My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK—One of the big news stories during the recent newspaper strike here was the announcement of the projected drive by the Teamsters Union to organize New York City's 24,000 policemen.

The article I read said that this threat has been made by Henry Feinstein, president of City Employees Union Local 237 of the Brotherhood of Teamsters, acting on behalf of James R. Hoffa, international president of the Teamsters. Mr. Hoffa is at present the temporary head of a nationwide campaign to bring all policemen, firemen and other state and county municipal workers into his union.

This, of course, is going to bring us up against a long-discussed question. Is it possible to allow employees in occupations that are necessary to the safety of the public at large in a city to be under the direction of any other organization, which would be outside the jurisdiction of the city government or the state government or the Federal government?

I think most of us agree that these employees should have ways of presenting their complaints or grievances to their employer—whether it be city, state or Federal government. And there should not only be special requirements for such employement, but there also should be special consideration, for in taking this kind of employment these people do give up for the public good a certain amount of independence. And one of the things that most people have felt had to be given up is the right to belong to a union, which of course is a part of the labor organization as a whole.

Mr. Hoffa is undoubtedly a very intelligent man, but I see signs in the moves he is making that point in the direction of trying to get control of employees in vital services of a city, such as New York City or any other city throughout the country.

If you think this through you must recognize the threat that the [unclear term marked]. We could conceivably become a more important dictator than the overall leaders of the AFL-CIO labor organizations as a whole could possibly aspire to be.

Government administrations can be wrong and, when the voters decide that they are, those holding office soon find out on election days.

But unions cannot be above government. Dictator is perhaps a harsh word to use in connection with Mr. Hoffa, but he should give it consideration when he deals with the real necessity to protect the people of a big city. When one tries to organize the police and fire departments of a big city one can come dangerously near to usurping the the powers of government.

These are random thoughts that have been going through my mind since reading about the projected Teamster action, and I think the situation should be given serious thought by the leaders in the labor organization, for they are responsible for the leaders of the individual locals.

For instance, Mr. Feinstein has said that he would establish picket lines outside all police depots and supply stations with the intent of cutting off the delivery of supplies for heating buildings, gasoline for police cars and other commodities. He also boasted, according to what was reported, that because the police commissioner had ruled that policemen could not join the unions they were "going to give the commissioner a taste of the economic force and pressure of the Teamsters Union."

This brings up another age-old question, which has been discussed many times: "What about control of the Army? That is the way dictators come into control."

It seems to me that Mr. Hoffa is getting a little bit arrogant and somewhat dangerous!

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL