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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(31 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 13, 31 March 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

UAW Convention

The CIO United Automobile Workers, whose annual conventions always make labor history, faces difficulty in holding a convention this year because of the government ban on conventions not in the interest of the war effort.”

George Addes, UAW-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, has filed a request with the War Committee on Conventions for authorization of the union’s convention next September 10 at Grand Rapids, Michigan.

His petition stated:

“Only through such a convention can there be achieved the unity and cohesion necessary for sound planning, discipline and the establishment of peaceful labor relations making for continuity of production and full participation by the workers in the war effort.”

At the 1942 and 1943 UAW conventions, however, Addes and the other top leaders tried to push over resolutions to suspend the annual conventions “for the duration” because they claimed conventions “interfered with full participation by the workers in the war effort.” The real motive, of course, was to prevent the rank and file conventions from “interfering” with the bureaucratic designs of the leadership.

So the UAW ranks had better be on the alert for a fast move to block their convention – with the government carrying the ball for the UAW leaders, who took a terrific shellacking at the last convention when the rank-and- file delegates almost defeated the no-strike policy.

* * *

Quislings in Labor

The March 15 Justice, organ of the AFL International Ladies Garment Workers Union, publishes a slashing denunciation of the Stalinist leaders of the Greater New York CIO Council for their resolution which attacked the United Mine Workers Union in the current UMWA contract negotiations. The Stalinists called for government “seizure” of the mines to prevent a “strike plot.”

Entitled Quislings In Labor, the editorial points out that the “miners’ demands, viewed in their entirety, are quite moderate.” It states that both the ILGWU and the CIO Amalgamated Clothing Workers have long enjoyed contract provisions for a “royalty” on pay polls to provide a union welfare fund similar to what the miners are now demanding. It further concedes that ‘“any other union under similar circumstances, doubtless, would have performed the same gesture” of filing a formal 30-day strike notice under the Smith-Connally Act provisions.

It is against this background that tho Stalinists made their anti-miners attack, described by Justice “as dastardly a piece of sabotage as has disgraced the American labor scene within recent memory.” Justice charges the resolution of the Stalinists spoke “in the language even a Girdler or a Weir would have hesitated to use” and provides “generous moral support to the mine operators.”

“We are just wondering,” concludes the editorial, “how Philip Murray, himself a coal miner and for thirty years intimately linked with the woes and struggles of the coal miners, feels about this latest quisling job perpetrated by some of his New York associates on his own lifelong fellow-unionists.”

* * *

Avery Carries On

Roosevelt’s army “seizure” of a tiny fraction of Montgomery Ward’s vast mercantile network didn't interfere with the company’s profits, although the CIO unions are still without a contract after the “seizure” broke their strikes.

Sewell Avery, chairman of the company’s board and leading open-shopper, announced last week that “all divisions of the business operated profitably for the year.” He reported $21,285,839 net profits for the year ending January 31, 1945, as compared to $20,677,098 for the previous year.

After the army “seizure” last December 27 – an action since ruled illegal by the Chicago Federal District Court – “the Army by Jan. 31 had paid from its own funds $2,306,474.36 more than it had appropriated” from cash on hand and sales according to Avery. The army had a tough time operating, due to the refusal of the Ward officials to cooperate. But the brass hats made sure that the company didn’t go into the “red,” even to the extent of making up losses with government funds.

The Army however has not enforced the WLB decisions whose rejection by the company led to the strikes and the “seizure.”

* * *

Terror at Weirton

A long string of former employees of the Weirton Steel Company, which has successfully resisted unionization by the CIO Steelworkers since 1936, last week testified to the ruthless physical terrorism, intimidation and illegal firings for union membership that has prevailed at the company’s plants.

The hearings were being held before a special master of the Third Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in contempt proceedings against the company filed by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB charges the company with refusal to abide by the board’s orders not to interfere with the union, and specifically accuses Weirton with maintaining a company union in violation of a federal court order of 1943.

Actually, the case goes back to 1936! Through slick legal maneuvering, delaying tactics and the assistance of hair-splitting judges, the company stalled off a decision for seven years until October 1943. The company then filed a lengthy and complicated “bill of exceptions.” The present hearings were petitioned last August.

By these means, it will be possible for the company to string the case out for another seven years. This is a further illustration of the futility of the workers relying on the capitalist courts for justice. The workers have only one reliable weapon – their own independent organized strength in action.

Shipyard Layoffs

Henry J. Kaiser, shipyard tycoon who is proclaimed an industrial “genius” for his capacity to get tremendous government handouts, recently admitted to a press conference that the government’s shipbuilding program may wind up within a year. Over a million shipyard workers face mass unemployment.

Since November 1943, when private shipyard employment hit a peak of 1,293,000, the number of shipyard workers has declined to 1,035,000 in January 1945. The rate of decline has increased since the first of the year with a steady decrease in production schedules.

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