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Walter Jason

UAW Struggle at Decisive Stage

Buick Local Vote Handicaps Union Leadership in Negotiations

(31 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 22, 31 May 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, May 24 – The wage struggle of the UAW-CIO reached a decisive stage this week, when GM offered a six to 10 cents an hour wage increase, and Chrysler corporation began negotiations again with the union.

The threat of a strike at GM lost a little of its potency when five GM locals, including the big Buick Local 599 voted against strike action at special meetings Sunday. The only explanation for the action of the Buick Local leadership is that they were engaged in factional sniping at the Reuther leadership.

Emil Mazey, acting president of the UAW-CIO, went to the Local 599 meeting Sunday and personally delivered a strong plea for a strike vote. This local, with 15,000 members, is a key union in Flint. Certainly, the rank and file at the meeting had every right in the world to be concerned with the sacrifices entailed in another strike. However, the union leadership had the responsibility of supporting Mazey’s plea for strike action.

It is ironical that some of the people who have been talking mighty big talk about a general strike in the auto industry did not throw their support for a strike vote in Buick Local 599!

Chrysler Situation

The GM situation is most important for any pattern set in GM would probably be followed by Chrysler. The solid mass picket lines at Chrysler have shown that corporation that the workers are determined to win a real victory. The reaction of the UAW-CIO to a company plan to use foremen for inventory work in the shops also demonstrated how serious the union is in this fight.

When reports reached the UAW-CIO that foremen were going to take inventory, the UAW-CIO leadership immediately branded this as strike-breaking, and warned the corporation of the consequences.

The foremen’s union also took a strong stand against doing this kind of work. If Chrysler tries to go through with their plan, serious trouble may result, for the UAW-CIO is determined to smash any strike-breaking. In a leaflet to all foremen, the UAW-CIO said as much.

Chrysler and the UAW-CIO agreed to meet on Wednesday May 25 fora resumption of wage talks, after Governor Sigler called both parties into a secret session last Sunday night in Detroit.

By his repeated threats “to maintain law and order” at any cost, Governor Sigler is trying to intimidate union leaders, for there is no violence. Only the company has tried to provoke it, and if Chrysler succeeds in provoking trouble, Sigler,who is their man, has announced he’ll help the companies by “maintaining law and order,” which means,in plain language, to protect any strike-breakers.

An example of the kind of argument used at Flint against a GM strike vote was that of Roger Townsend, recording secretary of Local 599. “If Buick guys could walk the picket line 113 days in 1946, the Chrysler workers can walk for two months.”

Whether or not anybody at anytime walked any picket line for any amount of time to win a strike struggle, Chrysler workers can, and are ready, if necessary, to walk for more than two months to defend their union, and get a wage increase. That is not the problem. Chrysler workers alone, no matter how militant, cannot defeat Wall Street single-handed. It would take even more than the whole UAW-CIO to defeat Wall Street. It would take the backing of the entire labor movement.

In spite of the additional difficulties created by the refusal of five GM locals to approve a strike, the UAW-CIO leadership is trying to get a decent wage settlement. This week is decisive for the outcome of the fight of the UAW-CIO against the auto industry.

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