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January 16, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-01-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Workers'

rights on

the

firing line

'4

By BRUCE LEVINE
THE NATIONWIDE strike against the
General Electric Coporation is now
in its eleventh week. Although the
ostensible issue is wages, much deeper
struggles are involved.
GE is notorious for its style of con-
ducting labor relations. This style-
called Boulwarism after its former Vice
President, Lemuel Boulware-consists
in refusing to budge, in contract nego-
tiations, from offers proffered at the
outset of the bargaining period.
Thus, although GE formally "re-
cognizes" the employes' unions as pre-
scribed by law, its intransigience in
bargaining serves to undermine t h e
strength of the unions among the work-
ers.
GE CLAIMS that Boulwarism is more
"honest" than the more common ex-
tended-bargaining process, but Boul-
warism's real aim is to demonstrate
management's absolute power over its
"own" domain. By enforcing its f ir s t
contract offers, GE hopes to demon-
strate to its employes the weakness of
unions and the futility of extended
strike action.
In general, Boulwarism has been suc-
cessful in its aim.
Between 1950 and 1966, the unified
might of the GE Corporation has been
more than adequate to prevent signi-
ficant gains by its employees.
This has been true in large p a r t
because GE workers are organized into
thirteen separate unions. This year,
growing rank-and-file pressure has en-
forced a united front among these un-
ions directed against management over
uniform demands.
EVEN IN WAGE TERMS alone, the
disparity between union demands and
company offers is clear. The unions in-
sist upon an increase of 90 cents an
hour over three months; GE proposes a
boost on only 20 cents an hour with
an additional boost of 3-5 per cent in
1970 and 1971.

Dramatizing the wage demands is
the fact that the income of the GE
workers is steadily shrinking in r e a 1
terms. In the face of inflation, a GE
worker now receives 35 cents an hour
less than he or she did three years ago.
For the GE workers, therefore, t h i s
strike has become a do or die affair.
Thus one striker at GE's Schenectady
plant told a reporter: "Sure it's tough.
We've each dropped 1,500 bucks since
the strike began. Our people are sac-
rificing. But this is the best-organized
strike we've ever had in Schenectady,
and, brother, we ain't letting up."
MANAGEMENT LOOKS at the strike
with a similarly serious attitude. For
the first time GE is confronted with a
unified employes' front, and it is not
pleased with the implications. GE has
never given up its smug belief that it
knows better than the workers them-
selves what is good for them. News-
week reports: "Management, convinced
that its workers' hearts are not really
on the picket line, still hopes to shat-
ter the union coalition." The very
fundamental nature of the struggle is
also clear to GE. "As the company sees
it, it's very right to manage is at
stake."
MANAGEMENT'S power (over both
it's workers and the consuming public)
has been increasing steadily over the
past few years. The pan-industry ten-
dency toward conglomeration and con-
solidation features 1prominently in the
electrical industry.
In 1963, GE, Westinghouse, a n d
other firms were convicted of price-
fixing. Burned once, the companies in-
volved today avoid formal conspiracy.
Instead, they now act in lock-step "spon-
taneously." In November, GE announced
a 6 per cent increase in the price of
sceveral of its products. In a matter
of hours, Westinghouse, et al, announc-
ed identical price increases for the very
sGi me articles.
In its drive to maximize profits at

any cost, GE has conducted other anti-
labor campaigns.
ONE SUCH campaign is its policy
toward women.
GE pays women as much as $1.50
per hour less than men doing the same
job - in violation of the sex clause of
Title VII of the 1964 Civil R i g h t s
Act. The effect of such discrimination
on company profit margins is clear.
In addition, women have been
caught most dramatically in another one
of GE's cost-reducing drives. Nation-
wide, GE is moving entire plants out of
unionized higher-wage, northern cities
like Schenectady, to low-wage, non-un-
ion cities in the South. The first to
suffer from this policy have been wdm-
en. In Schenectady alone, for example,
women composed 4,000 of the 5,000
workers laid off as a result of GE's
Southern migration between 1955 and
1957.
While the media today report a gener-
ally calm atmosphere in most of the
strike's foci, clashes between picketers
and police have already occurred.
GE GIVES EVERY impression of
being able to weather the storm in
the meantime, and officials couple an-
nouncements that "our position h a s
not changed . . . To keep making new
offers would destroy our credibility"
with the unruffled observation that
there is "simply no sign of settlement
or anything leading to a settlement" in
sight. This alone makes a continuation
of whatever calm presently exists most
doubtful. Adlditionally, Newsweek notes,.
"a resolution of the strike that either
side considers unsatisfactory c o u1 d
trigger explosive reactions."
AFTER LABOR and management,
government policy is a determining
factor in strike settlements. The ad-
ministration attitude on the broader

