Labor And The Nation
The workers of the nation were tired of waiting for corporate
industry to right their economic wrongs, to alleviate
their social agony and to grant them their political rights.
Despairing of fair treatment, they resolved to do something
for themselves. They, therefore, have organized a new
labor movement, conceived within the principles of the
national bill of rights and committed to the proposition
that the workers are free to assemble in their own forums,
voice their own grievances, declare their own hopes and
contract on even terms with modern industry for the sale
of their only material possession ˜ their labor.
Labor does not see industrial strife.
It wants peace, but a peace with justice. In the long
struggle for labor's rights it has been patient and forbearing.
Workers have kept faith in American institutions. Most
of the conflicts, which have occurred have been when labor's
right to live has been challenged and denied.
If there is to be peace in our industrial
life let the employer recognize his obligation to his
employees - at least to the degree set forth in existing
statutes. Ordinary problems affecting wages, hours, and
working conditions, in most instances, will quickly respond
to negotiation in the council room. No tin-hat brigade
of goose-stepping vigilantes or bibble-babbling mob of
blackguarding and corporation paid scoundrels will prevent
the onward march of labor, or divert its purpose to play
its natural and rational part in the development of the
economic, political and social life of our nation.
Unionization, as opposed to communism,
presupposes the relation of employment; it is based upon
the wage system and it recognizes fully and unreservedly
the institution of private property and the right to investment
profit. It is upon the fuller development of collective
bargaining, the wider expansion of the labor movement,
the increased influence of labor in our national councils,
that the perpetuity of our democratic institutions must
Labor has suffered just as our farm population
has suffered from a viciously unequal distribution of
the national income. In the exploitation of both classes
of workers has been the source of panic and depression,
and upon the economic welfare of both rests the best assurance
of a sound and permanent prosperity.
In this connection let me call attention
to the propaganda which some of our industrialists are
carrying on among the farmers. By pamphlets in the milk
cans or attached to machinery and in countless other ways
of direct and indirect approach, the farmers of the nation
are being told that the increased price of farm machinery
and farm supplies is due to the rising wage level brought
about by the Committee for Industrial Organization. And
yet it is the industrial millions of this country who
constitute the substantial market for all agricultural
The interest of the two groups are mutually
dependent. It is when the pay roll goes down that the
farmer's realization is diminished, so that his loans
become overdue at the bank and the arrival of the tax
collector is awaited with fear. On the other hand it is
the prosperity of the farmer that quickness the tempo
of manufacturing activities and brings buying power to
the millions of urban and industrial workers.
As we view the years that have passed
this has always been true and it becomes increasingly
imperative that the farm population and the millions of
workers in industry must learn to combine their strength
for the attainment of mutual and desirable objectives
and at the same time learn to guard themselves against
the sinister propaganda of those who would divide and
Under the banner of the Committee for
Industrial Organization American labor is on the march.
Its objectives today are those it had in the beginning:
to strive for the unionization of our unorganized millions
of workers and for the acceptance of collective bargaining
as a recognized American institution.
It seeks peace with the industrial world.
It seeks cooperation and mutuality of effort with the
agricultural population. It would avoid strikes. It would
have its rights determined under the law by the peaceful
negotiations and contract relationships that are supposed
to characterize American commercial life.
Until an aroused public opinion demands
that employers accept that rule, labor has no recourse
but to surrender its rights or struggle for their realization
with its own economic power.
The objectives of this movement are not political in a
partisan sense. Yet it is true that a political party
which seeks the support of labor and makes pledges of
good faith to labor must, in equity and good conscience,
keep that faith and redeem those pledges.
From a speech by John L. Lewis, delivered
Sept. 3, 1937