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Grace Carlson

General Motors Continues
Its Arrogant Stand

(2 March 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 10, 9 March 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


DETROIT, March 3 – General Motors Corporation, in a typical arrogantly-worded letter, today rejected the proposal of the CIO United Auto Workers GM conference to arbitrate the remaining differences in the 103-day old strike.


DETROIT, March 2 – Meeting on the 101st day of the General Motors strike – the longest strike in automotive history – 250 delegates to the CIO United Auto Workers’ GM conference voted here yesterday to stay on strike until the corporation showed a disposition to meet the union’s just demands.

The final action of the delegates, who concluded their two- day conference this afternoon, was a proposal to the corporation, which has been deliberately stalling negotiations, to submit the remaining issues in dispute to arbitration.

Walter Reuther, UAW vice-president and director of the union’s GM department, opened the conference yesterday with a one- hour report on the progress of the negotiations with GM since the last conference. In a fiery speech which reflected the militancy of the delegates from 92 strike-bound GM plants, Reuther maintained that the negotiations had revealed a conscious plan on the part of the company to undermine the union.

Corporation hopes to place the union “in a helpless bargaining position” lay back of its stubborn insistence on removing important union security provisions from the contract, Reuther argued. Besides the wage demands, a number of important questions were still in dispute after weeks of union-corporation negotiations. Reuther listed maintenance of membership, transfers and promotions, vacation pay and local union grievances.

Reuther blasted the corporation lie that the union’s Top Negotiating Committee was holding out solely for the additional one cent an hour increase. But he lashed out at GM for offering only an 18½-cent increase in the face of the government Fact-Finding Board’s recommendation for 19½ cents.

Citing the problems which had been created for the GM negotiating committee by the “company security” clauses in the Ford and Chrysler contracts, Reuther contended that the “one at a time strategy” might have worked if there had been “proper coordination.”

Scores UE Agreement

But the separate agreement which the Stalinist-dominated CIO United Electrical Workers Union signed last month with the General Motors Corporation was “an act of treachery unparalleled in the history of the labor movement,” Reuther charged. Pointing out that the UE ranks had been betrayed by their leaders, he condemned the secret, underhanded deal which had been made with GM.

In order to rescue these workers from their present treacherous leaders, Reuther announced that he would ask the coming CIO convention for UAW jurisdiction over the electrical workers in auto plants. Wild applause greeted this announcement. (In the discussion which followed the report, not a single Stalinist delegate dared to defend the UE leadership.)

Proposes Program

At the conclusion of his report, Reuther made several proposals for a program to be followed if the corporation continues its arrogant opposition to the union’s just demands. They included: securing a two million dollar loan for aid to the strikers; a call upon CIO President Philip Murray to convene an emergency session of the CIO Executive Board; demonstrations in all cities with GM locals; an appeal to the whole labor movement to give full support to the GM strikers.

Delegate after delegate rose to support the position taken in the negotiations by Reuther and the Top Bargaining Committee. Not a single delegate favored the acceptance of General Motors’ terms. The vote to reject the Corporation’s proposals was unanimous.

When the report of Friday’s session of the delegates’ conference was delivered to GM by the union negotiators this morning, instead of making new offers, the GM officials launched a violent attack on the strike leaders. Immediately after the negotiations broke up, the GM officials called a hurried press conference. H.W. Anderson, General Motors vice-president, charged that a strike settlement was being impeded by “politics” within the UAW-CIO. No settlement would be reached, he said, until after the UAW convention, which opens in Atlantic City on March 23.

This and other company charges were taken up by Reuther in his report to this afternoon’s Conference session. He offered conclusive proof of the fact that every major decision in the GM strike had been approved not only by the UAW officers and the Top Negotiating Committee, but by the local unions as well. The delegates enthusiastically applauded Reuther’s statement that “This is not a leadership strike!”

Reuther predicted that GM would open up a widespread publicity offensive in an attempt to split the UAW and demoralize the GM strikers.

In order to demonstrate that the Corporation alone bears the responsibility for blocking a strike settlement, Reuther proposed the following countermeasure: that the Conference ask President Truman to appoint an arbitrator to rule on the remaining disputed points – the decision to be binding on both parties. If the Corporation agrees to this proposal, the union on its part agrees to return to work during the arbitration proceedings.

Doubt was expressed by several delegates as to the efficacy of this proposal but the motion passed with 85 per cent voting for it.

The possibility that the Corporation might turn down the arbitration proposal was also considered by the Conference. Should this occur, the Conference decided to put into effect an immediate program of mass pressure upon the General Motors Corporation – the program which had been proposed by Reuther and adopted at the Friday session.

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