Slowdown of Defense


By LELAND M. FORD, United States Representative from California

Over the Red Network of the National Broadcasting Company, October 29, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 124-126.

THE Washington Post, October 12, carried the news item that the Federal Government was about to seize another strike-involved defense plant after the Mediation Board announced their failure to settle the walkout at Air Associates, Inc., Bendix, New Jersey.

Many of us look upon these seizures with genuine concern. We begin to wonder about decisions of the Mediation Board; how fair or how fearless, or how American, these decisions actually are. After little thought it is perceived that we face the determination of a principle which is going to affect the lives of every American, and even our American government itself, not only now, but in the future. This principle involved is going to determine whether the officials in the United States of America are going to do their duty and uphold the Constitution fearlessly, without regard for where the chips fall, and determine whether constitutional government, as we have known it, is going to be the law of the land, or whether we are going straight down the road of national socialism, or any of the other "isms," all of which come from the teachings of Karl Marx.

The government first moved into the North American plant, in my District, in Inglewood, California, under similar conditions as now prevail at Bendix, New Jersey. I did not criticize, but commended the government for the way they handled the situation at the North American plant at Inglewood. The government went in, restored order, exercised proper police power, but did not take over, under government operation, and operate the plant. Many of us hoped then, and still hope, that this established a precedent for the working of the American form of government, which it was. The government there simply protected those, in their right to work, who wanted to work, under the Constitution of the United States, but did not cave in nor surrender to the demands of rioting, socialistic, communistic, outlaw CIO labor leader racketeers: The rank and file in Labor there had no confidence in these leaders but were forced and coerced into their position. Many did not want to accept the strike order nor to pay tribute for the privilege of working.

It now appears that this was not the precedent that we may depend upon. Since then, the Administration has taken over the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Kearny, New Jersey. The President, Mr. H. G. Korndorf, and Mr. McWilliams, the Comptroller, are no longer partof the operation of their own company. In other words, this plant was ruthlessly taken away from its owners, which amounts to national socialism. This new order, of taking industry away from its rightful owners and destroying private ownership and operation, does not cease with the Federal Shipbuilding Company. Now it is proposed to take over the Air Associates plant at Bendix, New Jersey, under the same national socialistic program.

Is this scrapping of the Constitution and the taking over, in this national socialistic manner, of business, going to be the policy of this Administration?

Have these unpatriotic racketeer labor leaders in the CIO so much power that they can destroy the Constitution of the United States itself, and change our very form of government? If so, where do you expect to get with a defense program, where already, this year, over 17 million workdays have been lost?

Is it going to be the policy to punish, destroy and confiscate, at the direction of these racketeers, the interest of private ownership in business and industry of this country, who have given to America its extraordinary, high standard of living, and who, by their knowledge and skill in organization, can still win the war for democracy?

Under this new order of government ownership, of national socialism, months of precious time have been wasted. Our own defense program lags. We are told that we have less than 2 per cent of actual ammunition that we should have, on hand today. The stream of war goods to England is still a trickle. Have we enough tanks, planes and guns for our own use, to accomplish the purpose of keeping war from these shores? If the officials who handle this part of our business will cease making these cowardly surrenders to these racketeers, and will give business and industry at least a fighting chance, business and industry will give, as they have always given, real production.

This taking over of these plants is government operation, plain and simple. That fact cannot be sidestepped, and it either is or is not national socialism. I say it is national socialism, and that government ownership, operation, and national socialization of business and industry in this country is doomed to failure here, the same as it failed in France, or any other place that it has ever been tried.

Why was this Federal Shipbuilding plant confiscated and taken away from its rightful and legal owners? In plain English, the only issue at stake was the demand of the CIO racketeer leaders for a so-called "maintenance of membership." That means that the company must see that all workers in this plant belong to the CIO union, dictated by these racketeers.

Two members of the Mediation Board, constituting a majority, the third dissenting, tried to force this decision down the throats of the rightful owners. The Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company stood on their rights under the Constitution of the United States and refused to accept this recommendation. Under this new order of national socialism they lost their plant.

If this precedent prevails, every laboring man or woman in the United States would also lose his right to work without paying tribute to these racketeers. Up to now, we have thought that we were protected in our individual rights under the Constitution, that business was protected, that Labor was protected, but under such un-American decisions as this, the Constitution has been scrapped, property rights and Labor rights have been scrapped along with it, and the form of our government changed. You should know this, as Americans, and should voice your protest if you believe in the American form of government.

Is it not also self-evident that these so-called leaders are now using the government agencies to force people to join the CIO? If these laboring men had confidence in this union and wanted to belong to it voluntarily, they would pay their dues and they would belong. The fact is, they have not this confidence, don't want to belong, and the racketeers use this means, which they are trying to legalize, to force membership and the payment of dues. This is nothing but coercion and force. I see no reason why any man in Labor should be subject to this force and coercion, nor do I see any reason, why any company should become either the instrument of force in this program, or a collection agency for anybody, at any time, at any place. If the CIO racketeer leaders cannot sell their men on the merits of their program, industry should not be forced to do their dirty work for them.

What kind of a Mediation Board is it we have, that will throw aside the constitutional rights of all our people, both labor and industry, in making any such decision as this? This was a very simple matter to decide, and the thing to be decided was simply this: Shall we violate the Constitution and change our form of government for national socialism, or shall we have the American form of government, with all that it gives us?

