STRIKES in Windsor, Ont., have cost the community more than $3½ millions in wages never paid out, a total which in the latter days of the strike was rising at the rate of $140,000 a day. Twenty thousand families were without income for varying periods, living on savings or on union relief. Production has been held up for months. Reconversion has been delayed.
Everyone has suffered in this industrial warfare. What caused it ?
All conciliators agree that the first and worst cause of trouble was “bad blood between the Ford Company and the union.” Both sides share blame for this, but a primary responsibility for creating and maintaining good will is on the employer. It seems evident to us that during the period preceding the strike the Ford Company of Canada failed to discharge this primary obligation.
United Auto Workers, on their side, neither recognized nor discharged their equally grave responsibility for the observance of law.
From the outset of the strike the union broke the law, written and unwritten. It broke the written law when it refused Ford executives their legal right to enter their own offices. It broke the unwritten law of accepted strike practice by calling out the powerhouse workers and thus endangering the maintenance of the Ford plant. It broke union law by calling out Local 195, the auto workers in other than Ford plants, after the UAW international executive had refused to sanction this strike. Finally, by seizing private automobiles to barricade the entrance to the Ford factory, it violated a fundamental right of the citizen.
None of these acts is fully defensible, and the commandeering of private cars is not defensible * at all.
Third party to this, as to any, labor dispute is Government, which also failed to discharge its responsibility at Windsor.
It failed, first, in its duty to enforce.the law. This was the fault in the first instance of municipal authorities, who waited for eight weeks before attempting what they should have done the first day, namely to establish the right of passage for people who wanted to enter Ford offices. If this issue had been faced at the outset it would not have taken, as it did take, the appearance of State intervention on the Company’s side.
Woolly thinking on this point is epidemic. People’s natural sympathy with the worker leads them to feel that anything he dees is right, that any steps to impede his tactics are tyrannous.
“Prevention of bloodshed” is made an overriding consideration.
Actually, this is the doctrine of “peace at any price.” Prevention of bloodshed is a primary aim of public policy, but it is not the only aim. If it were, armed burglary would become the most secure of all professions—no risk, no overhead. Toleration of an illegal and violent act, on the ground that it might take more violence to prevent it, is the acceptance of a state of insurrection.
The basic point in dispute at Windsor was union security, meaning the union shop and the checkoff. This is an area of fundamental disagreement between employers and employees in Canada. The great majority of employers are against any formula which would compel any of their employees to become or remain union members as a condition of employment. The great majority of unions are determined to have it.
At present no law governs or even guides a conciliator in this matter. A few years ago the same was true of union recognition—most strikes were fought to establish the right to bargain. This situation has been cleared up by legislation. There now are recognized methods, other than a knockdown fight, for determining whether or not a union has the right to the status of bargaining agent.
Now it seems about time for a similar definition of public policy on the issue of union security. Is the union shop justified in any circumstances? If so, in what circumstances? If not, let it be declared beyond the law.
Unless this issue is clarified it will be the subject of labor struggles that will cost the nation millions of dollars and cause untold misery.
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