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

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CHICAGO , Thursday—Yesterday afternoon I read in "Occupations," the vocational guidance magazine, a symposium entitled "Youth and Labor." The idea was that youth should be taught something about the labor movement in school and, naturally, that the teachers should know something about it.

The following eminent gentlemen were asked to contribute something helpful to the teachers and the pupils from their store of knowledge: William Green, John L. Lewis, Leo Wollman, John J. Collins, George Barton Cutten. All have written articles which would take far more space than this column has at its command to discuss comprehensively. However, I want to draw four things to your attention in the hope that you will read the symposium.

One is that Mr. Green and Mr. Lewis ignore one very basic point in their argument. They urge youth to join unions, and few of us will question some of the advantages which they list, but how about the fact that many young people, in order to join a union, must serve some years of apprenticeship and that this opportunity is not always open to them? Secondly, that many occupations are still unorganized and will require years of education to be organized.

Third, Mr. Collins, in his argument for the independent union, appeals to the natural individualism in us all, but neglects the fact that employers have the strength of wide organization. Will the strength of the employee, restricted to his own plant or group of plants, be as great?

Finally, Mr. Cutten contends that labor unions should be equally responsible with employer organizations—and that, I think few of us will deny—but the closing sentences of his article are not as simple as they sound: "It is usually believed that competition is nature's only law—the law of the jungle. That is far from true. Cooperation is as much a natural law as competition, but nature is very careful to have these laws properly placed. Labor unions have not followed this rule."

It is quite true that cooperation is the law in some of nature's units—the bees and ants are extremely good examples— but that cooperation doesn't protect them from man, for instance. Nothing which Mr. Cutten says is untrue, but it seems to me that he does not go quite far enough in his theory:" Let us refine natural laws as much as we please, but when we ignore or confuse them, nature is bound to take her revenge." A very delicate operation, this refining process, one, I warrant, that comparatively few of the business men of today have thought through, so one cannot blame labor if it has not done so, either.

I still thrill to the fact that I can cross this continent in such a short time. We left Seattle last night at 9:15 and if all goes well we will have been less than fifteen hours in actual transit. Coming this way we lose three hours, so our flight did not actually start until 12:15 Eastern Standard Time this morning. In Chicago we have a chance to stretch our legs a little and try to tidy up sufficiently to look presentable on arriving in New York, but not time enough to leave the airport. We're off again in a few minutes, so I'm filing this here, just in case I should be too late for my deadline in New York.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Chicago (Ill., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 7, 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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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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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.