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Walter Jason

Big UAW Locals Call for Help to Miners;
Union Pays Medical Plan for Chrysler Men

(27 February 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 10, 6 March 1950, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT. Feb. 27 – At long last there is visible evidence, and more significantly, splendid action within the United Auto Workers (CIO) during the past weekend to show that the importance of the coal miners’ fight for all labor – above all, for the Chrysler strikers – is understood by the active ranks of the auto workers’ union.

Briggs Local 212, in line with the kind of militant tradition it has long established, has voted to send the coal miners $1,000 a month in food, during the remainder of the coal strike.

Another important act of union solidarity, the kind that built the CIO, was taken by Ford Local 600, the biggest local union in the world. By unanimous action of its general council, President Thomas Thompson made a radio address over one of Detroit’s largest stations Sunday, in which he called on the UAW locals to join Ford Local in sending truckloads of food to the coal miners.

Thompson’s plea was very effective because he spoke as a former coal miner. Ford Local 600 also sent letters to every local in the UAW to join in similar support of the coal miners.

The contrast between these actions and the silence of the Reuther leadership, as of this date, on the coal miners’ situation has created quite a stir in UAW circles, with many very sharp and unfavorable criticisms of the Reuther leadership being made – and not just by the remnants of the old anti-Reuther factions.

Question on Reuther

The idea is permeating the UAW ranks that unless the coal miners win, neither the Chrysler strikers today nor the General Motors tomorrow stand much of a chance of winning. There are far too many veterans of the 1937 days left in the UAW for the ranks to forget the great debt that the UAW owes the coal miners’ union for its tremendous support in the crucial sitdown strikes. Or to forget that the first contracts obtained at General Motors and Chrysler were negotiated by John L. Lewis.

Time and again the question is asked: Why doesn’t Walter Reuther speak out on the coal miners’ strike? A very good question!

As the Chrysler strike goes into its fifth week and the tensions caused by hardship and the red-tape procedures of city welfare irritate more and more strikers, the UAW faces a period of critical re-examination of its policies, and the link between the length of the Chrysler strike and the coal miners’ fight becomes clearer and clearer.

Last week the UAW leadership did one thing which was the first important action to win approval among the strikers. The international union announced that it was paying the Blue Cross monthly payment of all Chrysler strikers. While this will cost around $200,000, it is, a necessary and welcome expenditure. It shows the rest of the UAW where some of the strike assessment money is being spent and it relieves the anxiety of hospital bills for most of the strikers if personal misfortune should hit the family.

The mood of the UAW ranks was not helped any last week by the announcement of General Motors that it was cutting wages two cents an hour, under the provisions of the contract which permit this action when the cost-of-living index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a decline. GM sought to cover up this profit-making move (it made $600,000,000. profit in 1949) by also announcing an alleged car price cut, which no one takes seriously.

UAW militants are watching closely the results of the NLRB elections for a union shop among GM workers. The UAW denounced the method of the NLRB in conducting the elections, and charged that thousands of workers were deprived of their right to vote. The [no further text in printed edition]

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