SEPTEMBER 5, 1949
HYDE PARK—I think Labor Day has a special significance this year because there are some questions up before the Congress and therefore of interest to the people which deal specifically with questions of interest to labor. For instance, in the steel situation the basic question is how much the participation of labor in the overall earnings of a company should actually be. If you discuss wages or a pension plan this sharing of overall earnings is still the basic question.
In the early days of the labor movement, a labor leader was concerned primarily in getting what increase in wages he could for his workers and he paid no attention at all to the condition of the business in which he was employed. Today an intelligent labor leader would think that suicidal, because he would know that he must not make demands which the business could not grant. The division today between labor and capital is on the amount that the employer and the executive part of the business, plus the investment interest, should take out of the business in comparison with what the man who does the work of the industry should get as a return on his labor, day by day.
It is obvious that if a laborer asks for too much he will finally lose his job. There must be a good return on investment, or people instead of putting their money into investments on which a higher tax return is required, will put their money into government investments which will pay less in dividends but from which returns less will be paid to the government. The minute that is done by investors jobs become fewer. It is of interest to the wage earner to keep as much money going into the expansion of business and the experiments in new business as possible. But what the interest rate paid on invested capital shall be, what the salaries of executives and administrative expenses shall be, whether hidden bonuses shall be paid or not, all these things are questions which today are scrutinized by labor leaders with a great deal of interest and care.
The expenses of those who work with their hands have gone up just as the expenses of all other people have increased, but it is not just what it costs him to live that a man who works with his hands on a salaried basis takes into account today. What he considers as his fair share of the actual labor to be done is the important consideration. A laborer is willing to concede that brains are important, but he expects that where men work with their hands but still have to have brains, that will be taken into account in their wages, and he feels more keenly than ever before that the wheels of industry could not turn at all without his active participation. The cry that is raised whenever such questions come before the people is that the New Deal after the depression of the early 30's, started us on a socialist road and that these ideas that have now taken hold of some of our economists and some of our labor leaders and their followers, are leading us down to the road to socialism. I am not so sure. On this Labor Day I would like to have many people study the questions—perhaps what we are really doing is to save capitalism.