DECEMBER 10, 1940
WASHINGTON, Monday —This morning, I saw a heading in the newspaper which distrubed me very much. On reading the story, it appeared that one of our admirals was before a committee in Congress and reported that the Walsh—Healey bill was creating contractual difficulties and retarding the defense program.
He asserted that this act, under which firms accepting government contracts are required to meet certain labor standards fixed by their industries: "continues to be a disturbing factor in the procurement of some lines of government supplies." He emphasized the reluctance of many manufacturers to bid for government contracts because of the minimum wage determinations, and cited experiences with steel and aircraft clock manufacturers as examples to illustrate his point.
I think it is often forgotten that it is the red tape surrounding the government work which deters people as much as any legal restrictions. Payment is slow and many difficulties arise which do not arise in private contracts.
The Walsh-Healey Act was passed by Congress after long and careful debate. It represents safeguards for labor which seem entirely reasonable to many people and must have seemed so to the majority of Congress. If that majority today decides that it was wrong, it seems to me the changes should be made only after due debate in Congress.
I cannot escape the feeling, however, that the tendency has been, so far, to say that labor much make sacrifices of wages and hours because of the necessities of national defense. I have yet to see anywhere a statement that manufacturers and business concerns and the general public through investment returns, shall make this same type of sacrifice in the cause of national defense, by cutting profits and reducing the salaries of their executives.
Our volume of production is dependent on the willingness with which men work with their hands and their heads. Necessary as is the work of the men at the top, they can do nothing without the vast army of workers. The workers can do nothing, I grant you, without the men at the top and what they represent in capital investment and in ability and experience. It is quite evident that this a cooperative job. Sacrifices will have to be equal. Work and devotion to the country for which we sacrifice can only be equal if everybody concerned feels that they have at stake a way of life for which it is worthwhile to sacrifice.
Last night six of us went to see the first performance given this winter by the repertory club of the Washington Theatre. It was called the "D. C. Melody." Much of the script was very entertaining, many of the actors had some professional experience, and some of the music and dancing was attractive. One dance in particular, where the chorus danced behind a veil and the lights they held made patterns on a screen, I thought was particularly interesting and attractive.
I had some rather expert criticism with me where the dancing was concerned, for Miss Mayris Chaney, who is a member of the dance team of Chaney and Fox, was with me for the evening. We all enjoyed it and I think it must be a novel sensation, if you are accustomed to doing the entertaining, to sit back and watch some one else do the hard work!