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

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HYDE PARK—I remember Justice Louis Brandeis once talking to my husband about the evils that come with "bigness," and I have a memorandum before me now which reflects some of the concern that existed in the past about "big business" as regards "big unions."

Big unions have had to grow to their present size and power to cope with big business, but they now are finding that there is a disadvantage in their very bigness. One man who has made a study of the situation in both the business and union fields, but who is primarily interested in making the unions as serviceable to their members and as good as possible, says:

"I think it is a respect for this pathetic central core of our existence that differentiates the true from the false in human relations. Social and economic democracy should aim to create an external world in which the insecurities are somewhat lessened, its positive and creative wills are freed, and its armor against malicious, vulgar or savage assault is strengthened.

“I like to move about with the members of our union because something of this comes over to me from the personal talk, the give-and-take planning, and the facing of common dangers and difficulties together. The more trade union officials do of this, the less time they have to run power machines within their own unions. It's the only `technique' that accounts for reciprocal trust and confidence.”

At a time when labor is being attacked for its corrupt leaders, such thoughtful suggestions for efforts to bring back some of the personal contacts within the union are certainly worthwhile.

Another important effort being made is the appointment by the United Auto Workers of a public review board. Walter P. Reuther, UAW president, says of this board:

“The leadership of the UAW proposed the public review board because the union is prepared to have a body of outstanding citizens review the conduct of UAW affairs and report its findings not just to a few officials but to the entire UAW membership and to the public at large.”

The establishment of this board and the facing up to the problems and the difficulties which have come with the growth and strength of the unions is a very encouraging sign. Labor is growing in a sense of responsibility to the community and to its membership, and I think it is much to the credit of its leadership that, as labor grows in strength, it faces the problems that strength creates and tries to meet them in the spirit of service to the community as a whole.

This is shown, I think, by another quotation, this one from a booklet put out to describe the functions of the UAW review board:

“Illegal wrong-doing is only a part of the problem. The labor movement is concerned with more than adhering to standards of technical legality. It is no disparagement of the efforts of this committee to assert that the large task is that of the labor movement itself.”

There have been times in the past when businesses have been concerned only with "technical legality," and it would not be surprising to see labor go through a similar stage. Perhaps, to some extent, this stage has been the background for some of labor's internal troubles, but it is encouraging to know unions are facing the fact that seeking to live up to standards of "technical legality" is not enough.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 4, 1957

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