Martin Harvey

The Militants at Chrysler and Briggs Show the Way –

Support Detroit Strikers!

(12 March 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 11, 12 March 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROITThe tense labor situation here, resulting from on unceasing anti-union campaign by management, exploded with two major strikes against the Chrysler and Briggs Body corporations by UAW-CIO members.

The Chrysler strike, which began at the Dodge main plant of the company, ended with a partial victory for the union. The Briggs strike is still continuing at the time of this writing.

The 13,500 members of Dodge Local 3 walked out an Friday, February 23, in protest against the company's discharge of eight men for their failure to meet a production speed-up. They returned to work on Monday, March 5, with the fallowing results:


  1. They forced the National War Labor Board to act on the issues before the strike was ended, which the WLB has always insisted they would not do.
  2. Their militant and united action, plus the lesson that was learned during similar strikes at Chrysler Highland Park and Chevrolet Gear and Axle here recently, forestalled any disciplinary action by the international union.
  3. The raised production schedule will not be introduced until after it has been arbitrated by the umpire under the Chrysler-UAW contract.


  1. The local retreated from its position on the key issue of whether the men would be reinstated before the termination of the strike. Their reinstatement is also referred to the umpire for future settlement.

The Dodge walkout, which was supported by the inter-plant drivers of the company, resulted in the shutting down of the Dodge truck plant with 3,000 workers, the Chrysler Windsor plant with 1,500 workers, and the partial stoppage of the Chrysler tank arsenal, the Highland Park and other plants. The DeSoto-Warren plant walked out in support of the strike because they refused to work on parts delivered by non-UAW members.

The Briggs strike was also the result of planned company provocation to break the union. It began on March 1 when the company discharged seven minor union officers for allegedly “instigating” a recent strike. In addition, four to seven more were discharged for participating in the current strike.

The beginning of the Dodge strike let loose a vicious barrage of anti-union propaganda and intimidation by the reactionary daily press, the bureaucrats at the head of the UAW, the corporations, the WLB and the Communist Party. The papers went wild at the idea that workers were striking to defend their rights arid their union. They spewed out charges of “near treason,” hurting the war effort and demanded that ‘the draft boards reclassify and induct into the army striking unionists.

Strike-Breaker Addes

George F. Addes, acting president of the UAW, headed the slander campaign of the bureaucrats. Despite the fact that he had to admit the justification of the union’s case, he demanded in his best strike-breaking manner that the men go back to work without a settlement of their just grievances. At a meeting of the Dodge workers on February 27, Addes and Norman Matthews, Chrysler director of the union, were vigorously booed for their anti-union stand and their attacks on Mike Novak, president of Local 3, and the local officers who supported the membership in their demands.

Addes attempted to justify his stand by claiming that the February 27 meeting was unrepresentative and was dominated by “hot-heads.” After the meeting Addes announced that the international was withdrawing all support from Local 3. He was reported to have said that “they are on their own now. The international union will not help them to get discharged workers reinstated and will not aid the local if more strikers are dismissed by the company.”

This statement was both a lie and a threat. It was a lie because the international union never lifted a finger to help the Dodge workers. They did their best to prevent a victorious settlement of the Dodge grievances. In other words, there was no aid they could have withdrawn.

It was a threat because it was an open invitation to the Chrysler Corporation to fire militant workers at their pleasure.

Addes’ charge that the local meeting was not representative of the men was also shown to be a lie when a later meeting, held on March 1 and attended by 2,200 members of the local, voted overwhelmingly to stay out until the men were reinstated. The combined efforts of Addes, Vice-Presidents Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen and Chrysler Director Matthews to sell out the workers proved unavailing.

Company Provocation

The extent of the betrayal by Addes and his fellow bureaucrats is shown by their own admission of the bitter anti-union drive of the corporations. Frankensteen charged before the WLB hearing in Washington that the Chrysler Corporation was out to break the union. “Detroit employers,” he said, “are deliberately seeking the creation of industrial unrest and work stoppages. The object appears to be to gain public hatred toward the whole institution of collective bargaining and, specifically, to destroy the UAW-CIO.”

Frankensteen charged, in addition, that Chrysler has spent thousands of dollars for labor spies in preparation for the post-war period and referred to a speech made by John W. Scoville, a Chrysler spokesman, in which Scoville demanded an end to all collective bargaining.

