DECEMBER 10, 1945
NEW YORK, Sunday—I think the time has come to look carefully at this question of the newly proposed labor legislation. Its formula is drawn from the Railway Labor Act, but the important factor lacking in the situation before us is that the Railway Labor Act was based upon an agreement between management and the labor unions and their joint request for that type of agreement and legislation.
We have but to look at the history of labor in Europe to see that when the rights of labor are curtailed, a danger signal is flying. Certainly taking away the right of any man to stop work at any time he wishes to do so, except with his agreement, is abrogating a right. In Germany this led to ultimate slavery. It does not happen immediately, but fascism can come upon one unawares. We have always been more fearful of communism but at the moment, I think we had better watch out for the possibility of enslavement from the fascist side.
In the particular case which has brought about this proposed legislation, the unions offered to arbitrate but the management apparently did not object to a strike. That is easy to understand because in a strike it is the workers who really suffer, particularly in this case where a portion of management's earnings are safeguarded by legislation passed during the war in order to get their full cooperation for production.
We forgot at the same time to pass legislation to safeguard the workers, who during the reconversion period would run the same risks as management. Nevertheless, we expected the workers to cooperate and our record of production is such that I think we can safely say that, by and large, both management and labor did a magnificent job during the war.
Now we come to peace, and suddenly we hear on every side that organized labor has grown so strong it must be regulated. I believe all of us should live under a rule of law, but I think we had better really look at the record and see how the numbers in organized labor compare with the public in general, and with the numbers of unorganized working people.
Organized labor throughout the nation now claims about 47% of the workers engaged in industrial occupations where unions are actively engaged in obtaining written agreements under collective bargaining. This does not include members of unions which do not come under collective bargaining contracts, such as government employees, etc.
We had better remember that the gains of organized labor have been eventually the gains of all workers, and that they only have the power of numbers as opposed to the very great powers in the hands of industrial associations and organizations.
It might well be that through negotiation the two parties in the present struggle would in time ask for some such legislation as is now proposed. But without that agreement it seems to me tyranny to impose it, and an abrogation of fundamental rights which eventually would do harm to every citizen.