MAY 26, 1945
HYDE PARK, Friday—I was amused the other day to be sent an editorial from a paper published in the southwestern part of the country, which claimed that there was no more reason for backing the fair employment of people regardless of race, color or religion than there would be to back a bill insisting that people be employed regardless of whether they were union members or not.
It seems to me that this is a very peculiar attitude. It shows a lack of understanding of the reasons why we have unions and of why it is possible to insist that people in certain industries shall join a union before they are employed. Unions were established for the protection of the workers. Like all other organizations composed of human beings, unions sometimes go wrong; but the objective for which unions exist still stands. Agreements under which certain employers employ only union members are entered into after negotiation between the union and the employer.
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I know that in certain unions the fees demanded are too high, and practices sometimes arise which are harmful to the union members. But the remedy lies in their own hands. Under a democratic form of government you have to use your franchise, and use it fearlessly, to be free and to have the kind of government that you desire. The same holds good in a union organization.
I have always felt that the closed shop was debatable, but I have never felt that the desirability of joining a union was debatable. There are plenty of associations of employers. Evidently they feel there is something valuable to be derived from group associations. Since that is the case, it seems to me quite plain that there are advantages to be derived for the worker in forming associations.
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The last part of the editorial sent to me suggests that there is something un-American in employing anyone who is not a native-born citizen, and that a native-born American citizen should get a job ahead of any foreign-born person, regardless of qualifications and without being a union member. Apparently, this editorial writer would have us ignore the fact that an industry may happen to have an agreement with a union requiring that a worker shall be a member of the union. In war work, besides, it is very rare for anyone who is not an American citizen to be employed. If he is, it must be because he is really needed and has been carefully checked. Yet I think this question, in any event, was simply raised as a red herring to confuse people about the real issue of whether unions are valuable to the workers or not.