Editorial: Defying the government (6-7-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (June 7, 1941)


President Roosevelt said yesterday that he is considering what to do if strikes continue to tie up defense industries, but is not quite ready to proceed with direct action. The Defense Mediation Board, he said, is working on the key controversies.

All of which isn’t very encouraging – because the Defense Board has been working on key controversies ever since it was formed – and strikes have increased.

Action, we think most people feel, is imperative – and at once.

Strikes have cost 2,253,216 man-days of production on Army contracts since Jan. 1, reports the War Department. More men are now on strike in plants trying to fill Army orders than at any other time this year.

Time lost on naval defense orders would have been sufficient to build 8-10 submarines, or six to eight destroyers, or two cruisers, reports the Navy Department.

The strike situation has grown steadily worse in the 11 days since President Roosevelt, proclaiming an unlimited national emergency, told labor and capital that the machinery set up for conciliation and mediation of industrial disputes:

…must be used promptly – and without stoppage of work.

And it will continue to grow still worse unless there is firm, decisive action to make it plain that the government is running the national defense program and that strikes will not be permitted to wreck it.

The North American Aviation plant at Inglewood, Cal., source of one-fifth of the country’s military plane production, was closed by the United Automobile Workers (CIO) in violation of an agreement, ratified by the union membership, not to strike until the Defense Mediation Board had been given opportunity to settle the controversy.

The Mediation Board’s recommendations for ending the Pacific Northwest lumber strike were flatly rejected by O. M. Orton, president of the International Woodworkers of America, who charged that this presidentially-appointed board was:

…an all-out labor-busting and strikebreaking device.

Two national officials of the CIO served in the board panel that was unanimous in making these recommendations. and Philip Murray, president of the CIO, has insisted that Orton accept them. This is evidence enough of their fairness. But Orton proclaimed his intention of following:

…the course adopted by John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers.

Lewis has publicly warned Mr. Roosevelt not to “expect too much cooperation” from labor in the defense program unless labor (meaning Lewis) is given more power in the government.

Well, there it is. Clearly, there are elements within organized labor which are determined that there shall be stoppages of work, regardless of the damage done to the defense program. Clearly, Mr. Roosevelt cannot expect voluntary cooperation from these elements.

The President said 11 days ago:

This government is determined to use all of its power to express the will of its people, and to prevent interference with production of materials essential to our nation’s security.

The time has come for government to use its power – or to confess that national defense is at the mercy of stubborn and defiant union bosses.

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