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Sam Adams

UAW Local Advised by Leaders to Sign Away
Opposition to Company’s Purge Proposal –

Reuther OKs Acceptance
of Witchhunt Contract

(2 January 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 1, 2 January 1950, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Completely reversing its position of two weeks ago. Local 669 of the United Auto Workers of Paterson, N.J. this week adopted a modified version of a clause dealing with “subversive” workers proposed by the Wright Aeronautical Corporation.

The modified clause now gives the right to the union to take such cases to grievance procedure and arbitration. The following three paragraphs represent the modified company proposal, with the second paragraph being the “concession” of the corporation:

“In the event that the United States Air Force or any other government agency concerned with the security regulations applicable to the employer advises the employer to restrict any member of the Union from work on or access to classified information or material, the Union and the International will not hold the employer responsible for such action as it (the employer) may reasonably take to comply with its contractual obligations to the government.

“Any claim that the employer has acted improperly in attempting to comply with the law pertaining to security or with its security agreements with the government shall be subject to the grievance procedure and arbitration provisions of this agreement.

“The Union and the International recognize that the employer has certain obligations under the law pertaining to security, and in its contract with the government as required by the security regulations of the armed forces, and agree that nothing contained in this agreement is intended to place the employer in violation of such law pertaining to security and security agreements with the government.”

The local adopted the modified clause at the suggestion of UAW International President Walter Reuther and Irving Levy, general counsel of the UAW. It was Levy’s position that, since the above was the prevailing practice in the country, it did not make much difference whether or not the local signed such an agreement; he proposed therefore that it should sign.

Reuther Gave OK

For his part, Reuther advised the local to sign but, to keep the record straight for himself, safely suggested that if Local 669 would refuse to sign and go out on strike, then the international office of the UAW would support it.

It seems clear that the chief officers of the UAW are succumbing to the pressure of Washington and participating in the national witch-hunt which menaces a militant labor movement. One has to be blind not to see, since the Bell strike in Buffalo, that this witch-hunt is not essentially or primarily an anti-Stalinist or anti-Russian measure, but a legal victimization of militant, radical and socialist groups and individuals.

No Challenge on Principle

Reuther, the ex-socialist, knows this very well. He also knows that the Workers Defense League, who just sponsored a dinner in his honor as a labor leader and a fighter for civil rights, is itself seeking ways and means of challenging the dastardly methods used by the attorney general’s office, acting on the presidents directive in listing organizations as subversive without first giving such organizations an opportunity to hear the evidence against them and to present refuting evidence. Instead, the “Russian method” is employed – organizations are considered guilty until they prove their innocence. Thus traditional legal procedure is thrown overboard and replaced by an obviously totalitarian practice.

By not fighting this new extra-legal tactic of the administration, Reuther and his colleagues in the CIO are really laying the entire labor movement open to similar persecution.

The boast of the UAW is that it has succeeded in helping to establish a civilian appeal board where workers victimized by the Army-Navy-Air Force Personnel Security Board may appeal and obtain a hearing on charges against them. It can be granted that this is a change from the previous practice and that it may not meet with the full approval of the CIO, but it is an adaptation, nevertheless, to the hysteria and the illegal methods of the government and not a fight in principle against the new system.

The best proof of that is that Local 669, which first rejected the whole idea of the government witch-hunt, now accepts the principle, and this it does upon the legal advice of the UAW general counsel and its international president.

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