Wildcat! The wartime strike wave in the auto industry - Ed Jennings

Patriotic?  Auto workers supporting World War II

Ed Jennings' account of the widespread movement of wildcat strikes in the United States auto industry during the period of the union-agreed no strike pledge.

From Radical America, Volume 9, # 4-5. July-August, 1975.

Liberal historians rarely show much understanding of the tension between the leadership and the rank and file of the labor movement. For these historians, the leadership be comes virtually synonymous with the labor movement. The Reuthers, the Dubinskys, and the Lewises emerge as the source of labor's greatest successes, while the rank and file becomes little more than a "mass" responding to its leaders. This approach to labor history leaves more questions than it answers. It does little to explain, for example, the thousands of workers who created local industrial unions before John L. Lewis ever thought of the Committee of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Still less does it explain the willingness of many workers to defy their employers and their union leaders by engaging in wildcat strikes. (1)

This inability to distinguish between the leadership and the rank and file is the cause of the inadequate historiography of the labor movement during the Second World War. Liberal historians have seen only the emotional and patriotic speeches of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and CIO leaders, the examples of wartime labor-management cooperation and the affirmations and reaffirmations of the no-strike pledge. Labor's role during the war, according to one historian, was "one of energetic cooperation with the government, with industry and with itself." (2)

If such a description were accurate, corporations and unions alike would look back on these years as a "golden era" of labor relations. That they do not immediately raises questions about the accuracy of this description. In 1945, the Ford Motor Company concluded that the peaceful relations which it expected from its 1941 contract with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) "have not materialized."(3) A year earlier R. 3. Thomas, wartime president of the UAW, complained that "the rank and file is getting out of hand" and also that "there have been too many wildcat strikes." (4)

The reality was far different from what the liberal description would warrant. In spite of the accommodationist union leadership, the no-strike pledge, and governmental threats, more strikes occurred in 1944 than in 1937, the year of the great CIO victories in the automobile and steel industries. (5) In the same year and in spite of the same factors, a majority of automobile workers participated in wildcat strikes. (6) Conflict, as well as cooperation, characterized the wartime labor movement.

Correcting the liberal description does not mean going to the opposite extreme, The war years were not ones of industrial chaos or impending revolution. The vast majority of workers did not strike, and only a minority actively opposed the union. Certainly, American workers did not oppose the war; their overwhelming support for it came out of their hatred of Hitler and their fear of fascism.

This article will concentrate on the wartime experience of the automobile industry and its union, the United Auto mobile Workers (UAW-CIO), neither the union nor the industry was typical of the wartime labor movement. No other industry saw a majority of its workers participate in wildcat strikes, and no other union experienced such a large and persistent rank-and-file revolt. But, if neither was typical, both were extremely important. Before the war, one in every seven employed persons in the U.S. was dependent, directly or indirectly, on the production of automobiles, (7) the converted auto industry became the heart of the nation's wartime military production.

When the war began, the UAW was the world's largest union. Recognition from the auto makers had come only after years of struggle, and to many workers, the UAW represented the best elements of working-class militancy. Within the labor movement, and especially within the CIO, its influence was great. This combination of the nation's largest and most important wartime industry and the nation's largest and possibly most militant union was potentially explosive.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor dramatically transformed the automobile industry; the automaker's resistance to conversion vanished overnight. Automobile assembly ended immediately and the production of planes, guns, tanks, and military equipment began soon after, Nineteen forty- two became known as "the year of the great conversion." (8)

Unemployment proved to be the first effect of conversion. The termination of auto production and the highly skilled nature of the retooling process allowed the companies to lay off thousands of workers. At General Motors alone, employment dropped from 197,000 in December, 1941 to 148,000 in March, 1942. (9) Signs of discontent appeared among the workers, According to one reporter "Detroit workers are sore and resentful. Feelings are more bitter than they have been at any time since the sit-down strikes." (10) Only the knowledge that the layoffs were temporary kept the workers under control. Employment began to increase during the summer of 1942 and by the end of the year, surpassed pre-war levels. It continued to rise until November, 1943, when the total reached 824,000, 70 percent higher than the 1941 average. (11)

Detroit became a boom town overnight as thousands of workers poured in to take jobs in the converted auto plants. Many of these new workers were women attracted to the war plants by patriotic appeals, high wages, and the general shortage of male workers. Most had families and had previously been taught that their "place" was at home, but now they had to be convinced that their place was on the job. Thousands of women eventually took war jobs, including "men's" jobs, and "the Riveter" became a familiar figure. The percentage of women in the Detroit labor force rose from 23.1 percent in 1940 to 32.6 percent in 1944. When the war ended many of these women were thrown out of their jobs even though the vast majority wanted to continue working. (12)

The largest group of new workers came from outside the Detroit area. Thousands of black and white workers headed for the Motor City from rural Michigan and from other Midwestern and Southern cities. The population of the Detroit metropolitan area rose 22 percent from 1940 to 1943. (13)

This massive immigration placed enormous strains on an already overcrowded city. The best description of life in wartime Detroit appeared in the UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER in response to an article in a local magazine describing the "easy" life of the war-plant worker:

"Let Mr. Campbell rise at 6 a.m. in a frame house, unpainted for years inside and out; let him gulp a hasty breakfast, and then lunch box under his arm, rush out to wait for a crowded DSR bus; let him linger at the curb while several jammed buses go by until he can press his corpulence into one that affords a few inches of space; then let him mellow in the excitement of a noisy bumpy ride over Detroit's cavernous streets.

After having displayed his dog-tag and punched his time, let Mr. Campbell get into the swing of dynamic Detroit by eight or nine hours in the exhilarating air of a foundry, or an equal period under a welder's mask, or perhaps a day of light work screwing nuts or bolts until his eyes are bleary, no slackening up a bit during the eighth or ninth hour of course; no wasting of any of the excitement.

Home at the end of the day in that enchanting bus; this time the excitement won't be so keen, what with most of the tourists grimy, groggy, and sullen; wash up; a stiff drink of water; after that, there are a few hours of relaxation amid the salubrious summer aromas of Hamtramck, Del-Ray or other blighted areas.

You can hunt for an hour or two, if you prefer. Mr. Campbell. The garbage has been accumulating in the alley for weeks, perhaps a month, Rats have grown fat and numerous.

There are other aspects of exciting Detroit you might discover, Harvey, Send your kids to a school where they can sit with fifty other youngsters in a single classroom; spend a carefree sultry Sunday afternoon at spacious Belle Isle, you might have the additional excitement of running into a race riot induced by overcrowding and frayed nerves..."(14)

Conditions in the towns and housing projects constructed especially for war workers were even worse, In a letter to Henry Ford, Brendan Sexton, then president of the UAW local at Willow Run (Ford's giant bomber plant just outside Detroit), noted:

"Those who have lived in the communities around Willow Run have slept in barracks or "Jerry-built" shacks. They have waded through mud to shop and to get to work. They have stood in line to buy badly prepared, generally overpriced food.

They have waited in line for a bus every morning and have been herded to work in vehicles which they call "cattle cars."

They have lived in communities suffering from an almost complete lack of decent recreational and community facilities; and where medical and dental care often could not be bought at any price.

