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REVIEW: Arms Maker, Union Buster, Litton Industries: A Corporate Profile

Anonymous — August 1984

Researched and written by Len Desroches, Tom Joyce and Murray MacAdam. Toronto: Published by the Cruise Missile Conversion Project, 1984. 20 p.

Reviewed by R. V. Cupido

The Litton Industries plant in Toronto manufactures, among other more innocuous gadgets, the phenomenally acurate inertial navigational system for the American cruise missile. As such, it has provided a powerful symbolic focus for the activities of the Canadian peace movement and, in particular, of the Cruise Missile Conversion Project, “a collective of people who aim to change Litton’s production to production which meets human needs.”

Litton, however, as this admirable little booklet makes clear, is much more than a supplier of sophisticated electronic components for the American nuclear arsenal. Litton Systems Canada is a small part of a vast corporate conglomerate based in California and encompassing more than a dozen industries and over 100 companies and factories, whose products range from business forms and microwave ovens to guided missile destroyers.

Litton’s role as a major military contractor is generally known; in 1982 the U.S. Department of Defence accounted for one quarter of its $5 billion in total sales. Drawing upon U.S. government sources, this study shows Litton Industries to be an integral part of the corrupt military procurement process (involving political influence-peddling, huge cost overruns, fraudulent accounting procedures and the production of elaborate and superfluous weaponry) which, beyond all democratic control, serves to accelerate the arms race.

Litton’s appalling record of unfair and illegal labour practices, which is documented in this book, has been less publicized. Citing a recent study carried out by Professor Charles Craypo of Notre Dame University, the authors reveal “a flagrant, systematic and calculated lawlessness” in its “aggressively anti-union policy.” Various Litton subsidiaries have resorted to summary firings of union organizers and sympathizers, surveillance and interrogation of employees, refusal to bargain with legally certifIed locals, plant closures and the creation of runaway shops, intimidation and, in some cases, threats of physical violence.

However, the situation may fInally be changing. In the United States, a broadly-based national coalition of labour and religious groups has been formed in an effort to combat Litton’s corporate excesses, using such tactics as intensive Congressional lobbying, rallies and demonstrations, mutual support in unionization drives and strikes, and community mobilization. It remains to be seen whether this campaign will extend to Litton’s Canadian and European subsidiaries.

Arms Maker, Union Buster is an impressive document. Despite its brevity, it is packed with information that is presented in a clear and straightforward style, free of polemical rhetoric. The unsavoury facts are left to speak for themselves. (However, I did object to the word defence being always placed Within quotation marks. The point is well-taken, but somewhat laboured.) A more serious fault is the lack of adequate references. A complete listing of the sources used by the authors would have buttressed the credibility of their study.

Arms Maker, Union Buster is available from the Cruise Missile Conversion Project, 730 Bathurst St., Toronto M5S 2R3. The price is $2.50.