Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address to the Chamber of Commerce on the Recovery Program.

May 04, 1933

Because of a national and a world situation which has taken every moment of my time during the past two months I have had to forego the privilege of discussing many matters of common interest with the members of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. For the same reason, frankly, I have had neither time nor opportunity to prepare for you tonight any complete phase of our national problems.

I do not have to tell you that the Government of the United States in its executive and legislative branches has been seeking and obtaining action relating to our own internal economy and to initiation of a cooperative spirit among all the Nations of the world. We have sought through moderate and wise measures to increase the volume of trade, to give employment to the unemployed and to effect a broad elevation of commodity prices.

I present to you three requests. During the past few weeks we have witnessed, with a slight but definite upturn in most industries, a simultaneous rise in most commodity prices. Past experience indicates that when the price level begins to rise after a long period of declining commodity prices, wages which have been previously curtailed lag behind the rise in the price level.

That result has in the past imposed upon those who labor an unfair burden; has prevented their just and equitable share in the profits of industry; and has limited the purchasing power of the overwhelming majority of our population.

I, therefore, ask you, who represent in all probability the majority of the employers of the Nation, to refrain from further reduction in the wages of your employees and I ask you also to increase your wage scales in conformity with and simultaneous with the rise of the level of commodity prices in so far as this lies within your power.

It is a simple fact that the average of the wage scale of the Nation has gone down during the past four years more rapidly than the cost of living. It is essential, as a matter of national justice, that the wage scale should be brought back to meet the cost of living and that this process should begin now and not later.

My second request has to do with bringing order out of chaos. During the past four years what previously had been considered to be an orderly industrial system has degenerated into one of the highest disorder. You and I acknowledge the existence of unfair methods of competition, of cut-throat prices and of general chaos. You and I agree that this condition must be rectified and that order must be restored. The attainment of that objective depends upon your willingness to cooperate with one another to this end and also your willingness to cooperate with your Government.

In almost every industry an overwhelming majority of the units of the industry are wholly willing to work together to prevent overproduction, to prevent unfair wages, to eliminate improper working conditions. In the past success in attaining these objectives has been prevented by a small minority of units in many industries. I can assure you that you will have the cooperation of your Government in bringing these minorities to understand that their unfair practices are contrary to a sound public policy.

My third request is of a somewhat different nature though it has an important bearing on the other two. It is human nature to view a problem in terms of the particular existence and interest of the company or the business with which one is personally associated. It is, therefore, not unnatural that the various industries of the country should apply this same point of view to themselves. And yet I call your attention to what must be clear to all of us: That each and all of you in your own units and your own industries are but an integral part of a great whole and that our national economy must be expressed in terms of the whole rather than in terms of the unit.

It is ultimately of little avail to any of you to be temporarily prosperous while others are permanently depressed. I ask that you translate your welfare into the welfare of the whole, that you view recovery in terms of the Nation rather than in terms of a particular industry, that you have the vision to lay aside special and selfish interests, to think of and act for a well-rounded national recovery.

May I take this opportunity to express my special appreciation of the fine cooperation which I have had from your President, Mr. Harriman, and from his associates? He has felt free to call on me and I have felt free to call on him. In that spirit the Nation is working itself out of its troubles. In that spirit we shall succeed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Chamber of Commerce on the Recovery Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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