This week President Roosevelt ordered the Army to seize a small Minneapolis brassworks because the C.I.O. workers had called a "work stoppage," labor's wartime euphemism for a strike.
This was the 21st time in the war that the President had been forced to seize a war-essential plant because of labor trouble. Strikes breaking out again in the coal fields of Pennsylvania and West Vir ginia seemed about to swell the list : with 33 mines already being operated by the Government, new walkouts last week left 30 mines and 12,000 miners idle and presumably waiting for the Army to come in.
The union-authorized coal strikes were the most serious. In general the U.S. merely went on suffering from its apparently chronic rash of brief wildcat walkouts. At the huge Willow Run Liberator bomber plant, 2,000 key workers walked out one day, walked back in the next; they had entirely stalled production for more than 24 hours. In Chicago 600 employes at the Dodge plant, which makes 6-29 Superfortress engines, struck for three days, scurried back to work after a wounded Army private had pleaded with them. In Bessemer, Ala., male welders in the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co. went on strike when the female welders got a raise. This was a full week's strike crop.
These flash strikes were almost never individually serious, but their cumulative total was. If walkouts continue at the present rate, labor will hang up a new record in 1944 of 5,200 strikes in one year. (During the six-year period between 1927 and 1932, inclusive, the total number of strikes was 4,520, but only one-third the number of people working now were employed then.) This means that work stoppages, despite labor's no-strike pledge for the duration, are occurring more frequently now than at any time during the past 25 years.
But the real measuring stick is not the number of strikes but the number of man-days they lose, and in this respect labor has done much better this year than last.
From January to July, man-days lost for 1944 totaled 4,850,000 as against 8,272,000 for the same period in 1943. The really serious strike period will probably come after the European war, when labor tries to get the same pay for a 40-hour week that it has been getting for the mandatory 48-hour wartime week.