APRIL 18, 1947
NEW YORK, Thursday— In Bernard M. Baruch's speech on the occasion of the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina Legislature, there was a sentence which should be written in large letters and put up in the office of every industrial executive and every labor leader in the country.
Mr. Baruch said: "Until we have unity, until we straighten out and solve our own problems of production, and have internal stability, there is no basis on which the world can renew itself physically and spiritually." He advocates a 44-hour, five-and-a-half-day week, "with no strikes or layoff, to Jan. 1, 1949."
Everybody recognizes the wisdom of his program. The problem is how to accomplish it. Labor cannot promise no strikes under present conditions. Unless prices come down and are stabilized, and unless conditions of work are fair and equitable, unrest must exist among the workers.
No individual industrial leader, without cooperation from the rest of industry, can assure labor of conditions which would make this program safe. This situation can only be solved if management agrees to certain rules. Then labor and management and government can sit down together and come to an agreement and stick to it up to a given date. When that date is reached, they can agree to meet again and discuss any necessary changes.
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With prices on the necessities of life as astronomical as they are at present, it would be inviting many workers to starve if they were to agree to continue the present situation unchanged. To expect them to get along somehow until the fruits of their labors bring about a change in prices is asking more, I think, than we should ask. Of course, greater production will automatically reduce costs, but there will be a lag, and labor alone cannot be expected to make that initial sacrifice.
I have not forgotten that when the gentlemen representing labor and management met before, nothing was achieved, but I am assuming that all of them now realize they are facing a crisis such as they have never before faced. If our economy does not straighten itself out and give small business and the workers and consumers of this country a sense of security and well-being, then democracy and private enterprise are going to be faced with a major defeat.
In 1933, private enterprise had to have some pretty strong shots in the arm. If we repeat the cycle, the shots will have to be stronger next time. This crisis is not one which should be laid on government's doorstep. It is clearly the responsibility of the industrial leaders to join with the leaders of labor and invite the government to cooperate with them in taking the necessary steps to bring about security and confidence here, without which there can be no security and confidence abroad.