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Settlement of the automobile strike seems in itself enough to cause jubilation. The economic wastage to all parties concerned seemed great enough to justify almost any solution.
Yet rereading of the text and sober second thought bring home the fact that it is little more than a makeshift apparatus of an ephemeral nature. True, Mr. Lewis is not found astride the backs of all GM labor; his union is recognized as the bargaining agent only for its own members and hot for will employees as was originally demanded. True, the company will drop its injunction suit and union members will be able to get much-needed repairs in their breeches. Discrimination is ruled out by both sides when employes return to work. Flint will not be another Madrid and industry will hum again.
Not in the main text, but attached to it, however, is a slightly significant agreement by General Motors, "the within a period of six months we will not bargain with or enter into agreements with any other union or representative of employed" without gaining the U.A.W.A.'s sanction. Simply put, the union will have, for six months, free rein in its membership drives, will be on top of the labor heap. Thus this minority labor group got a very real concession.
Many basic problems are left unsettled, may grow to monstrous size and reappear in the same industry in the next six months, and are almost certain to be raised elsewhere. First, can a minority group of perhaps ten or fifteen percent force a much greater group of satisfied employees out of work? Secondly, is it possible for this striking group to use as its weapon the illegal occupation of plants? Thirdly, can unions continue to have what Mr. Justice Brandeis called "practical immunity from legal liability," can they stave of, even in such instances as the present, incorporation or at least some sort of public supervision? The answer to all three questions was "yes" in the recent strike. The sit-down technique proved effective and invulnerable and will undoubtedly be tried increasingly in similar labor disputes.
Mr. Lewis' gains were not very material, but they were impressive enough to discountenance any suggestions of face-saving. For the present, we can thank God and Governor Murphy. As for the future, the new technique and the measurable success attending it use should cause the public to cast a suspicious eye on the budding of further strike developments.
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