Election 1940: Willkie Hits F.D.R. Stand (9-1-40)

Reading Eagle (September 2, 1940)



Declares Present Trend Will Place Unions Under Tight Control

Rushville, Ind., Sept. 1 (UP) –

Wendell Willkie tonight pledged himself to enlist the “wholehearted cooperation” of labor, industry and agriculture to restore prosperity, wipe out unemployment, promote collective bargaining, and “arrest the present trend toward placing labor unions under government control.”

The G.O.P. presidential nominee issued his Labor Day statement, quoting with approval views expressed by leaders of both the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, and he summoned Republican leaders from 22 states to meet here Thursday to map an intensive drive for votes between now and election day, November 5.

Scores Industrial Plan

He renewed his criticism of President Roosevelt for failing to declare himself on the controversial Overton-Russell industry conscription amendment, which Willkie has denounced as a means of “Sovietizing” the American free enterprise system.

Mr. Roosevelt told reporters at Hyde Park, N.Y., Friday that he had a rule against commenting on pending legislation. Willkie’s office today issued a statement listing 17 instances since January 1, 1940, in which Mr. Roosevelt was said to have commented on legislation before Congress.

Willkie also bid for the support of war veterans issuing a formal statement thanking two former American Legion national commanders – Harry W. Colmery of Topeka, Kansas and Edward A. Hayes of Decatur, Ill. – for forming a “Willkie War Veterans’ National Committee.”

Willkie said:

That the veterans of all wars have formed an organization to work in my behalf, only confirms their interest in the preservation of this government as one representative of the people.

Quotes Labor Leaders

In his Labor Day statement, Willkie quoted statements of the AFL Executive Council, the late AFL President Samuel Gompers and CIO Vice President Philip Murray on the necessity of voluntary cooperation between all groups to solve the unemployment and other problems.

On this Labor Day, I pledge, if elected President, to enlist the wholehearted cooperation of labor, industry, agriculture and every group in the task of overcoming our present economic stagnation, and wiping out unemployment. I also promise to arrest the present trend toward placing labor unions under government control…we must rely upon the compulsion of the law only as a last extremity. I shall lend every influence to establish forthright collective bargaining between management and men upon a basis of good will, conciliations, and economic voluntarism and free from interference.

Workers May Rejoice

American workers may well rejoice that in this land four great freedoms – the right to speak, to print, to assemble and to worship God – are written into the Bill of Rights in response to the judgment from artisans and farmers a century and a half age, and that in America, these freedoms still prevail.

Labor Day should also cause every friend of American labor to remember that in the totalitarian dictatorships of Europe they have liquidated free trade unions, and have imprisoned or in some instances, murdered union leaders. Outside of America, Britain is the only great country where trade unions still exist, true to their tradition. The British workers today are performing a service of greatest value as a vital partner in the defense of their country.

Leon Jouhaux, the French labor leader, said in his last message to American workers: “Hitlerism and free organized labor cannot exist in the same world.” American labor, realizing this fact is determined to do everything to prevent the spread of dictatorship in this country. And there are indications that it is coming to realize also that a free trade union movement can survive only in a free economy.