Martin Harvey

105,000 UAM Workers Vote –

Against No-Strike Pledge

(19 March 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 12, 19 March 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROITThe first report on the balloting in the recently concluded referendum on the no-strike pledge held by the United Auto Workers (CIO) was issued by Ben Garrison, chairman of the referendum committee. He announced that a preliminary count indicates that the pledge was upheld by about two to one by the 300,000 auto and aircraft workers who voted.

A finaI count, broken down by regions, will be issued later but Garrison’s report is a summary of what the official vote will be.

Two things stand out in this report. First is the fact that, despite the unprecedented barrage of propaganda, lies and intimidation carried on by the reactionary press, the government, the bureaucratic labor misleaders and the Communist Party, 105,000 auto workers stuck to their guns and voted “NO.” This is no mean accomplishment for the UAW, Rank and File Committee, which spearheaded the movement to rescind the infamous pledge.

No one knows how many tens of thousands of dollars were spent by the forces of reaction within and without the labor movement to keep the no-strike pledge. Arrayed on their side was not only money but the power and prestige of the government, the propaganda machine of the big daily press and the unscrupulous power machine of the Communist Party. Yet 105,000 workers refused to be shouted down.

Total Vote Small

The figure of 105,000 “No” votes, by the way, can. be accepted only tentatively. As was reported in Labor Action, ballots, were distributed by the referendum committee in a completely irresponsible manner, some even getting into the hands of corporation executives. A protest against the conduct of the vote has been entered by the Lansing UAW locals, although it seems unlikely that the UAW top leaders will do anything about it.

The second fact of significance is the extremely small vote, only 300,000 out of a total membership of over 1,200,000, including members in the armed services.

The smallness of the vote can be attributed to several factors. There is the conflict in the minds of many workers between, defense of the union and support to the imperialist war. Most workers are ready to admit that the no-strike pledge hog-ties labor and should be rescinded. More important than that, they carry this belief into practice, as is continually demonstrated by the many thousands of workers who have taken strike action during the course of the war. Yet the propaganda barrage and the prejudiced wording of the ballot must have made many workers feel unwilling to commit themselves finally on this important question.

Side by side with this confusion there was the feeling that rescinding the pledge, justified as it was, would not materially change conditions. The workers, the truth hidden from them for years by their own leaders, could only feel that against the massive power of the government – the many administrative boards, the reactionary Congress and, behind it all, the Army – strike action was a puny and ineffective weapon. Undoubtedly some of them felt that rescinding the pledge probably wasn’t worth the effort; that new ways of selling them out would be devised by their so-called leaders.

Only First Step

What these workers unfortunately failed to realize was that the right to strike was not a complete pro-gram, a panacea, but only the beginning, the first step, without which further progress was impossible. When you combine rescinding the no-strike pledge with removal of the labor members from the WLB you have taken the second step – destruction of the graveyard of labor’s grievances.

To combat the power of the capitalist government, the political arm of the capitalist class, labor must build its own political arm, a Labor Party. We need mention only these two points to indicate the tremendous possibilities that lie ahead for a militant, fighting labor movement. If these possibilities had been made clear, if they had been brought home to every UAW member, there would have been an entirely different story to tell.

The purpose of this analysis is not to explain away a defeat, for there was no defeat. The purpose is to point forward from what can only be considered a partial victory. The Dodge and Briggs strikes in Detroit, the release of 100,000 textile workers from the no-strike pledge, the retreat of the UAW Executive Board from its early willingness to discipline striking workers indiscriminately, all demonstrate that the conclusion of the UAW referendum marks not the end of the road but merely a milestone in the struggle for progressive, fighting unionism.

Last updated on 7 December 2017