Martin Harvey

UAW Members Can Defeat
the No-Strike Pledge

(30 October 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 44, 30 October 1944, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The union movement in the United States took a gigantic step forward at the recent convention of the United Auto Workers. CIO. When the auto workers voted to submit the question of the no-strike pledge to a referendum vote of the membership, they made it possible for the rank and file for the first time to state their position on the pledge which was given by Philip Murray and William Green and the top CIO and AFL officials.

Murray and Hillman, Thomas and Dalrymple and the rest of of the CIO leadership did not see fit to consult their memberships when the pledge was given and have been busy ever since trying to make the pledge stick. But the rank and file revolt has been mounting steadily. At the union conventions of the last few months that revolt reached the highest peak it has attained thus far.

At the Rubber Workers’ convention, at the Shipbuilders’ convention, at the Steel Workers’ convention, strong minorities pressed for scrapping the no-strike pledge. At the UAW convention in Grand Rapids, a huge minority voted to rescind the no-strike pledge and the motion for a referendum was passed by an overwhelming majority. The issue of the no-strike pledge has clearly become the crucial issue in the labor movement – and there is excellent reason for for this.

No-Strike Pledge Is Central

Most of the decisive problems that labor faces in these years of war lead directly to the question of the pledge. Are wages kept low while prices and profits rise? What can unions do when they are bound by the no-strike pledge? Has it become impossible to settle run-of-the-mill grievances in the shops? How can you make the bosses listen when you have a no-strike pledge? Does It take the War Labor Board as much as a year or more to pass on a contract? How can you return to collective bargaining when you have given up the right to strike? Questions of politics, of the presidential election campaign, of organizing the unorganized, all lead in one form or another to the question of the no-strike pledge.

During the debate on the no-strike pledge and the referendum at the UAW convention, the Thomas-Addes-Reuther leadership succeeded in getting the pledge reaffirmed only with the greatest difficulty. On the referendum itself, most of the leaders lined up in opposition – belying their argument the rank and file supported the pledge. These great democrats were scared green at the thought of submitting the no-strike pledge to a democratic vote.

In Atlantic City, at the meeting of the UAW Executive Board, following the convention, it was decided to delay any action on the referendum until the November meeting of the board. This despite the ninety-day limit set by the convention in holding the referendum. Obviously the boys are scared. They stall for time. They will undoubtedly try to put over a few phony deals before the referendum takes place. Whether they succeed in this will depend on the progressive rank and file elements in the union.

The big daily papers, government officials, radio commentators and the rest of the propaganda machine will all intensify their anti-labor activities and attempt to bludgeon and cajole the workers into backing the pledge.

To answer this Campaign and to get the truth to the workers, the rank and file must organize its own counter-campaign. In the UAW, the situation is favorable because a national Rank and File Caucus already exists. It is this caucus which led the fight for the referendum at the convention. But the Rank and File Caucus and the delegates who. supported it must not feel that the job is done. The Caucus must plan and conduct a national campaign in the UAW to bring to the workers the truth about the no-strike pledge. For this purpose they must issue printed material that can be distributed in the shops and at plant gates.

A campaign of this kind, however, cannot be carried on by a small committee. It must get support, active support, in the ranks. In every local union progressive workers must join together to plan and conduct a campaign on a local scale and to help the Rank and File Caucus on a national scale. In each union, progressive groups of workers must issue leaflets explaining the issues to the membership. They must present resolutions to their local union putting the locals on record as being in favor of rescinding the no-strike pledge.

In future issues of Labor Action we will discuss the various arguments presented in connection With the no-strike pledge and the current developments in the union movement in the campaign to scrap the pledge.

Last updated on 29 June 2020