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Walter Jason

Local Auto Union Votes Show
Militants on the Alert

(15 March 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 11, 15 March 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – The conclusion of a series of important local union elections in the United Auto Workers-CIO in this area revealed that there were no significant changes in the factional situation in this union.

Pro-Reuther forces won elections in key local unions which are usually considered weather vanes of the political temper and trends in the UAW. In Local 155, long a Stalinist stronghold, the Reuther forces succeeded in ousting John Anderson, leading Stalinist unionist, from his post as president. Last year Anderson survived a pro-Reuther victory that saw Nat Ganley, member of the national committee of the Stalinist party, defeated as business agent. This year Russell Leach, the pro-Reuther candidate, defeated Anderson by a few hundred votes.

At Dodge Local 3, Mike Novak and his slate were returned to office and in Chrysler Local 7 the Joe Hattley administration easily defeated the anti-Reuther bloc.

Test Mazey Strength

The election at Briggs Local 212 was closely watched by the entire UAW for it represented a major test of strength for supporters of Emil Mazey, UAW secretary-treasurer,against a combination of Stalinist and Socialist Workers Party supporters. In spite of the fact that a dirty Jew-baiting campaign against Ken Morris, the pro-Mazey candidate for president, featured the campaign, the slate headed by Morris won handily. It was a triumph for just decent unionism against the irresponsible factionalism of the unprincipled bloc of Stalinists and SWPers. At no time did the anti-Mazey bloc repudiate the vicious anti-Semitism which prevailed among the backward workers who followed them.

At Ford Local 400, two groups, both part of the Reuther tendency, fought for control of the local in the elections. The Musilli slate failed to obtain a majority by a slight margin,and run-offs for important posts are scheduled.

At Ford 600, the biggest local union in the UAW, there are three candidates for president at the present time. Percy Lewellyn, former regional director, is the candidate of the Stalinists; Tommy Thompson, incumbent president, apparently has the backing of Walter Reuther, UAW president, while Gene Prado, is being backed by Emil Mazey. What inner-factional developments take place before the actual elections is anyone’s guess. The fact is that a major test of strength between the pro- and anti-Reuther caucuses will again occur.

Although these local union elections have not attracted the attention they did last year, when Reuther was on the ascendancy, the two major factions did conduct strenuous campaigns, and the Addes-Stalinist bloc did make a serious effort to come back into power. In some key locals, like Packard 190, they did manage to retain control, but it is significant that there, Whitey Urban, the re-elected president, was the first union officer to announce after the recent national convention that he was signing the “no-Communist” affidavit under the Taft-Hartley law.

The expectation of the Stalinist bloc that their radical phrase-mongering on wage demands would bring them back into control of local unions did not materialize. As a matter of fact, in some local union elections, like Chrysler 7, the propaganda of the Stalinist bloc was written to appeal to the conservative workers. As usual the Stalinists, playing both ends against the middle policy did not fool many auto workers.

The turnout of the workers in balloting was considered good, in view of the terrible weather prevailing, and in some cases was even better than last year. The UAW militants have not gone to sleep by a long shot.

Most of the election literature was of an ordinary trade union character, with such issues as the Wallace candidacy for presidency being avoided, and with the political significance of the elections more indirectly concerned with the pro- and anti-Reuther fight than last year.

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