Raising Conflict Over Wages in Industry
Rapid Growth of Labor Campaign for Higher Wages
Strikes and threats of strikes on an ever-widening scale have confronted industrial managers and government officials at Washington with difficult problems of wage and price adjustment. The chief of these problems is whether wage rates should now be raised—or can now be raised—to give wage-earners the same purchasing power in time of peace that they enjoyed during the war.
Undeterred by a mounting volume of transitional unemployment, labor leaders moved quickly after the surrender of Japan to enforce demands for maintenance of high “take-home” pay. The United Automobile Workers of America, world's largest union, led the way by lodging with the General Motors Corporation, only five days after the end of the war, demands for a 30 per cent increase in wage rates. In the immediately succeeding weeks similar demands were made by C. I. O. unions in the steel, rubber, oil, and other basic industries. The unions pointed to large company profits during the war and said their demands for wage increases could be granted without increases in prices.
The threat of the labor situation to rapid resumption of peacetime production was highlighted, Sept. 14, when the Ford Motor Company laid off 50,000 workers and halted virtually all operations because of strikes in other companies that were interrupting the flow of parts for new cars. On the same day U. A. W. leaders disclosed their strategy for enforcing the 30 per cent wage demand by successive strikes, if necessary, throughout the automotive industry. U. A. W. officials said they had no intention of utilizing the machinery for adjustment of wage disputes provided by the War Labor Board.