Martin Harvey

News and Views from the Labor Front

Paper of Catholic Unionists
Is for No-Strike Pledge

(15 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 3, 15 January 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT – The latest addition to the elements clamoring for the auto workers to reaffirm the no-strike pledge in the referendum beginning on January 4 is The Wage Earner, organ of the Detroit chapter of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists.

The Wage Earner starts its editorial on the subject with the statement: "We have said it many times before and we say it again – the no-strike pledge must be upheld!” If the pledge is upheld, continues The Wage Earner further on, “the charges of labor-baiters and ivory tower editorial writers that the pledge is a fake and was never meant seriously, will be thoroughly refuted.”

A Bargain Not Kept

When, may we ask, is a fake a fake? The no-strike pledge was given in return for a promised equality of sacrifice program. It was given in return for promised price control. It was given in return for promised limitation of war profits. It was given in return for promised protection of the unions by the government and the industrialists. It was given in return for more promises of the same kind.

Were any of these promises kept? Was a SINGLE ONE of these promises kept? NO, NOT ONE!

And that is why the no-strike pledge was a fake. It was part of a bargain which was never kept, a bargain which was never meant to be kept – a fake bargain.

How do we put a stop to this fakery? Says The Wage Earner – without even cracking a smile – why, by keeping, our part of this fake bargain, by keeping the no-strike pledge. Let us put it less kindly. The Wage Earner does NOT want to end the fake.

But let us continue. If the pledge is upheld, says the Wage Earner:

“... the soldiers in the foxholes of the Rhineland will hear of it and will know that the home front is still one hundred per cent in this war.

“The sailors and marines of the South Pacific will get the results and will understand that the great mass of American workers is on the level with them.”

Labor’s Responsibility to Soldiers

The American workers have ALWAYS been on the level with their brothers in the Army and Navy.

Who was first in demanding job protection for the draftees? The labor unions!

Who was first in demanding higher pay for members of the armed forces? The labor movement!

Who is in the forefront of the struggle for decent wages for all workers, veterans included? The unions!

Was it labor who refused to reconvert to war production until profits were guaranteed? Or was it General Motors and Ford?

Was it labor who restricted production to retain monopoly control? Or was it the Aluminum Company of America and the Norden Co. bombsight manufacturers?

The record is clear and unmistakable.

It is true that many soldiers and sailors are not aware of this record. But why is that so? Because they are fed the propaganda of the big daily papers of the labor-hating brass hats. And how could this be otherwise, when even the so-called labor leaders make public statements to slander and vilify workers who dare to struggle to protect their unions and their living standards and – it should not be forgotten – the living standards of the returning veterans.

Labor has the choice of knuckling under to the reactionary propaganda of big business, as Murray and Thomas and The Wage Earner propose, or of firmly and vigorously counter-attacking and appealing to “the boys in the foxholes” with LABOR’S program, with a program of struggle against the corporation who mean to smash the unions and lower the living standards of all who must work for a living. The first step in the second kind of program is to rescind the no-strike pledge.

But wait – half way through the editorial The Wage Earner seems to have a change of heart. It says:

“Just” Strike

“To reaffirm the no-strike pledge does NOT mean that there can never, never, under any circumstances, be a just strike during the life of the pledge.

“The pledge is a rule of conduct. It is not a dogma nor a law. When circumstances occur which are clearly outside the pledge, exceptions must be recognized ...

“The present strike against Montgomery Ward is one of these necessary exceptions.”

This argument can only be described as an attempt to provide a “militant” cover to a policy of retreat. And they have to go outside the auto industry for an example of a “just” strike. The Wage Earner defines a just strike as one in which all legal and peaceful means have been exhausted and one which does not harm the war effort.

The first part of their definition can apply to practically every strike which has taken place, or to none at all. The miners, the steel workers, the auto workers, all have gone on strike AFTER they could get no legal redress for their grievances. But The Wage Earner opposes such strikes. Apparently they agree with the War Labor Board which, by deliberately misinterpreting the law, calls ALL strikes illegal. To the WLB, that includes even the Ward strike.

The second part of their definition (harm to the war) is equally meaningless. Did not Roosevelt order the Ward company property seized in the first strike on the ground that the strike WOULD harm the war? And Communist Party supporter Hodges Mason opposed backing the current Ward strike on the same grounds.

The Wage Earner wants to eat its pie and have it, too! It wants to support the no-strike pledge and yet appear militant at the same time. That is a simple matter for a newspaper which only writes about militant action. But it is not so simple when one must decide in life whether to walk on a picket line or scab by going through it.

The support given by the auto workers to the Ward strikers is a wonderful example of labor solidarity. But a strike at Ward’s will not settle a grievance at Ford or Chrysler. The auto workers can only settle their grievances if they restore to themselves the right to strike. We sincerely hope they have voted that way in the referendum.

Last updated on 29 June 2020