My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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HYDE PARK, —Labor Day is here again and this historic holiday has special significance this year.

Labor has grown in organization and the size of its membership in the great unions makes it a very influential factor in our government today.

In the early days all of the thought and ability among the leaders of labor had to be devoted to improving their organizations and to obtaining the advantages for labor which have now, in large part, been obtained. It is true that there are goals still to be reached, that no labor leader can sit back and say that he has obtained for the men and women in his union all that he thinks they are entitled to. A wise and intelligent labor leader is always increasing his own knowledge and watching changing conditions and formulating new policies to meet the new needs.

Most of the leaders, particularly those in important positions, today have a keen sense of their obligation not only to their members, but to the country as a whole. Even beyond that, they know they must accept some responsibility for the world situation.

It seems to me, however, that the rank and file of labor, in spite of the opportunities that many unions give their members for education along the lines of citizenship, have not accepted their full responsibility as citizens. They do not always seem to realize that because of their organization they, as individuals, can accomplish more than the unorganized citizen. They can have a better understanding of the problems before the nation if they actually insist that their union put it before them.

Because of these opportunities they have an obligation to help to prepare their neighbors, whether they are union or not, to better understand the problems confronting their nation and the world today.

I have been tlose to the labor movement for a great many years and I can remember the time when conditions in many industries were unspeakably bad. So I can easily understand also the preoccupation with situations that primarily exist in a given industry for the worker and his family. It happens, however, today that those very problems are going to be affected by situations throughout the world.

The International Labor Organization has been working on problems of labor from the world standpoint for many years, and I think most of its staff would agree that increasingly the conditions that exist in other countries are affecting conditions in our own nation. Because of certain difficulties created by our federal form of government, we are not among the nations that have ratified the greatest number of ILO conventions. Nevertheless these conventions point to the interdependence of nations in the area of labor just as that interdependence has grown in other areas.

Let us, therefore, try as union members in the United States to accept greater responsibility for national and state conditions and to be better world citizens, because we are members of a powerful and strongly organized group.

E. R.
PNews, NSJ, 4 September 1951