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CIO Leaders Stall on Wage Fight

Say Higher Wages Needed, But Offer No Real Program

(24 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 34, 24 August 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The CIO leaders are stalling any real campaign for higher wages. Their program, issued by a national CIO conference in Washington on August 15, shows their opposition to any union fight on the wage front.

They paid lip-service to the demands of the union ranks for higher wages. Their statement renewed appeals to the Truman administration to give “full and official recognition” to “the need for immediate wage increases.”

They proposed to gain this “full and official recognition” Solely through another conference of union and employer representatives sponsored by Truman. They first made this proposal early in July before the new OPA bill was passed.

No Demands

Nothing is said in the CIO program about any action by the workers themselves to win wage increases. No specific wage demands are raised. No time limit is set for when the government must give this “recognition” of the “need for immediate wage increases.” The CIO leaders merely say that “the future of wage stabilization will be decided in the next 30 days.”

The CIO bitterly assails the government’s “stabilization” program up to now. “A stabilization program which means curbs on wage increases and soaring price increases is not a stabilization program but a fraud,” the CIO statement says.

The CIO leaders threaten that “we cannot accept a situation in which wages are frozen while the cost of living soars” and that “labor cannot continue to participate” in such a “stabilization program.”

At the same time, they leave the door open for future support of Truman’s wage-price policy.

“Labor’s acceptance of any form of wage stabilization is possible only if there is an immediate roll back of food prices and an administration of the present price control act which will produce a maximum control of all prices.”

Ready to Trade

In this way the CIO leaders indicate that they are ready to trade away demands for higher wages for capitalist government promises of “price-control” – or what can be palmed off on the workers as “price control.”

What any such promise would be worth, even if given, was shown during the war when Roosevelt froze wages with a promise of freezing prices. But prices swiftly outsped wages as the war profiteers raked in the biggest profits in history.

The CIO statement itself admits that the Truman administration has consistently administered its own wage-price regulations entirely in the interests of the big profiteering corporations. The CIO charges that “the cold and unsympathetic treatment which labor received at the wage stabilization board contrasts sharply with the enthusiastic price rises which were initiated at the request of employers by the OPA.

“While the wage stabilization board danced on the head of a pin in devising refinement after refinement to thwart wage increases, the OPA waxed more generous,” says the CIO.

Truman’s hand-picked WB6 used every technicality to deny wage increases even when “the employers already enjoyed liberal price increases.” But the OPA “sought to conceal and confuse its . abandonment of price control.”

Admit OPA Role

For the first time, the CIO leaders admit that the OPA itself all along was aiding and abetting the price-gougers. They further admit:

“Nor can anyone be deceived that prices have been stabilized, for it is the considered judgment of those who have examined the new price control law that we are in for substantial rises in living costs which may well dwarf the rises hitherto experienced.”

The CIO program, while declaring the “need for immediate wage increases,” seeks to gain such increases only by begging them from a government that admittedly has shown extreme hostility to labor – a government whose program and promises the CIO declares a fraud perpetrated in the interests of Big Business.

An important section of the CIO statement repudiates the cry of the employers that “more production” is the answer to the inflation. The “desperate squeeze” on the American workers, declares the CIO, is due to “unchecked profiteering.”

It is “in an effort to multiply profits and conceal the fact that existing shortages are a result of a single-minded quest for higher profits” that “large scale American industry now hypocritically raises the cry of ‘production.’

“The CIO repudiates any suggestion that the answer to our economic ills lies in the speedup or in widespread deterioration of terms and conditions of employment,” the statement says.

The renewed CIO emphasis of wages – although net accompanied by any effective program of action – reflects the pressure of the CIO ranks in the past few weeks.

More and more CIO unions are demanding the reopening of wage contracts. The CIO leaders’ recent complete concentration on a “roll back” of prices has already proved entirely ineffective.

Packinghouse workers, auto workers, rubber workers are raising insistent demands for a real wage program to meet the problems of a constantly mounting cost of living.

The program they are pushing contains in one form or another the principle of the sliding scale of wages that rise automatically with rising prices. Packinghouse and auto workers are asking for regularly adjusted cost-of-living bonuses. Akron rubber workers are demanding the sliding scale escalator wage clause.

These workers remember only too clearly the fiasco of the labor-management conference last Fall. They intend to rely on their own organized strength in action to win a wage program that will really combat the ravages of capitalist inflation.

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