Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

March 04, 1941

THE PRESIDENT: I have been incommunicado- or perhaps some people would say excommunicado—for so long I don't know what has happened; maybe you can give me the news. . . .

Q. Mr. President, would you care to give us a reminiscent thought on eight years ago today?

THE PRESIDENT: You could say that I, personally, do not feel any different than I have at any time during the eight years. We have a different kind of crisis, a world crisis instead of a domestic crisis, eight years later. In some ways, on a comparable basis for the future of the country, it is probably more serious than the one eight years ago. I think we might let it go at that.

Q. Mr. President, do you see any cause for concern in the labor situation as affecting the defense projects?

THE PRESIDENT: Of course that is a question that would take half an hour to answer—the kind of question that can't be answered. It's a little like saying, "Have you stopped beating your wife?—yes or no?" It's an impossible question to answer as is. Perhaps I can illustrate by telling you this: I got a letter—oh, yesterday or the day before—from a very worthy citizen in Florida who was frightfully upset because of what he had read. Where he had read it, I am not saying; but anyway it was because of what he had read. And he said, in effect, this: "We are all horrified by the complete breakdown of defense production because of strikes." In other words, he got it into his head that there was a breakdown in production because of strikes. Now, of course there are a certain number of strikes; and I would hate to give you this as the definitive figure, but I think it is approximately correct that about a quarter of one percent of production has been affected by strikes at any given time. A quarter of one percent is what?- one four-hundredth; so you see the gentleman had got an erroneous impression from what he had read, according to his own statement. That's worth thinking about. In other words, somebody had written something—I am not saying where—that had caused a perfectly worthy citizen to get a false impression, and that is a great pity for our defense effort. . . .

Q. Mr. President, do you think it is justified for the labor unions to charge fees on construction projects on all men, whether or not they are members of unions, for a job?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't talk to a general question; give me some specific instances, cases, places; then I will look it up and find out whether the facts are in accordance with the statements; then I will give you an answer after that.

Q. Do you want this in a memo? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: In other words, I can't talk glittering generalities.

Q. You have heard of the situation, have you not?

THE PRESIDENT: I have heard of one or two specific cases where the fees charged for joining a union were exorbitant; and those cases were taken up by the [American] Federation of Labor for the international concern, and they reported that the practice has been stopped. You have to be specific; I'll be specific if you are.

Q. All I can do is to refer to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

THE PRESIDENT: That has all been referred to the Department of Justice and the Federation of Labor; I think they were all A.F.L. cases. . . .

Q. What about that plan the marine wrote in about for old soldiers and the rest of the people to do something?

THE PRESIDENT: That home defense thing?

Q. Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: That's one of the most difficult things to put together in administrative form that I have had yet, because it covers so many different things in life. It's sort of a general endeavor on the part of men, women, and children in every State in the Union, and it is very hard to set up the right kind of administrative machinery that at the same time will allow it to be decentralized and run primarily by the various communities themselves. Frankly, I have been at it now for about a month, you know- over a month—and I haven't decided on what kind of final machinery to set up. I am still having conferences on it. It's one of those real troubles.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President!

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

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