This, of course, is not news to Chrysler workers. This union-busting offensive has been going on for a long time and the object is not to break the union after the. war but NOW, if it is at all possible. Frankensteen and his brother misleaders have known about this too but have not done anything about it. When the Dodge workers take concrete action against this very anti-labor offensive all Frankensteen can think of is to demand an investigation! In the meantime, he and Addes and Reuther sell out the strike.

Franksteen, however, did make one excellent suggestion – although this also came a little late. He demanded that in the future no workers be fired until AFTER the case has gone through the grievance procedure. This should be adopted throughout the UAW and the labor movement. It is obvious that if workers who are fired have to remain out of work for many months, sometimes a year or more, before their grievances are settled – and they are usually settled unfavorably by the WLB – they have no real protection from the bargaining procedure. Often the company has achieved its objective even if the worker is reinstated because he has been out of the plant for so long. Militant workers who are candidates for union office have been fired on trumped-up charges only so they will not be eligible for election. It is time the unions put a stop to this procedure and provide a real defense for militant stewards, rank and filers and local officers.

Frankensteen, however, did not make this proposal because of any concern over defending the rights of auto workers. He made it purely to cover up his own strike-breaking activities during the Dodge and Briggs walkouts. You can be sure that once these walkouts are settled he will conveniently forget the whole thing. The rank and file of the union must not let him forget.

The role of the top UAW leaders in this situation points again to the fact that they are concerned essentially not with defending the membership of their union but with supporting their boss, Franklin “Slave Labor Law” Roosevelt. To support Roosevelt, the political representative of the corporations, it is only natural that the labor leaders will appease the corporations. Any genuine fight against the corporations “embarrasses” Roosevelt. And since the last thing in the world these misleaders want to see is Roosevelt embarrassed, they lash out bitterly against their rank and file, which is concerned not with any embarrassment of Roosevelt but with their own “embarrassment,” that is, the rising cost of living.


What Roosevelt has done for the workers was indicated at the hearings before the WLB in Washington. When Frankensteen pointed to the union-busting speech of Chrysler's John W. Scoville, William H. Davis, Roosevelt's representative at the head of the WLB, could only say that the speech was out of place and that Scoville ought to keep his mouth shut!

Did he oppose Chrysler’s open attacks on the union? Not at all. They can break the union all they want provided they don’t talk about it in public. That, you see, makes it a little harder for Davis and the other Roosevelt bureaucrats to seem impartial when they sell labor down the river.

when Mike Novak appeared before the WLB, Davis angrily told him to “Get this clear. You’re calling your union together, and you’re telling the members to return to work Monday.” When Novak accepts the majority decision of his membership and supports their grievance – that makes Davis angry, when Scoville announces that Chrysler wants to break the union – Davis meekly calls that “out of place.”

Workers More Militant

That more and more workers are beginning to realize that the top union leadership represents not them but the Roosevelt government, the government of America’s Sixty Families, is indicated by the action taken by the Briggs strikers, led by their past president, Jess Ferrazza. Three hundred of them picketed the international office of the UAW at the same time that they were picketing the Briggs plants. They carried slogans such as “One Homer Martin Is Enough” and “Let an Administrator Take Over the International.” The last slogan referred to the dictatorial practice of the international of taking over militant locals and trying to hatchet the progressive members by appointing an administration hatchet man over the local.

Ferrazza also proposed the organization of all stewards and committeemen in Detroit shops to act on such questions as speed-up and firing of unionists. This proposal is discussed elsewhere in this issue.

The Briggs workers understood that to settle their grievances and protect their union they faced not only the corporations and the government but also the sell-out leadership of their union. Thereby is indicated the road that progressive UAW members must follow to take the union out of the hands of the Thomases, the Addeses, the Frankensteens and the Reuthers. They must join with the Rank and File Committee of the union and unite against the two old power caucuses around the Rank and File program:

  1. Rescind the no-strike pledge.
  2. Break the WLB by getting the labor members off the board.
  3. Smash the Little Steel formula.
  4. Build a Labor Party.

The fact that the Chrysler workers have walked back does not end the problem. The demands of the Briggs strikers have not yet been met. And reprisals against the Chrysler workers and Briggs workers are possible. The WLB promised that no Dodge workers would be fired as a result of the strike but it is a weasel-worded promise which does not include other Chrysler plants. Action against President Mike Novak has been threatened by the international.

UAW workers: remain on guard.

Organize to defeat the anti-union offensive of the corporations and the sell-out policies of the international leadership.

Last updated on 7 December 2017