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Susan Green

GM Program Elects Reuther!

(25/27 March 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 13, 1 April 1946, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

ATLANTIC CITY, March 27 (By Phone) – At 4:15 p.m. today, Secretary-Treasurer Addes, as chairman of the convention, introduced Walter Reuther as the new president of the UAW-CIO. Reuther was elected by a comfortable majority. Reuther spoke, pledging himself to unifying the organization. In a speech after the election, Thomas repudiated his charge that Reuther was seeking to lead the UAW out of the CIO.


ATLANTIC CITY, March 25 – When the readers of Labor Action get this report, the 1,700 delegates to the tenth convention of the UAW-CIO will have made their choice for president. Be- [sentence incomplete]

The test came when Delegate E. Murphy, Dodge Local 3, touched off a pro-Reuther demonstration. She made a motion for a closed night session to discuss the issues involved between the rival candidates for president. For almost fifteen minutes an undoubted majority of the delegates let loose with cries for Reuther, with whistling, clapping, waving of Reuther placards.

The Murphy motion has a background. Earlier in the day Reuther issued, in leaflet form, a challenge to Thomas to debate the issues raised in the campaign at “a night session of the convention with press and public excluded so that no punches need be pulled.” Thomas responded with a written rejection, also in leaflet form, calling Reuther’s challenge a stunt. However, the majority of the delegates disagreed with Thomas, for a motion to table the Murphy motion was defeated. The Murphy motion would have carried had not Secretary-Treasurer Addes, chairing the meeting, made crafty use of the rules on procedure by calling for a two-thirds instead of a majority vote.

This show of Reuther strength came after CIO President Murray, though he entered the convention hail in the company of Reuther this very morning, lavished praise on Thomas and pleaded not to “endanger the future of your own organization,” bringing in, of course, the “more than a million men and women, kids, bread and butter, living standards, life.” Such pleas are, from time immemorial, tantamount to support of the status quo. However, the majority of the delegates are convinced they need a change in leadership, because Reuther has shown himself to be more progressive and more aware of the needs of labor in this post-war turbulence.

Irresponsible Charges

While at this writing the convention is only getting under way – the big questions of the General Motors strike, of the union-emasculating company security clauses, of the new crop of anti-labor attacks by both major parties raising the issue of independent political action, having not yet reached the floor of the convention – the fight for the presidency of the union is at its height in the corridors, in caucuses and in press conferences. The fight is not a pretty one. It smacks of the campaigns of capitalist politicians, and any fair- minded person would have to admit that the low in this respect is reached by Thomas, who is supported by the Addes-Stalinists.

At an Addes caucus last night, to which Thomas was invited, in a typically Stalinist distortion of history, Addes gave – for the benefit of first-time delegates – such a review of the UAW-CIO as to make Reuther appear as the all-time menace. On his part, Thomas, like a man made unscrupulous by his desperation, accuses Reuther of the fantastic nonsense of trying to lead the UAW-CIO into the AFL because, forsooth, he took money from Dubinsky’s union in support of the GM strike. Shaken in his position, Thomas identifies himself with the CIO and shouts that the contest is not between Reuther and himself, but between Reuther and the CIO. And, throwing all responsibility to the winds, Thomas Stated his new-born belief that Reuther learned from Hitler, called attention to the fact that Mussolini was once a Marxist, and warned that “it can happen here;” Thomas thus did both himself and the union he still heads a great disservice.

In a, labor union at all times, and especially at this time, a campaign should be waged around issues, around a program that each candidate supports. With new wage increases already melting in the heat of mounting prices, a program to maintain and raise the standard of living is imperative. While neither Reuther nor Thomas has been too definite on program, Reuther still declares his stand – as made by the GM strikers – for wage increases without price increases. Thomas relies on inadequate and discredited “support of price control” which has resulted in ceaselessly climbing prices.

On the demand to open the books of the corporations, which made the necessary link between wages, prices and profits, Reuther seems to have cooled off, claiming that the demand was made simply to put the company over a barrel. Thomas, however, ridicules this most progressive idea coming out of the GM strike.

Reporter Questions Reuther

On the burning question of independent political action by labor, Thomas in his opening speech reaffirmed his belief in rewarding labor’s friends and punishing its enemies within the old parties, tacking on an “or else.”

Reuther, on his part, is riding two horses, a practice which can lead only to breaking one’s head. In the UAW-CIO Leader of March 24, carrying what purports to be Reuther’s program, his political action is to remain “within the existing party structure.” But also: “We stand for independent political action.” Asked by this reporter whether he considers an independent Labor Party in the cards, Reuther answered, “Not in the immediate future.” Just what is he waiting for? Furthermore, Reuther’s idea of an independent Labor Party resembles the Socialist Party hodge-podge, and is quite different from an independent class party based on the unions, leading and giving programmatic unity to the great masses.

The majority of the rank and file, as reflected in this convention, recognize and support Reuther’s leadership. However, he owes the rank and file some forthright explanations on different aspects of the GM strike, about which there have been accusations back and forth. He owes the rank and file a clear-cut stand on the “company security” betrayal.

On the one resolution coming before the convention on which Reuther took the floor, namely, the issue of equal pay for women, he made, a decided contribution, proclaiming the need not only to fight for adequate legislation, but to strengthen union machinery to attain equal pay through collective bargaining. “We cannot hope for a panacea out of Congress,” sounded a note for reliance upon union strength and action.

Dues Raise Referred Back

Thus far three significant disputes developed in the report of the Constitution Committee. In spite of high pressure from Secretary-Treasurer Addes and the mass of literature on the subject, the convention sent back to the committee an amendment to raise monthly dues to $2.00 from the present $1.00. The sentiment of the body was for a compromise of $1.50 (since adopted by the convention – Ed.), based on a conviction that a 50 per cent increase in dues would adequately finance the plans of the union to organize the unorganized and so forth, while a 100 per cent increase might give the leadership too much money to play around with.

Another amendment overwhelmingly lost was to extend the term of office of international officers to two years instead of one. Again, the body rejected a minority report for the creation of a post on the General Executive Board to be filled by a Negro. This inverted Jim Crowism was sponsored in the Daily Worker and by the Stalinists in the union. The body did vote to create within the international union a department to be known as the Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department, making it mandatory as well for each local to set up such a committee.

(The above was written before the Reuther caucus meeting, at which he presented his program. This will be reported in the next issue of Labor Action.)

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