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Union Leaders Continue Stall on Wage Fight

(31 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 35, 31 August 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Despite their protests against the Price Decontrol Board’s rulings, the union leaders are apparently determined to continue their policy of stalling or openly opposing any fight on the wage front.

The reaction of the AFL top leaders to the Decontrol Board’s rulings was stated by Robert J. Watt, AFL member on the Wage Stabilization Board, in an AFL radio program on August 24. He complained that “the price squeeze is aggravated by the government’s rigid freeze of wages” and that “the AFL has become completely disillusioned with bureaucratic control of prices and wages.”

“Tighten Belts”

He said: “We look forward anxiously to the day when such controls can be wiped out entirely.” Until then, however, the AFL leaders advise the workers only to work harder until “supply meets demand.” In a previous broadcast, Watt had told the workers to “tighten their belts,” and he had echoed the standard propaganda of the employers that a fight for higher wages “would only delay production further and at the same time accelerate inflation.”

The CIO leaders, on the other hand, have vigorously condemned the view that the only way the workers can protect their standard of living is by working harder and turning out “more production” – and profits – for the corporations. They correctly charge that the employers have raised the hypocritical cry for “more production” to conceal the responsibility of the profiteers for the rising prices and to sweat even greater profits out of the workers through speed-up and longer hours.

The CIO leaders apparently look with more favor on demands for higher wages than the AFL leaders. The CIO tops have been under greater pressure from the ranks. Leading CIO unions, like the United Packinghouse Workers and United Automobile Workers, have raised new wage demands or are reopening wage contracts.

But the CIO leaders are putting forward no real program of union action on the wage front. They merely use the threat of new wage demands to put pressure on the government to “roll back” prices. The futility of this policy is once again demonstrated by the results it has attained in the CIO campaign to get the Price Decontrol Board to act in the interests of the workers and low-income consumers.

Another Plea

The immediate reaction of the CIO leaders to the Decontrol Board’s decisions was not to launch a campaign for wage increases – the only way the workers can protect their living standards. The August 21 statement of the CIO Cost-of-Living Committee indicated that the CIO leaders intend to direct another appeal to the Big Business-dominated Price Decontrol Board to “revise” its decisions of last week. At the same time, they are going to put even more emphasis on the ill-advised and misnamed “buyers’ strikes.”

These “buyers’ strikes” – consumer boycotts – have petered out. Workers have barely enough income to get elementary necessities, food, clothing and shelter. They are buying less and less – not because they are on “strike” – but because they haven’t the money. And as prices soar higher, they will “strike” even more – that is go without more necessities.

Correct Course

The duty of the trade unions is to fight to win more and more for the workers. The correct course is already being pointed out by the packinghouse workers, the Akron rubber workers, the auto workers. They are demanding a new type of wage agreement that will directly and immediately protect them against steadily mounting prices.

They are demanding various forms of the sliding scale of wages, automatically adjusted upward with every rise in the cost of living. The packinghouse workers, the Ford and Chrysler workers, are advancing the demand for an adjustable cost-of-living bonus on top of their regular wage rates. The Akron rubber workers, with the Goodrich Local taking the lead, are demanding the inclusion in all contracts of a rising-scale-of-wages escalator clause.

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