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Jack Wilson

Auto and Shipyard Workers:

Should Labor Surrender Extra Pay for Overtime?

(April 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 14, 5 April 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two important symptoms of the growing resentment among rank and file workers against the “appeasement of big business” policies of the top CIO leaders appeared this week.

The auto workers and shipyard workers unions called special conventions to take up the proposal adopted by the national CIO executive board to give up Sunday double-time pay.

Although the ostensible issue before these conventions is the overtime question, the fact is that the ranks of labor are quite as worried about the continual retreat of the CIO top leadership each time the industrial barons or their congressional spokesmen crack the whip as they are about the Sunday overtime problem.

Since Pearl Harbor the unions have relinquished the right to strike and their two demands for a union shop and a dollar a day wage increase have been stalled indefinitely. But big business has made no concessions. In fact, it keeps pressing for labor to make more and more sacrifices while it keeps raking in the profits.

Each time labor retreats the bosses demand another concession. And the growing realization that “you can’t do business with big business,” that appeasement doesn’t pay, is what is worrying the ranks of labor.

The crucial question before these two CIO conventions is to turn the ignoble retreat of the CIO leaders into a general offensive against the war profiteers.

The auto workers union should point out that General Motors, and not the auto workers union, made $200,000,000 profit last year.

The question of who benefits by giving up of Sunday double time has to be answered, too. The soldiers on the front lines aren’t going to get that money. The CIO workers would be glad to give it to them directly, if they could. Nor will the unemployed auto workers benefit.

Only General Motors will benefit. It will make more profit. Just as Bethlehem Steel will benefit in the shipyards. For the bosses will have to pay less wages and thus make more profits. Meanwhile labor would be taking a wage cut at a time when the cost of living is rapidly rising.

Business Week magazine, the mouthpiece of the industrialists, points put this week that the overtime issue is “just the beginning.” They point out, “it is merely a token move toward settlement of the real issue on labor.”

For after labor retreats on this, if it does, it will be asked to give up all wage demands.

Although the action of the CIO leaders in calling special conventions was done because of their fear of rank and file reactions against shoving an appeasement policy down their throats, a good precedent was established in calling union, conventions for consideration of crucial issues.

But that is not enough. In the past the CIO auto workers union realized that in order to have a truly democratic vote on vital questions a referendum of the entire union membership was necessary.

For example, while the St. Louis convention of the auto workers union in 1940 voted to assess each member one dollar for special organization work, the convention voted to submit its recommendation to a national referendum.

The convention clarified the issue. The referendum decided it. The overtime question in all CIO unions is certainly of vital importance and deserves the same careful consideration.

Unity of the CIO can be achieved only by solidarity behind a program adopted democratically, with the approval of the ranks.

The CIO ranks must, to safeguard themselves and their splendid unions, repudiate the appeasement policies of the present leadership. They must turn the fire on the war profiteers. And they must rally the whole labor movement, on these issues through democratic action within, the unions.

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