Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(10 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 10, 10 March 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Murray “Fights” Back

CIO President Philip “Bleeding Heart” Murray greeted the WLB’s approval of the Little Steel Formula with his typical blustering display of verbal indignation.

Murray, who has been beating his gums for a couple of years about the “inequity of the Little Steel Formula” While doing all in his power to curb any independent action of the CIO workers to smash the formula, declaimed that “the situation in which labor now finds itself is simply intolerable.”

In his very next sentence, however he proposes to continue the very union policy that has brought labor to this “intolerable situation.” He declares: “Now, more than ever, it is of the utmost importance to our war effort that there be maintained uninterrupted production. The CIO and its members are fully conscious of this need and therefore shall observe their no-strike pledge.”

Murray believes in the policy of “turning the other cheek” – only it’s the workers who always get slapped. But not forever and not for long. The CIO members are becoming “fully conscious” of the need, not to “observe the no-strike pledge,” but to scrap it. That’s the significance of the Textile Union’s revocation of the no-strike pledge for 100,000 cotton-rayon workers and the growing strike wave in Detroit.

Incidentally, it is appropriate to recall how Murray helped disarm the workers about the WLB and its position on the Little Steel Formula. In his appeal for continuation of the no-strike pledge before the rebellious delegates at the CIO. United Automobile Workers convention last September, Murray asserted “I am just as sure as I am living that the Little Steel Formula is going to be revised. I don’t think I would be far from correct.”

At that time Murray demanded support for the no-strike policy because he claimed the Little Steel Formula was sure to be revised. Now he insists on the same policy because the formula hasn’t been revised. The one thing Murray is sure of is that no matter how the workers are kicked around, they must not fight back with their most effective weapon, the strike.

* * *

Telephone Pay

Reversing the recommendation of a $5 a week increase made by its own special panel, the WLB in Washington last week granted increases of only $3 to the local and long distance telephone operators in New York City who overwhelmingly voted to strike in January but postponed a final strike vote under the Smith-Connally act pending a ruling of the national WLB. Washington, D.C. operators who participated in the Thanksgiving week strike along with Ohio and Michigan workers were awarded a $4 increase. Louisville and Memphis operators were granted $3.

The New York operators were induced to call off their strike in January, when the American Telephone and Telegraph and New York Telephone companies hastily made an offer to pay $4 a week more. This was $1 less than the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers and the Traffic Employees Association (local operators) were demanding. The unions continued to press for their original demands before the WLB.

Union representatives have declared they are going to petition the WLB for a reconsideration of the case in an effort to secure the $4 raise the companies agreed to pay. If the petition is rejected another strike vote will very likely be taken. The telephone workers are particularly indignant because the WLB made its decision without giving the unions a public hearing.

WLB Vice-Chairman Taylor conceded that a “mistake may have been made” by the failure to hold such a hearing. However, it is always the corporations and never the workers who benefit by such “mistakes.”

* * *

Unionism Grows

During the past year, according to the annual National Labor Relations Board report, 1,072,694 unorganized workers voted in NLRB elections for union collective bargaining representation. This brings the nine year total to 5,220,983.

The number voting last year was the greatest in the NLRB’s history, and the number of elections held registered “an increase of 3,000 per cent over the number received in the first year of the board’s operations.”

Despite all the anti-labor propaganda, the workers in the past year voted union in greater numbers than ever before.

* * *

55-Cent Minimum IF —

After issuing its decision “recommending” a 55-cent an hour minimum wage in the textile case, the War Labor Board last week granted its regional agencies authority to approve a minimum wage up to 55 cents for all “substandard” wage earners, admittedly numbering over 4,000,000.

However, WLB Chairman Davis hastened to assure a press Conference that “this action by the board does not mean, unfortunately, that 4,000,000 workers are going to get a 55-cent wage tomorrow.” All it does is merely “open the way for the workers to get that amount.” In short, they’ll get it if they raise enough hell!

The ruling has the usual loopholes enabling the administration to deny in practice what it grants in principle. The workers can secure a 55-cent minimum IF —

  1. the employers agree to it and request it;
  2. no price increase is involved;
  3. an increase to the new minimum does not conflict with the “appropriate prevailing rates” in given areas and communities.

The administration’s intent in making this new ruling is far from benevolent. Its purpose is to take the curse off the WLB’s prior “recommendation” upholding continuation of the wage-freezing Little Steel Formula. In addition, the administration is seeking to head off growing union pressure for passage of the Pepper resolution which would fix the minimum hourly wage at 65 cents. The labor members of the WLB had proposed a 72-cent minimum, basing their demand upon the government’s own figures for a minimum health and decency income required by the average worker’s family.

Even when the pro-corporation WLB does make a seeming concession to the workers, it is so full of “if, ands, and buts” that the workers can generally expect to get “nothin’ for nothin’ and damn little of that.”

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 22 June 2018