, but fortunately did not backfire since Chrysler turned a “new offer" of the union down.

Essentially what Reuther proposed was that the company agree to the union's proposal for a ten-cent package on a pension plan; then the strike would be called off, and the contract be negotiated after the men were back to work, with all unresolved issues in 30 days going to arbitration.

Of course Reuther’s maneuver was calculated to win additional public opinion, to show the union was being reasonable about the contract and the pension. But coming the day after the coal miners were clearly on their way to victory, it gave the impression of weakness on the part of the union.

Furthermore the proposal, which Reuther spokesmen now say they knew the company would reject, may be reintroduced by the company, and then what happens to the fight for an improved contract? One has to have a tremendous amount of faith in arbitration, far more than the experience of the UAW would justify, to arbitrate the basic issues of the contract like company security, seniority, etc.

There is another disturbing feature of the Chrysler strike, which is being offset by the increased militancy of the Detroit ranks Who are reacting strongly to the coal miners’ victory. That is the lag between the Detroit locals and the out-of-town Chrysler shops,, which need far more attention than they are being given. The UAW leadership is so engrossed with negotiations that riot enough attention has been given to strengthening the Indiana and other Chrysler shops. This is a repetition of the situation in the 1948 strike, and needs correction.

The first major mass rally of all Chrysler strikers was to have taken place this Tuesday with Reuther, Emil Mazey, and Norman Mathews as featured speakers. What is very interesting about this meeting, taking place five weeks after the strike began, is that demand for such a rally came from rank-and-file agitation, especially the publicity committees of local unions. This should have been a matter of course.

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