Is it a fact that this Board have been so cowed and are so fearful that they bow down to and surrender to the apparent power of these outlaw racketeer leaders? If so, then had we not better get an American Board? It seems to me that if this Board had stuck to safe American principles in their decision, namely, that under the Constitution of the United States, certainly we will not, now or ever, force men to work; this would amount to serfdom or slavery. But under that same Constitution, which gives every person his individual liberty, every person has the right to work without paying tribute to anybody for that right.

This appears to me to amount to the old gangster and racketeering method, expressing it in their terms, of "muscling in" on the money. These gangsters and racketeers don't care one iota for the future or the welfare of the rank and file of working men or women. All they want to do is to create enough strife, riots, strikes and dissension in order that they may have an excuse,—not a reason,—for maintaining themselves in their position of power, the better to extract more money from the rank and file of labor.

Did it ever occur to you that this extraction of money from the honest, patriotic rank and file of labor is in the nature of a tax, and a forced tax, at that, which in many instances amounts to more than the taxes that they pay on their own homes? Under this program, for what is the employee paying this money? The answer is, clearly, for the right to work. Any person has that right under our Constitution, without paying for it.

This program of the racketeer is bad enough and wrong enough coming from them, but when it is furthered by officials of the government itself, to me it becomes worse than treason, and it must be stopped.

How does this Mediation Board reconcile the above procedure with the drafting of our young manhood in this country, who may have to forfeit their lives, and who are patriotically willing to do so? If this young manhood can be drafted, the government certainly has the power to at least stop these racketeers in their tracks. I charge that it is the avariciousness of these racketeers that has brought about our unbalanced program, brought about inflation, and brought about the sabotage of our defense program. This can be stopped if the officials handling the Mediation Board, the N.L.R.B., the Wages and Hours Law, will turn aroundin their tracks and display enough intestinal fortitude to stand for America and stop this cowardly surrender to subversive interest headed by socialists, communists, etc.

Let us look at the record from the Department of Labor. This record shows that in 8 months, from January to August of this year, 17,167,312 days have been lost, or an average of 2,144,668 days per month. There were 231 strikes in January, which number built up to 460 in August, or double. If this trend continues, we will have lost at least 25,000,000 working days, if not 30,000,000, in this year 1941. This has all happened under the administration of the Mediation Board, the N.L.R.B., the Wagner Labor Relations Act, and the Secretary of Labor, who handle these matters.

Is it not clear, from the figures produced by the Department of Labor itself, that they have been outstanding failures?

Is it not clear that this type of administration is extremely cowardly and unjust, and one in which they have crucified business and industry in their cowardly surrender to these highjacking racketeers, with the result that the only ones who profited thereby were these same gangster racketeers who have taken plenty of money from the honest workingman and industry and placed it in their own pockets.

Are William H. Davis, Sidney Hillman, Madam Perkins and the others whom I have said to be failures, proud of this record? This is their own record and I throw it right back in their faces and charge them with inefficiency, mismanagement, and appeasement of CIO leaders in the administration of their offices. The fact upon which I base this is, that in 8 months they have lost 17 million working days, and will probably lose at least 25 million this year. Will they and Madam Perkins laugh this off and say again, "It is not important"?

Some day, if that day comes,—and God forbid that it does,—will we regret and rue the day that this time was lost? We may then look back upon those responsible and wish that we had in power in this country real honest-to-God Americans who did not know what the words "cowardly surrender" meant, but who did have some concept of American principles, instead of what I think to be the principles of this un-American traitorous group?

Our defense program is being sabotaged. We have less than 2 per cent of the ammunition we ought to have, and the nations that are fighting the dictators, who in turn are fighting democracy, have not received the goods that thiscountry promised and should deliver. Is it not clear that sabotage does exist and that this un-American program of fear and cowardice has been the rankest failure that we have ever had?

Is it not clear that a strong American policy should be set up which will give us production in our defense program?

Many have said that Labor would not cooperate. I disagree with and deny this statement, and make the statement that Labor will cooperate, and that the rank and file of Labor are just as patriotic as anyone in this country, and that they will cooperate if they are given help to get rid of these destructive highjackers and racketeers, whom they do not want to follow.

If this country should go down for lack of a defense program, it means that the American form of government and democratic institutions go down with it. If this should happen, all will be lost to Labor, business, individuals, religion, and every form of freedom that we have known. The average laboring man knows this, as well as the constructive leader, and I think that there should be absolutely no fear on the part of real Americans, but that there are enough patriotic and real Americans in Labor to not only complete our program of defense, but, having gotten rid of the racketeers, they will willingly work hard to accelerate our defense program. They would be willing to do this under conditions where men are free and know they are free, and they would be willing to do this to maintain that freedom.

I believe the great majority of our people do not want national socialism, or any other kind of "ism" except Americanism and our American form of government, and that they want to stop this drift toward socialism, and that they want to maintain the Constitution of the United States.

It is my further opinion that this is not a partisan question, but all real Democrats and real Republicans agree that we do not want socialism, or any other "ism." This whole question resolves itself into a question whether we have socialism or American government. We are going to have to meet this question head-on, and we must meet it fearlessly, fairly and squarely, and I therefore say, "let us meet it and destroy these subversive groups before they come into power, and before they destroy the United States of America."

I think this is the test, and I think that when that test does come, and it should come, it will be found that the great rank and file of patriotic men and women in both Labor and Industry will be on the side of America, and not on the side of the dictators.