Briefly, there are two ways of fight=
ing inflation. One way, which puts the
burden on the corporations, is to hold
prices until the rise of wages catches
up to them.
The other way, which puts the burden
on the worker, involves cutting wages
until prices fall, and eliminating some
jobs completely. This is accomplished
by "tightening up" on bank loans, cut-
ting back on federal spending, a n d
boosting the income taxes on wage-
earners/consumers.
The first two programs will boost
unemployment and thus raise compe-
tition among workers for the f e w e r
remaining jobs, while the third policy
will reduce still further the amount of
disposable income the wage-earner takes
home.
IN OPTING for this anti-worker de-
flationary program, the federal govern-
ment shows clearly where its heart lies.
In the specific GE strike, Washington
is taking a "hands off" attitude. Labor
Secretary George Schultz muses that
the "impact of strikes is overrated."
Since the usual effect of government
intervention (especially where the un-
ions are relatively weaker than the cor-
poration) is to raise the cost of the set-
tlement to management, ,the govern-
ment's "hands-off" posturing is cor-
rectly seen by the unions as an attempt
to break their strike.
IN SUPPORT OF THE STRIKE, a
national boycott of GE products has
been organized. As presently constituted,
it is much too small an effort. To be
even moderately effective, it must ef-
fectively seal off all GE's markets.
The grape boycott began to do that
in its own field until the Pentagon
suddenly purchased $15 million worth:
of grapes and sent them to Vietnam.
On the first day of the GE strike,
the Pentagon ordered $33 million worth
of helicopter engines from GE. This
purchase is just about as unrelated to
the GE strike as its sudden grape-crav-
ing was to the grape boycott.

A unified drive must be launched at
all levels to shut off GE's markets.
Specifically, local, state and especially
the national government must be forc-
ed to honor the boycott and halt pur-
chases from GE for the duration of the
strike.
WHILE ThERE ARE unquestionably
many bones to be picked with the union
bureaucracies and the specific way they
are confronting (or not confronting)
the workers' problems of inflation,
taxes, and wages the interest of stu-
dents in supporting the strike and boy-
cott is crystal clear.
First is the obvious legitimacy of the
demands. Second is the encouraging
fact that workers are here for the first
time holding out against the second
largest defense contractor in the na-
tion, despite great pressures upon them
to relent 'i'n the national interest."
THIRD,. THE WHOLE WAY in which
GE uses women in its 3 fight against
labor is of concern both to women's
liberation groups and the labor move-
ment.
Fourth - and not least - the pre-
dominantly student anti-war movement
must increasingly involve i t s e 1 f in
general in the struggles of workers
fighting for greater control over, their
institutions and for a bigger slice of
the pie - a pie which in fact 'ought to
be theirs completely.
IF THE MOVEMENT fails to see its
identity of interests with such groups,
as the GE strikers. it will 'remain iso-
lated and debilitated:
In supporting such strikes, we have
the opportunity to begin breaking down
the wall of suspician and hostility which
now separates students from workers.
If we ignore such opportunities, th e
same power elite which oppresses both
students and workers can sit back laugh-
ing as both groups continue to squabble
with each other rather than with their
common enemy.

A

"A unified drive must be launched at all levels
to shut off GE's markets."

4

question of wages and labor
general is revealing.

disputes in

Seventy-nine years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students of thIe University of Michigan

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich.

News Phone: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individuol opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, 1970

NIGHT EDITOR: ALEXA CANADY

Distorting or improving media?