Many have been subjected to scorn as "hillbilly" by the ignorant and in numerous places, they and their children have been socially ostracized be cause they were newcomers." (15)

This, then, was wartime Detroit. Harsh, uncompromising, and complex, it challenged even the most experienced city dwellers. Conditions were similar, though never as extreme, in other centers of the auto industry throughout the country.

The coming of the war also transformed the whole frame work of labor-management relations in the industry. Through a series of strikes and massive organizing drives, the UAW had proven itself to be a permanent part of the automobile industry, if ever a union had been built through militancy and struggle, it was the UAW. The no-strike pledge changed all this.

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, UAW leaders, along with other AFL and CIO leaders, pledged not to strike against war production for the duration of the hostilities. This pledge transformed the trade unions into virtual company unions. They still possessed the power to negotiate, but not the power to act against hostile policies, this proved to be crippling to the UAW, which had always depended so much on the strike, as one local UAW newspaper put it:

"Labor was like a powerful prize fighter whose hands are tied behind his back and who is confronted by an inferior opponent. Since the prize fighter is bound and all but helpless, the opponent can take liberties he would not dream of taking under usual ring conditions." (16)

Would workers be treated fairly by industry and government? Would their union leaders fight for them? Would the no-strike pledge prove to be a hindrance? Most auto workers seem to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude to these questions. The number of strikes in the industry declined drastically during the first nine months of 1942. By the end of the year, it had become obvious to many rank-and-filers that fair treatment was an illusion, that their union leaders would not fight for them, and that the no-strike pledge was a straitjacket of which management continually took advantage, At that point, the strike wave in the automobile industry began.

The strike wave exploded over the industry early in 1943 and quickly dispelled the public image of the happy, contented war worker. During the first two weeks of January, front-page headlines in the DETROIT NEWS announced:


The strikes tapered off toward the end of the month, quickly began again, and continued intermittently through out the year. The annual total reached 153, three times the number during the previous year, or one almost every other day. Slightly more than one-fourth of the workers in the industry participated in these wildcats. (18)

Strikes increased in 1944 and soon reached a crisis point as Detroit became the "strike capital" of the nation. Speaking before a Congressional investigating committee, George Romney, then managing director of the Automotive Council for War Production, asserted: "There have been more strikes and work stoppages and more employees directly involved during the first 11 months of 1944 than in any other period of the industry's history." (19) He also said that there were more strikes involving more workers in 1944 than in "all the shameful sit-down strikes of 1937", and further complained that these statistics underestimated the problem because they did not include the 800 strikes not recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (20)

These statistics also show that a substantial majority of auto workers participated in the wildcat strikes. In 1944 alone, slightly more than 50 percent of the workers took part in a strike. (21) A conservative estimate would place the total number of auto workers who participated in a wildcat strike sometime during the war, at 60 to 65 percent, (22) Those auto workers who continued to honor the no-strike pledge, and this included the whole UAW leadership, formed a minority within their own union, The pledge was destroyed in the UAW, not by debates or resolutions, but by open revolt.

The strikes continued up to and through V-E and V-J days, but the approach of victory did little to stem the discontent, When the war ended the UAW leadership, freed of the no-strike pledge, hastened to authorize any and every strike, The final months of 1945 saw the beginning of the General Motors strike, the opening round in the fight American workers would wage to recover what they had lost during the war.

During the Second World War, strikers generally stood alone, They faced "not only the employer and the government (including the armed forces), but also their own top bureaucrats and almost all Allied labor leaders and coordinating labor councils." (23) Strikers were fired by the employers, the government, and the union, (24) As early as January, 1943 auto workers were fired and informally blacklisted from further defense work, (25) Some companies proved reluctant because of the labor shortage, to fire one-time strikers, but few showed any reluctance in firing strike organizers or frequent participants, Despite these dangers, auto workers continued to strike throughout the war years.

The wildcats in auto varied greatly as to size, cause, duration, and form. The average (median) strike involved 350 to 400 workers, while the mean average rose from approximately 850 in 1942 to 1,700 in 1944. Some strikes included as few as six workers and others as many as 20,000. In 1944 alone, there were five strikes of over 10,000 workers and two of over 20,000. (26) The length of the average strike increased as the war continued. In 1942, the average wildcat lasted 1.5 days; by 1944, it had increased to 3.5. (27) Some strikes lasted only a day, while others went a week or more.

Strike causes also varied greatly. Some seemed frivolous; most were intensely serious. One of the less "serious" (to those who have never worked the second shift!) started over the fact that they were getting off at 1 30 and the beer gardens closed at 2:30. They did not get a chance to get to the beer gardens. These were women! (28) The most frequent cause of strikes appears to have been discipline. Workers often struck when management discharged stewards or other workers. Other common causes included poor or hazardous working conditions, long hours, and high production standards. (29)

Harriet Arnow describes one of these walkouts in her brilliantly perceptive novel THE DOLLMAKER. An auto- worker fresh from Appalachia told of "a walkout in the paint department after more than twenty had passed out with the heat; not just the heat either; the ventilating system had gone bad and the guys said the place was full of fumes, so full that Bender (a militant worker) had got the whole trim department to walk out in protest." Another wildcat took place at the Ford Willow Run plant when women workers refused to wear a company-prescribed suit, "a blue cover all thing with three buttons on the back with a drop suit." When the company began disciplining women who showed up without the suit, the rest of the women struck, and that, apparently, was the end of the suit.

Conflict over wages occurred less often than might be expected. Apparently, the high wages in the automobile industry, a result of the long hours of overtime, minimized this as a factor. A list of strikes in all automotive plants during December, 1944 and January, 1945 shows only four (out of a hundred and eighteen) that could be attributed to wages. (30) Harry Elmer Barnes reported a somewhat higher percentage at Ford, but still only one of four or five chief causes. (31)

Strike tactics also varied, with the walkout being most common. (32) Workers would march through their department or plant, and then move outside. If the next shift was arriving, and the dispute not yet settled, a picket line might be set up. The workers remained off the job until the dispute got settled or the union convinced them to return to work.

Strikers also used sit-downs and barricades, though some what less frequently. More commonly, workers would simply put down their tools, stop working, and stand around until the company recognized their grievance. (33) Barricades were used occasionally, but always with the greatest effect. At Ford, using a modified form, "4,000 workers in the production foundry staged a riot. They surrounded the superintendent's office and threw large steel castings at the office windows of the superintendent and his aides. Plant protection men had to escort the superintendent off the grounds under armed guard." (34) Occasionally, sympathy strikes developed. At Ford, ten percent of the 250-odd wildcats in 1943 were sympathy stoppages. (35) Occasionally, workers heard about strikes in other departments, plants, or companies and decided, independently, to strike in sympathy.

Once a strike began it often followed a somewhat stylized course of development. As one automobile worker described it:

"First day, everybody would just simply go home. Second day, start milling around the local union and the arguments would start something like this, "Well you know we're on an illegal strike, companies never going to give anything until we get back to work." Third day, the International officers would begin stirring themselves, under the phone calls and pressure from management to get in over there and start doing something...."

On the succeeding day, usually, the more militant guys would be feeling that they better get back in or they'd be the particular victims of the wildcats, they'd get discharged." (36)

The following day presumably saw the end of the strike as the company made some concessions under rank-and-file and union pressure or some workers were fired. If the latter occurred a new and even larger strike would often be triggered. Not all of the wildcats actually followed this pat tern exactly, but it appears to be an accurate general description.

