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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(29 November 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 49 (should be 48), 29 November 1943, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

WLB Davis Pulls Another Fast One

The War Labor Board, under the lash of the little patent lawyer, William L. Davis, continues its sniping at the United Mine Workers. In a seven-to-five decision, according to the New York Times, the board “cuts mine pay in past thirty-one cents a week.” (It is really thirty and a half cents.) Still firing at the UMWA from ambush, the WLB and its malignant chairman, Davis, strongarm a little “victory” in the form of chiseling a few cents a week off the pay of the coal diggers.

We don’t pretend to understand what the WLB is talking about in its new decision announced in a letter to Ickes. It had to do with the method used for calculating overtime pay. It is claimed by the board that Ickes’ method of calculating overtime pay was not in conformity with the “requirements of the stabilization program.”

The board says that, in the Ickes agreement, overtime was based on the straight hourly rate of $1.00 but that it should have been based on an hourly rate of 97.14 cents. This two cents-plus, it seems, if allowed to stand, would wreck the “stabilization program.” In order to “hold the line” against inflation, the WLB reduces the pay of the miners thirty and a half cents a week. We can’t say right now just how that half cent is going to be worked out. Perhaps the coal companies will take the half cent one week and the miners the next week. Davis told the reporters that the miners, are “getting more money for more work, and we’ve always said they could do this.” Davis went on to say that the miners “wanted $2.00 extra pay for nothing.” That is, according to this juggler of patent rights for big corporations, digging coal is getting paid for nothing! But tricking some little inventor out of his patent right and delivering them to a big corporation, is doing something.

Furthermore, it is nothing new to say to workers that they can have more money if they put in longer hours. The bosses have always been for that: earn more by working longer. What we want under capitalism is more money and less work. Under capitalism that is the only wage slogan that makes sense. Otherwise, all we get is more profit for the bosses and a lower living standard for the workers.

The Ten-Hour Day at Bell Aircraft

The Bell Aircraft Corporation has decided not to initiate two ten-hour shifts in place of the present three-shift system. The company says that the plan “seems impracticable.” Labor has known this for over a hundred years. That’s why we began the struggle against the sunrise-to-sunset day in the early days of the nineteenth century.

That’s why we began the militant struggles for the eight-hour day in the eighties of the last century. And that is why we began thinking of the six-hour day and the thirty-hour week. Labor demanded successively twelve hours’ pay for a ten-hour day, ten hours’ pay for an eight-hour day. Now we have to think again about eight hours’ pay for a six-hour day!

We have to do this because employers all over the country are scheming to get back to the sunrise-to-sunset day. That is really what a ten-hour day is right now. Or, more precisely, in the winter, it is a dark-to-dark day.

We don’t know by what means the Bell Corporation discovered the impracticability of the ten-hour shift, but we are of the opinion that the company had a hunch that labor is smarter now than the workers were, say, in 1815.

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