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Walter Jason

UAW Prepares Showdown
with Big Three in Auto

(1 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 6, 9. February 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Feb. 1 – In an effort to hasten negotiations with the auto corporations on wage demands, the UAW-CIO leadership advanced the meeting time of the scheduled Chrysler union delegate conference to February 14 and 15. This will enable the UAW-CIO to immediately open wage discussions with Chrysler, and test the reaction of the auto industry to the third round of wage demands since the war. The idea of the UAW-CIO leadership is to see if Chrysler may be a “soft spot,” among the big three, before taking on General Motors in the decisive struggle.

At the Chrysler conference, the delegates will be presented two alternate propositions. Norman Mathews, Chrysler department director, has been reported to be recommending the straight 25 cents wage increase,and 5 cents for medical care. Walter P. Reuther, UAW-CIO president, might ask the Chrysler delegates to adopt a program similar to that of the recent General Motors conference, which included 15 cents straight increase, 10 cents per hour for a pension plan, and 5 cents for hospitalization and medical care.

Unfortunately, the Chrysler delegates will be unable, under the contract in effect now, to take up the vital question of eliminating section 6 of the contract, known as “company security.” Also Section 2, under which management reserves the full right to determine all production. These sections have jeopardized the standing and work of the union stewards. However, many burning wage inequalities and classifications are subject to change, and the delegates are expected to devote considerable attention to these problems.

Reuther Heads Talks

The importance of the move against Chrysler is emphasized by the fact that Reuther is going to head the union negotiators. Meanwhile, at General Motors the corporation has shown that its arrogant and autocratic attitude towards the UAW-CIO hasn’t change one bit. The corporation tried to force its own insurance plan down the throats of the GM workers without even attempting to bargain with the union, as the supplemental agreement of 1947 calls for. As a result, the UAW-CIO was able to get the NLRB to force the corporation to stop this flagrant violation of collective bargaining procedure by a temporary court order restraining GM.

Another indication of GM’s attitude is the recent demand of C.E. Wilson, GM president, for a 45-hour week in the auto industry. Likewise, GM officials have declared they are going to ask for other concessions from the union! Union delegates from General Motors shops will meet again on February 24 to talk over the entire contract with GM which expires on April 28.

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