DECEMBER 8, 1945
NEW YORK, Friday—The General Motors management and the United Automobile Workers' leaders have renewed their negotiations. If the threat of legislation which neither side wants, brought about a willingness on the part of management to renew a serious effort at collective bargaining, then it is doing a service.
If, however, it is only the promise that prices may be raised, because we have recognized that there is an increase in living costs, and that therefore wages should be raised, then I think we may be doing the public, and that includes both management and labor, a great disservice.
Any of us who remember the First World War, realize that a rise in prices now will start inflation that may give us a boom at first. But it inevitably will give us a depression afterwards, and it is the "little" people who suffer in a depression. The "big" people suffer, too, but not as a rule actual hunger and cold and lack of shelter.
Mr. Chester Bowles of the OPA, has been like a voice in the wilderness on the question of sticking to price ceilings, and I surmise that the pressure on him from business groups must be tremendous. I am quite sure that the public is not sitting in his outer office, but I doubt if we ever could find a time when representatives of some large business could not be found on his calendar of visitors.
If we do not hold our rent and price ceilings, we can look forward to a repetition of conditions as they were in the early 1930's. This may seem hard to business, because it does limit their ability to earn greater profits at a time when the demand for goods is great. It means that apparently they will have to bear a greater cost for labor and get no compensation by higher prices from the public.
I have faith, however, in the ingenuity and ability of our business people on the management level. I am quite sure that if faced with this fact, once they accept it, they will set themselves to work to find ways of cheapening the cost of manufacture of their products without really impairing the quality.
Mr. Ford taught us many years ago that greater profits can be made out of increased output, and I do not think that our industrialists, as a whole, will ignore that lesson. This will mean that our people, the average you and me, will be able to have more things that we really want because our wages will be higher and the cost of the things we desire will remain stable.
I want to see business prosper. I believe that the prosperity of the people is tied up with the success of big and little business, but I see no way for business to prosper unless the people prosper. We must have prosperity in this country before we can give a lift to the other nations of the world who are going to find prosperity much harder to attain than we. In the future their prosperity will mean more than it does now to us. Today there are savings in this country and needs to be filled far above our average requirements. Later we will need greater markets in other nations and that is why their prosperity is linked to ours.