• U.S.

Business: Recovery & Revolution

3 minute read

To General Motors’ 342,384 stockholders President Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr. last week sent two communications: a 62-page annual report and a 13-page “Story of the General Motors Strike.” From these, wrote President Sloan, the stockholder may “obtain as complete an understanding as is possible of the Corporation’s position and of such influences as may affect its trend in the future.” GM in 1936 sold 2,037,690 automobiles and trucks, exceeding by 7% the previous all-time high mark of 1,899,267 (1929). For these cars last year and for many another GM product, including Frigidaires, Diesel engines & locomotives, Delco heating, lighting and radio units, GM received $1,439,290,000, a 25% gain in net sales over 1935. Net profits for 1936 were $238,482,000, compared with $167,227,000 in the previous year.

While the annual report pronounced attempts to forecast undesirable, President Sloan’s letter dealing with the strike left no doubt that the Influence which may affect the future of the world’s No. 1 motormaker is Labor. Wrote he:

“The strike against General Motors Corporation was not actuated by any fundamental causes that affected, in an important degree, the welfare of its workers. I am convinced that this is an unprejudiced statement of fact. … As is very generally recognized, working conditions, including the wage scale and the hours of work, in the automotive industry and in General Motors, are such that the automobile worker stands as the most favored of all workers in American industry. . . . Then what was the real objective [of the strike] ? . . . The purpose was to obtain the maximum possible recognition, carrying with it the greatest degree of power with a view to controlling, not only the workers within General Motors, but of the entire automotive industry and ultimately, so far as possible, all workers employed in mass producing industry. . . .

“Manifestly, such a procedure carries with it the implications of the greatest possible danger. It places the productivity of industry at the mercy of a labor leadership, responsible and accountable to neither the law nor the workers, and restricted solely by its own desires and ambitions. The dangers of such a centralized control of the American worker are obvious. Its political implications challenge democracy. … To the extent that it succeeds, it means the economic and political slavery of the worker, and an important step toward an economic dictatorship. . . .

“The ‘sitdown’ technique … is subject to no control except by labor leaders (see p. 20) . . . [and] is revolutionary in its dangers and implications. It should be dealt with by those responsible for law and order. . . . The sooner that be recognized, the better for all concerned.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com