Murray Body Committee Local 2 at Executive Board Meeting, April 26,
1939, Toledo Ohio, Addes Collection, Box 14.11, Reuther Archives
Detroit re. competitive situation in the
spring and wire industry
Richard Frankensteen addresses the workers of Murray Body Co. during
their 1937 sit-down strike Detroit, Michigan.
BROTHER MANINI: Last week we were confronted by the management of the Murray Corporation, which included the President of the organization. It was the first time that he had ever met with the union, as all previous negotiations were done with the manufacturing manager, Mr. Earl; and the Industrial Relations Manager, and so forth, but this time the half-owner of the corporation, Mr. Whitman, was there, and Mr. Avery, and presented us with a problem that is the most serious problem that has ever confronted us, even in the time when we first had our strike.
Now, the problem that he presented us with is the fact that we have entirely lost all of our business unless there is a future change in the policy of receiving pay.
In other words, a suggestion was made that we take a wage cut and an increase in our efficiency or possibly an incentive plan.
Now, the incentive plan that he proposed to us was to take a base rate of twenty-five per cent less than our standard rate at the present time and in the event that we increased our efficiency ahd showed a good incentive we could bring ourselves to our present rate, which would be no wage cut, only that we would keep them from losing their business on the prices that are quoted elsewhere.
. . . .
In the spring and wire
industry we have the McInerney
Plant in Grand Rapids; we have Reynolds [Spring Co.] in Jackson,
and we have Falls Spring
and L.A. Young,
but their rates are comparable with ours
and they are suffering because of the [un]organized competitive shop.
We are confronted with this situation immediately because it has got to be done in the next thirty days because that is when prices are going to be quoted on these jobs and we have not got a single job for 1940, and we don't like to accept a wage cut in the first place.
In other words, we don't know whether the company is serious in their proposal and that is why we have come up here, because we figured that you felllows are broader to a situation like that, and have more experience. We figured that it was too big a job for us to handle. What we would like for you people to do is to set up a committee of one or two to come with us in the negotiations with the management
They said they would be perfectly willing to meet with any of you people. That they would be perfectly willing to meet with Mr. Murray, or Mr. Hillman if necessary. That they would, if need be, lay their books open to them and let them decide what they would do about this thing. . . .
I also have a statement of the financial standing of the corporation and the loss they had last year, but all corporations of any size have lost money last year. That is, anyway, they did not make any amount of profit, or the amount of profit that they had in the previous years. That is not the argument that I want to use that these fellows lost money. The argument that I want to use is that competition is so keen, not on the basis of efficency but on the basis of wage rates, and I think it is unfair competition.
BROTHER MCWILLIAMS: We have had quite some argument amongst ourselves after the proposal was made to us in regards to this incentive system of wage cuts, which is really what it means.
In our Executive Board meeting we were taking it up and we saw that we would probably get involved with the International and we are now here today to lay this case before you fellows because we know that we can't take any action over there that is not okayed by you people here.
Furthermore, as Brother Smith stated, you know more about this thing than we do and we are very young in the labor movement and although we we have got hellish good intentions they probably can fool us a hell of a lot easier than they can you fellows. Therefore, I would like to make a plea that one or two or possibly all of you can sit in there and listen to the same story that we have heard.
BROTHER HALL: I would like to say a few words for the spring industry. The management of the company called my shop committee in one day last week and wanted to know what we thought would be a fair rate of efficiency for the next year. He showed us what we had run this last month, this current month I should say, and all our departments had run anywhere, one department at eighty-eight per cent for one day but outside of that they had run from eighty to ninety-eight--98.7 per cent. That was up to last Thursday for the entire month.
He explained to us that they work an eight[ty] per cent basis as well, if we are making 93 that is really 100. He wanted to know if we could give him a fair idea of what we would run next year so they could go out and bid on those jobs according to that. So we got together and we thought it over and talked it over and we figured that we could give them on the rate of what they had been getting, we could assure them of 95 per cent, which I think was fair, bcause they had been running around 95 on an average for the whole shop.
But what we are up against is that McInerney [Spring & Wire also in Passaic N. J.] in Grand Rapids [photo 1 and photo2] is paying ladies 31 cents and men 41 cents. We pay ladies 70 cents and men anywhere from 85 cents to $1.05. So, you see that it is quite a difference. McInerney today is working six days a week three shifts and we are having an awful time working one shift and a half and it is going down every day. Outside from that we have Audry and they are cutting in on us.
