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Susan Green

Green Copies NAM, Urges Longer Hours

(9 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 6, 9 February 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Every once in a while William Green, President of the AFL, comes up out of obscurity to express himself. The other day he rated frontpage billing when testifying before the Senate Banking Committee in hearings on various bills presumably to check inflation. Mr. Green also has ideas on inflation, not necessarily his own. Certainly the one featured in the news stories is most reminiscent. The president of the AFL, an organization of over seven million workers whom he is supposed to serve, came out with the proposition that the work-week be lengthened to forty-five or forty-eight hours. Of what is this anti-labor scheme reminiscent?

Why, it is the very thunder from the speeches of the industrialists at the recent convention of NAM held in New York. NAM, whose members hate to part with one penny of their fabulous profits derived from high prices, have their own pet “cure for inflation,” namely, more production by lengthening the work-week. Since the NAM convention, Mr. C.E. Wilson of General Motors has been the loudest exponent of a longer work-week – of course, in the interest of curbing inflation. And now – William Green, president of the AFL, takes his cue from the manufacturers.

Mr. Green contributes his own wrinkle to the proposition. He wants the workers to be paid at existing overtime rates for the additional five or eight hours worked a week. The NAM speakers said nothing about overtime.

Does Mr. Green want Congress to pass a law abrogating the forty-hour week and legalizing a forty-five or forty-eight-hour week? No, nothing as crude as all that. He merely wants Congress to make it known that it favors or recommends that new industrial contracts be negotiated between capital and labor including a forty-five or forty-eight-hour week. Only that.

It took labor decades of painful, bloody struggle to establish the forty-hour week. Now this so-called leader of over seven million workers wants them to throw that hard-won gain overboard by signing on the dotted line. The mere fact of overtime pay does not wipe out the terrible precedent such contracts would establish.

What a weapon in the hands of the bosses when labor itself agrees to a longer work week! What a short step from Green’s idea to the forty-five or forty-eight-hour week at regular pay!

This not the only terrific faux pas in Green’s nit-wit scheme. He offers this sparkling solution as a substitute for wage increases. He implies his willingness to forego wage increases if his scheme is accepted. In so doing he goes over – lock, stock and barrel – to the side of the capitalists. They say that labor is not entitled to hourly pay raises. “If they want to earn more, let them work longer hours,” say the manufacturers – and Mr. Green is with them. But every statistic, fact and figure proves that because of the high cost of living and the 51-cent dollar, HOURLY wage rates must be boosted. At present rates workers give their labor power without getting in exchange adequate means to support themselves and their families. To extend this kind of robbery over forty-five or forty-eight hours instead of forty, is not to end UNDER-PAYMENT.

To get the full flavor of Mr. Green’s capitalist-guided thinking, it is necessary to savor the very words he used before the Senate Committee. Referring to his proposed labor-management agreements providing the longer work-week, Green said: “Such agreements would make possible a substantial increase in the rate of production of goods and services, without a proportionate increase in the unit cost. Addition of one hour per day with overtime pay would not be inflationary because by making an uninterrupted use of overhead and equipment the per unit cost of the goods produced in the extra hour would more than absorb the overtime compensation.” If it weren’t so serious for a labor leader to talk and act like the capitalists, this would be very funny.

In the first place, Mr. Green assumes that the capitalists really want increased production to curb inflation. Does he not know that industrialists are actually CURTAILING production, as for instance the outstanding example of steel which is basic to all other production? Again, the phrase “without a proportionate increase in unit cost” accepts, by implication, the crooked argument of the capitalists that wage increases would raise unit costs and thus, you see, make price increases inevitable. Green here agrees with the NAM that profits must not be touched, God forbid; whereas it has been proved, notably by the United Auto Workers, that wages can be substantially increased without price boosts, and if profits would not be at their present peak, they would still be twice pre-war levels and even more.

The gem, though, in the above quotation is Green’s trying to sell the manufacturers the idea oif an extended work-week. As if they don’t know that “an uninterrupted use of overhead and equipment” for a longer day shows up on the profit side of the ledger. However, workers also know that the uninterrupted use of their brains and brawn for a longer day, is not conducive to long life nor to health and happiness, nor even to freedom.

Mr. Green seems to have forgotten the facts of the workers’ life. To point up still further Green’s twisted mind, one more of his clever ideas to appease the capitalists must be cited. In his list of “remedies for inflation,” which are in essence Mr. Truman’s luke-warm program, Mr. Green includes the re-establishing of the excess profits tax on corporations – but let’s not be too harsh on the poor capitalists. Let them have tax credits, if they make substantial reductions in the prices of their commodities. Of course, such a plan is open to all sorts of capitalist finagling.

What’s important in all this is that the leader of over seven million organized workers has a head stuffed full of capitalist-induced ideas, that he thinks more about appeasing the economic masters than about strengthening the effectiveness of the workers in their legitimate demands, that he furthers schemes absolutely harmful to labor – and that these over seven million workers still accept this man as their leader!

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