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Walter Jason

UAW Sets May 12 Date
for Strike Against Chrysler

(1 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 19, 10 May 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Mich., May 1Unless Chrysler corporation makes a satisfactory wage concession by May 12, the 75,000 workers employed in its various plants will be called out, it was announced by the policy committee of the United Automobile Workers-CIO, headed by Emil Mazey, acting president of the union.

Setting of a strike date was in sharp contrast to the action of Philip Murray, CIO president, who capitulated to the steel corporations’ refusal to give any wage concessions to the steel workers. It is a reflection of the difference between the UAW-CIO, a union with a militant, democratic tradition, in which the leadership is more responsive to the needs of the rank and file, and the bureaucratically dominated United Steel Workers of America.

As a preliminary to the strike announcement, the UAW-CIO published large advertisements in the Detroit newspapers showing that Chrysler could easily pay the union demands of 30 cents an hour, reduce the price of its cars $145 a model, and still make between six to eight per cent profit on its investment.

These advertisements were clipped and used extensively in the shops, giving the rank and file a clearer idea of the issues involved in the wage demands. Also, some hard-hitting leaflets entitled, The Six Cent Insult, were distributed. These exposed the corporation’s wage policies, and quoted from the arrogant speeches of management during negotiations. They also showed that management had given itself extensive wage increases in 1947.

Although the announced lay-offs of Plymouth workers due ostensibly to steel shortages, the pressure of the cost of living, the poor financial state of most workers tended to give the workers a mood of uncertainty, it was noticeable that a tightening up of ranks, and the beginning of a strike sentiment was developing. The truth of the matter is that, although no one wants a strike, the refusal of Chrysler to grant an obviously indicated wage increase, is putting the workers into a fighting mood.

The fact that more and more brief shutdowns are occurring in various shops reflects the growing tensions and restlessness of the autoworkers, squeezed between the inflationary cost of living, and the drive of management for more production, that is, the speed-up.

The first major strike should occur at Chrysler, unless the union’s wage demands are settled satisfactorily.

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