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Joseph Keller

Trade Union Notes

(13 April 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 15, 13 April 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Bigger The Lie ...

Someone observing Daily Worker reporter George Morris slowly and laboriously punching away at his typewriter in the press room during the CIO United Auto Workers convention last week, wisecracked: “Well, creative writing is always harder than straight reporting ”

Morris gave an example of Stalinist “creative” writing in the March 26 Daily Worker where he described the UAW convention debate on the proposal for the establishment of a special Executive Board post for a Negro representative. Both the Thomas-Addes group, which the Stalinists supported, and the Reuther group opposed the proposal. Both groups in this respect catered to the prejudices of the more backward among the white delegates.

In Morris’ story, however, we learn that “the debate for the Reuther forces was led off by Trotskyite Ben Garrison” in opposition to the proposal.

It is true that Garrison, a member of the convention Resolutions Committee, made a vicious and red-baiting speech against the proposal for a Negro board member. But, contrary to Morris’ account, Garrison “led off” the debate for the Thomas-Addes group – he subsequently made the nominating speech for former UAW President R.J. Thomas. And delegates who were sympathetic to Trotskyist views supported the proposal for a Negro board member.

* * *

Doing the Dirty Work for the Bureaucrats

Aside from supplying the Thomas-Addes clique with most of its slanderous ammunition against the militants in the Reuther caucus, the chief function of the Stalinists at the UAW convention was to take the lead in arguing for all organizational measures calculated to strengthen the top bureaucracy.

When none of the top officers were willing to “stick their necks out” in open support of such proposals as increasing the length of officers’ terms, doubling the dues and raising officers’ salaries, the Stalinists obligingly did the dirty work for them. It was the Stalinists who made the loudest and longest speeches in favor of these proposals.

One of the big laughs of the convention was to hear Stalinist delegates solemnly affirm that the’ officers should be given two-year instead of one-year terms in order to “eliminate factional politics.” They even brought in a minority report of the Constitution Committee to increase the top officers’ annual salaries by $1,500, instead of the $1,000 proposed by the committee majority.

Despite the Stalinist pleadings, the UAW delegates overwhelmingly voted down all proposals to strengthen the hand of the top bureaucrats.

* * *

Rail Arbitration Gives Bitter Fruit

Two railway labor arbitration boards on April 3 handed down a decision for a 16-cent hourly wage increase for 1,220,000 railway workers. This is in contrast with the average 18½-cent awards approved by the government for most of the big CIO unions which went on strike.

Fifteen non-operating rail unions had been demanding a 30-cent increase. Three operating brotherhoods had demanded a flat $2.50 daily raise, instead of the $1.28 the government proposes to allow them.

Leaders of most of the rail unions, except for the engineers and trainmen, had agreed to binding arbitration of the issues. Now they are making an outcry against an award which is typical of the rotten deals the workers usually get from arbitration.

B.M. Jewell, chairman of the National Conference Committee of the 15 non-operating employees unions, declared “the award is wholly unsatisfactory ... There is no justification in the world for expecting railway employees to accept lesser rates of pay than workers in other industries ...” He further complained that the railway workers “have absorbed the shock of three defeats – one in 1941 one in 1943 and this one today.”

This admission of three defeats is a sufficient commentary on the policies of the rail union leaders who have opposed militant struggle. It wasn’t arbitration but strike action that won bigger gains for the CIO unions.

* * *

Goodrich Local 5 Sets Record Straight

Air Bag, the excellent paper of Akron Goodrich Local 5, CIO Rubber Workers, in its April issue nails the misleading accounts in such papers as the Cleveland Plain Dealer and N.Y. Times which tried to give credit to government conciliators for the fine settlement won by the rubber union in its new contract.

“The fact is that no governmental agency had any formal part in these negotiations. On the contrary this was an outstanding case in which the union representatives and company representatives fought it out without any outside interference or government meddling,” states the Air Bag.

“We do not believe it is necessary to go through complicated governmental machinery and red tape. The results of the negotiations show that it is better to battle it out union to company directly.”

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