"WHERE ARE WE TODAY?"
By THOMAS E. DEWEY, Governor of New York, and Republican Presidential Nominee
Delivered in Seattle, Wash., September 18, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 758-760.
DURING the past ten days I have just renewed whan is for every American a great experience. I have come across the broad sweep of this country of ours many tunes before but each time it's a new and rich experience to talk with the people of America, to learn their problems face to face.
It is good to come again to the State of Washington and to have once more the thrill of seeing close at hand this vital, pulsating, growing West Coast which symbolizes the magnificent future of the United States. It's good to find the State Administration in the able hands of your constructive and forthright Republican Governor, my good friend Arthur Langlie.
It will be good, too, I am sure, when we read in November that you have retained Arthur Langlie as Governor and elected your very able public servant, Harry P. Kane, to the United States Senate.
Today, the first thoughts of all of us are on the war—the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific. It seems? already clear that this year will see the end of the war in Europe. Then, as we have so long wanted to do, we shall be able to throw all of our energies and all of our might into the war in the Pacific.
This year, also, we are called upon to hold a national election. Does that mean that there must be the slightest hesitation in our forward march to victory? It means exactly the contrary.
Military Leadership "Superb"
Our military leadership in this war has been superb. I have made it plain and I cannot emphasize it too strongly that a change in the National Administration next Jan. 20 will involve no change in the military leadership of the war.
What this campaign will do is to prove to our enemies that we can fight total war and speed final victory by changing and strengthening our National Administration.
This campaign will drive home to Japan—and to Germany also should she still be in the war on Nov. 7—the bitter lesson that every day they delay their surrender will make more onerous by just that much the terms of their defeat.
This election will also bring an end to the quarreling and bickering and confusion in the nation's capital. This confusion has hampered our war effort from the beginning of it to the very immediate present.
Among the things which have been holding us back here at home is an Administration labor policy which has bred class division, hate and insecurity. I can say without qualification that the labor policy of this Administration has been one of delays, bungling and incompetence. That policy has put untold obstacles in the way of labor's effort to avoid wartime strikes. It has fostered strife between one labor group and another, between labor and business and between both and Government.
It has affronted the wage earner by reducing his basic rights to the level of political reward. It has made the wage earner's pay envelope and his hours and conditions of work a football of politics. The labor policies, the labor policies of this Administration are another reason why it's time for a change.
Now where are we today in the field of labor? We are adrift. There is no course, no chart, not even a compass. We move, when we move at all, to the shifting winds of the caprice of one man.
Labor Relations Law
Now is that the fault of the law—of the National Labors Relations Act; not for one minute. The National Labor Relations Act was the work of a bi-partisan majority of both Houses of Congress. A majority of the members of my party voted for it. That act was modeled on the Railway Labor Act of 1926, a measure which was written, passed J and approved by a Republican Administration.
The National Labor Relations Act is a good and a necessary law. It acknowledges the trend of our times and will continue to be the law of the land. But that law has been working badly.
It has failed to secure the industrial harmony we sought. It has failed because under the present Administration then whims of bureaucrats have taken the place of government by law. Why, even on the railroads, where an orderly system of mediation had been painstakingly created over these many years, we stood last December on the brink of a paralyzing strike. That was only because one-man government could not keep its hands off established, previously successful, legal processes.
There is another reason why the National Labor Relations Act hasn't worked as it should. Our labor relations right down the line have been smothered under a welter of agencies, boards, commissions and bureaus. Let me give you a list of just some of them.
There's the War Manpower Commission, the War Labor Board, the Office of Labor Production, the Wage-Hour and Public Contracts Division, the National Labor Relations Board, the Conciliation Service, the Retraining and Reemployment Administration, the War Production Drive Division, the National Mediation Board, the Shipbuilding, Lumber, and Other Special Industry Commissions. In addition, there are Labor Sections of OPA, WPB, OES, OWM, WSA, SS, and too many others.
That towering confusion of agencies has marked a very serious backward step for the working people of our country, It was a Republican, President Taft, who was the first to recognize that labor's problems were of Cabinet importance in our government. Under him the Department of Labor was created. That new department was soundly administered under four national administrations. Neither labor nor the nation had any quarrel with its operation.
But for twelve straight years of New Deal bungling the Department of Labor has been left in the hands of an estimable lady who has been Secretary of Labor in name only. For all practical purposes we have today neither a Secretary of Labor nor a Department of Labor. We need a Secretary of Labor. We need a Department ofLabor. Twelve years is too long to go without them, and sixteen years would be intolerable.
Example of Confusion
Let me give you a concrete example of what has been going on in every part of our country. A while ago an election was held to decide the collective bargaining agency ins an important industry engaged wholly in critical wartime production. A dispute arose and both workers and employer! found themselves forced to deal with the following agencies in that one dispute:
1. The United States Conciliation Service.
2. The shipbuilding commission of the National War Labor Board.
3. The regional office of the National War Labor Board.
4. The Washington office of the National War Labor Board.
5. The regional office of the labor division of the Wars Production Board.
6. The Washington headquarters of the labor division of the War Production Board.
7. The labor division of the regional office of the procurement agency of the United States Maritime Commission.
8. The Washington headquarters of the procurement agency of the United States Maritime Commission, labor division.
9. The regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
10. The Washington office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Ten different Government offices, all presuming to settle one labor dispute!
There were four formal hearings down in Washington, both sides had to file seven different briefs and, I may add fifteen copies of each. Finally, one year and five days after a union was certified by the National Labor Relations Board, there was a final order issued by the War Labor Board. At last things seemed clear and the agreement was actually sent to the printer.
