Martin Harvey

UAW Chiefs Doublecross
Militant Chevvy Union

(14 August 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 33, 14 August 1944, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT – The International Executive Board of the United Auto Workers, CIO, has removed from office the executive board of Chevrolet Local 235. This action, resulting from an eleven-day strike, is the second time in recent months that the top UAW leadership has deliberately ignored the vote of the rank and file and dictatorially removed the elected representatives of the workers. They succeeded at the same time in giving the Chevrolet workers the neatest double-cross that has been seen in a long time.

The strike of 7,000 workers in five plants of the Chevrolet gear and axle division of General Motors Corporation began when the company tried to put over a speed-up on a job. The men involved did not meet the new production rate and were removed by the company. The other workers walked out in solidarity with these men.

Speedy Sell-Out

The International Executive Board, meeting in Milwaukee at the time, immediately went into action – much quicker, it must be noted, than they ever do in protecting the interests of their members. Local President Nestor B. Dessey informed the board that the local officers could not get the men back to work. The board thereupon removed the local officers and placed Melvin Bishop, regional director, over the local as administrator.

At a mass meeting called by the international officers to end the strike the union members voted overwhelmingly to remain out. At the same time the company added an additional provocation by announcing that six union leaders, including Dessey and Anthony Karabacz, chairman of the shop committee, were fired for leading the strike. Dessey and the other local leaders stated that they would abide by the decision of the membership and support the strike.

To make breaking the strike more palatable, the War Labor Board announced the six men who were fired were back on the company rolls. Then another meeting was called by the international for Sunday, August 6, Walter Reutiaer, an international vice-president, and Melvin Bishop flew in from Milwaukee to address the meeting. Their job was not an easy one. The local had refused to turn its hall over to representatives of the international and had added to their own grievances the betrayal by their international officers. But by the conclusion of the stormy meeting, Reuther and Bishop had succeeded in getting a vote to return to work.

Learn of Double-Cross

Bishop later admitted that he had stalled on taking the vote for as long as he could so that the men would “cool down.” It is clear that the men came to the meeting prepared to continue the walkout until all their demands had been met. Going back to work without a settlement of their grievances, however, was not the last pill that the Chevrolet workers had to swallow. After the first shift had reported for work Monday morning, it was learned that the company had removed seven men from the payroll, including the six that had been previously reported rehired.

Amid mounting tension in the plant, Bishop protested the discharges to the regional WLB. What the final disposition of this double-cross will be is not known as yet.

With the UAW convention only a month away, the action of the Thomas-Addes-Reuther leadership in the Chevrolet strike and in the recent strike at Chrysler Highland Park must be understood by every auto and aircraft worker. Two things stand out. First, it is clear that the rank and file is opposed to the sellout policies of the top bureaucrats and to their no-strike pledge. Whenever they have been given the chance to make their position known, the workers in the UAW have shown their complete opposition to the official policy.

In Chrysler Local 490 the officers and executive board who had been removed by the international board were swept back into office by an overwhelming vote when the sixty- day period of control by Administrator Lamotte was ended. One could not wish for a more decisive repudiation of the policies of Thomas-Addes-Reuther.

Eager to Strike

In the Chevrolet strike and in auto plants throughout the country, union members have not hesitated to vote strike when they felt that only a strike could result in a favorable settlement of their grievances. And in other cases they “voted with their feet” by walking out of plants when their leadership did not give them the opportunity to make their decision known by a formal vote.

The fact of the matter is that there is a vast opposition of the rank and file of the UAW to the practices and policies of the top leadership – most important of which is the no-strike pledge.

The second thing that must be understood is that the policies and leadership of Thomas, Addes and Reuther can only result in further retreat, further breakdown of collective bargaining – which even Reuther admits is closer to “collective begging” – and a lower standard of living for the auto workers.

The double-cross in the Chevrolet strike is only one example of what happens when the corporations know that the unions are hog-tied by the no-strike pledge, kept in check by their own leaders and further restricted by the infamous WLB. The no-strike pledge serves only the interests of the corporations.

Thomas – A GM Echo?

Let any worker compare the arguments presented in large paid advertisements published in the Detroit daily papers by the General Motors Corporation with the speeches of Thomas in the Chevrolet and Chrysler strikes. It is difficult to detect any disagreement. Both shed crocodile tear about hurting the war effort. Both talk of “irresponsibility” and violation of the no-strike pledge. The only difference between the arguments of R.J. Thomas and the General Motors is that Thomas blames the workers while GM blames the union as a whole – including the leadership.

Last updated on 29 June 2020