After a strike began the strike leaders would organize meetings "to keep up the morale of those that were out." At these meetings the "workers would get a chance to denounce the local union officers, if they didn't seem militant enough, or more particularly the local president, or the International man if he had sufficient stomach to show up." These were not official meetings and were "almost always declared illegal.... They were not organized and they remained wildcat strikes and wildcat meetings." (37)

Rank-and-file leaders emerged during the strikes, and many of them subsequently were elected officers of their local unions. In one instance, Larry Yost, a worker at the Ford Rouge plant, led what one historian called "perhaps the worst wildcat strike of the whole period. . . . Involving some 5,000 men in the aircraft engine building on March 14, 1944. They barricaded the entrance and roads around the building, staged a general riot, and stole the case histories of several leading UAW agitators from labor relations files." (38) Yost was then elected vice-president of the aircraft unit, and subsequently served as a delegate to the 1944 UAW convention, where he was a leader in the fight against the no-strike pledge. In some locals where there were a number of strikes and the elected officers vehemently opposed them, the rank-and-file leaders became the unofficial but de-facto leadership.

Where local officials openly or covertly supported strikes, they retained their authority despite the efforts of International UAW leaders to oust them. In one such strike at Kelsey Hayes said:

"they just couldn't get these guys back to work, One set of bureaucrats after another would go to that local to get these guys back to work, and after they'd make their long speech, the question is, "what do you say, Moon (that was the president of their local), what do you want us to do Moon." They listened to Moon Mullins, they didn't listen to Walter Reuther, R,J, Thomas, or Frankensteen or Addes or anybody else." (39)

When local officials were removed from office by the International for supporting strikes, they were invariably re-elected. This happened in part because of the strong traditions of local autonomy and rank-and-file democracy in the UAW (which the International was just beginning to restrict), but also because the workers resisted the International's inflexible opposition to all strikes. As one worker put it, "The only language they (the auto companies) understand is the language of the strike, and, I say, let's give it to them." (40)

Little is known about the methods used to organize the wildcats, but it should be obvious that some form of informal organization must have existed to permit workers to carry out hundreds of wildcat strikes in the face of such powerful opposition from the government, the auto companies, and the union. Some have argued that the war destroyed the "primary work groups" which facilitate the organization of "unofficial" strikes, but this is only partially true. (41) The pre-war work groups must have been largely disrupted by the war and the draft, but they appear to have been quickly replaced. Apparently the tremendous conflicts, tensions, and problems of the war years quickened the development of these informal ties, and thus a process which normally required several years took a year or less. The development of these rudimentary "organizations" permitted workers, using their own resources, to function outside and at times against the trade union structure.

The strikes spread unevenly through the industry, some companies experienced more than others; within companies, some plants had more, At the Briggs Motor Co., there were 28 strikes in 1943 and 114 in 1944. (42) Timken-Detroit Axle had 36 stoppages in the 15-month period ending December 31, 1944, The most strike-plagued of the auto companies, Ford, saw 773 strikes between the signing of the UAW contract in 1941 and the end of the war, (43) This averages to one almost every other day!

Most auto companies experienced some strikes. The list of the 118 strikes in December, 1944 and January, 1945 reveals the following totals: Packard 7, Briggs 16, Ford 29 (including numerous small ones), General Motors 14, and Chrysler 30 (including numerous smaller ones). (44) Some companies, such as Briggs and Ford, where management was intensely and historically hostile to labor, had an exceptional number of strikes. Others, especially the smaller parts suppliers, had few. All of the Big Three and most of the major independents had sizable numbers of strikes.

Most strikes took place in or around Detroit. (45) Slightly less than one-half of the workers in the industry worked in the immediate area, and it was not surprising that the strike wave would center there. (46) Other factors were al so important. The pre-war organizing drives and strikes (GM 1937, Chrysler 1939, and Ford 1941) took place in the Detroit area, and these workers became very experienced in the use of direct action, Also, the tensions and frustrations of wartime living were worse in Detroit than in other areas of the industry. The Motor City had more than its share of overcrowding, racial problems, and poor transportation. The city looked like a keg of dynamite ready to explode, (47) Third, Detroit was a one-industry town. This acted to generalize the discontent throughout the city. Similarly, arbitrary management policies affected thousands of workers in a general way. Finally, Detroit was a center of radical anti-war organizations. Groups such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Party, though rather small in numbers, exhorted auto workers to oppose the no-strike pledge and to strike if necessary. This helped create an atmosphere in which the idea of striking became accept able to many workers in the area.

There is little evidence of any special participation in the wildcats by either women or black workers. Newspaper stories provide few accounts of women's participation in the strikes despite the fact that the number of women working in the auto plants had increased more than 50% over pre-war levels. (48) Similarly, there are few recorded instances of women leading wildcats, but this certainly indicates more about the male workers' prejudices than about the women's enthusiasm for leadership.

Black workers generally were confined to the worst jobs in the auto plants. The foundries, especially, contained large numbers of blacks, and these areas often became the site of numerous wildcats. Black workers appear to have participated equally with white workers in these strikes. The thrust of black organizing, however, was directed more against general working conditions, and this occasionally led to conflict with the white workers. (49)

The typical wildcat strike in the automobile industry thus involved 350 to 400 workers, lasted three to four days, and took the form of a simple walkout and picket line. Caused by poor working conditions or dissatisfaction over management policies, its organization was minimal. It most likely took place in one of the Detroit - area plants of the Big Three, but could have occurred anywhere in the industry. Auto workers apparently felt that the strikes got results and that a small victory or possible defeat seemed prefer able to the endless delays of the War Labor Board. (50)

Few of the wildcats fit the description of a "typical" strike exactly, some differing greatly, others slightly. While none of the following strikes were "typical", they are useful as examples of the intense conflict in the wartime automobile industry.

The headline in the DETROIT NEWS for March 8, 1944 announced U.S. SIFTS FORD MELEE AS 250 BEAT GUARD (51) The article went on to describe a "disturbance" the previous evening in which 250 River Rouge Ford employees in the aircraft unit beat a plant protection guard when he at tempted to intervene in a dispute between the workers and a Ford labor-relations man. The latter escaped, whereupon the workers moved to his office and "knocked over desks, destroyed documents, emptied files and broke windows." The disturbance continued for two hours until the workers finally dispersed.

That caused such a seemingly irrational outburst? Two Ford workers, ex-Marines and war veterans, had been caught smoking on the job. As this was their second "offense," they were fired and told to leave the plant. When other workers in their department heard this, they hurried to the labor-relations office and the "disturbance" began.

The inhumanity of Ford's action in discharging the men was attacked by the local union president when he said: "These men who have come through the horrors of battle with shattered nerves need a cigarette once in a while!" Although he did not condone violence or violations of the grievance procedure, "the incident was a spontaneous reaction against the inhuman and dictatorial treatment of the two veterans of this war." The discharged workers were quoted "as saying they would just as soon be in a prison camp as work under the conditions imposed by the labor relations division at the Ford plant." Despite showing sympathy, the union offered no protest when Ford announced the permanent discharge of ten employees and the indefinite suspension of ten others. In fact, representatives of the local and the International attended the meeting that announced the suspensions!

