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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(24 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 12, 24 March 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Textile Strike Poll

Without one dissenting vote some 50,000 New England cotton-rayon textile workers last week in a poll conducted by the CIO Textile Workers Union empowered the TWU officers to demand an NLRB strike vote under the Smith-Connally anti-strike law provisions.

In Fall River, Mass., 3,500 union members went even further. They empowered the TWU leaders to call a strike without going through the formality of a government-supervised election and an additional 30-day stalling period.

The TWU executive board several weeks ago revoked the no-strike pledge for 100,000 cotton- rayon workers. They acted after a long-delayed WLB decision granting “fringe” increases and raising the minimum wage from 50 cents to 55 cents an hour was blocked by Roosevelt’s former Economic Stabilization Director Vinson. TWU President Emil Rieve at the same time resigned from the WLB.

An editorial on The No-Strike Pledge in the March Textile Labor, official organ of the TWU-CIO, explains why the union scrapped the pledge. After describing the administration-manufacturers conspiracy to deprive the exploited textile workers of their just demands, the editorial says:

“While all this was going on, no attempt was made to ‘stabilize’ cotton manufacturers’ profits, which were continuing at the rate of $365,000,000 a year, five times pre-war figures ... But there are other considerations back of the action ... Nearly 100,000 TWUA members are now in the armed forces. Are they to come back to $24 a week wages? Are they fighting for another chance to be ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed? If we do not fight their home-front battles for them, if we capitulate to reaction, what else can they come home to?”

* * *

UAW Dues Decline

Dues-paying membership in the CIO United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers, largest union in the country, declined by 113,741 during the period between May and November 1944 according to the latest report of UAW Secretary-Treasurer George Addes.

The monthly average of dues-paying members during the reported period was 1,008,159. Over half the membership is in Michigan, with 528,429 members, 345,127 of them concentrated in Detroit.

A primary reason for the sharp membership decline – over 10 per cent within six months – is unemployment due to cut-backs and layoffs, despite the Roosevelt administration’s claims of a “labor shortage” to bolster its demand for a forced labor bill.

Unemployment compensation claims since December 1, 1944 in Michigan have been averaging between 18,000 and 20,000 weekly.

* * *

Hush-Hush in Auto

Every newspaper from coast to coast headlined the great strike wave the past few weeks in Detroit. During a period of three weeks some 60,000 auto workers, the greatest number since Pearl Harbor, hit the picket lines to defend their unions against the union-busting provocations of the corporations.

A microscopic examination of the United Automobile Worker, official organ of the UAW-CIO, for the past two issues, March 1 and 15, reveals not a word about this tremendous development of such importance and interest not only to the auto workers but to the whole labor movement. There is not even a line in protest against the open, savage, concerted campaign of the corporations to break the unions by wholesale firing of local union officers, committeemen and shop stewards.

During the recently concluded UAW referendum on the no-strike pledge, the UAW top officials did not hesitate to use the union’s paper, in violation of a convention mandate, to plug for the nostrike pledge by printing whole pages of CIO President Philip Murray’s anti-strike speeches under the heading of “news.”

But when the auto rank and file themselves make real news by militant defense of their unions, the UAW leaders stupidly try to play ostrich. They soft-peddle the struggle and bureaucratically deprive the membership of the aid of their own paper.

* * *

AFL Asks 11% Boost

The AFL, through its members on the War Labor Board, answered the WLB’s endorsement of the wage-freezing Little Steel Formula by petitioning Roosevelt with a demand for a general immediate 11 per cent wage increase.

This petition refutes the lying “statistics” of the WLB “public” members about wages rising “faster” than the cost of living.

“Since the war wage rates have increased by 19 per cent,” the AFL representatives pointed out, “while the cost of living has increased – based upon official figures – by 30 per cent. To correct the maladjustment between wages and the cost of living – when measured by the same standard that was used when the Little Steel Formula was adopted – an adjustment of approximately 11 per cent is justified.”

The only thing wrong with the AFL’s demand is that it gives away too much to the government and employers. The government’s cost-of-living figures are as phony as a nine-dollar hill. The cost of living has gone up nearer to 50 per cent than 30. On this real basis, labor is justified in demanding not an 11 per cent but a 30 per cent wage boost.

* * *

Philadelphia Aftermath

Twenty-seven company-union members and leaders of the Philadelphia transit walkout last August against the upgrading of Negro workers took the rap in federal court last week for the company-inspired action. They were each fined $100 under the Smith-Connally Act after reversing their not guilty pleas to no defense.

Among the questions the court failed to answer were these. Why was the Jim-Crow stoppage organized on company property and strike meetings freely held there? What company officials advised the workers to initiate the walkout by getting “sick” in a body in order to prevent the use of Negro workers as motormen and conductors? Why was the walkout organized by leaders of the PRT (Philadelphia Rapid Transit) Employees Union, the old company union, just after it had been defeated by the CIO for collective bargaining representative? Why did the company say not a word against the walkout – aiding it by cutting off the subway power?

One defense attorney bluntly declared:

“The race question was dragged in by officials of PTC (Philadelphia Transportation Co.). They were out to smash the bridgehead that organized labor has finally succeeded in holding in PTC.”

A hand-picked grand jury which brought down the original indictments against the misled workers who were made the scapegoats of this affair simply covered up for the company and turned the proceedings into an attack on the CIO and a defense of company unionism.

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