Capital and Labor


By A. W. HAWKES, President, Chamber of Commerce of the United States

Delivered before the Chamber of Commerce of Montclair, N. and the Chamber of Commerce andCivics of the Oranges and Maplewood, N. J., May 12, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 505-508

NO one can ruin this country or ruin capital and labor—excepting capital and labor themselves, through their own acts. There is plenty of room within our economic system and our Constitution of the United States to bring about a balance that will preserve not only the private enterprise system but our American way of life on a sound basis. Intelligent, tolerant, understanding, voluntary cooperation will solve all of these problems and leave plenty for capital, as a fair return on its investment and a decent and fair wage for labor. Good wages coupled with participation in the fruits of cooperative effort will cause labor to know it has an interest in the welfare of the business in which it works. We are all human and when we have an interest in the outcome of a business we are in favor of everything that benefits it, and opposed to all things that injure it.

Here we are tonight—a representative group of American citizens, sitting here in New Jersey as free men and women—free to say almost anything we think, so long as it be not slander or obvious treason. Who are we? Well, we are capital, management and labor, public officials, educators, agriculturists, housewives and some who have reached the retirement age. We all know that representative democracy owes labor a deep obligation—and let us not forget that labor, in return, owes representative democracy a tremendous duty in service and obedience to the law. Representative democracy owes capital a deep obligation, and let us not forget that capital, in return, owes representative democracy a duty to be law-abiding and a good custodian of funds.

I remember a story my mother told me when I was a very small boy and she was trying to make me into an industrious youth. She told me of a man who refused to work and allowed the community to take care of him for a number of years. The community finally tired of his not making his fair contribution in work and decided he would either haveto go to work as the rest of them were doing, or starve. He decided he would rather not work, and so a committee in the community decided to have him taken out and buried. They got a box, an old wagon and a horse and hired a man to drive him out to the cemetery. On the way along the road the driver of the wagon met a kind-hearted old farmer who called out and said, "Hank, what you got in the box in your wagon?" And Hank explained to him they were taking this lazy fellow out to the cemetery to bury him because the community had gotten tired of supporting him. The old farmer said, "That seems a great pity. Why can't we give the fellow another chance? I'll tell you what I'll do, Hank. I've got 100 bushels of corn in an old crib out on my farm and I will give it to him and that may start him on a new career." Whereupon the fellow raised up out of the box and looked at the farmer and said, "Is the corn shelled?" The farmer replied, "No, it's on the cob." Then the lazy fellow turned to the driver and said, "Drive on driver."

Certainly this is no time for any of us to ask "Is the corn shelled?"—but rather should we all be asking, "Can we help shell the corn?"

I like to think of this whole situation in the simplest terms, so I ask myself—if we were all cast up here on an island, without any of the things we have, what price in effort and work and sacrifice would we pay to get established as a free, prosperous people, such as we now are? Our forefathers were confronted with such a situation, and we know the price they paid. Even under the worst possible outcome of the situation now confronting us we will not be called upon to pay a greater price than they paid. It would do us all good to re-read the story of the little band that arrived in this country in 1620, on the Mayflower. We would do well to re-read the story of their experiences and the vicissitudes, hardships and sacrifices they went through in order to establish themselves and make certain accomplishments. Weshould read the Mayflower Compact, which contained many thoughts later incorporated in the Declaration of Independence. They went through all this for the purpose of bringing about just what we now have. I was never more certain of anything than I am that if we found ourselves on the shore of a new country as our forefathers did, we would proceed to delegate the work among the group. We would band together to protect one another against intruders. We would find out who could best do each thing desired and required by us individually and as a group. Before many days or weeks had passed we would find ourselves cooperating, because of necessity and because it pays to cooperate.

We must not comfort ourselves with the thought that our great size and strength and natural resources protect us from disaster if we fail long enough to follow and adhere to the necessary fundamentals. The past fifty years have demonstrated that the bigger the nation, the harder it falls when its vital principles are eaten out by disease.

If the people of this great country right now fail to prove that a free people can do everything as well as the people working under a dictatorship can do them, and then some things better—we will have no one to blame but ourselves—capital and labor. Such a failure can result only because of an unwillingness to cooperate. Neither capital nor labor has a right to expect its own way all along the line, and both must work patiently and tolerantly for the necessary adjustments that are sound and durable within our economic structure.

In these days, when the misunderstandings between capital and labor are responsible for a very substantial part of the troubles of the world, it seems to me there can be no excuse for representatives of either party refusing to sit down with the other in a spirit of tolerance and to listen to the viewpoints of the other and the reasons why the party holding such a viewpoint believes it to be correct.

