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Susan Green

What’s New on National Strike Front?

Workers May Yet Have to Teach Ford Another Lesson

(28 April 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 17, 28 April 1941, pp. 1, 2 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On April 17, most of the morning and evening papers in New York City – and presumably throughout the country – carried a full-page advertisement by General Motors. Under a spread eagle, and decorated with pictures of marching doughboys appeared a chatty, homey-folksy Message to General Motors folks everywhere. Such extensive advertising costs a pretty penny, you bet. But it was used in a good cause against the workers!

You see, folks, those terrible workers – of whom 160.000 are employed by GM out of pure love – have warned the company that they will go out on strike if it doesn’t come across with a satisfactory contract. And this in spite of the fact that GM has self-sacrificingly accepted $750,000,000 of war orders, GM was relying on “the loyal cooperation” of its employees. And “at a time when your country is asking for sacrifice, can anyone justify seeking selfish advantage at the cost of production?”

You see, folks, these 160,000 workers, who with their families add up to maybe 750,000 human beings, are not “folks” – they are just workers from whom to extract profits. These workers are getting it in the neck from this armament program – out of which GM has already made plenty as an encouraging beginning. And, folks, these workers are trying to take their necks out of the way of being hurt.

Furthermore, these workers are just plain “criminals” for trying to take their necks out of the way. Mr. Knudsen himself says so. His opinion, as you all know, is absolutely unbiased. You are not supposed to remember that he handed in a fake resignation as General Motors boss. You are not supposed to remember, folks, that Mr. Knudsen’s safe-deposit vault is no doubt stacked high with GM stocks and bonds. from which paper he expects big profits squeezed from labor – while he is holding his sacrificial $l-a-year job with the government.

So, come on, folks – all out to keep the necks of the workers where GM wants them! And by the way, don’t try to pull your own necks out of the way or you too will become “criminals.”

The southern coal operators still refuse to grant the United Mine Workers’ demands that wage differentials between North and South be abolished. The following excellent argument for granting the union demand does not come from the union, but from the northern operators:

“... transportation differentials have been wiped out as a competitive factor by application of thee Guffey Coal Act to minimum prices. The southern coal price at the mines is exactly the same as the northern coal price, after freight rates have been taken into consideration and the transportation differentials wiped out by the Guffey Act.”

However, the morality of the profit game calls for the southern operators holding out for their 40 cent wage differential. It doesn’t need an Einstein to figure out 40 cents less wages to each miner per day adds up to a noticeable amount of profit. So much do the southern bosses hate to part with this tidbit that they have acquired a touching attachment to the nation’s capital and will not go to New York to negotiate with the UMWA.

Meanwhile these bourbons are responsible for the idleness of some 400,000 miners, for a growing shortage of coal and for holding up the war program – in which Representative Sumners and Mr. Knudsen are both vitally interested.

To date, however, the former has not recommended the electric chair for the guilty bosses, nor has the latter called them criminals.

Neither do these “impartial” boss politicians and their ilk consider it criminal that the southern bourbons are using their old brutal tactics against the strikers. Mr. Lewis stated:

“Members of our union in that area are threatened with continuing lock-outs, with withdrawal of credit in company stores, possible evictions from their homes and their civil liberties destroyed through a return of the rule of the company gunmen in the southern mining communities.”

But the miners have learned the lesson of “divide and LOSE.” They are holding strong in the north, middle west and south. More power to them!

There is an old saying that is hard to teach old elephants new tricks. The only hesitancy I have in using this adage in relation to Henry Ford is that elephants are such nice animals.

Anyway, no sooner did the men return to the plants than it became evident that Ford didn’t learn everything he should have from the great militant strike his workers put up. Attacks on union men have continued in the plants. Ford thugs have beaten up unionists wherever and whenever they though they could get away with it. Ford still hopes to break the overwhelming strength of the United Automobile Workers so as not to have to negotiate with the CIO union as he has agreed to do. Undoubtedly, the great majority of the men in the plants will vote for the CIO.

As a result of Ford’s renewed efforts at intimidation, threats of another strike were in the air. Once more the state police appeared at the plant gate. Great crowds of workers milled about. Finally, stewards of the UAW instructed the workers to disperse. Later a union sound truck announced here would be no strike because Ford officials had agreed to “keep matters peaceful.”

That remains to be seen!

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Last updated: 19 August 2014