FEBRUARY 5, 1948
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—There is a great deal of talk these days about labor-management relations and whether understandings can be reached between the employer and employee. And I think considerable nonsense has been spouted in the past by both sides.
I have heard employers say that their employees were unreasonable people who could not possibly appreciate the problems of an employer; and I have heard union leaders say that there was no such thing as a meeting ground between employer and employee—that they must always be opposed to each other. This seems to me almost as stupid as to say that, because we have always settled everything by force, we must continue always to have wars.
However, a few people have made great strides in the field of labor relations. Anyone who read a recent speech made by Mr. Max Meyer of the garment industry, before the American Medical Association's congress on industrial health, must have had a feeling that a blueprint was being unrolled before their eyes. Mr. Meyer pointed out the way in which intelligent employers of goodwill could control others in their industry who were not quite so anxious to do well, and with intelligent labor leadership, could achieve astounding results in cooperation in one great industry.
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One part of this address deserves quoting. "Although the question of health insurance and welfare objectives for workers is an old story in my industry, the general public has only recently become aware of these issues through the demands of John L. Lewis. I am wholly in agreement with the objectives of the miners. The chapter of antisocial behavior in many sectors of this key industry is far too long and most shameful. The bloody battles in Harlan County and elsewhere are a blot on the American social scene.
"I am, however, in complete disagreement with Mr. Lewis' demands that he and the union alone will control and spend the millions of dollars collected, according to the needs of the workers as the union chiefs evaluate these needs. I plead for the philosophy of control by the public, which we in the garment industry established thirty-seven years ago."
Here is a really enlightened employer who knows that, while you must have both sides represented, a group of neutral or public representatives is very essential. As a guide to better relations between employer and employee, I think this speech is well worth reading.