AREPORT ON the mass media released
Tuesday by a study group of the
National Commission on the Causes and
Prevention of Violence makes a number
of inferences and a number of recom-
mendations concerning news coverage of
potentially explbsive situations.
While parts of the study's analysis can
provide valuable guidance in improving
the media's service to the nation's peo-
ple, other parts manifest a simplistic
view of the media, the people, and the
government, and might, if adopted, prove
more harmful to the interest of freedom
than the presumed violence in the media
that the commission is attempting to
correct.
At its best, the violence commission
report makes a n u m b e r of laudable
recommendations whose implementation
could be instrumental in opening the
press and the networks to the heretofore
unexplored world of minority groups.
Specifically, the c o m m i s s i o n recom-
mends:
-That the media hire and train in-
creased numbers of n e w s m e n from;
minority groups;
-That the ,media provide information
to local groups about how to prepare
press releases, and aid such groups in
securing access to the media "through
traditional channels short of demonstra-
tion, confrontation and violence;"
-More background and in-depth stor-
ies on social issues, particularly those
"dealing with facets of , the American
scene with which a majority of the.
audience have little actual experience."
The prompt adoption by the media of
such policies would be a major step in
assuring the black- community of at least
a token interest ,in rectifying the voice-
lessness which has plagued black America
for so long.
IN CONTRAST, the commission's recom-
mendation that the government estab-
lish a corporation for public broadcasting,
while containing some checks, seems at
ALTHOUGH THERE has been little

best doomed to failure, at worst, a pos-
sible toehold for government intervention
into news broadcasting,
The commission recommends that the
corporation be funded with a budget of
$40-50 million to provide for news and
public affairs programming "comparable
to that of the television networks," but
concentrating on providing "those serv-
ices which commercial broadcasting can-
not or will not perform." In order to pre-
vent the government from exercising un-
due power over the corporation, the
commission counsels "restraint," plus a
requirement that all communications be-
tween public officials and the corporation
relating to news content be a matter of
public record, and that all hearings per-
taining to it be open to the public.
Considering the previous record of
the government - that is, both major
political parties, in Congress as well as
in the White House - in presenting ac-
curately the news which it has been able
to keep under its control, it seems un-
likely that any corporation such as the
one envisioned by the violence commis-
mission could contribute anything con-
structive to news reporting. Indeed, it
would probably end up as, a mere house
organ for the power behind the p u r s e
strings in Washington.
On the question of the reporting of
violence, the commission wisely recom-
mends that violence for its own sake; de-
serves no place in a newspaper, or on tele-,
vision.
Certainly no competent news agency
ever wastes space with irrelevancies or
sensationalizes in order to sell; any
agency which indulges in such reporting
deserves and receives no respect.
However, critics of the media, most re-
cently the vice president, attack not the
genuinely irresponsible press, but rather
the influential newspapers and networks
which extensively cover social unrest.
r1''HE COMMISSION, for example, con-
tends that the media should delay
coverage of "civil disturbances" or riots,
"until the police have the situation under
control." The assumption seems to be
that it is the media which generates and
inflames violence in the streets. The dis-
tortion in this case is the commission's,

Nexi
F OR DAVID HAWK, 26-year-old
co-leader of the Vietnam
Moratorium movement, the advent
of 1970 meant that 26 days re-
mained before he goes on trial
in a Scranton, Pa., courtroom for
resisting induction into the arm-
ed forces.
His case, like that of John H.
Sisson, Jr., which is now pend-
ing before the Supreme Court, pri-
marily presents the issue of whe-
ther young men can invoke the
principle of conscientious objec-
tion to a specific war rather than
claim the protection of religious
pacifism. The lives of many young
men hinge on the outsome of these
tests.
HISTORICALLY THE concept
of "selective" objection has ach-
ieved little standing. If each citi-
zen could decide for himself what
war he chose to accept or reject,
there could come a time when
the country found itself unable to
mobilize an army when, let us
say, a totalitarian Canadian army
was invading our territory.
In less dramatic terms, t h e
claim of "conscience" could be-
come a refuge for any who simply
preferred to let others assume the
burden of military service.
For a long time these proposi-
tions have been widely viewed as
judicial gospel. But Vietnam bears
no resemblance to any protracted
war in our annals; it has changed
many things-and even the law
may not be invulnerable to its
impact.

