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". . . Would Be Fruitless"


On May 23 the CIO union presented The Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. of Kearney, N. J. with a contract containing, among other demands a closed shop which would force the company to fire any employee who, as long as the contract lasts, fails to pay his does on for any other reason, remain a member "in good standing." On July 8, 9, and 10, with the aid of the National Defense Mediation Board, all contractual disagreements were ironed out with one exception. The company refused to accept the union's demand for a closed shop, on the grounds that is "the right of the American worker to decide for himself whether he wants to join a union and to remain a member of a union." Here was a stalemate, and there was nothing that the Mediation Board could do about it. On July 26 the CIO stated that further negotiations "would be fruitless"; and, on August 6, it sent a strike notice to the company while at the same time telling the press that it would like, more than anything else, to have the government take over the yards. Five days later, seeing no other alternative, the company offered the yard to the Navy Department. The offer was accepted on August 23.

This is a typical blow-by-blow description of a company vs. union fight which forces both parties into the arms of a federal department. But there is still another round to the fight. Now, after a month in the executive positions, the Navy Department recently offered two alternatives: (a) it will either go on managing, suspend the temporary closed shop, and enforce Civil Service Regulations; or (b) hand the yards back to company officials, on the condition that both the employers and the employes abide by the decision of the Mediation Board on the closed shop issue.

This is a vicious circle, since the Board failed to settle this very issue in the first place. If the Board fails to enforce its ruling this time, we can only guess at the final outcome: permanent Civil Service control in the hands of the Navy Department; the smothering of any chance the union might have had of getting a legal closed ship through negotiation; and the obvious loss on the part of the private company officials.

If this sort of situation continues to develop in company after company, unions and private managers must either capitulate to make way for permanent government control, or they must come to the conclusion that "further negotiations would not be fruitless."

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