Current Labor Strife and the Government
Possibility of Break in Wave of Major Strikes
As the house of Representatives was about to take up, after a long delay, legislative proposals designed to strengthen the administration's hand in dealing with major industrial disputes, there was more hope than for weeks of a break in the current wave of labor strife. Spread of the General Motors strike to the plants of the two other principal automobile producers was averted, Jan. 26, when the Ford and Chrysler companies concluded a new wage agreement with the United Automobile Workers. On the same day the major railroads of the nation and 18 railroad brotherhoods agreed to submit union wage demands to arbitration. And members of the C. I. O. union in the meat-packing industry, who had announced they would not return to work after the government seized the plants, reversed that decision and agreed, as the A. F. L. union in the same industry had already done, to go back to their jobs. On Jan. 29, moreover, a federal conciliator arranged for resumption of wage negotiations between General Motors and the union.
Although the immediate outlook also seemed to favor early settlement of the industry-wide steel strike, there was still pressure in some quarters in Congress for passage of stringent labor legislation. After the House Labor Committee had watered down President Truman's moderate fact-finding bill, support developed for a stronger bill, introduced in a surprise move, Jan. 29, by Rep. Case (R., S. D.). The Case measure would require employers and employees to give a new tripartite mediation board five days' notice of an intended strike or lockout and would impose a 30-day cooling-off period enforceable by court injunctions. The bill also would deny collective bargaining rights to unions resorting to forceful picketing or boycotts, outlaw foremen's unions, and make employers and employees subject to civil liability for violation of contracts.
Delay in Passage of New Labor-Disputes Legislation
Probability of labor unrest during the reconversion period was clearly foreseen before the end of the war. Early in 1945 warnings came repeatedly from public, industry, and labor officials that the end of military hostilities might open the door to industrial conflict, and that accordingly a national labor policy should be forged in advance. But the only definite step taken in this direction, and that an unofficial one, was the signature on Mar. 28, 1945, by the presidents of the United States Chamber of Commerce, the A. F. L., and the C. I. O., of a “New Charter for Labor and Management.” The charter outlined seven principles to govern relations between employers and employees, but it made no new contribution to the question of how differences were to be settled once they came into the open.