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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(14 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 15, 14 April 1945, pp. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Auto Workers Fear Move to Scuttle Convention

Last week this column warned the auto workers to be on the alert against a move to scuttle the CIO United Automobile Workers annual convention, scheduled for next September. That this warning was well-founded is confirmed by a report in the April 6 Toledo Union Journal, official organ of northwest Ohio’s 58,000 CIO members, mainly auto workers.

In a special front-page story, the Toledo Union Journal reports: “Opposition to Grand Rapids, Mich., as the 1945 UAW-CIO convention city is on the increase. Announcement of Grand Rapids which was the scene of the 1944 convention as again having been chosen for this year’s meeting was made here last week by George F. Addes, International UAW-CIO secretary-treasurer.

“Some UAW officers see in the Addes move the preliminary to calling off the convention altogether. Application was made by the UAW-CIO secretary-treasurer to the Office of Defense Transportation for permission to hold the convention. It was felt by some union officials that the move would lead to a rejection by the ODT because of the government policy of discouraging conventions during wartime.

“One delegate from the 1944 convention speaking of the choice of Grand Rapids for the 1945 conference said, ‘I don’t imagine George Addes would care too much if the ODT refused to grant the permission for the convention. After all, it would mean that he wouldn’t have to worry about getting reelected and that in itself would make the refusal of the government to hold the meeting worth while’.”

Great dissatisfaction prevailed last year at Grand Rapids, because of the lack of housing and eating facilities for the delegates and visitors who usually number many thousands. First choice of available hotel accommodations went to the pals of Addes and other top UAW leaders.

* * *

Seamen Back Miners

The Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, West Coast section of the Seafarers’ International Union, AFL, has called for 100 per cent labor support to the coal miners in their present struggle for better wages and conditions;

A lead editorial by Harry Lundeberg, SUP secretary-treasurer, in the union’s official organ, West Coast Sailor, March 16, declares:

“If the leadership of the American Labor movement had any guts, they should come out NOW, 400% behind John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers in their fight for their rights! It is the duty of the American Labor movement to stand behind the mine workers in their fight. They have a JUST fight!”

* * *

Father of Heroes – Fired!

As usual, the corporation kept: press hypocritically raved about the “boys in the foxholes” when almost 5,000 Packard workers, members of UAW-CIO local 190 in Detroit, went on strike on March 28. The strike was called when the company arbitrarily discharged a union shop steward, John Krulock, for allegedly “fomenting” a brief stoppage on March 12.

Just two days before he was fired, Krulock and his wife had been informed that one of their sons had been wounded in action in Germany. On March 13 they had received the sad news that another son was reported missing after a bombing mission over Germany.

Krulock’s fellow-workers were so incensed when the labor-hating dollar-patriots fired him that they protested by an almost solid walkout. A hell of a lot the bosses care about the “boys in the foxholes” – about their working fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, either!

* * *

Annual Wage “Study”

When Roosevelt wanted to sidetrack union pressure for increased wages, he suddenly announced that he was assigning the chore of “studying” the guaranteed annual wage plan to a subcommittee of the advisory board of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.

The head of this subcommittee is Eric Johnston, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who last week signed a labor-capital “peace charter” with Philip Murray and William Green, heads of the CIO and AFL.

It is interesting, theretore, to note what this capitalist dove of peace, Eric Johnston, thinks of the annual wage idea which Roosevelt has assigned his committee to “study.” Last December 6, in a speech before the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, Johnston declared:

“I hope we can avoid learning the hard way. It is a mistake to force annual wages down the throats of management by government order ... By forcing business into a straitjacket the job regularity attained might be more than offset by the loss of our freedom. If everyone must pay an annual wage many will hesitate to engage in business. Then the government would be tempted to step in and become the employer, as is the case in Russia today.”

* * *

Severance Pay

One of the important union demands these days is for severance pay in anticipation of mass unemployment during the coming period of extensive production cutbacks. The War Labor Board two weeks ago, in a decision involving American Type Founders, Inc., Elizabeth, N.J., set the pattern for what it considers “reasonable” severance pay.

The American Type plan, approved by the WLB, calls for one week’s wages for employees who have worked for six months to one year; two weeks after one year, three weeks after two years, and four weeks after three to five years. Under this plan, a high percentage of the present war industry workers would receive not more than two weeks wages as severance pay to meet months of unemployment.

* * *

Peacetime Militarism

Condemning plans for peacetime military conscription as “a severe threat to the free activity of labor, because it can be used to break strikes,” the March Joint Board News, organ of the Greater New York Board of the CIO Textile Workers, declared:

“The smart boys who argue that a little exercise and military discipline will make our young men healthy sound amazingly like Hitler did, ten years ago. In case our political friends don’t know it, America’s youth could become strong and healthy if they were paid decent wages for decent hours, lived in homes instead of slums, and given access to recreational centers ... Peace-time conscription is the slick way of getting out of the problem of providing 60 million jobs, because we can stick our surplus labor into army camps and forget about them. But it is the dangerous way, the fascist way ...”

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