AUGUST 13, 1956
CHICAGO—I have just had some information of a situation in the State of Louisiana where the AFL-CIO Labor Council succeeded in getting a "right to work" law repealed and, in return, the council gave its active aid in getting an agricultural "right to work" measure passed.
It seems to me that this is one of the most shortsighted and unstatesmanlike performances, and if the national AFL-CIO knew what was going on in Louisiana—and it must have been going on for a long time—it seems incredible that it would not have prevented it.
In the first place, an action of this kind might very easily bring a sharp cleavage between labor and agricultural workers in an area where it is important that they stand together if, in the long run, the economic situation of both is to be bettered.
The agricultural "right to work" bill which the AFL-CIO Labor Council helped to get passed does not cover field workers alone. It also applies to sugar workers and refinery workers in the state, to cotton compress and gin workers, and to rice mill workers. Upwards of 200,000 workers are involved and their average wages range from 50 to 60 cents an hour.
This situation in Louisiana is of interest to farmers all over the country. In the last few years we have lost a large number of family-type farms. One of the reasons for this is that the man who runs his own farm finds it practically impossible to compete with big corporate agricultural farming, where workers are exploited and where production is on such a large scale that everything—buying, selling and production—can be done more cheaply than by any family-type farm.
In addition, no workers earning these low wages can have much purchasing power. And we must remember that this probably means that about three million workers are involved, including not only the agricultural workers but the small farmers and their families.
They probably never make more than $3,000 a year and often less. If they could eventually approximate the income of organized labor groups, it would raise the purchasing power in our country to a considerable extent.
All of these considerations make the action of the AFL-CIO Labor Council in Louisiana seem to be very shortsighted, and one hopes that from the top there will be some discussion of this problem and, perhaps, a change in policy. Laws which have been passed can be modified or repealed, and perhaps it is time that more consideration be given to the National Agricultural Workers Union, which is an AFL-CIO affiliate.
I was glad to see that the city council of Dallas, Tex., refused to prohibit the Museum of Fine Arts from exhibiting so-called Communist paintings. The struggle over the "Sports in Arts" show has been going on for months. There were a few painters included, I was told, who were said to have Communist affiliations, but many of them were quite innocent of these associations.
In any case, it seems to me that art should be judged on its merits, not on the political affiliations of the painter.