More and Faster Production


By DONALD M. NELSON, Chairman of the War Production Board

Delivered before the emergency conference of Congress of Industrial Organizations leaders, Washington, D. C, March 23, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 401-402.

I CONSIDER it a privilege and a pleasure to come before you this morning and say a word to you about what I conceive to be the job all of us have to do, because you are an awfully important part of that team, that team that just has to work together to put this nation in a shape to grasp victory out of this chaotic situation that exists in the world. Everybody in this country has to pull together to beat the most determined foe that this nation has ever had to face, and the job before us all is one that I assure you is going to demand the most out of every one of us.

That is why I am delighted to accept Phil's invitation to come here and just say a few words to you very frankly, because I know you want me to speak frankly to you and you want to know the job that is ahead of us, labor and management alike.

I am interested these days in just one thing—getting the most war production we can possibly get, and getting it in the shortest space of time. As far as I am concerned, everything else is secondary to that. I am for everything that will help us do that, and I am against everything that will hinder us.

Seeks Faster Production

That's the sole reason for our production drive. We are setting up these joint committees of management and labor to get more and faster production—and for no other purpose. These committees aren't being set up to put labor into management or to put management into labor; they aren't there to foster company unions, and they aren't there to help any union's organization campaign, either. They are not grievance committees or pay-scale committees or collective-bargaining committees: they have one job and only one—to make sure that everything that can be done to get 100-percent war production is being done.

Now I know that there are people in this country who would like to use this war situation to whittle down labor's rights and privileges. As long as I have anything to do with it, the war production job is not going to be used that way. Only one thing interests me—production. I will not be a part of any attempt to use our need for increased production as a cloak to put something over on labor.

So let's get down to cases and talk frankly about this situation. We're going to see to it that nobody pushes you around—but we're going to see to it that labor doesn't push any one around, either. There's a small number of shortsighted employers at one end of the line: there's a small number of short-sighted labor folks at the other end of the line: I don't propose to see either group taking any advantage of this situation.

Job Is to Win War

Our job is to win this war as fast as we can, without being held up either by a few selfish employers who are overanxious about protecting their profits or position or by a few blind labor leaders who put personal, partisan ambitions above the common good and preach a false isolationism.

I don't propose to be influenced by either group. I'm going to keep after production as my objective.

In some ways you of organized labor have more at stake in this war than any other people in America. What's the first thing that happens when the Nazis march into any country? They lock up the labor leaders and take over the unions. There is nothing in the world that could happen which would be as completely fatal to organized labor in this country as defeat in this war. This is your war as much as it is anybody's. And the winning of it depends on you as much as it depends on any single group.

So I want all the help you can give me in this job.

None of your essential rights will be taken away from you in this war effort unless the needs of the country for victory demand it. But the more you use unselfish judgment in the exercise of these rights and privileges, the better you assure the preservation of those rights and privileges against the most serious threat they have met in this country.

You have already agreed to suspend the exercise of your basic privilege—the right to strike. I believe that another privilege you must suspend for the duration is the privilege of getting double time for work on Sundays and holidays. We are moving as fast as we can toward seven-day three-shift operation of our basic war industries. The principle that a man should regularly have the seventh day off, and should receive overtime pay if an emergency forces him to work on that seventh day, is perfectly sound; but where that seventh days does not fall on a Sunday or a holiday, I don't think that work upon Sundays and holidays, in war time, deserves extra pay.

For another thing, it is sometimes charged that union restrictions on output are keeping us from reaching maximum production. This is an all-out effort, and even though such cases may be rare they have no place in this war effort. I expect that you will police your own organizations in that respect—that you will see to it that all such restrictions are removed and that no worker anywhere does less than his best for fear that his union will punish him.

Must Ignore Extremists

Our job in this whole war picture is really fairly simple. We have to ignore the extremists and the schemers at eachend of the line and see that the great majority in both management and labor—the men of good will—work together for the common good. To do that we have to shelve our suspicions and our jealousies, and forget about our own self-interest. There is no other way we can do this job and still retain the freedom and the liberties which we are fighting to defend.

I have repeatedly said to management, and I now say to to you:

The American people are aroused and determined today. They want our industrial mechanism to produce. If management and labor are unable to sink their differences, forget their suspicions and work together to make that mechanism produce as it should, then public indignation will sweep both management and labor aside and insist that rigid government controls be set up—controls which we might find it difficult to remove after the war.

We're all in this war together. If any of us lose our freedom, all of us lose it.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken very frankly to you, from the heart. As I see this picture that is ahead of your country, your country really has its life at stake. This is not just an idle effort to get more production to speed up; this is an effort to produce the weapons that our boys need in Australia, or in Bataan, or in any other place in the world, to fight an enemy who has produced many more than we have for a long period of time, and that we have to do in a short space of time the most herculean job; and you, asI said at the start, are part of the team that is going to help put this job over; a great team, a determined team, because we, in America, are determined that nothing shall encroach or infringe on our way of living, and there is only one way to get it, ladies and gentlemen, and that is through producing more and more of the implements of war now.

Accepts Promises

That is the message I want to leave with you, and to tell you that I, for one, am going to accept the promises which your President has given me, and which he tells me is the thing that is in the hearts of each and every one of you, that each and every one of you is just as determined to do this job as I am, and I am going to accept that at 100 per cent face value until I find out differently.

I do want to thank you, Mr. Murray, for allowing me to come before this group and to have you see me and for me to see you; you, the people out there, doing the job; me, here in Washington, trying to co-ordinate it, trying to find a way to smooth out all of our difficulties, lack of materials, lack of facilities, lack of machine tools and lack of everything that this great strain puts on our economy. We are going to do our best, you and I, and when this thing is all over we are going to be awfully happy, awfully happy that we have done our best honestly and conscientiously. And the only way the war can ever be won is through production, and a great part of it is in your hands.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.