Every day of my life I use in my thoughts the statement made by William Makepeace Thackeray, when he said—"It all depends upon the viewpoint. As one turns the perspective glass a giant appears a pigmy, and a pigmy appears a giant." Recently I have been thinking how often an understanding of this statement has led to peace and harmony in my own affairs at a time when a battle might easily have been precipitated. Then I have recalled the author's middle name—"Makepeace"—and I have wondered if that name didn't have something to do with the promulgation of the thought. I advocate its use by every person within hearing of my voice, and you will find it helps tremendously in this art of not only having your own viewpoint and getting the other fellow's viewpoint, but of rinding the right viewpoint.

In connection with our efforts to see clearly and act in harmony and through voluntary cooperation, I also urge upon you to remember the statement made by Sophocles, 440 B.C.—"We must see life steadily and see it whole." This means to me that we must see not only our own selfish interests, but the rights and interests of others and find a way to mesh them in so that the gears do not grate.

Referring to the resolution of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, adopted May 1, 1941, asking that all capital and labor agree to a moratorium on industrial strife in every industry and operation vital to our national defense, I urge upon all of the member Chambers of Commerce, trade and industrial associations, and all of the corporate and individual memberships of the National Chamber—a plan which will involve action on their part as follows:

1. To call together immediately a sufficient number of those in the management of industry in each locality of the United States and from such a group of men form acommittee to prepare themselves for discussion of this moratorium plan with the labor leaders and the workers in each community.

2. We shall urge upon all of our members the securing of cooperation, not only from the national labor leaders but from the local labor leaders in each community, to appoint the necessary labor committee to confer with the committee from management.

3. We shall endeavor to create a cooperative spirit on the part of the public to set its stamp of approval upon the action of these two bodies from management and labor, so formed in the interest of establishing and making effective this moratorium.

4. Under this moratorium plan, ways and means will be devised for the settling of all problems regarding wages, working hours and conditions, jurisdictional disputes and other disputes that might otherwise lead to strikes or shutdowns during this national defense emergency.

As to jurisdictional strikes, which are differences between labor organizations themselves, I happen to know that many prominent labor leaders feel that strikes of this kind should not be permitted to stop production during this national defense effort. They recognize that the problem is a difficult one; but nevertheless, they are concentrating on this question at the moment and hope to find a way by which such jurisdictional disputes will be decided without strike and without interference to production. I commend them for their efforts in this connection because the public feels definitely that the defense production is more important in this crucial hour than any jurisdictional dispute could possibly be.

Certainly capital and management are not justified in delaying production through any shutdown or lockout in plants vital to our national defense program. So long as capital is assured of protection to its property, it should proceed with labor and let the difficult problems that cannot be settled directly between it and its workers, go to mediation in the interests of the public. Here again both labor and capital will find that public opinion is the "court of last resort" and no organization of labor or capital is big enough to ignore public opinion in this country.

The Chamber of Commerce of the United States is right now in the most favorable position to render a great service to the nation. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States, founded at the request of the United States Government, has its root imbedded in every important community of the United States through the approximately 1700 member organizations of Chambers of Commerce, industrial and trade associations, located strategically throughout the country. In addition to this, it has the support of many thousands of individual companies who directly hold membership in it. It would take years to build an organization with such power for service as the Chamber of Commerce now has already to go.

I contend that cooperation cannot be legislated. It must come from the voluntary action of the parties. Notwithstanding the statement made by some that the losses in national defense production through strikes and labor disputes are not of serious proportions, I claim that the loss of one hour in national defense production, because of one strike or lockout, is too great a loss and is a reflection upon the party or parties causing it.

No strike or lockout in any business organization feeding the national defense program, can possibly be justified during our complete preparation. None in the ranks of management or labor should make an un-American demand uponany one. All questions of wages, hours and working conditions, jurisdictional disputes or elections to determine bargaining agencies—are minor matters in comparison with the preparation for national defense, for which the hour is already late.

I have talked with many industrialists and a number of labor leaders with reference to this subject of a moratorium during the national defense preparation period. Up to date many have expressed themselves as believing it is the one solution to the desire of the people of the nation not to have interruptions in national defense production. The next few weeks will demonstrate whether a free people can voluntarily agree to have a moratorium under which they can work in peace and harmony while in preparation for war which is just outside the door of the nation, jeopardizing our entire future.

In this dark hour for humanity throughout the world, no one has the right to place profit or individual advancement ahead of, or even on the same level as, service to our country and our people.

Why should we wait for war, with its death-dealing apparatus, to make its visitation upon us before we voluntarily do those things necessary to bring about this cooperation? We will all admit that within a week after we have carried away and buried our first dead and taken care of our wounded, every good American would find himself immediately in a concerted action to speed up production—and they would all waive minor differences and details and work to the limit of their ability for the cause which involves their lives, liberties, and property, and the future welfare of their families.