On the following Monday 75 percent of the 5000 workers in the aircraft unit walked off the job half an hour early. They attempted to block the main highway leading to the plant with their cars, but most of the midnight workers (from the other division) crossed the "picket line." The workers finally withdrew the barricade the next morning and the active phase of the strike ended.

The Ford Motor Company issued the following statement:

"This is another prize example of hoodlumism in unionism. This stoppage is the work of a handful of irresponsibles in the union and it is significant to see that these men can carry on continuously in the face of their own union. Union control here in the pinches seems nil. Obviously the company contract with such a union is about the same as a contract with Mr. Vesuvius for steady power. Except here the eruptions are more frequent and just as uncontrollable."

The company then suspended 72 workers on charges ranging from "insubordination to inciting to riot." This brought the 10-day total of suspensions to 92, 30 of which were permanent discharges and 30 indefinite suspensions. The union attended every hearing at which suspensions were announced.

The combination of an intensely repressive company response and the union's support of the company proved too much for the rank-and-file workers of the Rouge aircraft unit. Several months later, they elected a strike leader, Larry Yost, vice-president of the aircraft unit. At the UAW convention the following September, 15 of the 17 delegates from the unit voted to rescind the no-strike pledge.

Another interesting and important strike occurred in May, 1944 at the Highland Park, Michigan plant of the Chrysler Corporation (Local 490). (52) The strike began when two union stewards threw a Teamsters union worker from the plant. Three company supervisors then identified the stewards to be fired. In response, a group of workers threw the supervisors out of the plant. Chrysler then fired 16 of these workers. In a massive show of opposition to these firings 10,000 workers walked off their jobs.

Workers from five smaller Chrysler plants joined the strike in sympathy. The Detroit regional War Labor Board and George Addes, secretary-treasurer of the International UAW, ordered the men back to work but met with little success. Despite increasing pressure, the strikers voted three to one to stay out unless the company agreed to reinstate the fired workers. The UAW International Executive Board continued to threaten disciplinary action against the local union, but the workers stood firm. Finally, the executive board of the local gave in and ordered its members back to work. Thinking it had won as the strikers slowly filtered back to work; the International pressed its luck by suspending 14 of the officers of Local 490, including the president, Bill Jenkins. The rebellion flared up again as the workers walked out and picketed the plant. A rank-and-file commit tee distributed leaflets saying:

"Stick to your guns. Fight for the boys who fight for you. The company fired part of the leaders. The International UAW-CIO fired the rest, we need pickets."

R.J. Thomas, International UAW president, angrily asserted that "the UAW-CIO today faces one of the greatest crises in its history" and that "strikes are destroying the UAW." The claims were rather exaggerated. The following day, upon the urging of the local president, 500 workers voted to end the strike and return to work.

Once again the rank-and-file had the final say when they re-elected most of the suspended officers in an election directed by the administrator appointed by the International to run the local. At the September, 1944 UAW convention, five of the seven Local 490 delegates (including four of the previously suspended officers) voted to rescind the no-strike pledge.

A third example is somewhat closer to the model of a typical strike. (53) On January 6, 1945, 18 employees in the Burr department at the Mack Avenue plant of the Briggs Manufacturing Company refused to do assigned work because "the management was trying to make employees who get 97 an hour, do a rework operation ($1.17 an hour), and the company refused to pay." The 18 resisting workers were joined by 1300 others when they walked off the job. Later the night shift of 850 joined them, and finally 3,500 additional day-shift employees also went out. This marked the 160th wartime strike at Briggs, the 31st to halt production. Despite orders from the Regional War Labor Board, the workers stayed out, At its height, there were 5,800 strikers and 6,700 idled by the strike, Briggs' attempt to cheat 18 workers out of 20c1 an hour idled more than 1,200 workers for six days, The strike ended the following week,

Wildcats were the most important, but not the only way in which rank-and-file workers expressed their discontent. Others included absenteeism, quit rates, violence, and the creation of an intra-union struggle to rescind the no-strike pledge.

Absenteeism ran high in the auto plants; Industry and government never agreed on the exact percentage of absentees, but both agreed it was too high. Even the lowest figure, 6 percent per day, was twice as high as the pre-war rate. (54)

Quit rates were also quite high. The labor shortage gave workers a rare freedom, which they freely used. This slowed somewhat after the labor freeze made it far more difficult to change jobs, (55) Women, middle-class workers, and Southerners, black and white, some of whom intended to work only for the duration of the war, often quit much earlier, (56) At the Ford Willow Run Bomber plant, for example, employment declined from 42,000 in July, 1943 to less than 20,000 in April, 1945 without layoffs. (57)

Violence frequently erupted in the plants. According to Harry Elmer Barnes, there was more violence in the Ford Rouge plant during the war than "was ever known in previous Ford history." (58) Conflict between workers and supervisors was common. In May, 1943, Ford produced a "long list of instances as showing that the workers have been terrorizing their supervisors." (59) The list included assaults and stabbings. In response to management provocations, workers occasionally destroyed company property. The most frequent targets were the offices of supervision, labor relations, and plant protection. (60)

Nothing can be concluded from this minimal information with any certainty, but the combination of high absenteeism, high quit rates, and frequent violence is certainly suggestive of an enormous amount of discontent.

Rank-and-file auto workers carried their struggle into the union as well as on the job. Unlike the strikes them selves, the movement against the no-strike pledge never included a majority of auto workers, but for the first time a united UAW leadership faced mass opposition from the rank and file. (61) The struggle within the union intensified through the war years and finally reached a climax in early 1945 when over one-third of the participants in a special UAW referendum voted to rescind the pledge.

Some opposition to the pledge appeared early in the war. At the CIO Auto Workers Emergency Conference in April, 1942 one worker, speaking out against the no-strike pledge and the Equality of Sacrifice program, argued that "We gave up our right to strike, our brothers and sons are dying in the trenches, Can anyone show any signs that the men who sign paychecks have made one sacrifice?" (62) Many auto workers quickly learned the real meaning of the pledge as they saw the corporations take advantage of it and "as the unions became impotent, unable to enforce their contracts, and helpless in settling grievances." (63)

Conflict appeared whenever the union held a meeting, conference, or convention. At the 1942 UAW convention, rank-and-file discontent led to the passage of resolutions criticizing government and the industry and threatening to withhold further cooperation. (64) The 1943 Michigan State CLO convention which the UAW dominated by virtue of its huge membership in the state passed a resolution rescinding the pledge "unless assurances made to labor at the time we gave up our right to strike are immediately and effectively put into operation." (65)

The first nine months of 1944 saw the largely unorganized movement against the pledge progress from a mere nuisance to the UAW International Executive Board to a serious threat. This growth coincided with an enormous in crease in the number of wildcat strikes. The period also witnessed the formation of the Rank - and - File caucus. Formed under the impetus of the Workers Party, a small Trotskyist group, the caucus sought the complete rescinding of the no-strike pledge. (66) While it never became very large or especially effective, the Rank-and-File caucus did serve as a focal point for opposition to the pledge before, during, and after the 1944 UAW convention. The number of UAW locals opposed to the pledge also rose greatly during these months as some locals elected opponents of the pledge and others saw old leaders change their ideas.

