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Joseph Keller

Union Leaders Fail to Fight
for Effective Jobs Program

Thomas Pleads with Bosses
While Unemployment Mounts

UAW-CIO Head Ignores Union’s Program
for Government Operation of Big Industry

(16 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 24, 16 June 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mass unemployment is no mere prediction. It is already a cruel reality. More than a million war workers are officially admitted to be seeking jobs. By the end of October, 4,800,000 war workers and returned veterans will be on the ‘no longer required’ list, according to WPB Chairman Krug. He hoped it would be only ‘temporary.’

Typical headlines of the past week proclaim: “6 Million War Workers To Lose Jobs V-J Day;” “12,500 To Be Fired By July 31 At Lockheed Plant In Burbank;” “First Mass Layoffs Hit Indianapolis; GM Fires , 5,000;” “Cutbacks Hit Reading.” Multiply these headlines for every city and town in the land. An appalling picture emerges.

A Grim Reality

There is no denying the grim reality. Nor is there any denying of the fact that Big Business which dominates American economy and politics, its government and political agents, have no program to provide either adequate relief for the unemployed or jobs.

Even Truman in his message to Congress two weeks ago was compelled to admit that present unemployment insurance standards are “clearly inadequate to protect unemployed workers against ruthless cuts in living standards.” As for any plans to provide full employment for all, most, government officials will agree that these are merely in the “preparatory” stage or, more truthfully, don’t even exist.

Thus, the authoritative acting commissioner of labor statistics for the U.S. Department of Labor, Dr. A. Ford Hinrichs, declared before the Institute of Labor at Rutgers University on June 5, that current plans of American business men “don’t add up to full employment” (PM, June 5) and envisage not more than 50,000,000 of the 60,000,000 jobs promised. Full employment without a genuine government program – which does not now exist – would be only “accidental,” he added.

Labor knows what leaving the question of jobs to “accident” means. That was Hoover’s program of 1932, as it was also largely Roosevelt’s. It was Roosevelt who larded over the plight of 11,000,000 to 15,000,000 unemployed with: a couple of million WPA jobs at from $19 to $60 a month.

The question of jobs, of adequate compensation during unemployment, is posed squarely before the entire American labor movement. Nobody but the organized workers themselves are capable, ready and willing to fight for a bold and radical program of JOBS FOR ALL which will brush aside the profit and monopoly interests of a handful of ruling profiteers and compel the government to operate the plants at full capacity.

But it is precisely at this crucial juncture that the leadership of the American labor movement has shown itself least capable or willing to offer an adequate program and to mobilize the forces of labor for the type of all-out fight, on the economic and political field, which can achieve it.

The real and official program of the top leadership of the CIO and AFL is summed up in their capital-labor “peace charter” with the Chamber of Commerce. This provides nothing less than a written guarantee from Murray and Green that labor will strive for the maintenance of monopoly capitalist “free enterprise” and “freedom from government interference” – the classic formula of the capitalist freebooters who insist on their “right” to exploit labor without restriction.

An even more graphic commentary on the “program” and conduct of the union officialdom ill this crisis is afforded by the antics of R.J. Thomas, president of the CIO United Automobile Workers, the nation’s largest union. In the single state of Michigan over 200,000 auto and aircraft workers have been fired; 21,000 have been emptied out of the $100,000,000 government-owned Willow Run bomber plant, operated by Ford during the war for his own profit.

Yet all Thomas can think of in this situation is to run off hat in hand from Detroit to the west coast to a fat war profiteer like Henry Kaiser, who can’t even keep his shipyard workers in steady jobs. Thomas can only plead with a Kaiser won’t he please get the government to hand him some free plants like Willow Run and “give” the workers some jobs producing autos or whatnot. So we are treated to the spectacle of Thomas running from the “industrial genius” Ford to the “industrial genius” Kaiser – a “genius” at wangling juicy government war contracts. But that angle’s played out. If there were a nickel in it for Kaiser or Ford, they wouldn’t be waiting for Thomas’ pleas.

What’s Thomas grovelling before the profiteering industrialists for? He has an official program adopted two years ago by the UAW-CIO – a program for full employment and security that he and the other UAW officials proclaimed lustily – when it wasn’t a question of an immediate, showdown fight.

Consider that program, which occupied nearly two full pages of the United Automobile Worker, July 15, 1943. Consider some of its basic proposals and premises. “Our industries can no longer be operated to serve private interests where those interests conflict with the public need,” it boldly asserted. Point one on its program for full production and employment of “every able bodied person in America,” read:

“Government or municipal ownership and operation of monopolistic industries and of industries strategically essential to the national safety” and;

“Government control and regulation of other industries to prevent the abuses of monopoly and to assure production in the public interest” and;

“Reduction of working week to thirty hours without reduction of pay, as a result of a full production program.”

There it is! That’s the program adopted two years ago by the UAW-CIO Executive Board! That’s the program that Thomas – and a lot of other leading union officials – said THEN they were going to fight for! That’s the minimum they said THEN was needed to provide postwar full employment and decent wages! Well, what’s wrong with it today?

Nothing – not a thing! What’s wrong is with the union leadership. Two years ago they were trying to clamp the no-strike, do- nothing policy on the workers who were beginning to resist the wage-freeze. Sit tight, take it, the union Officials like Thomas advised. Don’t worry, AFTER THE WAR we’re really going to town. No more knuckling under to the corporations. If they don’t provide jobs and the wages of decent living, we’re going to be the first, to say “the hell with ’em, take over the plants and the workers will run them better without a bunch, of profiteering parasites.”

That’s the kind of big talk, Thomas was spouting two years ago, before the issue really began to bang on his front door. Today he wants to forget all that – and hopes the auto and aircraft workers will, too.

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