SEPTEMBER 7, 1953
HYDE PARK—A new Labor Day has rolled around. This is the day when those who work have an extra day of rest added to their weekend. I have always thought how valuable this holiday was, not only because it made us think of the rights of those who work in any capacity, but also because it emphasizes the value of rest and recreation. To some people recreation means only having a good time and we lose sight of the fact that the word really is re-creation. That means that what you do on a holiday should actually give you back again some of the energy that you have expended physically or mentally and make of you a new person. One day in the year is too short a time to accomplish so much but it stands there as a reminder that every one of us needs rest and recreation. Whenever we find ourselves deprived of the power of quick recuperation, we must get that rest to give us back that power and resilience which is the thing that keeps us doing our work to the best of our ability day after day.
When I look back to the early days of the labor movement I realize how little opportunity the average worker had in the early days to regain the energy he had expended. A 12-hour day or a 10-hour day with only Sunday off, and sometimes not even that, and no paid vacation was the rule. Gradually with the growth of union organizations, which in gaining advantages for its own workers has gained these advantages too for all workers, we have come pretty uniformly to working an eight-hour day five days a week.
Everybody does not fit into this category. People who work with their heads work often many more hours a day but by and large the factory workers, men and women, the people in shops, in mines, in innumerable occupations where hard physical labor is involved are getting both better wages and better conditions of work. For this they have to thank the growing strength of the labor organizations.
These labor groups, however, in growing in strength are also acquiring greater responsibilities. They can no longer say as one old labor leader once said to me years ago, "I'm not interested in how good the business is. That's the boss's lookout. I'm only interested in getting better pay and better hours for the men who work in these places." Now the leaders in the unions know that they have to know enough about the business not to push it to the wall, because if they do there will be no jobs.
A responsible labor union leader learns to make suggestions on labor-saving devices and not to force the employer to employ more people than are actually needed. He knows that if goods can be produced at a cheaper rate there will be an increase in volume which will employ more people. The responsible labor leader, today, also knows that he has to understand world conditions, to know what goes on in countries in other parts of the world, because his own well-being is affected as well as the well-being of other people.
It is not just a question today of seeing that high tariffs keep out the goods made by sweated labor in other countries, but it is a question of helping to change conditions so that our labor does not compete with sweated labor anywhere in the world. We still have far to go but I think we can congratulate ourselves on the rise in power of labor organizations and on the fact that they are educating themselves to responsibility which is just as important as their expansion of power.