SEPTEMBER 19, 1945
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I was urged by someone the other day to resign from the CIO as a patriotic gesture because of the strikes in the Ford plant. I was told that it was terrible for the workers to strike when the industrialists were trying so hard to give jobs.
If this is a sample of the thinking which is going on, I believe the time has come for some of us to state clearly what we really feel and know about the economic situation which faces us in the reconversion period.
First of all, unions are not perfect. They are made up of human beings. But neither are employers perfect; they also are human beings. I happen to have been told by a number of people that a few of our biggest employers—not all of them, but a few of them—think quite honestly that this is the time to break the power of labor through destroying their unions if they can. These industrial leaders believe quite honestly that it would be better for the country to return to what to them seems normal—to a situation in which the costs are largely saved in whatever you manufacture by the cutting down of the number of jobs and of the wages of the workers.
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Let us examine this theory. As long as there are other jobs being created into which people can go, the creation of labor-saving devices which benefit only the employer make very little difference. But we have reached a point today where labor-saving devices are good only when they do not throw the worker out of his job. It is fine to produce more things than ever before, but in doing so we must benefit the employee as well as the employer. We must make it possible for him to work fewer hours, and at the same time permit him to have the things which he makes at lower cost and to continue to have the wages which make it possible for him to be a consumer. His wages are the part of our wealth which is most constantly in circulation, just as what the farmer makes is important to us because that also is immediately spent.
The circulation of money is a necessity to prevent depressions. Therefore, if too much money goes into the hands of people who can save it and not put it back into circulation, we will have a depression. When we live on invested money, instead of on the fruits of our own labor, of necessity that money must bring in less. The stockholder or investor must expect less return than the original worker.
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I do not know whether the demands of Mr. Ford's workers should all be granted. But I think there should have been set up, long ago, labor-management committees where questions such as this one could be threshed out. Men should not have to strike for something which probably must be accepted in the future—the right to work fewer hours and yet receive the same wages. It should be a question for sensible men to settle in conference. We need a big national income with money kept in circulation if we are not to go through another depression in which both employer and employee will suffer.