JUNE 22, 1962
NEW YORK—It is depressing to note how difficult it seems to be to bring about more acceptance of arbitration in labor and management disputes. At present the Kennedy Administration through Secretary of Labor Arthur J. Goldberg is trying very hard to avert the strike on the airlines, which at this time would be a detriment to the economy of the country and also cause great inconvenience to vast numbers of people who have laid their plans for summer travel on their vacations.
Of course, when there were no airplanes we managed to make plans to take vacations by train, boat or car, and sometimes even on foot. I am not at all sure that some of the old walking trips, such as I remember Ambassador Jean Jusserand of France talking about, were not the most satisfactory vacation trips any of us could have.
Years and years ago when my husband was a young man and Assistant Secretary of the Navy in Washington, Ambassador Jusserand would describe to us the beauties of his own Vosges Mountains and the mountains of northern Scotland, where he and a friend many times had spent two- and three-week camping and climbing trips. He was so enthusiastic about the enjoyment they got out of such intimate contacts with nature. He even remembered the names of books he had taken with him and what they had meant to him. He would discuss them over and over again as real companions on trips of this type.
One felt that books and people and nature had a very close tie and even exerted a revivifying effect upon this extremely dynamic personality who was for so many years the French representative in our country.
The days of this type of holiday, however, seem to have passed, and it is much harder for people to be deprived of the modern methods of travel to which they have become accustomed.
Nevertheless, we do not seem to progress in our methods of settling disputes. And this sometimes makes one curious about the whole future of collective bargaining, which is based on the reasonable give-and-take of human beings with equal power but who have an interest to come to decisions that will allow them to serve the national interest and the interest of the public as a whole.
We see the same difficulty arising here in New York City between the private hospital management and their employees. The Beth-El Hospital has had a strike and now one is taking place at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital.
Obviously, the employees at these hospitals require representation, because they have tried for a long while to have their grievances considered and adjusted and they have not succeeded. However, even if they were granted representation, there would still be the question whether any equitable arrangements can be worked out for them, because the hospital managements have never worked out a satisfactory arrangement with the city government. The hospitals are nearly always in the red, which makes a really equitable settlement for their workers almost an impossibility.
Yet, strikes do not seem to make this situation any better. Nor do they often bring satisfactory conclusions in many of the other labor disputes. They are a last resort in a society that has reached the point of recognizing that all human beings have rights and must be treated with due regard for their dignity and real human needs.
Of course, in the early days when labor was struggling to gain any kind of representation whatsoever, there had to be a militant attitude. This, however, is not now necessary, for labor has gained and become an equal at the bargaining table. So, in the case of the big union disputes, it seems to me that on both sides there must be a greater recognition of the responsibility of both management and labor to think of the national interest and the public welfare.
Sometimes I think that labor forgets that the workers themselves are the big consumer public. Management never spends as much of its income as does labor, and labor's income goes into the necessities of life, which create more work and jobs in the community.
This, however, does not mean that one cannot arrive at equitable agreement by genuine efforts to find methods of arbitration. And I think the public should press more and more for the acceptance and the development of arbitration because strikes in the world in which we now live are becoming obsolete as a method of settling our difficulties in much the same way that war is becoming obsolete.
In both cases we must find reasonable ways to settle the normal difficulties that arise among individuals, among groups and among nations.
(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 22, 1962
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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