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Mary Bell

Murray Meets Wage Freeze with Post Cards

(March 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 11, 12 March 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Simply intolerable.” Thus Philip Murray described labor’s situation in the face of the latest War Labor Board report. Only a violent word could express the situation. For the WLB, far from granting a revision of the Little Steel formula that all labor wants, had the brass to say that wages are in advance of the cost of living! They dare to write it, black on white, for all the housewives of the nation to see.

The War Labor Board’s figures on the increase in wages are based on increases in take-home pay due to promotions and hours worked in excess of the normal work week. But basic, straight-time hourly earnings are behind the WLB’s conservative estimate of the rise in the cost of living. The increase in take-home pay has meant a huge increase in production and hence, in profits.

Exposing WLB Report

Murray rightly stored the “fallacies” and “weaknesses” in the WLB majority’s report. They failed utterly to consider the looming cutbacks due to the cessation of much war production when the war in Europe ends. These cutbacks, which are occurring even now, will mean cutbacks in hours and promotions that will far offset the temporary war gains in wages. OPA has declared that this loss will approximate $17 billion annually.

Here are the WLB public members’ strange figures:

Increase in average straight-time hourly earnings
from January 1941 to October 1944


Increase in cost of living for same period


Increase of wages over cost of living


The dissenting labor members of the WLB concede for the purposes of argument (although the CIO reports show it nearer 44 per cent) that the cost of living has risen a mere 30 per cent. That makes their computations something like this:

Increase in cost of living
from January 1941 to October 1944


Increase in basic wage rates for the same period

less than 20%

Basic wages lag behind cost of living

more than 10%

If they used their own figure of 44 per cent for the increase in the cost of living – a figure that takes into consideration deterioration of qualities, disappearance of cheaper goods and other factors that affect workers’ standards severely – they would show a lag of about twenty-five per cent!

Roosevelt’s “equality of sacrifice” program means that when the war, boom ceases, workers’ wages will be three-fourths of what they were prior to the war for “democracy.”

The “equality of sacrifice” notion, for which labor ceded its right to strike, means that the employers of the U.S. have bagged the biggest profits of any country at any time in history!

An “Intolerable Situation”

So whether you take the employer-minded public members’ figures, or labor’s own figures, labor is solidly behind the eight-ball. Or, as Murray genteelly says: “The situation is intolerable.” Well, where do we go from here, Mr. Murray?

Phil Murray is not going to be caught out on a limb again as he was at the UAW convention. There, to stifle the move to rescind the no-strike pledge, he safd: “I am as sure as I am living that the Little Steel formula will be revised.” The WLB sawed that limb off too quickly. So Murray quickly follows up that “intolerable” with:

“Now, more than ever, it is of the utmost importance to our war effort that there be maintained uninterrupted production. The CIO and its members are fully conscious of this need and therefore shall observe their no-strike pledge.”CIO News, February 26.

No, sir. No “intolerable situation” is going to trick Murray into rescinding the no-strike pledge. He’s going to call a meeting of the Executive Board of the CIO to “tackle this crucial problem.”

Now we know what to expect. Murray, as well as his followers on the board, are going to do as they have been doing throughout the war. They are going to ask, beg, plead, request, urge, call upon, insist on – even DEMAND – revision of the Little Steel formula. And if that doesn’t work, they will wheedle, cajole, supplicate, whine, petition – to get the revision.

That won’t work. We know. They’ve been doing it all along.

“Ace in the Hole”?

But the CIO and Murray have an ace in the hole. They gave up the right to strike, to be sure, but they do have a weapon. What it is is revealed on the last page of the aforementioned CIO News, which, let it not be forgotten, is mailed to the mighty, multi-million throngs of CIO members all over the country.

That weapon, to be used by each of the six million members of the CIO, their wives, husbands and other kin is –


To us, the spectacle of Phil Murray, president of a union whose members struck, fought on picket lilies and died to organize themselves to get a little more bread and butter – the spectacle of Phil Murray pleading with the boss-minded WLB, the boss-financed Congress and the super-boss of them all, FDR, is what is intolerable in the situation.

Forced by the utterly wretched condition of its members, the Textile Workers Union withdrew from the WLB and released its members from the no-strike pledge. That is an example to follow. To try to get raises with a labor movement bound to the no-strike pledge is as futile as trying to lift a rug you are standing on.

Stop Begging!

The begging, pleading, urging, etc., tactics of Murray and the rest of the big labor leaders have driven the situation from bad to intolerable. Formerly, the War Labor Board, with that dispatch for which it is noted, would get around in two or three years to a two or three cent increase.

Now, the WLB’s power to make decisions has been taken away, usurped by Economic Stabilizer Vinson. And Vinson means to stabilize. That’s what FDR appointed him for. No more of these wild, abandoned, runaway-inflationary wage increases like the WLB used to hand down. No, sir. Wages are going to stay frozen as hard and cold as a brass monkey.

A few more CIO executive board petitions, a few more postcards – and we’ll have an actual cut in the hourly rates. And Phil Murray might say at the next CIO convention: “I’m as sure as I am living that we shall soon return to the high standards of the Little Steel formula.”

It’s high time for labor to repudiate all the big and little editions of Phil Murray in the labor movement, to strike out for wage increases in the only way:




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