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WLB Chairman Davis Gives Whitewash
Excuse for Board’s Stalling Policies

(24 February 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 8, 24 February 1945, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

William H. Davis, chairman of the pro-corporation War Labor Board, last week came out with a prize example of hypocrisy. Trying to conceal the Board’s function as the “graveyard of grievances,” Davis complained that the Board is receiving too many cases which could be settled by direct negotiations between unions and employers.

“Too often,” he asserted with a straight face, “the board finds a tendency among both unions and employers to drop small differences into the board’s lap for settlement rather than seek agreement through negotiations. This delays the settlement of major issues, since the board refers back to the parties issues it feels have not been adequately negotiated.”

The statement that, “both” the unions and employers “drop small differences into the board’s lap,” can evoke only a big horse-laugh from the workers. The very existence of the compulsory arbitration board, dominated by the employers and their “public” agents, has provided the pretext for the corporations to brush aside direct negotiations with the unions.

The employers know that without the right to strike the workers cannot clinch their bargaining power. They know that the WLB was established to permit the corporations to stall the workers’ just demands. And they know that Roosevelt’s wage-freezing policy has bound the WLB to the policy of forbidding wage grants to the workers.

Of course, the corporations have not hesitated to make the best possible use of this anti-labor board. As most local union grievance committees can testify, the moment the board was put into operation, the bosses answered: every grievance complaint with “Take it to the WLB!” The workers were put on a merry-go-round, chasing back and forth between, the board and the employers.

But suppose the companies and unions did agree beforehand to a contract? Then the WLB insisted on its “right” to pass upon the terms of such a contract. Wage concessions made to the workers were often and promptly prohibited – and the board didn’t spend a year or two years coming to a decision.

That’s what happened in the coal miners case two years ago. After the union and the operators agreed to a contract, the WLB intervened to rule the wage concessions a “violation” of Roosevelt’s “wage-stabilization” policy. Just a couple of weeks ago in New York, the WLB stepped in to order a wage cut for 8,000 pocketbook workers after the manufacturers had granted bonus and merit increases.

Sheer Hypocrisy

What Davis is trying to do with his hypocritical statement is to whitewash the WLB and refurbish its tattered prestige. The workers have come to understand its function. They are demanding that the union representatives withdraw from the board. Davis is seeking to prop up the board by disclaiming its pro-employer function as an agency for stalling the workers’ demands. That is why he tries to attribute its red- tape to “both” the workers and bosses who “refuse” to negotiate “small grievances.”

This hypocrisy stands doubly exposed in the light of the most important wage cases now pending in the WLB. What has held up the decisions in the packinghouse, auto, textile, glass, aluminum cases? Some of them have been before the WLB for over two years. Were they just swamped out by the volume of “small grievances” pouring into the board? No, these cases have been deliberately stalled by the WLB. And when this device became too crude and obvious, Roosevelt tried to take the heat off his WLB by getting his Director of Economic Stabilization Vinson to block any WLB wage decisions.

For Davis to pretend that the Board would not continue to stall grievances if it didn’t have so many is as absurd as contending that a wild tiger devours raw meat not by preference but only because it can’t get fresh vegetables.

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