Labor Is Fair


By SAMUEL A. WEISS, Member of Congress from Pennsylvania

Delivered in the House of Representatives, July 10, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 698-700.

MR. SPEAKER, daily we hear one or another Member of the Congress of the United States condemn labor and charge labor with being controlled by Communists. Labor is charged with being unfaithful and lacking in patriotism and loyalty in this national emergency. These Members insist that labor should be denied the right to strike in this national emergency. They demand that labor give its all to its country and sacrifice every right so

that we may reach maximum production in order to help the democracies of the world. Yet this same group says nothing about the loyalty, the faithfulness, or the patriotism of industry in our national-defense program. This same group says nothing of those employers who refuse to recognize unions or even adhere to decisions of the National Labor Relations Board, an agency or instrumentality of the court. The fact that the earnings of all major industriesin America have shown a tremendous increase over those of the preceding year is not even mentioned. Nothing is said about the increased living costs affecting the life and welfare of every workman and his family in America. And the majority of the press of America commends these statesmen and editorializes their stands. To be frank, I must say that the people of America do not get a true picture of the situation as it actually exists.

Labor is on the spot. Daily the newspapers headline stories of strikes in defense industries. The question now being publicly asked amounts to this: Will labor strike up the band for national defense, or will it merely strike? That question shows not only ignorance of the facts, but betrays a willful and criminal attempt to destroy labor's rights; to wipe out all the social gains of the New Deal, and to pervert the whole purpose of our national defense effort.

Is labor unreasonable in its demand? Should it seek wage increases now? Should it keep its right to strike in this emergency? These are vital questions which concern the entire Nation.

Has labor been unreasonable? Since May 1940, when our defense program really got under way, the number of strikes has decreased over that of the corresponding months in 1939. The total number of strikes for the present period is much less than for 1917 when we were actually at war. The right to strike is basic to all workers' rights and to all liberty in the United States. Without this right, labor has no real protection against low wages and decent living standards. Labor must keep this right in order to remain free, in order to keep and improve standards won over past years of struggle. Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest Presidents, said: "Thank God we have a country where workingmen have the right to strike."

It should be clear that if our defense program is to defend democracy than every act which strengthens democracy is an integral part of our defense program. An increased standard of living is just as important as an increased schedule of airplane production. All the sacrifices necessary for democracy? Of course. But in view of our vast unused resources and the swollen industrial profits of the last months, it is sheer nonsense to say that labor must sacrifice living standards to enable this country to continue producing for defense.

My investigation with the Department of Labor verifies this statement, and I can quote no greater authority than the senior Senator from my State, Senator James J. Davis, of Pennsylvania, who was Secretary of Labor under three Presidents, when voicing his opposition to anti-strike legislation said:

No one should be permitted to believe that labor troubles are more acute now than in the last World War period. In 1919 there were seven times as many workers involved in strikes as in 1940; and in 1917 there were twice as many strikes as in 1940.

There are now dozens of bills before Congress, including the bill now under consideration, designed to freeze wages, to penalize strikers, impose severe criminal penalties for pickets, Government seizure of plants, denial of wages to workers, to force compulsory mediation or the so-called cooling-off period, which are all aimed at the workmen of America. I am unalterably opposed to bills of this nature which attempt to force or regiment American workmen to the same status as the workmen of the totalitarian nations. This certainly will not bring about the national unity we are all clamoring for in this crucial period of our history. Collective bargaining and the right to strike has had behind it the support and influence of outstanding statesmen in thiscountry, and the leaders of other countries throughout the world. Just within the last month Pope Pius XII made his plea to the people of the world for labor's right of collective bargaining; and just recently the Methodist National Conference Board made a declaration in favor of this same principle and stated that after a thorough 2-year investigation much of the propaganda, rumors, and statements against organized labor were erroneous and misleading. It is evident that we cannot force labor to do things by repressive legislation and it is my firm belief that in the Vinson bill and other similar measures now before Congress, the rights of organized labor now guaranteed under the law would be stricken down and destroyed.

