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Walter Jason

Mass Layoff Hits Detroit Auto Center

(16 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 7, 16 February 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – The biggest mass layoffs since the great depression of the 1930s continued in this auto center this week, as two big corporations fought for monopoly control of the artificial gas supply to the city. The timing of the “gas shortage” and layoffs came somewhat suspiciously just before the UAW-CIO began its negotiations with the auto corporations for higher wages! Especially hard hit by the shutdown are Chrysler workers, over 50,000 of whom have worked only two days in two weeks! And the Chrysler union wage conference comes this week!

Except for Ford, which has its own gas plants, most of the auto industry gets its gas from the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, one of the many subsidiaries of the Morgan-Mellon Wall Street crowd. Michigan Consolidated gets the gas it sells to the auto industry from the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Corporation, which today has a monopoly because of its control of the pipelines through which the supply comes here.

Michigan Consolidated shut down its industrial supply, saying there was a shortage during the cold wave due to excessive use. It wants to whip up the public to back it in getting the right to build a pipeline, and drive Panhandle from business. Panhandle facilities are inadequate for long emergencies. While this fight for monopoly control continues, over 200,000 industrial workers sit home, unable to work and cutting into their rock-bottom financial reserves, if they have any.

Under the new unemployment compensation law which went into effect on January 1, partial payments are excluded, so that the thousands of workers who worked only two days from January 21 to 31 received nothing in partial unemployment benefits. For the week of February 1 to 8 they receive their primary benefit rate, or must establish a new claim.

Plans to reopen the plants on February 9 were cancelled by auto companies when, for some “mysterious” reason, the gas shortage was not relieved, although the weather was not anywhere nearly as cold as predicted. In fact, it looks more every day as though the auto companies decided this was a good excuse for a kind of unofficial lockout to cool off the unionists who are determined to fight for a living wage.

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