Let us not find ourselves at some future time, filled with remorse and deep regret, because of our deficiencies and inaction now, but rather as free people, victorious through efficiency and alertness based on voluntary cooperation.

Production—production and then more production, beginning right now, is the answer.

I consider labor and capital as a new kind of soldier in our modern twentieth century mechanized war. We still have in this country the spirit of Nathan Hale and Ethan Allen—but we must soon find a Paul Revere to come forth and awaken the American people to the great danger that confronts them and may be upon them at any moment. The people must awaken to the absolute necessity of doing everything to speed up our program for national defense without the loss of a single man-hour. Labor is patriotic—and so is capital—but they should both be aroused to the sense of danger confronting them and the American people.

Labor wants a square deal—and is entitled to it, with just compensation and our respect. Capital wants a square deal, and is entitled to it and our respect for using money for service to the country that gave to capital its opportunity. Government wants a square deal and support from the people, and is entitled to it. Let's give this support to our government, regardless of the differences of opinion of the past or as to the methods of procedure in the present. Let none of these groups ask for more than a square deal—square in the light of the actual emergencies.

And, let the people, who are yet supreme in our representative democracy, insist upon getting a square deal from all of these factors and groups. Let us remember that square shooting requires no target practice.

Equity must flow two ways. If must flow from, as well as to, those who seek protection and those who seek justice for themselves—whether it be capital, labor or government authorities.

The Golden Rule is not, and never will be, out of date among a free people which owes its allegiance to God Almighty. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is the foundation upon which equity rests. If this war is to be just pagan fighting pagan, and a free people prove they must have a dictatorship to keep their place in the world—then what's the use of having the war? No, I am certain that we, as a free people, can do anything required of us in any emergency. We can do it as patriotic citizens by the voluntary, cooperative method, with equity and justice for all, because that method spells representative democracy. The "give them Hell" attitude from either side will pay no dividends in a representative democracy.

Representative democracy can breed and raise only mongrel "pups", even though they be born of the mother of freedom, if sired by a father tinctured with dictatorship. We cannot survive for long half free and half controlled, with the control ever increasing and the expenditures required for such control leading to taxes and ever-increasing taxes, with little probability of an early balance between such taxes and income.

If we are doing a job that demands the best there is in men—then let our best men step forward and do the job on time, before it is too late. Certainly time is the most vital thing in this present situation and it is of the essence of everything required for success. Government must try to keep the full confidence and support of its people, and both labor and capital will make greater progress in public opinion if they can prove that neither wants more than a square deal and each is willing to do those things necessary to recreate full confidence in one another and a definite and wholesome respect for the contribution of each to the cause of all.

Labor, management and capital must live and perform up to the standard of the label they bear—free men. We must prove that freedom does produce better men and women and a more effective nation than can be produced by any other process or system. We can all be dollar-a-year soldiers, outside of the sphere of earning our living, if we choose to do our full duty. We can each conduct ourselves as good Americans, regardless of what someone around us may be doing. The first requirement of a great and successful America is found in good individual citizenship. Good example, clearly within the power of each of us, creates more good Americans who readily follow suit. Let us check and analyze ourselves and determine right now to make certain we are being good Americans in the full sense of the word.

Let us learn to be tolerant and understanding of all factors in our American life. You will be surprised how you can learn to live together and like one another, if you get into a situation such as the English and other peoples now find themselves. They find themselves in this situation partly because they failed to act together and in unison at the right time. Let us all be tolerant, understanding and cooperative right now and thus avoid being forced to like one another—forced to work together—and "forced" to try to be successful, free people. It can't be done by force or legislation.

Under the present great emergency facing this nation, we should put aside politics and all petty differences. All who believe in the United States of America and want its way of life continued should not only stand as one party, but as one party indivisible in action and purpose for victory and preservation. I am a believer in the necessity of a strong two-party system under any constitutional form of government, and particularly under ours. But now we have in the world two theories of government that are diametrically opposed to each other—first, representative democracy, under which the people believe in God and the freedom of man; and second, dictatorship, under which the people are compelled to scoff at God and His ministers and which makesman a serf or slave to do the bidding of the dictator. Here's your world two-party system—but in this case different from the two-party system under constitutional government. One is in favor of the elevation of man in his individual capacity—and the other ignores the rights of man and is working to destroy his freedoms produced through centuries of conflict, toil and sacrifice.

We, united as one people, are opposed to those who would tear down the church and destroy the rights and privilegesof men. I personally choose allegiance to the group that stands for the freedom of man and the upholding of the will of God on Earth. I intend always to support this form of government loyally, with all I have to give in money, time and work. My deepest interest today is the preservation of this precious heritage and our American way of life of a basis fair to all.

Unless I am mistaken, these are the convictions of each of you and all other good Americans.