Martin Harvey

GM Workers Slugging It Out
with Bosses and WLB!

(28 August 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 35, 28 August 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT – The second strike of workers, in the Chevrolet gear and axle plants in a month was ended at the insistence of Walter Reuther, a UAW-CIO vice-president, and Melvin Bishop, international - appointed administrator over the Chevrolet local, without settlement of the union’s demands.

The men had walked out after a one-day return to work when the promise that local union leaders would not be fired proved to ba a phony and seven men, including Nestor B. Dessey, former president of the local, were discharged by the company.

The union charged that General Motors had violated the Regional War Labor Board directive to end the first strike by its refusal to rehire these seven men. The WLB, however, running true to form, backed up the company. The WLB action so exposed the so-called impartiality of the “public” members of the board that the labor members, including CIO and AFL representatives, issued a public statement condemning their action.

The statement charged that the public members’ decision betrayed “the confidence that thousands of war workers in this vicinity have reposed in the WLB. The decision will, to a major extent, destroy their hopes for a peaceful and just settlement of labor disputes.” Of course, many more thousands of workers in the Detroit area never had any confidence in the WLB, graveyard of labor grievances; but even this mild criticism is enough to raise the question of what the labor members were doing on the WLB in the first place.

As things now stand, whatever confidence labor has in the WLB comes from the presence of labor leaders on that reactionary body. The unions must get their people off the WLB and destroy completely the myth of impartiality which the WLB uses to make its anti-labor decisions acceptable.

Walter Reuther, put on the spat by the double-cross which his policies had made possible, immediately ran to the National War Labor Board for a review of the case. The answer, of course, was the same. The discharge of the seven men would be arbitrated' after the men went back to work.

Reuther’s Words, Actions

The activity of Reuther during the strike consisted of pretty words – but not so pretty actions. In one of his statements Reuther charged that “it is becoming increasingly apparent that the corporation is using every pretext to weaken and undermine the UAW-CIO in the hope of destroying its power in the post-war period.” It is gratifying that what was as plain as day to every auto worker is finally becoming “increasingly apparent” to Reuther. “However,” Reuther added, “the workers at the plants should not fall into this corporate trap.” And what is this corporate trap? Nothing more than the no-strike pledge which makes it possible for the corporations to fire union leaders without any fear of reprisals.

The no-strike pledge is the chief weapon of the corporations in undermining and weakening the union. And who led the workers into this trap? Why, none other than Reuther and his brother brass - hats in the UAW and the rest of the labor movement. This was made amply clear by the actions of Reuther in the Chevrolet strike. At the same time that he charged the company with trying to undermine and weaken the union, he asked the men to go back to work without having their grievances settled. It is no wonder that Walter Reuther is widely known as the No. 1 expert in double-talk.

UAW Factions Alike

Coming just before the UAW convention, Reuther’s actions in the Chevrolet strike should end for all time the belief that there are fundamental differences between the Reuther and Addes factions in the UAW. Both are equally responsible for the infamous no-strike pledge, for upholding the War Anti-Labor Board and for selling labor down the river in politics.

Fortunately, at this convention there will be a third group to which militant union men can give their support – the new Rank and File caucus which was organized by progressive UAW locals from Detroit, Flint and Lansing. The Rank and File caucus is the only group in the UAW that can smash the no-strike pledge,, end company union policies and remove from office dictatorial officials who do not hesitate to remove from office duly elected local union officers (as in Chevrolet Local 235 and Chrysler Local 490) in order to put over their anti-union policies.

Last updated on 29 June 2020