The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SEATTLE, Monday—To the casual reader of news, it would seem as though a change had come over the foreign policy of some European nations. For a time, Great Britain seemed to be drifting along with no positive action of any kind recorded. In the last two days the headlines in this part of the world, at least, seem to indicate an entirely different trend. Great Britain is offering active assistance to two nations that have not, as yet, joined the Central European Powers. The gentleman with the umbrella, finding that "appeasement" does not work where ethics do not exist, has gone the whole way in the opposite direction. It takes courage to do that, if you are in politics, and it cannot be done, except in a democracy. A dictator must always be "right." He can never be a human being, for his hold upon the people lies in the illusion that he is a superman.

I have had a number of letters in the past few days which state interesting problems. One is from a man who is a skilled mechanic. He started to ply his trade as an independent operator and is much upset because the union is trying to interfere with the work he obtains. Two theories are in opposition to each other here. One is the old American theory that your first duty is to provide for yourself and your family, regardless of anybody else in the world. The other is the more modern union theory that the question is a group question, that people should belong to a union because it strengthens the group as a whole, thereby making it possible for each individual to better his situation as to hours and wages. The union feels that, even if you own your own business and are in the position of a struggling, small employer, you still must think first of the group as a whole—you must not employ non-union labor.

The letter, as it sets forth in this particular case, seems to imply that, where a man can just support himself and his family, he cannot afford to belong to a union. In addition, if he can employ a helper, it is better for that man to have some work, than none at all, even if he cannot be paid union wages. This man would probably tell you that were he in a position to do so, he would be more than willing to pay union wages, but that this is unfair to ask this of him until he is really on his feet.

I believe so strongly in unions and their value as a protection to the workers, and yet, in these individual cases, I have a sympathy, too, for the man who is caught at the point of change between two philosophies. The pioneer philosophy, and the philosophy of machine civilization. I wish that something could be done in these individual cases to tide over their difficulties in a period of change. The least we can do is to recognize their plight and try to solve our problems by better cooperation in every community between the leaders of labor, the employers, and the citizens as a whole.


(Copyright, 1939, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Seattle (Wash., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 4, 1939

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.