JANUARY 8, 1960
NEW YORK —We are already being told that some prices on steel will be raised immediately and some a little later on. I cannot see that a settlement of the recent strike which raises the cost of steel is a very happy solution.
I received from the organization for constitutional government a letter which stated that it was necessary to keep down the constant demands of labor because they were responsible for the inflation.
It seems to me, however, that labor and management both have to bear a little responsibility, and I can understand labor's point of view. It is rarely that a union asks only for a rise in wages. Unions usually ask for improvement in conditions of work and for welfare measures of some kind that will safeguard the future and ensure the family's well being.
In the case of the steel companies, I think their published profits and the salaries of management at the top certainly give a justification for labor to feel that it should have a greater proportion of the wealth created, since the end product is produced by labor's daily contribution.
I do not think labor alone can be, or should be, held responsible for inflation. Of course, in this particular instance it seems to me that the settlement of the strike and the prompt announcement that steel prices will go up does not give us much cause for rejoicing. I think it points to a joint responsibility on the part of labor and on the part of management for increasing inflation.
There was a strange story in a New York City newspaper last week to the effect that the Transit Authority had all along the $35,000,000 available to pay the amount needed for the two-year contract agreement with the Transport Workers' Union.
One wonders, then, what the fuss was all about and why wasn't this hidden amount, which adds up to the total needed to settle the recent threatened strike, discovered sooner. To wait till a few minutes before the new year was ushered in was dramatic, but it all seems a funny business to the layman.
How can a business have several millions "hidden" away? You can't usually do that in your private bookkeeping, so it seems a little odd in public bookkeeping.
A high-school youngster on a school paper came to interview me the other day and said he was discouraged to find so much graft in public life, and how did I explain it. I have no explanation except that if you can hide large sums of money in a public authority it is not astonishing that private individuals, who may have some desperate needs, should occasionally try to meet their personal needs out of the public purse. These individuals apparently see it being done by elected public officials and it must seem to them an easy way out of their difficulties.
I cannot help thinking that the revelations of graft which we have been getting recently are not the examples of what private and personal standards should be. I remember a youngster years ago telling me that he felt education was dishonest because it told him that one was rewarded for honesty and yet the moment he took a job he was expected to deceive and could not get a job without shutting his eyes to the fact that this was a part of his job.
He was salesman for a particular product and was required to say that this machine accomplished certain ends, which he knew could not be accomplished. And so he felt that all his teaching had been dishonest because it prepared him for a world which really did not exist.
If you read the record of some goings-on in government and business you sometimes wonder how we can expect our young people to think that "honesty is the best policy."
(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 8, 1960
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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