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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(12 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 19, 12 May 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Union-Busting Pretext

George Romney, managing director of the Automotive Council for War Production, on May 2 revealed the scheme of the automobile monopolists to break up the CIO United Automobile Workers on the pretext that the union is creating a crisis in the industry which will result in widespread post-war unemployment.

This spokesman for the big auto corporations stated that they are “convinced it is time to scrutinize the operation of collective bargaining to determine why it is not working in the manner that promotes the national interest.” To Romney, the interests of the auto profiteers are identical with the “national interest.”

Hypocritically claiming “the industry, is not seeking the destruction of unionism,” Romney asserted that “we are alarmed at the decline in productivity and its far reaching effects on the post-war economy.” The auto barons demand that the “excessive power of the CIO must be decentralized” – that is, that the UAW-CIO must be broken up.

“Irrefutable evidence shows that productivity has declined continually,” added Romney.

But the Automotive Council For War Production boasted in its April bulletin that the industry had achieved a record $10-billion yearly production, “a ten-fold increase over 1941’s defense production.” In fact, “between the fourth quarter of 1943, when automotive employment reached an all-time high, and the corresponding quarter in 1944, deliveries of war materials ROSE approximately 11 per cent. During the same period employment DROPPED some 16 per cent.

Thus, Romney’s own organization has refuted the union-busting lie he and his associates are now peddling.

* * *

Cutbacks and Pay Cuts

The CIO and AFL, spurred on by the threat of huge production cutbacks and reduction of the work week once more have urged the War Labor Board to loosen the wage-freeze in view of anticipated drastic declines in weekly wages. The CIO has submitted proposals for a new “reconversion wage policy” to War Mobilization Director Vinson, who has consistently advocated the continuation of wartime labor policies in the “reconversion” period.

R.J. Thomas, UAW-CIO president, wrote from Detroit to WEB Chairman Taylor that “the wage policies of the WLB need immediate and marked revision, which will make possible maintenance of present overall wage levels, notwithstanding reductions in working hours.”

Thomas reported that 140,000 Ford workers have already been cut back to a 40-hour week, resulting in an average loss of $10 a week pay for those working 45 hours and considerably more for those working longer.

The CIO proposals to Vinson, it is reported, call for a minimum 20 per cent increase in basic wage rates, 10 per cent to provide for past living cost increases and 10 per cent for increased labor productivity during the war.

* * *

“A Family Affair”

On May 1 the War Labor Board in Washington held a hearing on the Detroit Kelsey-Hayes case, involving the reinstatement of 13 fired workers by order of the regional WLB after 5,500 workers twice went on strike.

While upholding the regional WLB order, WLB Chairman took occasion to assail “both” the union and the company because “it is not good business that if one man gets fired 10,000 others must lose a week’s work.” After the hearing, he stated he did not think the board should be called on to inject itself into a “clearly family affair.”

To Taylor the wholesale firing of union officers and committeemen which has provoked numerous auto strikes in the past three months is just a “family affair.” He conceals the fact that it is not a question of any “one worker” getting fired, but of the leading union militants being picked out and fired in a deliberate campaign to undermine the unions.

Even when it is compelled to make a concession to the workers, the WLB finds a way to smear the unions and cover up the dirty game of the employers.

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