FEDERAL JUDGE Charles Wy-
zanski raised the possibility of re-
appraisal in an opinion last April
declaring unconstitutional the
section of the draft law u n d r
which conscientious objection is
limited to religious protesters in
conscripting _men for Vietnam.
In doing so he put aside ques-
tions of the "legality" of an un-
declared war and related q u e s -
tions.
Instead he introduced what
might be called the doctrine of
"balance" into an evaluation of
the special circumstances c r e-
ated by Vietnam. On the o n e
hand, he pointed out, the war is
still a limited action, involving
no national mobilization of our
manpower to "defend the home-
land"; on the other hand, there
is the deep sense of conscientious
resistance it has stirred a m o n g
many young men.
IN THE CASE before him, he
contended, the defendant persua-
sively exhibited "a table of values
[that1 is moral and ethical."
Could it be argued that the na-
tional interest outweighed t h e
damage to the individual projected
by the prosecution?
Admittedly a broadened defin-
ition of conscientious exemption
might invite some to dissemble:
But he added pointedly: '
"Often it is harder to detect a
fraudulent adherent to a religious
creed than to recognize a sincere
moral protestant. We all c a n
discern Thoreau's integrity more

quickly than we might detect
some churchmen's hypocrisy."
SUCH LEGAL questions assume
very human dimensions when one
hears David Hawk talk with quiet
composure about his impendipg
trial. He is the son of deeply re-
ligious parents-members of the
Evangelical Congregational Church
and solid citizens in Allentown,
Pa. I recalled our conversation
last March when he described how
he had dutifully informed his
draft board in October, 1967, that
he had abandoned his stu-
dies and was actively engaged in
the anti-war movement:
"I suppose I could have lied and
claimed I was a conscientious ob-
jector to all war and maybe that.
would have been the end of it," he
said.
"But the tr uth is that I know
I would have been willing to fight
in World War II and'I said so."
HE BETRAYS NEITHER panic
nor self-pity about his legal pre-
dicament; it is his hope that, be-
cause of the prominence he has
enjoyed during his leadership of
the Moratorium, his trial may in-
tensify national reappraisal of the
draft system.
Meanwhile his primary preoccu-
pation remains the revitalization
and extension of the Moratorium
campaign. He concedes that "Nix-
on won the fall counter-offensive"
by simultaneously promoting his
withdrawal-Vietnamization plan
and unleashing Spiro Agnew.
But he contends that the peace
movement is still very much alive

on campuses and "quietly grow-
ing" on a community level. He be-
lieves it will gain renewed impetus
as it becomes clear that Vietnam-
ization is not a miracle-formula
and that the Administration's
commitment to the Thieu regime
is a continuing entrapment.
NEXT WEEK HAWK, Sam
Browne and other Moratorium
leaders will meet in Washington
to draft new plans and perspec-
tives for the coming months.. New
emphasis, he indicated, will be on
the unending costs of the Viet-
nam war and the military budget;
"Too many Americans still don't
realize that 19 cents of every tax
dollar is being used for Vietnam,
and 52 cents for overall military
appropriation."
Most of all he stressed his feel-
ing "that moral issues" of the con-
flict must be explained and - ex-
posed anew to counter the com-
placency of "those who think it
will be fine if we help keep Viet-
namese killing Vietnamese."
IT WAS THE afternoon of New
Year's Eve when we talked. Where
would he be a year from now?
How many more young npen will
be in prison or exile unless our
highest court respects the rules of
mason andi compassion-and "bal-
arice"-embodied in the Wyzanski
opinion? Will we permanently
scar thousands who have, in a
sense, expressed the courage of
the conviction held by millions
about the most hated war in our
history?
@ New York Post

,...JAMES WECHSLER-
Selective objeclion

to war?

.'
41

Sir, may I

please be an alien?

By JONATHAN MILLER
YESTERDAY I registered as an
alien, It was a painful opera-
tion. I walked up to the window
of the rather grubby post office
in Nickels Arcade, and spake the
following words to the kindly
looking gentleman at the window:
"Uh, hello,' I want to be, I mean
can I please be, an alien."
Now this guy just looked at me
incredulously for about three min-
utes, and there were all kinds of
people lining up behind me want-
ing to buy stamps and stuff. At
last he spoke to me, but his tone
was hard, and his composure
looked unsettled.
"ARE YOU AN alien?", he
asked.
"If course I'm an alien. Would
I try to register as an alien if I
wasn't an alien?"
"Yep, we've had a few trying it
over the past few days, trans-love
types mostly . . . you sure you're
an alien?"
"I promise, cross my heart, I'm'
an alien," I retorted, by now ac-
tually embarrassed at my dis-
ability.

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