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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(19 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 20, 19 May 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mine Union Affiliation

The labor reporter for the New York Post, Victor Riesel, states from San Francisco in his May 9 column that “John L. Lewis will take his 600,000 followers back into the AFL within a few weeks.” The Post reporter was told this by AFL President Green, “who is here today to consult with U.S. delegates to the World Security Conference.”

Riesel quotes Green as stating: “The United Mine Workers will be a part of the AFL before long. This is my personal opinion based on the facts and occurrences of the past weeks.”

This is the first definite statement of this nature from any high AFL official. It would indicate that the AFL intends to admit the UMW once the hard coal strike is over.

The reaffiliation of the UMW would boost the AFL’s membership to over 8,500,000. Such a move is likely to presage an intensification of the conflict between the AFL and CIO, with the hand of the craft union chiefs strengthened against industrial union organization, Riesel contends.

* * *

How Not to Win

The workers at Macy’s Department Store in New York City, the largest department store in the world, have initiated a campaign for wage increases and against wage cuts. Department store employees are among the lowest paid workers in America, while department store profits have soared more than a 1000 per cent since 1939. However, their union, Local 1-s, CIO United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Employees, is dominated by Stalinists, whose idea of putting up a fight is a leaflet distributed to customers after closing time asking the customers to write letters to the management. The most prominent feature of the leaflet is the heading, We Will Not Strike! That’s Why We’re Asking You To Help Us!

The only people inspired by such a headline are the employers.

* * *

Rieve Retreats

President Emil Rieve of the CIO Textile Workers has used the authority granted him by the union’s National Executive Council to re-impose the no-strike policy on the 100,000 cotton-rayon workers freed by the Council from the no-strike pledge last Feb. 20. This step backward was taken on April 10 in a letter to the local unions involved and the WLB, reports the May 1 Textile Labor.

The previous rescinding of the no-strike pledge together with Rieve’s resignation from the WLB got more real action out of the WLB and the administration in one day than months of prolonged hearings and pleadings. The WLB hastened to announce a 55 cent wage minimum and various other concessions previously withheld from the textile workers.

These concessions were at best pretty small and far less than the union had demanded. Certainly they were no warrant for once more putting the no-strike noose around the neck of the textile workers and bolstering the wage-freezing WLB.

This retreat is still less justified in the face of the general anti-labor offensive of the corporations today, which Textile Labor describes in the very same issue.

Moreover, Rieve’s action throws light on the whole bureaucratic manner in which the no-strike policy has been foisted on the workers. Rieve and the top union officials put over the no-strike pledge. Then they withdrew it. Then they arbitrarily re-imposed it. But what did the workers have to say in all this? Nothing. They were never consulted about the no-strike policy to begin with.

But if Rieve can withdraw the pledge when he sees fit, why can’t the workers? Especially since it was his pledge and not theirs.

* * *

Auto Firms Fire Vets

Ford, Chrysler and General Motors have started a campaign of firing returned veterans under the pretext that they are compelled to do so by the seniority terms of the CIO United Automobile Workers contracts.

The May 15 United Auto Worker, Service men’s edition, exposes this attempt to incite the returned soldiers against the workers and the unions.

At Chrysler Dodge in Chicago, for instance, 50 veterans were fired with the blame being thrown on the union. At Ford Lincoln in Detroit three were discharged with the same propaganda. The union paper reveals that both these companies, as well as General Motors, have for eight months refused to sign a Model Contract clause to protect veterans who have not previously worked in these companies and give them seniority for their time in service. Some 40 other companies have already accepted it.

In the cases cited at Ford and Chrysler Dodge, the paper reports that: “Neither Chrysler nor Ford had to lay off those veterans EVEN UNDER EXISTING CONTRACT PROVISIONS!” The contract provides that those not employed less than six months are probationary and have no seniority. The companies deliberately selected veterans for dismissal when they were free to lay off other non-veterans. This was done to initiate an attack on the unions and create anti-union sentiment among returned soldiers.

“As soon as the union exposed these facts, the veterans were offered reinstatement,” says the UAW paper. But not before the daily press made a lot of anti-labor capital out of the incidents.

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