MAY 28, 1946
NEW YORK, Monday—Now that the strain of the railroad strike is over, we are able to sit back and appraise the attitudes of the principal players in these dramatic events.
The President, fully conscious of the fact that any action against organized labor would bring resentment, nevertheless acted in the interests of the public as a whole. In so doing, and in doing it solemnly and seriously, he showed his real mettle and won respect and confidence. Even the strikers, when they think it over, will realize that he was acting in their interests as well as those of the rest of the people.
However, the seriousness of the situation led the President to take one step which I hope both he and Congress, in thinking it over, will not carry through. In time of war, it seems to me, men both in management and in industry should be liable to a draft wherever they can be of use. In time of peace, the use of this weapon against strikes does interfere with men's fundamental liberty to work or not to work.
You can say, I believe quite rightly, that if men refuse to work under certain circumstances, they may not be able to return to that specific job or they may lose privileges which went with a certain job. But I do not think that you can actually bar them from exercising their fundamental rights, and I hope very much that, in the strike bill finally passed, an amendment will be made barring the draft provision in peacetime.
* * *
There is also one obligation, I think, which is upon the Government and the public as regards employees in any industry where, for the public good, a strike should not occur if it is possible to avoid it. This obligation is to see that conditions in that industry are promptly investigated as soon as any complaint is made; that the facts are made known and any injustices rectified.
The men in the railroad industry should not be forced, in spite of their raise in pay, to continue working under conditions which are unfavorable not only to them but to the public as a whole. Men working over-long hours, or in crews that are too small to do their job properly, endanger the safety of the public and cannot be expected to fulfill the requirements made upon them in the way of interest and helpfulness.
The President, I am sure, will feel it an obligation to see that collective bargaining is begun immediately and that all possible pressure is brought on railroad management to remedy injustices in working conditions.
On the other hand, one hopes that A. F. Whitney's outburst, which may have been natural in the first disappointment of defeat, will be rescinded by himself and the rank-and-file members of his union as soon as possible. The American public likes courage, decision and fair play, but they will not like this threat to use a labor treasury in a political manner any more than, years ago, they liked the threats of big business, which were fairly similar in tone and in objectives.
Organized labor has gained strength—as it should, because it has to cope with organized business. But organized business lost popular support because it lacked responsibility, and organized labor must remember that it is only one part of the public, not the whole nation.