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United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther's recent declaration of his intention to seek a four day, higher paid work week for his union's members in next year's bargaining can only injure the already precarious public reputation of organized labor.
The hostility existent in a large segment of the middle class American public towards labor unions has been heightened recently by the expose of graft in Dave Beck's Teamsters Union, and this is apparently only the beginning of a series of investigations of reported criminal activities in other unions. Corruption in the unions, as well as suspicion of Communist infiltration of union leadership, give the many supporters of management's position tangible weapons to utilize in the struggle to protect their own economic desires.
To add fuel to the anti-unionist cause seems especially unfortunate at a time when a rash of right-to-work bills are being proposed in various state legislatures. The preservation of labor's right to maintain the union shop is important if labor unions are to be effective in their negotiations. Reuther's stand only evokes further antagonism against labor.
A shorter work week is, in all probability, a likely social change in a future of industrial automation. However, there appears to the citizen unacquainted with the automotive industry, little reson to institute such a change at this time. Under the existing full-employment situation, a shorter work week with higher pay would seem only to serve to increase inflation. The attribution of an inflationary influence to the four day work week would heighten the natural resentment of the majority of Americans, working a five-day or sometimes longer week.
While the four-day work week may be an inevitability, as Governor Williams said yesterday, this is not the time for its inception. The time is especially unripe for organized labor to demand such a change. The union leaders should be content with consolidating past achievments and increasing the labor movement's prestige in the eyes of the nation.
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