The 1944 UAW convention proved to be the high point in the campaign against the no-strike pledge. When the convention voted down all resolutions on the pledge (including one reaffirming it), this "freaked everybody out. The god damn pork-choppers on the platform were turning blue, green, pink...In point of fact there is no longer a no-strike pledge." (67) In an uproar, all factions in the convention then united to pass a compromise resolution which temporarily reaffirmed the pledge until a referendum of the entire UAW membership could make a final decision. (68) The rank-and-file forces had won a stunning victory rank-and- file discontent had become so strong that in the midst of a war the International leaders of the world's largest union could not pass a resolution supporting their war policies.

The referendum took place in February, 1945, and in April the Executive Board announced that the pledge had been reaffirmed by a 2-1 majority of the 300,000 votes cast. (69) The International leaders of the UAW saw the results as a tremendous vindication of their policies, and it was to a certain extent. On the other hand, as one opponent of the pledge put it, "Before, during, and after the vote the majority of UAW members wildcatted all over the placed So what the hell is the significance of that vote!" (70) In fact, more auto workers participated in wildcat strikes in 1944 than voted in the referendum! (71) Had every wildcat striker voted "NO" in the referendum the pledge would have been rescinded by a substantial margin. However, it would certainly be unfair to label workers who struck against their employers, their union and the government "apathetic", simply because they didn't vote in the referendum. The loss in the referendum and the approaching end of the war signaled the end of the movement against the no-strike pledge.

A close relationship existed between the strike wave and the movement against the pledge, for the strikes actually legitimized the anti-pledge movement. The International UAW leaders certainly feared the opponents of the pledge, but not nearly as much as they feared a rank-and-file opposition backed by a wave of wildcat strikes involving a majority of auto workers. Together, the fight against the pledge and the wildcats marked a resurgence of the old militancy that made the UAW such a success in its early years. This initial militancy had been reduced by the bureaucratization of the union, the stabilizing of labor-management relations, and the efforts of the auto companies until the wildcats erupted. The union and, even more, the automobile companies feared this militancy, and they lost little time in responding to the strikes.

The automobile company owners and managers were among the worst reactionaries in the American ruling class. Throughout the 1920's and early 30's they success fully resisted all efforts at unionization, and only the tremendous organizing drives of the late 30's enabled the UAW to gain recognition. As late as the eve of the Second World War the automakers continued to view industrial unionism as a radical threat to their power.

No single approach characterized the auto companies' responses to the wildcats. (72) Some companies such as Briggs and Ford were intensely hostile, and they used every opportunity to rid themselves of troublesome workers. They responded to a wildcat by discharging everyone involved and then permitted only proven "innocents" to return.

Others such as General Motors and Chrysler proved milder in response. They generally discharged only those workers who led or frequently participated in strikes. Their pragmatism made them perfectly capable of compromising when their policies led to a wildcat.

A third group which included most of the independents and many of the parts suppliers was quite conciliatory. This reflected their small size and concentration into one or two plants which made them far more vulnerable than the big automakers. (73) Strikes still occurred at these companies, but generally they discharged only the most conspicuous leaders and often permitted them to return to work after the furor subsided.

The automakers found it difficult to put the blame for the wildcats on any one group. At first they blamed the union, but this proved absurd because the UAW vehemently opposed strikes. Then they blamed the "communists." This also proved incorrect, for the Communist Party whole heartedly supported the war effort and the no-strike pledge. Finally, they blamed "small groups of militant people" who refused "to meet production standards which we know to be reasonable." (74) The companies never admitted that the workers had legitimate grievances. If they had revealed the repressive nature of their own labor policies, they would have exposed the causes of the wartime wave of wildcats.

The responses of the International leaders of the UAW to the strike wave also varied. At first, they tried to ignore the strikes. This proved easy enough in 1942, but became impossible as the number of strikes increased. Next, they attempted to minimize the importance of the strikes, but this also proved impossible. As the number of strikes in creased, the international leaders grew desperate. According to R. J. Thomas, "any person who sets up picket lines is acting like an anarchist, not like a disciplined union man."(With the majority of autoworkers "acting like anarchists", the UAW leaders turned to repression). In February, 1944 they announced a new policy for disciplining individual members, groups of members, or locals which may be responsible for unauthorized walkouts." (76)

The International Executive Board lost little time putting its new policy into action. In March, the Board accepted without protest the firing of 26 strike leaders at the River Rouge plant. (77) In June, the International removed all elected officials of Local 490, the Chrysler Highland Park plant, when they ignored an Executive Board order to call off a wildcat strike. (78)

This policy of repression continued until the war's end. The auto companies fired hundreds of strikers and when the union agreed they were guilty. But repression failed to halt the wildcat strikes.

Local union officials within the UAW responded somewhat differently to the strikes. Some supported the no-strike pledge as vehemently as the International officers and did everything possible to stop strikes. Others vacillated, and a third group openly opposed the pledge. Few local officials openly supported the wildcats, but many did little to stop them once they began. Some local officials secretly organized strikes. On the whole, their closer relationship to the workers in the shops meant they were more sympathetic to rank-and-file problems. The following exchange illustrates the difference between local and national attitudes. Writing to Jess Ferrazza, John Gibson, president of the Michigan CIO Council, claimed that "if some of you fellows had to assume the responsibility and take the heat that is poured onto labor leaders in general there wouldn't be so much talk about revocation of no-strike pledges and maybe we would have less strikes." (79) Ferrazza, president of Local 212 (Briggs Motor Co.), responded angrily "I don't know how many people you have to take the heat from, but I have the Army, Navy, the International on one side and the 20,000 rank-and-file members of Local 212 on the other side. So when you talk about heat and assuming responsibility, brother, we are the ones that have it." (80)

Grievances alone cannot explain this tremendous wave of wildcat strikes. Arbitrary management, long hours, and poor working conditions have always been a part of the automobile industry, yet they never produced such a strike wave. An adequate explanation must go beyond the specifics of each strike to an analysis of the atmosphere" or milieu in which the strikes took place, There seem to be at least nine separate factors which contributed to the strike wave, four of which were primary or crucial, five of which were secondary.

Among the primary factors were:

(1) The auto companies' attitude toward labor during the war was extremely hostile The auto makers had not yet accepted independent industrial unionism; at best, they tolerated it. Their attitude would have been hostile, war or no war. But management knew the UAW had given up the right to strike, and that it could, with little fear of reprisal, effect any policy it desired, lithe union or the workers complained, they were told to "take it to the War Labor Board." The one-to-two-year wait before the WLB meant that the corporations had a free hand in the intervening period. As one radical newspaper asserted:

"Armed with the knowledge that the labor leaders were enforcing the no-strike pledge and that the President had insisted upon its loyal execution, no matter what provocations faced the workers, the bosses have done everything in their power to violate agreements, hinder collective bargaining, harass the shop steward system, uphold down grading classifications, stall on rate increases and a hundred and one other grievances which the un ions have." (81)

In the face of such hostility, the workers had two choices; either endure the injustice for a year or two in the hope of a favorable judgment; or strike.

