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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(9 March 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 10, 9 March 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

New Big Strikes Loom

Balloting in the strike poll of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, two key railway unions, was running 68 per cent in favor of strike, it was announced on March 1, with 90 per cent of the vote completed. The final total is expected to be announced by March 6.

Unlike other railway unions, the trainmen and locomotive engineers have correctly rejected arbitration of their basic wage demands for a 25 per cent increase and 45 improvements in the working rules. The 215,000 organised trainmen and 78,000 locomotive engineers could effectively tie up virtually the entire railway system.

In addition to the pending railway walkout, the country’s militant coal miners, whose bituminous contract expires April 1, may be putting their traditional “no contract, no work” policy into effect on that date unless the operators meet the new demands of the AFL United Mine Workers.

UMW President John L. Lewis on March 2 informed the soft coal operators of the union’s desire to reopen wage negotiations on March 12. He simultaneously filed, a 30-day strike notice with the NLRB.

It is reported that the miners will seek wage increases above the 16 to 18½-cent “pattern” fixed by the administration in the packinghouse and steel cases. The miners cracked the Little Steel formula during the war – but it was not split wide open because the other unions failed to follow the miners’ fighting example.

Perhaps the miners will crack the new “Big Steal” formula before it hardens into a real wage freeze.

* * *

Chrysler Contract

There has been a general hush-hush about the terms of the new Chrysler contract which the CIO United Auto Workers leaders concluded in January.

This contract was concluded in an utterly bureaucratic fashion over the heads of the Chrysler workers. The reason for this high handed conduct can be gleaned from two letters sent by UAW officials to the Chrysler Corporation on January 26. The letters reveal some of the impermissible concessions made to the corporation – concessions which the Chrysler workers would have rejected out-of-hand if there had been any prior full and free discussion of their real meaning.

in a letter to Robert W. Conder, director of labor relations for Chrysler Corporation, Norman Matthews, UAW-CIO National Chrysler Director, states that the International union disapproves of “violation and abuses by union representatives of the bargaining procedure” which were “due to lack of understanding and because of changing conditions during the war.” He states further that “a large percentage of time has been spent by Union representatives on matters other than provided for in the agreement” and that the UAW will “assign a full-time representative to see that this abuse of the bargaining procedure will discontinue.”

Thus, the resistance of local unions to the continued provocations and contract violations practiced by Chrysler during the war when the workers were shackled with the no-strike pledge is now slanderously labeled “abuses” by Matthews. He proposes to spend the union’s money for an International representative, not to safeguard the workers from contract violations by the company, but to PROTECT THE COMPANY from the “abuse of the bargaining procedure” when local unions and grievance men seek to end company provocations!

Another vicious feature of the Chrysler contract is revealed in a letter from the International union office to Conder. This states that “the union and the company disapprove and will discourage their members or representatives from using or issuing statements in their official papers, handbills, newspapers or other literature which are inconsistent with amicable industrial relations between the parties.”

This capitulation to the corporation’s demand that the union surrender its rights of free speech and press is a most sinister precedent for the whole labor movement. Even if the corporation abides by this agreement, which is very doubtful, it can continue its anti-union propaganda indirectly through a thousand channels. It has the daily press and radio, Big Business political spokesmen from the city halls all the way up to Congress, “front” groups like the NAM and Chamber of Commerce.

This restriction is really aimed exclusively at silencing local unions and militant workers when they seek to expose the corporation’s anti-union practices, provocations and contract violations. It would forbid them the right to publicize corporation profiteering, price hiking and political activities. Moreover, the whole lying inference of the “non-criticism” agreement is that the union in the past has been unjust and untruthful in its printed attacks on the corporation.

This concession to the corporation will be used by the company, in collaboration with the union officials, in attempts to suppress the voice of the workers when they seek to fight company abuses. It is a flagrant attack on freedom of speech and press which can only further encourage the invasion of the democratic rights of the unions.

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