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Jack Wilson

Company Security Means
Insecurity for Unions!

UAW Must Not Yield to Union-Smashing Demands

(24 December 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 52, 24 December 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Just before the opening of the hearings in Washington this week by President Truman’s Fact-Finding Board on the auto strike, General Motors made public its full program for settling the strike.

This program constitutes a grave indictment of GM and the entire system of which it is such an important part. For GM openly advocates a return to the Hoover days of wage cuts, depressions, speed-up, union-busting and economic chaos.

It isn’t strange either that not a single big newspaper, which has moaned loudly about the “unreasonableness” of labor, has a word to say about the GM program, which would guarantee industrial anarchy and depression.

GM demands the open shop, the approval of the speed-up, the elimination of the maintenance of union membership, “security” measures, a specific guarantee of the “rights and prerogatives of management” and an “anti-vilification” agreement.

GM also demands that “wages, hours of employment and other conditions of employment are the ONLY matters which are subject to collective bargaining.”

This last demand has been a major point of dispute during the strike because the UAW has proved time and again that wages can be discussed seriously only in connection with PRICES and PROFITS.

The UAW has insisted that GM OPEN ITS BOOKS so that the UAW and, the consumers know exactly what wages can be paid and what prices should be marked for GM autos. Unless these factors are taken into account, GM could pass any wage boost to the consumers, and thus rob the auto workers on the market through prices as well as in the shop on wages.

UAW and the People

By now large sections of the people, as well as the auto workers themselves, have become convinced that wages can be discussed seriously only in connection with prices and profits. The UAW won much sympathy in the GM strike struggle precisely because it hammered home this point. Now GM wants the UAW to surrender this excellent program which placed the corporation in an obviously vulnerable position.

Likewise, GM is terribly anxious to avoid having a public inspection of its books, for contained therein is the full story of the fabulous war profits of this corporation.

The UAW challenges the theory of “free enterprise” by making this demand, for it has learned that the functioning of the economic system is a matter of national concern and not just the private property of a handful of powerful industrialists like the du Ponts.

GM puts its demand for an open shop in this fine language: “The union and the corporation shall recognize the rights of the employees and applicants for employment to elect or refuse membership in any union, to maintain or resign from such union ...” etc. Of course, this is the old technique of divide and rule, which GM wants to place into operation.

Combine this proposal with the one asking for “security” measures against union militants and shop stewards, and for recognition of the “rights and prerogatives of management to fire and hire” and we see the full-scale plan of GM to smash the union as an independent Organization of workers within a plant. Or, more exactly, to turn it into a company union! For under the GM proposals the shop stewards would have no power, union militants protesting policy would be subject to immediate discharge and the straw bosses would reign supreme within the shops.

For a New Speed-Up

The reason for these proposals is clear from another infamous demand: “That the international union will withdraw objection to local unions negotiating and agreeing to pay-plans which provide for rewarding individuals for increased productive effort.”

This is fancy language for the speed-up. GM wants the UAW to agree to the speed-up! Every auto worker knows what this means. There is incentive pay for increased production. Then comes the inevitable cut in rates, and an auto worker finds himself doing twice the work for the same meager pay. The whole history of the auto industry is a struggle of the auto workers against the injustices of this brutal system.

Since the UAW provides some protection against this system of wage slavery, GM wants to break it or turn it into a company union. Otherwise, its chance of making more fantastically high profits is jeopardized when the worker in the shop is protected partially from more intensified exploitation by his union.

The final and insidious demand of GM is that “the union will make good its pledge to eliminate personal attacks, false accusations and vilification of management through official union publications, handbills,” etc. This is a TOTALITARIAN DEMAND.

GM knows that it is very well protected by its courts and the laws of the land from slander and libel. This is not involved in the present demand. What GM wants is the UAW leadership to play cop for it within the union movement. It wants the UAW to agree to a suppression of FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OF PRESS. For example, union members call C.E. Wilson a rich, arrogant, ruthless, power-mad capitalist.

This is an accurate, description. But C.E. Wilson considers that a “vilification.” if he had his way, any union member talking like that would be thrown out. But as a matter of principle, any union man has a right to his own views about management and to express those views. C.E. Wilson wants GM workers to be allowed to refer to him Only as a “noble industrial statesman and citizen.” Thus we see American industry seeking to introduce the identical methods of the Hitler regime to control the thought and speech of everyone everywhere.

From beginning to end the GM proposals illustrate only one thing: the utter bankruptcy of monopoly capitalists to solve the problems of the day. The program of this ruling class in the United States is totally reactionary and can bring only depression and chaos.

There was only one GM plant where the du Ponts and Wilson carried out their program in full, one place where they had speed-up, an open shop and no criticism of management. That was the GM plant in NAZI GERMANY. Just as GM is turning to politics calculated to bring that condition in America, so the UAW must turn to politics guaranteed to block this road to fascism. The UAW has to reject the GM demands on the economic front. The UAW must enter the political scene to put a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT into power to stop fascism and to solve its economic problems. There is no other choice. The present strike is only the first battle in this war.

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