Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

May 22, 1942

THE PRESIDENT: I have a couple of things, both of which are aimed at the simplification of ordinary Government procedure under war conditions. The first relates to the adjustment of railway labor disputes. I signed an Executive Order this morning. Hitherto, before the President has appointed an emergency fact-finding board as a result of a railway labor dispute, it has been necessary for the employees involved to take a formal vote, declaring a strike and fixing a date for the vote. In view of the fact that American labor generally is agreed that during the war there shall be no strikes, it has become advisable and necessary to adopt a procedure which would obviate this necessity for a strike vote. The Executive Order provides that if a dispute is not settled by mediation or arbitration under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act—which still remains the first step—instead of taking a strike vote the employees may request the creation of an emergency fact-finding board.

For this purpose the Order provides for the creation of a National Railway Labor Panel, consisting of a Chairman and eight members to be appointed by the President. The Chairman of this Panel shall have the power to designate three members of the Panel to sit as such an emergency fact-finding board, whenever in his judgment the dispute, if unadjusted, may interfere with the prosecution of the war, thus obviating the necessity under the old law for a strike vote.

In this way the usual normal processes of adjustment of railway labor disputes may be continued without requiring the employees either to go out on strike or take a strike vote. It does not amend the Railway Labor Act, which has worked very well for a good many years, but merely sets up for the duration of the war this extra-statutory Panel which will provide a means of adjusting disputes without actual strikes.

I think that is perfectly clear. . . .

Then this other one is in the form of a couple of agreements—no Order. In case we get bombed—any community on either coast—there have been three agencies of the Government that have been concerned with looking after the civil population: the Federal Security Agency, the O.C.D.—Civilian Defense—and the American Red Cross. And they have agreed—all three of them—on plans to assist civilian victims of enemy action in case of bombing or shelling.

Immediate responsibility for the care of people who are injured as a result of enemy action is placed on the Emergency Medical Service of the United States Citizens' Defense Corps. In other words, that is the local organization. The Red Cross, which of course has always had its local organization in those places, will assist in furnishing nurses' aides, stretcher teams, ambulances, supplementary equipment, and will not duplicate the work of the Emergency Medical Service.

The Federal Security Administrator will look to the resources of the Red Cross to provide the food, clothing, temporary shelter for masses of individuals in the emergency period, during and immediately following any enemy attack.

The Red Cross will continue special functions only until the regular Federal, State, and local public agencies which have the normal responsibility for meeting the needs of dependent people can make their services available after the emergency. The Red Cross will provide additional services to the appropriate public authorities, on their request, to supplement the normal community facilities.

Emergency feeding and housing, though similarly recognized as the responsibility of the Red Cross, are functions of the over-all emergency services of the local Citizens' Defense Corps. The service thus operates under the control of the Commander of the Defense Corps, in accordance with the detailed plans that are being worked out by the Defense Corps, the Red Cross chapter, and the local public welfare agencies.

Of course the thing is based on a good deal of experience that we have had, as for instance the Ohio floods of a few years ago, where we got excellent teamwork between the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Red Cross, and local authorities. And the thing clicked pretty well. This merely makes a similar arrangement in case of enemy attack. . . .

Q. Mr. President, on Wednesday the President of Peru [Manuel Prado] came to say good-by to you, after his visit in the United States. Could you tell us anything about your talk at that time, or about his visit generally here?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that he was just as happy to be here as we were to have him here. He saw a good deal of the defense work, and he was an extremely delightful guest. And it is part, of course, of the hope that we all feel, not only with Peru but with the other Republics, that we will have more and more knowledge of each other at first hand.

And as you probably know, in 1939, in the spring— it was a secret then but it came out afterwards—I had planned to go down the west coast of South America that autumn. But there were certain untoward events that occurred that autumn, so I couldn't leave. I still hope I can do it some day. . . .

Q. Mr. President, in your message on controlling the cost of living, one of the steps you set forth was stabilization of wages, which you said would be handled by the War Labor Board. There has been talk about the problem of wage increases, or wage disputes, which are settled without reference to that Board, and in more than 95 percent of cases are settled that way. And they have before them now the problem of some Southern California aircraft companies which have no dispute with their employees but are willing to raise wages. They want to know whether that conflicts with this program?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think it probably would. In other words, we can't have one company—just because it happens to be able financially to pay- go ahead and raise wages in one plant, making everybody else unhappy in all the other plants, which is a matter which probably will be taken into consideration by the method of not recognizing private increases which are contrary to the national policy. We want to get as great a uniformity as we can.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that there are some signs of more optimism about the war being expressed now than appear to be justified or wise? Would you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT: In a war, public opinion goes up and down with things which look big at the moment that actually are merely a part of a war. And the more we can do to prevent those ups and downs the better it will be for the war effort. It is going to be a long war, and there is no reason for being overoptimistic one week and over pessimistic the next week. It is caused largely by an unfortunate tendency of—I would say almost—especially the American people—the tendency to overstatement. And it is a great mistake to overstate things. And I think that the press can help very much on that.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection, do you think that some bad news should be passed by the Censor's office on ship sinkings?

THE PRESIDENT: Why, sure. Bad news should be passed out obviously just as much as good news, just as soon as it doesn't affect military operations. There is only one reason for withholding bad news and that is that it might affect military operations and cause more bad news. . . .

Q. Mr. President, isn't this ship-sinking situation still pretty serious?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh my, yes.

Q. Did you read Mr.[Steve] Early's speech at Toledo? (Laughter)


Q. Did you read Mr. Early's speech at Toledo?

THE PRESIDENT: I learned from the headlines that Mr. Early said we are going to win this war, and it's all right.

Q. Can we rely on that?

THE PRESIDENT: Rely on him. When he tells you that, he is telling the truth. It might take an awful long time, but he's right.

VOICES: Thank you, Mr. President.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives