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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(30 March 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 13, 30 March 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Small Steel Locals Still Out on Strike

From steel workers still on strike in fabricating plants in Pittsburgh, northern Jersey and other areas, The Militant has received reports that they have been forced to continue their walkouts for many weeks after the CIO steel workers’ leaders settled the strikes in basic steel last month.

Apparently, Philip Murray secured a settlement for the 400,000 workers in basic steel and sent them back, but secured no real assurances of settlement on the same terms for nearly 350,000 other strikers in the smaller fabricating plants. It didn’t help the latter workers any when Truman declared that the 18½ cents an hour increase in basic steel did not apply to the smaller companies.

Thus, there are hundreds of the smaller and weaker steel locals which have had to pull their belts tighter and tighter and continue their strikes. The March 18 CIO News reports that up to the week of that issue there were still 426 plants employing 160,000 workers which had not signed up.

One steel striker writes us from Pittsburgh that “as soon as the strike vote was taken last fall, we raised the following questions to the International: We’re all going out together, will we all go back together? Or will the big companies sign up and leave us stranded? Murray’s representatives threw a lot of words around on this to avoid saying yes or no ... Now we certainly are left holding the bag, or you might say, holding empty bellies.”

The same worker informs us that in an effort to sign up the hold-out firms, Murray’s district directors, contrary to the instructions of the union’s wage policy committee, are making agreements for less than the full terms of the U.S. Steel “master” contract. “Some of the nut and bolt factories started signing up for 18½ cents, but without the 9¼ cents back pay.”

It is clear that there is a great deal of indignation among the remaining steel strikers at what they consider Murray’s failure to sufficiently consider their interests and to fight for them at the time the basic steel agreement was secured.

* * *

Some Stalinist Fakery About the GM Strike

From the first moment of the GM strike, The Militant pointed out the incorrectness of the “one-at-a-time” strategy authored by UAW Vice President Walter Reuther. The Militant pointed out the need to combat the concerted offensive of Big Business by a planned extension of the CIO strikes and a unified CIO strategy.

The Communist (Stalinist) Party, whose members in the UAW are very discredited, has seized upon the “one-at-a-time” strategy as a club to belabor Reuther, who is an anti-Stalinist and therefore an opponent of the CP in the unions. The Stalinist Daily Worker is running big articles attacking Reuther.

But the Stalinists, in order to attack Reuther and still cling to the coat-tails of the other UAW and CIO leaders, have to resort to a piece of real fakery. Thus George Morris, the Daily Worker’s leading hatchet-man and labor “expert,” writes that “Reuther jumped the gun with the GM strike with a ‘one-at-a-time’ theory in defiance of the CIO’a strategy of concentrating its major strikes for an all-at-once quick showdown.”

This is sheer fraud. What CIO “strategy” is Morris talking about? When was it determined? Who determined it? How was it supposed to operate?

The plain truth is that the CIO unions had no unified strategy. It was the GM strike which first forced the Truman administration to recommend a 19½ cent increase. Only after this did the other unions, steel, packinghouse, UE, go out on strike – and they settled for less than 19½ cents.

In fact, Murray once called off the scheduled steel strike without consultation of his own membership. He certainly did not consult the CIO packinghouse workers who were scheduled to go -out one day after the steel union, but who were forced to go out, like the GM strikers, on their own.

It is unlikely that the strike wave would have taken on such scope and power if it had not been for the initiative and inspiration provided by the GM strikers.

Reuther’s “one-at-a-time” strategy was in fact the policy of the entire UAW leadership, who voted for it and supported it. It was also the strategy. If one can call it such, of the whole CIO leadership.

What the Stalinists have to answer for is the conduct of the CIO Electrical Workers leaders in making a back-room settlement for 30,000 UE members in GM’s Electrical Division which undercut the demands of the GM auto workers.

* * *

“Incentive Pay” Comes Home to Roost

The Stalinists who complain about Reuther “prolonging the GM strike” are having a tough time with Westinghouse Electric, which refuses to grant an 18½ cent settlement to its 75,000 striking workers despite such a settlement in General Electric. The Stalinists dominate the UE-CIO which is conducting the Westinghouse strike.

Last week, Westinghouse contemptuously offered a 9½ cent raise, according to the UE leaders. Its proposal, which “shocked” the UE leaders, was contained in a lengthy 25-page document.

Of particular interest is the fact that Westinghouse attempts to justify its miserly wage offer on the ground that its “incentive pay” system permits its workers to make more than in other sections of the industry. This is the notorious speed-up plan which the Stalinists themselves ballyhooed during the war, and which they put into effect wherever they could shove it down the workers’ throats.

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