But before the printer's proof was received back, both sides were notified by the National Labor Relations Board that a new petition had been granted for a new election, and they were right back where they started from.
Is it any wonder, in the face of that record and thousands others like it, that the leaders of organized labor have found their jobs very nearly impossible? Is it any wonder that the working men and women of this country felt they had just grievances? With more than twenty-five Federal agencies pulling in opposite directions, we have been yanked from crisis to crisis in the field of labor right in the middle of a war.
So, Democratic Congressman Smith and Democratic Senator Connally produced the Smith-Connally Act which they promised would solve all problems. Honest men were willing to believe that nothing could make the situation any worse. So the statute was passed. It hasn't solved the problem. In the twelve months before the passage of that act there were 3,300 strikes. In the twelve months following the passage of that act there were 4,400 strikes. In other words, the number of strikes after the Smith-Connally Act was passed increased by one-third.
That law—the Smith-Connally Act—will expire with the termination of the war, and it should. The provisions of that law and the other New Deal interferences with free collective bargaining should never be renewed.
The right of workers to leave their jobs individually or together—the right to strike—is one of the fundamental rights of free men. It has sometimes been abused. But what has caused the abuse?
Blame on White House
Let's get the answer to this one straight right here and now on the record. What has caused the abuses? The New Deal is exclusively responsible for most of the serious wartime strikes. The chief blame goes directly into the White House and to its agency created at the top of all this chaos of agencies, the War Labor Board.
That board has supreme power over the vital matters of wages and conditions of employment. Whether by design or sheer incompetence, its practice has been to stall—to stall for weeks, months, and sometimes years—before issuing decisions. For that reason, too, the working man and the working woman and their families have had to suffer.
One month ago today, on Aug. 18, the War Labor Board had pending before it, still undecided, 22,381 cases. One of the oldest of these, one of the very oldest, involved the rights and wages of 600,000 workers. Another one directly affected half a million wage earners. The other 22,379 cases involved literally millions of working people living in every industrial center of this nation. That's why it's time for a change.
Now who gains by this planned confusion? The workers don't gain. The public is always in the middle. The war effort has been constantly hampered. Who does gain by this planned confusion? There can't be any doubt of the answer.
This policy of delay, delay and more delay, serves only the New Deal and its political ends. It puts the leaders of labor on the spot. It makes them come to the White House hat in hand. It makes political loyalty a test of a man getting his rights.
Personal government instead of government by law, politics instead of justice, prevails in the labor field in this country and I am against that kind of administration and always will be.
This strategy of delay sets the stage for a great gesture—a big favor to labor before election day—a gesture carefully designed to make labor believe that something to which it is justly entitled is a special gift from on high from the New Deal.
I refuse to believe that the workers in this country will play the role of supplicants to any throne. I refuse to believe that any man or group of men can deliver any section of our people by holding the power of government over their heads as a club.
I do believe that the American people when they go into the secrecy of the voting booth will insist on government by law and not by special favor and political extortion.
Proposes Three Steps
I propose that we shall have government by law after January 20, 1945. Here is the first thing to be done. We must have an able Secretary of Labor from the ranks of labor.
Second, the functions of the Department of Labor must be put into the Department of Labor. It will not be necessary for the working men and women of America to knock on door after door and sit in waiting room after waiting room to find out what their rights are. Third, we shall abolish many of these wasteful, competing
bureaus filled with petty officials quarreling for jurisdiction while American citizens stand and wait. We shall put their powers and their duties into one place, where they belong, in the Department of Labor.
We shall establish the Fair Employment Practices Committee as a permanent function and authorized by law.
Finally, just as we shall abolish unnecessary bureaus and agencies, we shall abolish privilege for one group over any other group of our people. We shall see that every working man and woman stands equally in that department created to serve him, and not to rule him. There will be no backdoor entrance to special privilege by one group over any other group of Americans.
There is no question where we want to go during these peacetime years for which we are electing a new President.
We must establish equality between business, labor and agriculture. We must have full employment. It must be at a high wage level. We must have protection of the individual from loss of his earning power through no fault of his own. We must have protection of the individual against the hazards of old age. We must have these things within the framework of free—and I mean free—collective bargaining.
To reach these goals we must increase, not decrease, our standard of living. We must increase, not decrease our production.
If there be those who would turn back the course of collective bargaining, they are doomed to bitter disappointment. We are not going back to anything, not to bread lines, not to leaf raking, not to settling labor disputes with gun fire and gas bombs, not to wholesale farm foreclosures, not to another New Deal depression with ten million unemployed.
We are going forward. The American working man and his family can go forward. They will go forward in the size of their pay envelope, in the improvement of working conditions, in their possession of more and more of the good things of life.
We are going to establish fair, even-handed government with competent, orderly administration.
American working people know that with the restoration of freedom they will have their greatest opportunity to build better and stronger free labor unions. They will have unprecedented opportunity to bring genuine freedom to the members of the labor movement.
They know that with such freedom the working men themselves will drive both the racketeers and the Communists from positions of power in the labor movement. That is why the racketeers and Communists are against a change of administration. And that's another reason why it's time for a change.
The all-out peacetime effort of your next Administration will be to encourage business, both large and small, to create jobs and opportunity. We shall establish conditions which will make it not only possible but good business for management to join hands with the great, free labor movement of this country in bringing about full employment at high wages.
Those who come home from the war and those who have produced for war—all our people—have earned a future with jobs for all. Nothing less can be considered victory at home to match our victory abroad.
We must build a just and a lasting peace. We must go forward, a courageous and united people, determined to make good the limitless promise of America.