DECEMBER 9, 1946
NEW YORK, Sunday—The first impact of the coal strike on other workers came home to me today as I walked into my apartment house. A man stopped me and said: "I have lost my job. You can telephone the steel company and find out. My mother is sick and I need help very badly."
I don't think anyone has approached me in this way since the days soon after 1933. For some time before that, however, I remember that every time I went out people would stop me on the street near my home, and I would give them some food tickets I carried in my purse which provided a meal in return for some work. This is the first day since then that I have had to face that kind of a situation again.
It is not good to have to face it; neither was it good to read a newspaper headline which stated: "Labor, The United States, Line Up For Battle." The United States government belongs to labor as much as it does to any other group of citizens in this country, and they are responsible for the strength of their government. They should not weaken it or put their own interests in opposition to that of the whole people. I am therefore very glad that the miners have been ordered back to work, and I hope this indicates in Mr. John L. Lewis a realization of his responsibility to the whole people.
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We had a long session at Lake Success on Friday, arguing the same old question of whether we should resolve to have another investigating committee look into the conditions in the displaced persons' camps. The idea is one that has been discussed a number of times, because there undoubtedly are instances where people have been found in these camps urging other people not to go back to their countries of origin. It is of course the responsibility of UNRRA as long as it runs these camps—and of the military authorities who are assisted by the repatriation officers of all the countries of origin—to prevent any coercion from within or without against repatriation. No commission going to the camps today could do more than ask that the military authorities do a better job than they have done in the past.
During the discussion I suggested that patriotic speeches were not quite enough from the visiting repatriation officers, but that they should be able to answer some of the questions which are of prime concern to the displaced persons. Many of these people know nothing about government policies, but they do want to know whether their village is still in existence and whether they are going back to that village. If it has been destroyed, where will they go? Will they have shelter and means of earning a living, and how will they live until they are earning and producing again? Too often, the representatives who come to speak to the displaced persons are unable to answer these fundamental questions; and those of us who have had much to do with people know that the most patriotic speeches in the world get nowhere when a man is thinking about food and shelter for his family.