We have Great Lakes in Chicago, and we have one down in New Jersey. They can get that stuff made down there and shipped in to Detroit cheaper than we can make it on account of their wage scale.
What we would like to get at is to get McInerney and these places right around the east do not bother because the are quite a[ ]way away. If we could get these places in Michigan organized so that they can, so that they will have to pay a rate of wages as we do, we figure we could get somewhere with it. It would be fair competition. We would like, if possble, to get those organized as soon as we can. pp. 3-4
BROTHER REUTHER: In the spring end of your production there,
weren't having any trouble with L.A.
Young, Gibson and Muer?
BROTHER MANINI: Our rates are comparable.
BROTHER HALL: McInerney in Grand Rapids, and Great Lakes of Chicago. I understand that L.A. Young and Falls have smaller factories out in the small outlying districts that are paying less than the fellows in Detroit.
BROTHER REUTHER: There is something here, I don't know whether you want me to discuss it here now, but I have one spring plant in my local  and they don't, that is Precision Springs, die springs and things like that, but your trouble is with cushion springs.
BROTHER MANINI: Cushion springs.
BROTHER REUTHER: We had a
conference with the
Spring-Fall and Jimson Muer, that was the Spring Council and we have
been trying to cordinate that. We had a conferenced with our
Bargaining Committee and the management of Precision
is a fellow there by the name of Peterson,
one of the big shots of the
Spring Manufacturers Association. He is quite an advanced
of fellow on these problems and he is willing, next month
there is a
going to be a Spring Manufacturers Association meeting in New York
there was one last year, at which time they agreed if the UAW would
send an International representative their group of people would
on the floor and try to force an agreement for the whole
order to try to take labor out of
Last yer Tucci was instructed to go there and he got there a day late,
after the conference ws over.
Here is what he want us to do. He wants to do this if we can get the various committees, now if we can get L.A. Young to get their management and Jinson and Fall Spring and Precision Spring, if we get all the spring companies in Detroit who are dealing with the union and have the highest wage rate in Detroit, if we can get these peole to come together and have a joint management meeting and committee meeting and you people send people from your spring plants and other plants in Detroit, we can sit down and map out a program and send an Interntional reprentative to the association's meeting and the fellows will work wth us when we try to break this thing down.
Peterson tells us our committee was there two weeks ago, that the spring companies in Detroit are technically equipped and strong enough, if they work as an organized group with the support of the union working in a concerted program they could lick the God damn sweat shops up-state.
I think that is the sort of approach that is necessary in this industry. We have got to begin to work as an organized group with the organized group of manufacturers who are willing to accept the union. In Precision we have a closed shop, this fellow says, "The Union is here to stay and I am going to live with it and I want to work with the union and lick these others."
Peterson thinks that L.A. Young and some of the other companies here that are being pushed like Jenks & Muer will cooperate if we do that sort of thing and we can get before the Association of Spring Manufacturers and set up a blanket agrement in the spring industry and we can begin to squeeze these little fellows who are operating little shops and slave shop wages. If this can't be done through the Association then we might get Peterson and these fellows in Detroit to lead a movement for setting up a new association in the spring industry the same as they did in the clothing industry. In the clothing industry they had to help an advanced group of employers. In the clothing industry they started with the white goods industry and they had to help these fellows set up a whole new association and together they licked the sweat shops in the clothing industry. These are the possibilities that we have got to explore. If you fellows can go the management and get them to agree in a joint meeting like that in Detroit so they can work out a caucus in the Association, I think you might move this thing.
Jenks and Muer is a big company and I think if they start squeezing in one way and we send organizers to Grand Rapids we can begin to do a job. I would like to see if you fellows would cooperate.
BROTHER MANINI: I am
willing to lay my pocktbook on the table.
BROTHER HALL: Jenks and Muer, there we have a very fair administration to work with. They are very fair and willing to work wth us. I will agree to that. We can get them to do something about McIneryny(sic) because they have Chrysler work Dodge work and all of that that we used to have and they are working three full shifts and that is what is pinching us and we have a hell of a time working one and half shifts. Half of the time our day shifts go home anywhere from 9:30 in the morning up to four in the afternoon. pp. 9-11