(2) The special conditions of the auto industry and its workers produced a certain potentiality for strikes The attitude of the auto worker toward his job has historically differed from that of other workers, Writing somewhat later, Robert Blauner noted that:

"The automobile worker's job dissatisfaction is a reflection of his independence and dignity; he does not submit as easily as other manual workers to alienating work. . . The auto worker quits his job more frequently than other workers. He is characteristically a griper, a man who talks back to his foreman... He presses grievances through a union steward system and engages in wildcat strikes and revolts against the union bureaucracy itself more frequently than other workers. On the job, he resorts to illegitimate methods of asserting some control over his immediate work process." (82)

Also, the unions in the auto industry had been organized only a relatively few years before the war began and large sectors of the industry remained unorganized. Labor-management relations were largely undefined, and most workers believed the best way to handle grievances was to strike, auto workers were only too happy to return management's hostility. These factors produced a certain predisposition to strike, or an understanding that if any industry would experience a strike wave, it would be the auto industry.

(3) Workers continued to sacrifice for victory, while the automakers made huge profits Autoworkers soon learned that the auto companies had no desire for equality of sacrifice. Corporate profits doubled and executive salaries skyrocketed. (83) At General Motors, net profit rose from $47 million during the first six months of 1942 to $69 million in the same period one year later. (84) UAW and radical newspapers brought this information to the rank and file and they compared their sacrifices to management profits.

(4) The worries, tensions, and anxieties of wartime life reached crisis points. The intense problems of wartime make it necessary to:

"Think of people with patience frayed by the fatigue of war-prolonged work-weeks and by the snapping of war - strained nerves and tempers. Think of the over-crowded dwellings for which exorbitant rent is paid and of competition to obtain such slum shelters. Think of the saloons, the pool parlors and the movies as the only accessible recreational facilities to furnish much needed respite from these crowded living conditions." (85)

In Detroit these oppressive conditions produced wildcat strikes, but they also produced frequent racial conflicts. (86) Wartime living produced its own mental and physical problems. By the end of 1942, many of the workers working 54 hours a week and many as high as 10 and 11 hours a day, seven days a week, are already complaining of weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, loss of energy, loss of ambition, nervous irritability, and some indigestion." (87)

Among the secondary factors were the following:

(a) The wartime shortage of labor gave workers a sense of power. They knew the value of their labor, and they knew that other jobs were available. If they didn't like something, they complained; if it didn't improve, they struck; if conditions got worse, they quit. This sense of power, small as it actually was, gave workers a certain leverage in their relations with the auto companies. Management could go only so far.

(b) The increasing cost of living and the declining quality of life angered many workers of all the United Nations, only the United States kept wages below the rise in the cost of living. (88) To use the official cost-of-living index, said one observer, in discussing money matters with workers produces only guffaws. What matters is not the dubiously motivated fairy tales of academic statisticians, but the living reality." (89) The long hours of overtime meant a rise in total income, but price rises, tax increases, and the purchase of War Bonds limited real income. The price-wage freeze stabilized the cost of living somewhat, but workers continued to feel pressured.

When overtime decreased, near the end of the war, incomes plummeted.

The quality of life also dropped. The cost-of-living index never measured the decline in the quality of consumer goods, the apartments subdivided while the rent remained the same, or the decreasing quality of overworked mass- transportation services. To the long working hours and the wartime frustrations was added a declining quality of life. The combination became explosive.

(c) Workers feared the problems of reconversion and the postwar depression Government, industry, labor leaders, and rank-and-file workers all assumed the end of the war would bring a catastrophic depression. Layoffs began and working hours were cut in some plants as early as the end of 1943. In one case, workers held a sit-down to demand jobs at an airplane plant scheduled for closing. (90) Even the official labor leaders became worried. George Meany, then secretary-treasurer of the AFL, said:

"Labor has no illusion as to what is going to happen when our war industries are demobilized, when, instead of workers being told each day to produce more and more for victory, they are told that the plant is shutting down. We have no illusions as to what is then going to happen in regard to overtime, bonuses, pay incentives, and such things as that. We know that these things will go out the window." (91)

Workers knew the labor shortage would end and be replaced by massive unemployment. As such, they developed a "get it while you can" attitude toward wages, benefits, and working conditions.

(d) The heritage of militancy in some plants and in some parts of the country resulted in many strikes Many of the plants which had taken the lead in building the UAW during the Thirties, for example, the auto plants of Flint, Michigan, especially the Chevrolet plant, site of the 1937 sit-down also took the lead in opposing the no-strike pledge and in wildcatting if necessary. The workers in these plants had developed a tradition of militancy which they were not about to discard in order to satisfy labor's new bureaucrats.

(e) The problems caused by workers unfamiliar with company discipline compounded the other contradictions As a result of the labor shortage, hundreds of thousands of non-industrial workers, including Southern blacks and whites from rural and mining areas, women who had never worked in industry, and former white-collar workers, were integrated into the automotive work force. Many found it difficult to accept the long hours, rigorous pace, and strict discipline of industrial work. They identified with neither union nor management and used the wildcat strike to fight against their exploitation and oppression.

Independently, and in combination, these factors caused the strike wave in the automobile industry and led thousands of workers to defy their union officials, their employers the U.S. government, and the military. This reality was far different from what most labor historians would have us believe.

An accurate labor history of the war years has yet to be written, When it is, it will explain, among other things, how the no-strike pledge transformed labor unions into virtual company unions, how rank-and-file workers proved unwilling to give up the gains they had won in the previous decade f struggle and how, in order to defend these gains, they were prepared to strike. It will also explain the failure of the radical left during the war years. The Left represented no real alternative for militant, class-conscious rank and filers who supported the war, but who also wanted to defend the worker's interests. The Communist Party supported the war, but subordinated the worker's day-to-day problems in its quest for "national unity."

Earl Browder, then Party chairman, painted an ominous picture when he wrote that "the threatened revocation of the no-strike policy will release uncontrollable forces that may easily engulf our country in chaos and stab our armies in the back. Strike threats will quickly merge into an end less series of "little strikes" and these will grow into big ones. The whole concept of orderly adjustment of our war time economy under the guidance of the government will quickly be wrecked." (92)

The Trotskyist groups defended the worker's immediate interests, but opposed the war and thus isolated themselves. The strike wave in the automobile industry emerged spontaneously out of working-class discontent, and its leaders came from among the rank and file. As admirable as this may be, the abject failure of the Left begs for explanation.

A fuller account of these years must move outside the confines of trade unionism and discuss the industrialization of thousands of Southern whites and blacks, the entrance into and subsequent expulsion from the labor force of millions of women, and the crucial role of the war years in integrating industrial unions into the corporate structure. Hopefully, this paper has helped a little.

by Martin Glaberman

The struggle against the no-strike pledge in the UAW during World War II is one of the most significant experiences of the American working class. It is particularly important to radicals concerned with the problems of working- class consciousness.

Jennings' article provides an interesting illumination of the vast gulf between ordinary workers and union leaders, even in the "militant" days of the UAW. But the event which demands the most extensive study and analysis is the contradictory combination of a membership referendum which upholds the no-strike pledge and a wave of wildcat strikes which involves a majority of the membership. That simple contradiction destroys nine-tenths of the theories of intellectuals about working- consciousness by indicating its complexity and the fact that it is not a purely verbal reality. That is, consciousness is as much activity as for mal verbalized expression.

