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ER's address to Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at Leviton Manufacturing Company strike headquarters, 1941.

Workers Should Join Trade Unions

I have always been interested in organizations for labor. I have always felt that it was important that everyone who was a worker join a labor organization, because the ideals of the organized labor movement are high ideals.

They mean that we are not selfish in our desires, that we stand for the good of the group as a whole, and that is something which we in the United States are learning every day must be the attitude of every citizen.

We must all of us come to look upon our citizenship as a trusteeship, something that we exercise in the interests of the whole people.

Only if we cooperate in the battle to make this country a real democracy where the interests of all people are considered, only when each one of us does this will genuine democracy be achieved.

We hope to make the great battle which is before us today a battle of democracy versus a dictatorship.

I could not help thinking as we sang “God Bless America” that you who have seen hardship for so many weeks in your fight to better conditions for everyone involved must sometimes think that things are not as they should be in this country. I am afraid that I agree with you.

I know many parts of the country and there are many that I would like to see changed, and I hope eventually they will be changed.

But in spite of that I hope that we all feel that the mere fact that we can meet together and talk about organization for the worker and democracy in this country is in itself something for which we ought to be extremely thankful.

There are many places where there can be no longer any participation or decision on the part of the people as to what they will or will not do. And so, in spite of everything, we can still sing “God Bless America” and really feel that we are moving forward slowly, sometimes haltingly, but always in the hope and in the interest of the people in the whole country.

I just want to say that my education in the labor movement has come largely through Rose Schneiderman. I happened to join the Women’s Trade Union League years ago and she has taught me many things I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

I worked with Hilda Smith on her programs of workers’ education throughout the country. I always ask everybody what they are doing in the work project. I get funny answers. They say that they thought it was a dangerous subject. I said it doesn’t seem that way to me. We must have education and the ability of the people to understand the whole problem.

We should have projects to study the employees’ problems and I wish we had employers’ educational projects, too. The important thing is to try to learn what conditions are throughout the country as a whole, and what the people are really thinking and what they are striving for.

As I look over the past few years, the thing that gives me the most hope for the future is the fact that, on the whole, people are standing together, people are working for the good of a group, not just for themselves. When we learn that I think we are going to find that we can move forward faster and faster.

I wish those of us who are employers would learn that it is through cooperation that we achieve more – that through stating our problems and asking people to work with us to solve them that we really get somewhere.

But that requires constant education for all of us, and I think we ought to bring all we can into really understanding the problems that are before the nation as a whole and as they affect our own particular situation.

We ought to try to solve the problems in our situation so that we can be more helpful in the solution of the problems that face the nation.

We find ourselves at a serious moment in the history of the world. We face problems not only as citizens of the United States; we face them as part of the entire world.

The greatest thing we can get out of the present crisis is to develop the habit of working together and realizing that whatever happens is going to affect us all.

I want to leave you this morning and express my gratitude to you for having stood together to gain those things, materially and spiritually, that will make life for your group richer and more productive.

I hope the day will come when all the people of this country will understand that cooperation will bring us greater happiness, and will bring us in the end a better life for the whole country and enable us to exert a greater influence on the world as a whole.



Source:
American Federationist 48 (March 1941): 14-15. Address to Local 3 of the International Brotherhood or Electrical Workers at Leviton Manufacturing Company strike headquarters. George Meany Memorial Archives, Silver Spring, MD.