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Mary Bell

Ford Offer Has Strings Attached

(24 December 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 52, 24 December 1945, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Having offered the Ford Motor Company an infamous company “security” plan, the UAW leadership, including Leonard, Thomas, Reuther and Addes, has no right to be “staggered” (New York Times, December 19) at the counter-proposal of the corporation made this week. Since Richard T. Leonard, head of the Ford UAW committee, showed such solicitude for giving the corporation guarantees such as would lead to a complete weakening of the union and which immediately focused the attention of General Motors on similar guarantees which had not been made to it, what could he expect but an attempt to strengthen these “security” guarantees?

The Ford Motor Company offered a pay increase of 12.4 per cent, or approximately fifteen cents per hour. But the wage increase was linked to a production goal of 80,000 units per month (November production was only 22,500 units) and a series of company guarantees. The latter include elimination of "unauthorized” work stoppages; management “prerogatives”; reduction of the number of union committeemen, and no new wage demands based on raised price ceilings. The company security plan included fines that were less than the original proposal of the union!) to be deducted from the check-off of dues and paychecks of workers, for instigation of “wildcat” strikes.

The avowed motives of Ford in presenting its “gamble” on a wage increase were indeed noble. They want the “confidence and cooperation of our employees.” (Rather than that the union should have it.) They want to stay in production and keep men employed. (They don’t want a strike.) They want to sharpen production skills and to “meet and beat competition.” (True enough.) They want to break the “log-jam of postwar mass production” and “halt inflation” by bringing supply up to demand. (These are meant to sound public-spirited.)

The union rejected the offer. It falls far short of thirty per cent and is integrally bound up with union-breaking measures.

Just as the strength of the case presented by the UAW against General Motors permeated the struggle of every CIO union engaged in a wage fight against a corporation – the UAW against Ford, the Oil Workers’ negotiations and the pending Steel Workers’ fight, the Rubber Workers, etc., so the show of weakness on the part of the Ford union, a retreat acquiesced in by the whole UAW leadership, has similarly infiltrated every union battle.

The UAW was the spearhead of the post-war fight of labor against capital to secure a living wage, full production and full employment. Their demand to open the company’s books, to have a look at profit statements and to determine wage increases on the basis of profits without raising prices to punish the consumer, was a unique, revolutionary demand for the CIO.

The union leadership has exhibited a strange timidity in following up this demand. They behave as if they thought they had gone too far. They have in only one sense: they lack a perspective to follow up their militant demand. Once the corporation has refused the inspection of its books, or says on the basis of its figures that it cannot pay a decent wage nor assure full employment, what is the union going to do? The CIO leadership, while having made a denunciation of Truman, still corrals the labor vote through the PAC for the Democratic Party.

Since the corporations have openly confessed their bankruptcy, there is only one answer for the unions to the corporations’ openly expressed alternative of a return to Hooverism: if the corporations cannot guarantee security through full production, full employment and a high standard of living, labor must manage production!

Instead of consent to the fact-finding stall of President Truman, labor must make a break once and for all with the capitalist parties of big business, their ten-year alliance with the Democrats and their present flirting with the “progressive” Republicans. They must turn the PAC into a genuine Labor Party with a labor program to set up a Labor Government in Washington!

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