Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at St. Paul, Minn.

October 04, 1937

I am glad to return to St. Paul after an absence of less than a year. I appreciate the welcome to this State given me by my old friend Governor Benson.

I cannot come to Minnesota, however, without thinking of another old friend who has passed on—Floyd Olson, whose memory as a great liberal leader will always be with us.

This morning in Grand Forks I spoke of the pressing need for national legislation to preserve soil fertility and safeguard farmers' income. For three years the Agricultural Adjustment Act was a great cornerstone in the new and permanent structure that we Americans are trying to rear on the ruins of the old. That cornerstone was destroyed by the verdict of the Supreme Court. It has been partly, but only partly, replaced by the Soil Conservation Act. The National Farm Act, which I hope the Congress will pass at its next session, will, I am confident, preserve and strengthen the present Soil Conservation Program, and at the same time give us provision against the piling up of unmanageable surpluses and provide for storage of reserve food supplies in an ever normal granary.

It must be repeated over and over again that such a policy is intended not only to maintain farmers' prices by holding down huge surpluses which destroy those prices, but also to assure adequate supplies of food to the consuming public in the event of severe and widespread drought. Farmers and processors alike realize, I am sure, that there must be a wholly adequate supply of food for the Nation at reasonable prices. There must never be a shortage of food—nor must the price of food rise so greatly that the consuming public cannot afford to eat.

On my trip to the Pacific Coast and back I have found overwhelming evidence in favor of that twin piece of legislation which, like the crop bill, is intended to replace a cornerstone which was knocked out by the Supreme Court. The wage and hour legislation proposed for the benefit of those industrial workers who are processing products that will move in interstate commerce, is of course not intended to restore all of the National Industrial Recovery Act. But it is intended to restore certain fair standards for the workers of the Nation. It is intended to prevent over-long hours of labor. It is intended to establish a reasonable minimum wage, and it is intended to end child labor in every state in the Union.

As in the case of farm legislation, a wages and hours and child labor law will undoubtedly accomplish two great purposes, first, an increase in employment, and secondly, an increase in the total of the Nation's income.

As a result of both of these the actual cost of relief for the unemployed should decrease, and existing taxes—not higher taxes-should make the financial problem of local and State and Federal governments easier.

It is axiomatic that no part of the country can truly prosper if its standards of living and its standards of pay are far below those of all the other parts of the country. Therefore, I am looking for substantial support for wage and hour legislation from every part of the country, North, East, West and South.

A prominent manufacturer told me the other day that because of the expansion of his business he is looking for a new site for a new factory. He said that he and his directors had definitely decided against locating in any of the communities which had held out as an attraction low wages and unrestricted hours of work. He is locating his new plant in a community which pays high wages, works the men and women forty hours a week, gives them Saturdays and Sundays off, and maintains a high standard of living.

The more I study the subject the more I become convinced that it does not pay any community or any region in the long-run to maintain low wage or low living standards. Throughout the Nation we are working toward fairly uniform standards of pay and work in every section and in every community. And the only exception to this will give some effect to a small differential based on an actual lower or an actual higher cost of living in some communities or sections as compared with the average of the country.

This greater uniformity is being encouraged every day by the amazing progress that has been made in transportation during the last few years. People are traveling more and getting to know their neighbors one hundred or five hundred or a thousand miles away for the first time.

The interchange of goods between different parts of the country is also making amazing strides. In this part of the Nation the new channel from the Twin Cities to St. Louis is a good illustration of what I mean. You have long known my interest in its development. Last year I had planned a trip by boat from St. Paul and Minneapolis to New Orleans; but the drought came along. Next year I hope to make it.

You, the people of Minnesota, have proved in the past that you favor progress and continued progress in government. You are not wild-eyed radicals, as some people in Wall Street believe. You believe in a constitutional, representative democracy, as I do. You understand me when I speak in national terms. You believe with me that the business men of the Nation will most greatly prosper if the workers and the farmers prosper.

We have worked toward a common goal in the past and our cooperation is by no means at an end.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at St. Paul, Minn. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives