Martin Harvey

UAW Moves on Companies for 30% Increase

(1 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 40, 1 October 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT, Sept. 24 – The second step in the offensive opened by the United Automobile Workers, CIO, against the auto barons to recover losses suffered by the auto workers with the end of the war was made with the filing of a petition for a strike vote at all plants of the General Motors Corporation.

The petition, filed on September 22 by Walter Reuther, vice-president and GM director of the union, will result in a strike vote being taken after thirty days at the 96 plants of the company, employing over 200,000 workers. A strike vote demand is expected within one week for the Chrysler Corporation and within two weeks for Ford, thus covering the Big Three of the auto industry.

The chief demand against GM, which will serve as the pattern for the whole industry, is for a thirty per cent wage increase. This increase will include corporation-wide equalization of wage rates, provision for a social security fund for GM workers and a blanket wage increase.

The immediate reason for the thirty per cent wage increase is to recover the loss in weekly pay resulting from the ending of overtime work. With the ending of Saturday work, auto workers have had their pay checks reduced from fifty-two hours’ pay to forty hours’ pay, a reduction of thirty per cent. This is a minimum requirement if workers are to make ends meet with prices that show no sign of going down. The thirty per cent wage increase does not even compensate the workers for losses suffered during the war when prices rose over forty-five per cent while wages in the auto industry rose a mere fifteen per cent.

The profit-swollen auto magnates are easily able to pay the demanded wage increases and more without raising the prices of their products. During the war they have coined unheard-of amounts of blood profits, reaching to the hundreds of per cent.

Press – As Usual

With their usual unconcern for the facts and the welfare of the workers, the spokesmen for the corporations, with the Detroit daily press first among them, have launched an intensive propaganda campaign against the union and its demands. Almost daily, the capitalist papers shed bitter tears for the poor stockholders who will be forced by wage increases to raise car prices and sell fewer cars – for, after all, their profits must be maintained. They talk threateningly of higher wages forcing auto companies to move their plants from Detroit to other areas – conveniently ignoring the existence of national wage agreements and the demand for equal wage levels for all parts of the country.

The workers in the auto industry have had a long and bitter experience with the union-busting big dailies. Their lies and insults will only serve to strengthen labor’s determination to see this thing through. The UAW has taken the lead with a clarion call to all of organized labor to launch labor’s offensive against the ramparts of open-shop capitalism.

The chief concern of the rank and file in the union is to see that the top leadership, which has not been too anxious to conduct a militant fight in the past, follows through in its present struggle. At the recent Flint meeting of the International Executive Board, Detroit workers picketed the board, demanding that it give support to the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Co. strike which it had declared unauthorized. They also carried signs calling for a UAW convention this year.

This same demand was raised by the committee of UAW local presidents in Detroit. They place little confidence in the leadership of Thomas, Frankensteen and Reuther and want the opportunity to replace them with a new, vigorous leadership that will truly represent the rank and file and wage an aggressive fight.

These actions are a sign that the pressure on the leadership of the UAW from the ranks is great. It was this pressure which forced the change from the policy of retreat during the war. And it will be this pressure which will make difficult, if not impossible, any retreat by the leadership in the way of substantial reductions in their demands.

After years of retreat, the UAW is on the march. If aggressive, fighting union policies are maintained, victory in the present struggle is assured.

Last updated on 29 January 2018