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Mary Bell

Murray Rants, but WLB Is Hard of Hearing

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 48, 27 November 1944, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If Phil Murray, head of almost six million CIO workers, has a dyspeptic look these days, it must be because he is having some difficulty digesting his own words. We refer to the statement made at the UAW convention, where Murray said: “I am as sure as I am living that the Little Steel formula will be revised.”

The cowardly, pro-employer War Labor Board is doing no revising. FDR, to whom the board leaves the question of wage raises, is keeping silent. Fred Vinson, Director of Economic Stabilization, says that the rise in living costs must stop, recognizing, as does every last man, woman and child in the country – from coolie-paid textile workers to even the employer members of the WLB – that living costs are way out of line with the formula.

At the CIO national convention, being held currently, Murray went about as far as he could go in lambasting the War Labor Board. It made a “travesty” of the wage increase demand, he stated. He assailed its “weakness,” its “lack of courage,” its “policy,” Said Murray: “In the face of labor’s no-strike pledge, such policy is the equivalent of denying labor any such benefits during wartime.” Unassailable fact!

Murray was forced to say:

“... The board, after a full year of encouraging the unions to submit their cases on the basis of voluminous records, has refused to discharge its obligation ... Employers are permitted to enjoy a field day through long delays, appeals and reconsiderations of cases which actually result in a complete denial of an effective relief to a labor organization and its members which have submitted its case to the machinery of the board ... The board has to date refused to direct employers to grant such concessions [sick leave, group insurance, etc.] when the latter refused to do so in collective bargaining.”

Equally unassailable truths!

Does Murray then conclude logically that the WLB is anti-labor and that labor should have nothing to do with it? That genuine collective bargaining should be restored?

No, says Murray, he agrees with the board in principle and adds there is no question but that labor must retain its no-strike pledge.

Doesn’t Mr. Murray know that it is only because of the helpless position of labor that the WLB and FDR hold the line on wages? That the only action that is causing sleepless nights to these people and might give rise to a revision is the fear of the pending no-strike referendum in the ranks of the UAW? That “collective begging,” companion to the no-strike pledge, will continue as long as labor has no recourse but to think, speak and write against the anti-labor practices of employer and administration – and can DO nothing?

If Mr. Murray meant what he said about the WLB policies, he would demand categorically that every labor representative immediately get off the board. Labor leaders on the board are parties to the “travesty” made of wage demands, the “weakness” in the face of public need, “lack of courage” to recommend a wage increase.

The War Labor Board system is the price of the no-strike pledge.

Dropping the pledge would mean the resumption of genuine collective bargaining. Then there would be no year-long and longer delays in handling demands for overdue increases. Employers would come to heel, and wages and conditions could be maintained not only for the mass of workers new in the shops, but for the returning veterans.

Philip Murray, at the top of the union, can see the employers’ point of view more easily than the ranks of labor. Believing in the “principle” of the WLB and the “principle”

of the no-strike pledge, he is confined to speaking against the board policies.

We repeat: he’s gone about as far as he can go. Action by the ranks of labor is necessary to rescind the pledge and get the labor men off the WLB.

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