Although the expression of that contradiction is clearest in the referendum vote of 1944, that is not the only time that the opposition between verbal belief and activity has appeared in the American working class. During the Vietnam war there were a number of occasions when workers, who presumably supported the American government in that war, interfered with the war effort in strike activity. Strikes against North American Aviation, Olin-Mathieson, Missouri- Pacific Railroad (to name a few) provide examples.

Lenin once said that one cannot equate the patriotism of the worker with the patriotism of the bourgeoisie. What events of this kind indicate is that when patriotism and class interests conflict to a serious degree, often enough, no matter how he rationalizes the contradiction, the worker places his class interests above what he feels to be the needs of the nation. It is useful to remember that American workers, in their ordinary class-struggle activities, have interfered with more war production and shipment than all the anti-war demonstrations put together.

There are, of course, those who will complain that these class-struggle activities were not carried out "consciously." I suppose that there were those who complained that Russian workers created soviets in 1905 in response to a Czarist attack on a parade of old women led by an Orthodox Priest, and not consciously in order to establish a socialist society. Well, I guess we can't have everything.

This article is a reduced version of a longer study, copies of which can be obtained by writing to the author at 2213 N. Seeley, Chicago Illinois 60647.

1. A wildcat strike does not have the approval of the officially recognized union in that plant, company, or industry. In some cases a strike may be approved by the local union but not by the national or international, which may declare it a wildcat.

2. Joseph Rayback, A HISTORY OF AMERICAN LABOR (New York: Free Press, 1966), p. 373.

3. NEW YORK TIMES, November 16, 1945, p. 4.

4. Irving Howe and B.J. Widick, THE UAW AND WALTER REUTHER (New York: Random House, 1949), p. 124. R. J. Thomas, UNITED AUTO - MOBILE WORKER, May 15, 1944, p. 4.

5. "Strikes in 1946," MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW, LXIV (May, 1947), p. 782.

6. "Strikes and Lockouts in 1944," MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW, LX (May, 1945), p. 961.

7. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, IMPACT OF THE WAR ON THE DETROIT AREA (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1943), p. 11. (Hereafter referred to as IMPACT.)

8. "Anger in Detroit," BUSINESS WEEK, January 17, 1942, p. 58.

9. "Auto Employment Drops," BUSINESS WEEK, February 14, 1942, p. 75.

10. "Anger in Detroit," p. 58.

11. "Highlights of Automotive Industry's War Record," AUTOMO - TIVE WAR PRODUCTION, September, 1945, p. 8.

12. "Women Workers in Detroit-Willow Run," THE DETROITER, October 30, 1944, p. 3. Joan Ellen Frey, "Women in the War Economy," THE REVIEW OF RADICAL POLITICAL ECONOMICS, IV (July, 1972), pp. 40-57.

13. "Detroit's Population Up 22%," THE DETROITER, July 19, 1943

14. "Detroit... Rats and Harvey Campbell," UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER, May 1, 1945, p. 6. Campbell, the Executive Vice-President of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, wrote the article which triggered the union's response.

15. "Bomber Local President Puts Issue Up to Ford," UNITED AU TOMOBILE WORKER, June 1, 1945, p.1.

16. "No-Strike Pledge Has Not Stopped Strikes," VOICE OF LOCAL 212, September 14, 1944, p. 2.

17. DETROIT NEWS, January 1-13, p. 1.

18. "Strikes in 1 MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW, LVffl (May, 1944), 931.

19. U.S. Congress, Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, INVESTIGATION OF THE NATIONAL DEFENSE PROGRAM: PART 28: MANPOWER PROBLEMS IN DETROIT, 79th Cong. 1st sess., 1945 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1945), p. 13560. (Hereafter referred to as INVESTIGATION.) The Auto motive Council for War Production was a group composed of all the major automobile companies.

20. IBID.

21. "Strikes and Lockouts in 1944," MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW, LX (May, 1945), 961.

22. This is my own computation based on governmental figures. In 1944, 50.5 percent of the auto workers struck; in 1943, 26.8 percent, and in 1942, 8.4 percent. To this total must be added an unknown but certainly large percentage for 1945. The total is over 100 percent, but allowance must be made for workers who participated in more than one strike, thus reducing the total to approximately 60 to 65 percent.

23. Sherry Mangan, "State of the Nation: Minority Report," FOR TUNE, November, 1943, p. 139. (Hereafter referred to as "Minority Report".)

24. The UAW never actually fired anyone; but it did expel strikers from the union, and at Ford this resulted in a discharge because of the union shop.

25. DETROIT NEWS, January 6, 1943, p. 1.

26. "Strikes and Lockouts in 1944," 963-964. The average size of the strike was computed by dividing the number of strikers by the number of strikes. It should be kept in mind that this picture of a typical strike is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, and these do not include strikes of less than eight hours duration or involving fewer than six workers. If information about these strikes were available, the picture of the typical strike might be somewhat different.

27. My own computation arrived at by dividing the number of man days idle by the number of strikers.

28. Sam Sage, Oral History Interview, United Automobile Workers Archives, Wayne State University, p. 32. (Archives hereafter referred to as UAWA.)

29. Harry Elmer Barnes, "Labor Policies of the Ford Motor Company" (unpublished manuscript, Ford Motor Company Archives, 1944), Chapter 16, p. 25. (Hereafter referred to as LABOR POLICIES.)

30. U.S. Congress, Senate, WARTIME RECORD OF STRIKES AND LOCKOUTS 1940-45, compiled by Rosa Lee Swafford, 79th Cong., 2nd sess., 1946 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1946), pp. 9-13. (Hereafter referred to as WARTIME RECORD.) For a similar conclusion as to the relative lack of importance of wage disputes during the First World War (and the surrounding years) see the article by David Montgomery entitled "The 'New Unionism' and the Transformation of Worker's Consciousness in America, 1909-1922", prepared for the Anglo-American Conference on the Study of Comparative Labor History.

31. Barnes, "Labor Policies," appendix, n.p.

32. Erwin Baur, private interview, Detroit, Michigan, November 15, 1972.

33. Art Hughes, Oral History Interview, UAWA, p. 20.

34. Barnes, "Labor Policies," Chapter 16, n.p. There are two different drafts of Barnes' manuscript in the Ford Motor Company Archives (hereafter referred to as FMCA), and only one has page numbers.

35. IBID.

36. Baur, interview.

37. IBID.

38. Barnes, "Labor Policies," Chapter 16, n.p.

39. John Zupan, Oral History Interview, UAWA

40. Michigan CIO, PROCEEDINGS OF THE SIXTH CONVENTION (Flint, Mich., 1943).

41. M, Guttman, "Primary (Informal) Work Groups," RADICAL AMERICA. VI (May-June 1972), p. 87. See also Jerome F. Scott and George C. Homan, "Reflections on Wildcat Strikes," AMERICAN SO CIOLOGICAL REVIEW, XII (June, 1947), p. 283.

42. Letter, J. H. Taylor to Walter Reuther, March 23, 1945, Local 212 Papers, UAWA.

43. U.S. Congress, INVESTIGATION, p. 13795. Also see Allan Nevins, FORD: DECLINE AND REBIRTH, 1933 -1962 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962), p. 508.

