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Trade Union Notes

(29 June 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 26, 29 June 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Packinghouse Union Seeks New Wage Boost

The most important action of the recent convention of the CIO United Packinghouse Workers of America, held in Montreal, Canada, was adoption of a report of the contract committee calling for a new “master agreement” with the Big Four meatpacking trust and the large independents.

Negotiations are to begin August 7, about six months after the UPWA won a 16-cent an hour increase by strike action. Truman tried to break the strike by plant seizures. The UPWA’s principal demands, as voted by the convention, will be for a 12-cent an hour increase, a $1 an hour minimum wage, a guaranteed annual wage and 30-hour week.

Another great labor struggle is shaping up as unions like the UPWA, which are being robbed of hard-won wage gains by price extortions, are renewing wage demands. If they want to put a real road-block in the path of the profiteering price-gougers, they should demand an escalator clause in the next contract providing a sliding scale of wages, under a fixed minimum, automatically rising in direct proportion to the rising cost of living.

* * *

All Not Yet Quiet on the Strike Front

In the 30 days following June 18, there are more than 700 strikes scheduled by smaller unions, according to Department of Labor records. These involve demands for wage increases and shorter hours.

Labor Department officials predict that there will be at least 150 strikes going on at any time during the rest of the year, with an average of 30,000 to 50,000 out at all times.

This appears to be a very small figure in terms of the peak of the strike wave last January, when 1,750,000 were out at one time. Actually, it represents a several times higher average of strikes and strikers than during the pre-war period.

What has the corporations and their political agents most worried is the real possibility of big industrial strikes by this fall and winter, as those who won wage gains last spring find them shrunk to zero by price inflation.

* * *

Guild President Lashes at Truman

The 250 delegates to the CIO American Newspaper Guild convention in Scranton, Pa„ last week, heard Guild President Milton Murray keynote the deliberations with a scathing attack on Truman’s labor policy.

“We find the most unhappy picture of petty advisors who have constituted a new Missouri gang surrounding the President of the United States and counseling him to invoke a draft law against labor, to put bayonets at the backs of workers, if necessary, to break strikes ...” said Murray.

Murray’s answer to Truman’s assault on labor is “to see that decent, proper legislators attend the halls of Congress so that sane and sensible legislation can be adopted.”

First, it must be noted that Truman’s draft-strikers bill wasn’t just cooked up by a “new Missouri Gang.” It was originated by Truman’s predecessor, Roosevelt, in his Congressional message of June 1943. Truman’s strikebreaking plant seizures are an exact duplicate of Roosevelt’s, in the rail and coal industries specifically. As for using troops against American workers, memory recalls Roosevelt’s breaking of the North American Aviation strike in June 1941 – and he didn’t get the advice to do that from Missouri, either. Truman is following, whether expertly or not, Roosevelt’s labor policy in its fundamentals.

Secondly, labor has been voting for “decent, proper legislators” for lo! these many years. Unfortunately, these “decent, proper legislators,” as they were represented by the union leaders in past elections, were also representatives of capitalist parties.

The only “decent, proper legislators” for labor are genuine labor representatives, put in office by a labor party.

* * *

Sidney Hillman Looks Beyond the Case Veto

As this column noted last week, various union leaders are trying to cuddle up to Truman once more, using his veto of the Case Union-Busting Bill as a pretext for dusting off his “friend of labor” label.

The June issue of The Advance, organ of Sidney Hillman’s Amalgamated Clothing Workers, CIO, publishes a front-page editorial, Beyond the Case Veto. It starts off saying, “It is not the province of The Advance to speculate on the why or wherefore of the President’s veto of the reactionary Case Bill.”

Any such speculation, of course, would embarrass Hillman’s editors, since it would lead to the conclusion it wasn’t done from pure pro-labor motives, but simple political expediency. Besides, in the same breath as his veto, Truman called again for a draft-strikers law.

By some pretty tricky calculations, The Advance then tries to show that the voting on the Case Bill in Congress proves that the sole anti-labor forces that must be feared are the Republicans and “Democratic tories” from the South. It concludes that the “record of the two parties still points to the importance of the workers in this country not being cajoled into supporting the reactionary Republican party because of the reactionary minority in the Democratic party.”

There’s no gainsaying that the Republicans are reactionary. But what “minority” in the Democratic Party passed Truman’s “work-under-bayonets” bill in the House by a vote of 306 to 13?

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