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

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NEW YORK, Tuesday—There is a crisis today in our defense setup between those representing organized labor and those representing big business. And the columnists have been quick to express their viewpoints. In one New York newspaper yesterday two commentators took up the subject.

One writer, it seemed to me, wrote a fairly objective explanation of what might lie back of labor's attitude. But as so often happens the explanation was not simple, nor was there one reason alone that explained the present situation.

The other columnist categorically said that the various statements made by labor were not truthful and were unfair. Then he proceeded to make a very good case for Defense Mobilization Director Charles E. Wilson as to his capacity, his unselfish work and his impartiality.

I would be inclined to agree with practically all the good things said about Mr. Wilson, but even then you cannot wipe out things that have occurred in the past.

The labor unions have had a long struggle to rid themselves of Communists. One of the people who has carried on a most difficult fight within his own union is James B. Carey of the CIO. He finally had to form a new electrical workers' union and there is no question about the bitterness he must have experienced when Mr. Wilson insisted that there was no difference between the two electrical workers' groups.

It is true that Mr. Carey will have to put aside some of his bitterness and try to be objective, but Mr. Wilson can't get away from the effects of his former position, either. Neither can General Clay completely shed the fact of his former affiliations, even though they were in the line of duty and even though they may have been in opposition to his real beliefs and feelings.

The fact, too, that labor has so little access to the President and that the President's most trusted advisor on labor questions does not enjoy the real confidence of labor is one of the most difficult obstacles to understanding.

The columnist who praises Mr. Wilson so highly claims that labor's real objective in this fight is to control who shall and who shall not be drafted. I somehow do not think that is very sensible. The same thing could be said about any influential group in the government. The industrialists might be trying to control who shall be drafted, the politicians might be trying to control—in fact, anyone might be accused of exercising influence on this particular subject.

I really feel that John L. Lewis' example probably has had some influence—if staying on the outside and being non-cooperative is more rewarding than trying to cooperate. Labor leaders must have a hard time justifying cooperation to their own members.

Labor's participation on the policy-making level should have been enlisted at the very beginning. The leaders may well feel now that if they go in they will carry responsibility, and yet so many decisions have been made that they will never be able really to change certain policies that probably seem to them almost essential to change.

The workers of the country represent the great mass of the producing and consuming public. Organized labor comprises only a small section of labor, but it is the most important section and really affects the whole of the labor setup. Organized labor is essential to the running of the country in peacetime and even more essential in wartime. There is no question in my mind about the patriotism of labor or of its leaders, but the sooner we find out what the top-level leaders really think and feel and begin to see how the different parts of our machine can work together, the healthier it will be for the whole defense effort.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 7, 1951

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.