44. U.S. Congress, WARTIME RECORD, pp. 9-13.

45. This includes the surrounding suburbs of Hamtramck, Dearborn, Highland Park, and Willow Run (Ypsilanti).

46. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, IMPACT OF THE WAR ON THE DETROIT AREA (Washington,D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1943), p. 2. (Hereafter referred to as IMPACT.)

47. "Detroit is Dynamite," LIFE, pp. 15-23.

48. See the following articles for a wider view of the role of women during the war: Joan Ellen Frey, "Women in the War Economy," THE REVIEW OF RADICAL POLITICAL ECONOMICS, IV (July, 1972), pp. 40-57, and Sheila Tobias and Lisa Anderson, "Rosie the Riveter," MS.

49. For a first-hand account of these struggles see Matthew Ward, INDIGNANT HEJ\RT (New York: New Books, 1952).

50. President Roosevelt created the War Labor Board to handle all un-resolvable disputes between labor and industry. The number of such disputes became so great that, even after the creation of regional Boards, a dispute might require twelve to twenty-four months to resolve.

51. This description of the aircraft strike is based on the following articles: DETROIT NEWS, March 9, 1944, p. 1; March 10, 1944, p. 1; March 15, 1944, p. 1; March 16, 1944, p. 1; March 17, 1944, p. 1; March 18, 1944, p. 2.

52. This description of the Chrysler strikes is based on the following articles: DETROIT NEWS, May 20, 1944, p. 1; May 21, 1944, p. 1; May 22, 1944, p. 1;May 23, 1944, p. 1; May 24, 1944, p. 1;May 25, 1944, p. 1; May 26, 1944, p. 1; May 28, 1944, p. 1; May 29, 1944, p. 1.

53. This description of the Briggs strike is based on the following articles: DETROIT NEWS, January 7, 1945, p. 1; January 8, 1945, p. 1; January 9, 1945, p. 1; January 10, 1945, p. 1; January 12, 1945, p. 1.

54. DETROIT NEWS, February 15, 1943, p. 1. Donald Nelson, chair man of the War Production Board, claimed that absenteeism in Detroit plants was running eight to ten percent per day. The Automotive Council for War Production claimed a rate of "about 6 percent."

55. Joel Seidman, AMERICAN LABOR FROM DEFENSE TO RECON VERSION (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), pp. 160-161. The job freeze came on April 8, 1943 in President Roosevelt's "hold- the-line" order which prohibited defense workers (and other essential workers) from changing jobs unless it benefited the war effort.

56. The best "study" of the experiences of migrants to Detroit during the war is Harriet Arnow, Tf{E DOLLMAKER (New York: the Mac Millan Company, 1954). This brilliant, perceptive, and sympathetic book cannot be too highly recommended.

57. "Work and Wage Experience of Willow Run Workers," MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW, LXI (May, 1945), p. 1076. Willow Run was the huge plant Henry Ford built outside of Detroit solely for wartime bomber production. For a description of work in the plant, see Glendon F. Swarthout, WILLOW RUN (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1943). For a discussion of the technical and political problems, see Keith Sward, THE LEGEND OF HENRY FORD (New York: Atheneum, 1968), pp. 429 -449.

58. Barnes, "Labor Policies," Chapter 16, p. 26.

59. NEW YORK TIMES, May 1, 1943, p. 1.

60. Barnes, "Labor Policies," Chapter 16, n.p.

61. Irving Howe and B. J. Widick, THE UAW AND WALTER REU THER (New York: Random House, 1949), pp. 107-125.

62. Don McGill, quoted in LABOR ACTION, April 12, 1942, p. 2.

63. Ben Hall, "Auto Union Faces Very Grave Crisis," LABOR AC TION, September 11, 1944, p. 3.

64. "UAW Acts Up," BUSINESS WEEK, July 4, 1942, p. 88.

65. Michigan Congress of industrial Organizations, PROCEEDINGS OF THE SIXTH CONVENTION (Flint, Michigan, 1943), pp. 136-137. The UAW had 77 percent of the delegates (965 of 1245) and 86 percent of the votes (4108 of 4726). Detroit and Wayne County UAW delegates alone comprised a majority of both delegates and votes.

66. See any of the three issues of the RANK AND FILER, UAWA, for the full campus program. The Workers Party (WP) had split off from the Socialist Workers Party several years before in a dispute over the political nature of the Soviet Union. The WP described the Second World War as a capitalist war, and thus did not support the war effort.

67. Marty Glaberman, Oral History Interview, UAWA.

68. United Automobile Workers, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NINTH CONVENTION (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944), p. 247.

69. Approximately 1,200,000 ballots were sent out, and less than 300,000 were returned.

70. Marty Glaberman, Oral History Interview, UAWA.

71. 281,225 auto workers participated in the referendum, while 388,763 participated in the wildcat strikes.

72. The following section is based not on corporate records (with the exception of the Ford Motor Company), but on information drawn from automobile workers and from union records and publications.

73. Baur, personal interview.

74. Us Congress, INVESTIGATION, p. 13782.

75. R. J. Thomas, "President's Column," UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER, March 1, 1944, p. 4; and "War Strike Will Kill UAW," CIO NEWS, June 5, 1944, p. 5.

76. "UAW-CIO Acts to End Wildcat Strikes," UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER, March 1, 1945, p. 2.

77. "The Facts About Ford: UAW Acts to Protect Entire Member ship," UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER, April 1, 1944, p. 2. See also pp. 8-10 above.

78. "Wildcat Strike Brings Removal of Local Officers," UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER, June 1, 1944, p. 1. See also pp. 10-11 above.

79. Letter, John Gibson to Jess Ferrazza, November 8, 1944, Local 212 Papers, UAWA.

80. Letter, Jess Ferrazza to John Gibson, December 5, 1944, Local 212 Papers, UAWA.

81. Albert Gates, 5 Convention Faces Issue of No-Strike Pledge," LABOR ACTION, August 30, 1943, p. 1.

82. Robert Blauner, ALIENATION AND FREEDOM (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 122.

83. War Profits 406% Above Peace Rate," CIO NEWS, April 3, 1944, p. 6.

84. "Little Steel Formula No Brake on GM Profit," UNITED AUTO - MOBILE WORKER, August 15, 1943, p. 1.

85. Alfred McClung Lee and Norman D. Humphrey, RACE RIOT (New York: Dryden, 1943), p. 6.

86. IBID., see whole book.

87. "Secretary Addes Says," UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKER, July 15, 1944, p. 7.

88. "Labor Board's Dark Victory," BUSINESS WEEK, June 26, 1943, p.5.

89. Mangan, "Minority Report," p. 140.

90. "Termination Protest," BUSINESS WEEK, June 3, 1944, p. 102.

91. George Meany, "Strange Omission," AIV1 FEDERATION- 1ST, October, 1944, p. 10.

92. Earl Browder, leaflet, UAWA, Nat Ganley Collection. The Communist Parties of Yugoslavia and China managed to fight the fascists within a national united front, while maintaining their independence within that front. This permitted them, unlike most Communist Parties, to take the offensive after the war.

Text taken from www.prole.info and lightly edited by libcom for accuracy


Apr 9 2013 04:21

Seriously empowering article, I love Glaberman's postscript!