Martin Harvey

Ranks of Ford Local 600
Take Action on Cutbacks

(14 May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 20, 14 May 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT – At a special mass meeting of workers at the Ford Rouge plant the membership of Local 600, UAW-CIO, scotched the attempts of their local and international leadership to talk away the layoffs and cutbacks that are taking place and voted unanimously in favor of rescinding the no-strike pledge and calling a National Labor Holiday.

The meeting, held on Saturday afternoon, May 5, had been called by Local President W.G. Grant, leading member of the Communist-controlled clique that had just suffered a severe setback in the local’s primary elections. It was advertised as a meeting to protest the recent announcements of further layoffs and cutbacks at the Rouge and other Ford plants and the wage cuts resulting from a reduction to a forty-hour week.

Local Leaders Stall

In reality, Grant and his cohorts had two purposes in calling the meeting. One was to increase his chances of re-election in the local’s runoff election which will be held soon. Grant had come out second best in the primaries, running after a Reuther supporter, J. McCusker. Shelton Tappes, recording secretary, and other Communist Party stalwarts had been defeated in the primaries. A meeting of this kind looked like a good opportunity to revive the wan-ing popularity of their sell-out administration.

Their second purpose in calling the meeting was to forestall any militant struggle against layoffs and unemployment by big talk and little action. For this purpose, International President R.J. Thomas, Ford Director Richard T. Leonard and Carsten Tiedeman, Detroit chairman for the War Production Board, were presented as speakers. The whole tenor of their remarks was that unemployment and wage cuts could only be prevented by the kindness and good nature of the government and private industry in providing jobs. The fact that it was this same government, allied with private industry, that was announcing cutback after cutback just as soon as production could no longer yield profits to industry, that it was this government which was completely ignoring the needs and welfare of the workers during the reconversion period and after, did not seem to teach these people anything.

It was clear, however, that the membership of the local understood that only a militant fight against the corporations and the government would get them anywhere. Over 4,000 members packed the hall, with 3,000 more having to be turned away. They waited patiently throughout the meeting for some indication that their leadership was prepared to put up a struggle in their behalf but got none.

Rank and File Acts

Toward the end of the meeting, Larry Yost, chairman of the aircraft unit at the Rouge plant and national chairman of the Rank and File Steering Committee, introduced a fighting resolution on the Little Steel formula. It resolved:

“That this meeting of Ford Local 600 calls upon the Congress of the United States to abandon the Little Steel formula and the area bracket system which have served to undermine the real earnings of war workers,

“2. That a realistic reconversion wage policy be instituted without delay, which will

(a) Maintain immediately the present levels of weekly take-home pay as hours of work are reduced from forty-eight to forty hours per week, without sacrificing in one iota our three-year fight to overcome the unfairness of the differential that already had existed between wages and cost of living while we were yet on a forty-eight hour week.

(b) Allow for industry-wide equal pay for equal work in place of the vicious area bracket system ...

“Be it finally resolved that unless immediate steps are made to meet these demands, that this assemblage favors immediate revocation of our union no-strike pledge and the calling of a National Labor Holiday.”

This resolution threw the leadership into consternation. This was not what they had planned. They had wanted the meeting limited to long-winded speeches and cut-and-dried resolutions with no discussion from the floor. When the resolution was put to a vote, however, it was passed unanimously. Its passage was greeted by the membership with a huge ovation.

Grant sheepishly remarked after the vote that this was not the resolution that the membership had intended to pass. But he was immediately answered with loud cries of “Oh, yes we did!”

Once again the Ford workers have shown the way. They have demonstrated the only way in which labor’s program for jobs and security can be won – through militant, determined struggle.

Last updated on 7 December 2017