The Meany-Reuther Conflict

The Meany-Reuther Conflict

A good part of the comment about the dispute inside the AFL-CIO has been empty of understanding. Reporters have made much of the votes inside the Executive Council, but these votes have limited meaning. Jacob Potofsky of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers is recorded as supporting Meany’s position, but his union has publicly declared itself for the recognition of Red China. Does anyone really suppose, then, that he supports Meany’s foreign policy? There is a tradition of public unanimity at the Council level, and it is precisely this tradition of unanimity with which Reuther is breaking. The Council votes mean little; it is what happens in the field that will be important.

Reuther has, in effect, decided to give up standing in the wings while he suffered what he regarded as exclusion and abuse, waiting for a crack at a job that he knew in his bones he would never inherit. By any reasonable standard, Reuther is “entitled,” but Meany has made no secret of his intention to block him at any cost. Reuther is the kind of man who feels compelled to go along so long as he is part of a “leadership team,” but now he wants out, wants more elbow room, and so he has moved for greater independence. There will be no formal break with the AFL-CIO —unless Meany aggressively seeks one. There will, instead, be a gradual drawing apart. Here and there, at local levels, the UAW will go it alone, but in most places it will continue to cooperate with the AFL-CIO.

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Lima