Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Wage Fight – Top Point on CIO Agenda

(5 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 1, 5 January 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Congress and Truman have left the unions no alternative but to launch a new wage fight, if workers’ real wages are not to suffer a further 10 to 20% slash in the next six months.

The misnamed “anti-inflation” bill passed by a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and signed by Truman on Dec. 30, was obviously a cheap last-minute gesture. Even the capitalist press admits the bill is worthless.

Industrial executives, whose views are reported in the Dec. 21 N.Y. Times, unanimously expressed “fears that the Government effort may have just the opposite effect and spur higher prices and large-scale buying. No one could cite a single product in which lower prices are expected as a result of the latest anti-inflation program.”

Philip Murray and the other CIO leaders, who held forth the hope of a government “rollback of prices,” have been forced to the reluctant conclusion that a “third round” of wage increases is now the top point on labor’s agenda.

But what their wage program is and how they intend to achieve it remains a deep-dyed mystery to the union rank and file. They have raised no concrete wage demands. They have initiated no preparations for a serious struggle. They have failed to take the elementary steps of developing a unified strategy.

The CIO’s national organ, the CIO News, presents no wage program of action. But in the original wage statement of the CIO officers and in subsequent brief articles there are positive hints that Murray and his lieutenants intend to follow the timid and disorganized tactics they pursued last spring.

Each CIO international union will take its own course, make its own demands and settle for whatever it can get whenever it can, regardless of the consequences for other CIO affiliates. Last spring, Murray quickly grabbed the inadequate wage offer of the steel corporations. This set a wage pattern for the other unions, which accepted settlements that did not begin to meet the previous loss in real wages due to fast-rising prices.

Nor was this all. Murray bound the CIO Steelworkers with a two-year no-strike pledge in its contract, although the union can reopen wage negotiations next April. The CIO Auto Workers and other leading affiliates have contracts running until next spring and summer. By the time the top CIO leaders get around to negotiating more wages, the gains will be wiped out in advance by the continuing price increases.

Indeed, Big Business and its government agents have already more than discounted future wage increases. They have ensured such a swift rise in prices prior to anticipated wage demands that they even hint in the press about their willingness to hand out a few crumbs to labor. That is what most of the union leaders are getting ready to settle for – a few crumbs.

There are significant signs however, that the union ranks are far from satisfied with the prospects held out by the timid officialdom. Organized pressure is developing from below to compel the leadership to adopt an effective wage program that will protect real wages in this inflationary period.

Thus, the current CIO News has had to take cognizance of the extremely important developments in the CIO auto and packinghouse workers unions. For the first time, the News has broken its silence on the demand raised by far-sighted militants over the past years for a sliding scale cost-of-living bonus as the most effective answer to price inflation.

The CIO News reports the initiative taken by the five General Motors locals in Flint which have launched a campaign inside the UAW for adoption of a 25-cent hourly wage raise demand and for a sliding wale cost-of-living bonus that will provide automatic wage increases for all price increases. The Flint program is gaining wide support, having been endorsed by Briggs Local 212, Ford Local GOO, Cadillac Local 22, Fleetwood Local 15, Budd Local 300 and others.

The CIO Packinghouse Workers have served a 30-day notice on the leading meat packers for reopening of the wage clause and will demand a cost-of-living bonus.

These are good beginnings. But a lot more heat will have to be generated under Murray and his lieutenants to force through a militant unified strategy of struggle to establish an adequate wage program for American labor in this period of inflation.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 October 2020