Each day sees new proposals to take away the right to strike, or to curb that right so severely that its value to the workers will be destroyed. The greater part of the press of the Nation has been championing these proposals. Most of the schemes originate among Congressmen from poll-tax States who have very few industries in their districts, and who know very little about the problems of workmen in the industrial districts of America. One of the greatest anti-labor campaigns in history is in the making, all aimed at labor's basic right—the right to withhold work in order to enforce a little share of those increased profits through higher wages so that the workmen of America can maintain decent standards of living, which bring about happiness, unity, and an invulnerable America. As the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts, Congressman Casey, so well stated to this House several days ago: "We must stem the hysteria that has enveloped this Congress, or we will be undermining the very democratic principles we are trying to preserve." Labor naturally is trying to fortify its position during this emergency in view of the profits of the large corporations of America. And I believe the vast majority of Congress will agree that if we are to maintain our present standard of living, labor is entitled to its share of profits for its "all-out" efforts in this national-defense program by means of increased wages to the average workmen. The following are undisputed facts of the 1940 profit figures of the six largest corporations of the United States:




for worker

General Motors




American Telephone




Standard Oil




U. S. Steel








General Electric




In other words, these six leading corporations made $776,000,000 profit in 1940, an average of $860 profit a year on each worker employed, over and above the wages paid to him.

For the first quarter of this year, the profits exceed the earnings of 1940 by approximately 15 percent, yet some Members of Congress denounce labor because of its attempt to secure increased wages commensurate with the increased cost of living. The Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, represented for the first quarter ended March 31, 1941, profits of $4,160,507, after all charges were deducted. This compares with the net profit of only $1,134,611 for the samequarter last year. Yet we hear labor berated when it threatens to strike upon making a reasonable demand of industry for an increase in wage rate. We hear the cry of Communists in full control of labor in America. These statements grossly exaggerate the actual situation. True enough, there are some Communists in labor's ranks who have caused much of the unwarranted trouble. There are some Communists in labor's ranks who even refused to heed the warnings of labor's recognized leaders. But will we in Congress add to national unity by abolishing the right to strike, by forced cooling-off periods, or compulsory mediation, or by freezing wages and conditions by outlawing the union shop and pleasing the open shop by seizing struck plants, by penalizing pickets because of a few radicals—a very few in labor's ranks in America?

There are Communists among the businessmen of America. There are Communists in the colleges of America. There are Communists in the legal and medical professions. Communists are everywhere. But thank God, so few, yes; so very few. Can we condemn labor as a whole because of a few undesirable Communists within Labor's ranks? Would we by logical reasoning condemn the law profession, the medical profession, or any other profession because of some shysters or quacks or frauds in any of them? Of course not. Their respective obligations are to clean their own households. Labor is attempting to do just that, and is doing so with distinct credit. The number of strikes throughout the Nation has reached the lowest ebb since the early part of this year. The organized workers of this country are good, true, loyal, and patriotic Americans interested in the preservation of our democracy and of helping this country in this emergency. We cannot impose upon them undue hardship by the enactment of compulsory mediation, or totalitarian policies such as now rules the controlled countries of Nazi Germany and communistic Russia.

In the Thirty-first Congressional District of Pennsylvania, which I represent, the heart of the industrial district ofAmerica, and in which district are located the United States Steel Corporation, the Westinghouse Electric Co., the Westinghouse Airbrake Co., the McKeesport National Tube Co., the Edgar-Thompson Steel Works, the McClintock-Marshall Co., the Christy Park Works, the Firth-Sterling Steel Corporation, the Union Switch & Signal Co., Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation, the Glassport Copperweld Steel Co., the Pittsburgh Steel Foundry Co., and the United States Glass Co., represented by 18 local C. I. O. unions, comprising over 70,000 workmen engaged in national-defense work, there was not even the semblance of a strike. Industry and labor sat down at the counsel table and conciliated their differences with distinct satisfaction to all parties concerned. And my district is typical of every industrial community in America. It is unfair for Members of Congress and the press of America to condemn labor because of isolated infractions in remote sections of our Nation. Do the Members of this Congress wish to change this situation by enacting legislation to compel the workmen of our Nation to do anything contrary to their wishes and create hatred and enmity in the minds and hearts of labor toward Congress and the Government? Of course not. The greatest weapon in America is the morale of its people. To build morale and unity in America, industry and government must be considerate, just, and equitable in their dealings with the American workmen, as they, too, are sacrificing, and it is their sons who are serving this country in our armed forces during this emergency.

Let us deliberate with caution on these vital problems affecting the welfare of the workmen of the Nation, and if industry, labor, and Government, in a real spirit of national unity, will arbitrate and conciliate their differences in the good old American manner of give and take, America will continue to go forward in her progress as the greatest democracy in the world, where workmen will retain the priceless heritage given them by our forefathers, namely, freedom, justice, and equality.