Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Labor Is on the March
to Make Up War Losses!

(8 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 41, 8 October 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If the plant and factory owners of the country had hoped that post-war insecurity would make of the workers lambs to be shorn without so much as a bleat, they were mistaken. They perhaps thought that the mounting millions of unemployed would paralyze the spirit and will of the employed workers. Yes, they wanted the workers to fold their arms and humbly mutter to the boss: “Thy will be done!”

The collaborating labor leaders had indicated to the White House that, as far as they were concerned, the no-strike pledge would still be the guiding principle – so that, forsooth, reconversion might be accomplished peacefully.

The hundreds of thousands of Workers on strike and about to take strike votes under the restrictive Smith-Connally law have blasted skyhigh the wishes of industrialists and of weak-kneed labor leaders.

The rank and file of labor has realized that for the employed, for the unemployed, for the whole working class, now is the time for action. The insecurity that stares the workers in the face has resulted in their determination to hold their own.

The end of war contracts terminated overtime and resulted in cuts in take-home wages.

“Fifty-Two for Forty”

This is the meaning of “Fifty-two for Forty” – the slogan of the striking oil workers. Their demand for a thirty per cent increase in basic hourly pay is necessary so that, returning to the forty-hour week, the workers will not be descending to a much lower standard of living. So sensible and indispensable do the oil workers consider this demand that the oil strike spread to fourteen states, even while protracted negotiations went on in Washington. There, Secretary of Labor Schwellenbach, trying to settle the dispute before the entire quarter of a million oil workers walked out, has ordered that the companies and the union submit to federal arbitration.

The terms of arbitration are the acceptance of the fifteen per cent wage increase the companies are willing to grant, the return to the forty-hour week as soon as possible, and the submission of the other union demands to an arbitrator to be appointed by Schwellenbach. The Oil Workers International Union, CIO, having made satisfactory contracts with one company in California and two in Detroit on the basis of the thirty per cent increase, were less eager to accept the arbitration “solution” than were the big oil companies.

The 15,000 building service workers who tied up 2,000 New York City buildings for five and a half days did not take kindly to the idea of arbitration. When the president of the local, David Sullivan, announced that he had capitulated to Governor Dewey’s suggestion for arbitration, groups of strikers stormed the union office, complaining, “Why don’t we have a meeting to decide if we want to go back? Let the members decide. We’re going to stay on the sidewalk. The union is going to sell us out as it did in 1936 and 1939 with a $1.06 raise.”

Significantly enough, as this rash of arbitration “solutions” is breaking out, report comes of the result of the arbitration of the seventeen-day strike of the Newspaper & Mail Deliverers Union in New York in July. The commission which arbitrated this dispute denied the major demands of the union, including the disputed wage increase. As always, arbitration benefited the bosses.

Auto Workers

The slogan “Fifty-two for Forty” is taking root among great masses of workers. This slogan, involving the thirty per cent wage increase also demanded by the United Auto Workers, CIO, is stirring to action 500,000 West Coast metal workers, who are reported about to request a strike vote. In Detroit, Ford workers have asked for a strike vote. The 350,000 General Motors workers are to vote on the strike issue on October 24th, and the 120,000 Chrysler workers Will do so a day later. In the meantime, negotiations are going on between the UAW and Chrysler for a new contract; the international officers finding time, however, to oust seventeen leaders of the Kelsey-Hayes strikers. Apparently, President Thomas refuses to see the handwriting on the wall, made so plain to him by the Kelsey-Hayes strikers’ boos on several occasions, namely: Workers arc getting tired of seeing their so-called leaders act as strikebreakers.

Another significant strike is spreading among the textile workers, whose wage demands are much lower than those implied in the “Fifty-two for-Forty” slogan. The strike got under way with some 50,000 workers out in the New Jersey area. The strike rapidly spreading into the New England states, the union is hastening to apply for a strike vote. Southern textile workers are also restive, with strikes looming on the horizon. The Textile Workers Union, CIO, is asking for the sixty-five cent hourly minimum, along with a ten-cent hourly increase. The union also aims to remove the discriminatory differential between North and South, as is also the purpose of all unions demanding industry-wide agreements.


Not all current strikes have started with wage demands. The growing miners’ strike involves the walkout of foremen and supervisors in the bituminous fields of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. The issue is the recognition of the Supervisory Union of District 50 of the United Mine Workers. The present status of the miners’ strike is that the national bituminous coal operators refuse to negotiate when “an illegal strike” is going on, while John L. Lewis designates the. operators’ attitude as “insolent” and “provocative” – and more miners keep going out on strike.

The workers have ripped the shackles of the no-strike pledge off their hands and feet. They are putting up excellent fights for their demands, foremost among them being the “Fifty-two for Forty” slogan involving a thirty per cent wage increase in order not to reduce the workers’ standard of living. The danger comes from the labor leaders, who have made it a habit during the war to take their orders from the White House and to appease the war profiteers.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 27 January 2018