Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

April 29, 1943

THE PRESIDENT: Before we talk about the trip, I have got one very simple telegram to John L. Lewis, which I will read. There isn't anything else to add to it.

(Reading): "The controversy between the United Mine Workers of America and the operators of the coal mines has been certified to the National War Labor Board for settlement.

"The officials of the United Mine Workers were invited by the Board to recommend a person for appointment to the panel charged with investigating the facts. They ignored the invitation. The Board then appointed Mr. David B. Robertson of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen to represent the employees; Mr. Walter White to represent the operators, and Mr. Morris L. Cooke to represent the public.

"The personnel of this panel assures an impartial investigation of the facts to be used by the Board in its determination of the controversy, in accordance with the law.

"The officials of the United Mine Workers of America have ignored the request of the Board that they present their case to the National War Labor Board panel, and likewise have ignored the request of the Board that the strikers be urged to return to their work. I am advised that many thousands of miners are out on strike, and strikes are threatened at many other mines which are now in operation.

"The procedure that has been followed in this case by the Board is, I am assured, in exact accord with that followed in all other controversies of this character.

"In view of the statements made in telegrams to me from some members of the United Mine Workers that O.P.A. price regulations have been disregarded, and that the cost of living has gone up disproportionately in mining areas, I have directed the O.P.A. to make an immediate investigation of the facts, and wherever a violation of law is disclosed by that investigation, to see that the violators of the law are prosecuted.

"Strikes and stoppages in the coal industry that have occurred and are threatened are in clear violation of the 'no-strike' pledge.

"These are not mere strikes against employers of this industry to enforce collective bargaining demands. They are strikes against the United States Government itself.

"These strikes are a direct interference with the prosecution of the war. They challenge the governmental machinery that has been set up for the orderly and peaceful settlement of all labor disputes. They challenge the power of the Government to carry on the war.

"The continuance and spread of these strikes would have the same effect on the course of the war as a crippling defeat in the field.

"The production of coal must continue. Without coal our war industries cannot produce tanks, guns, and ammunition for our armed forces. Without these weapons our sailors on the high seas, and our armies in the field, will be helpless against our enemies.

"I am sure that the men who work in the coal mines, whose sons and brothers are in the armed forces, do not want to retard the war effort to which they have contributed so loyally, and in which they with other Americans have so much at stake.

"Not as President—not as Commander in Chief—but as the friend of the men who work in the coal mines, I appeal to them to resume work immediately, and submit their case to the National War Labor Board for final determination.

"I have confidence in the patriotism of the miners, and I am sure that when they realize the effect that stopping work at this time will have upon our boys at the front, they will return to their jobs.

"The enemy will not wait while strikes and stoppages run their course. Therefore, if work at the mines is not resumed by ten o'clock Saturday morning [May 1, 1943], I shall use all the power vested in me as President and as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy to protect the national interest and to prevent further interference with the successful prosecution of the war."

·.. Then, the trip to Mexico .... It was a good trip .... In talking to the press associations yesterday, there were a number of things about which I tried to point out the comparison between this trip and the one last September. And I would say it really lay in the thought that last September the Army was having growing pains, and now they have got over the growing pains and are about grown up.

One thing that I didn't mention to the press associations yesterday, and that was about the women in industry. You remember that last fall I was greatly surprised at the large percentage of women in the aviation plants. Well, that is true of other plants that are turning out munitions. In the aviation plants at that time they got as high as around 30 percent of women. Today they are running between 30 and 50 percent —one plant had actually more women than men. And the new workers that are coming in all the time, in most of the plants, have a percentage of women running well above 50 percent—as high as 60 and 65 percent, which of course will help tremendously in the manpower and womanpower problem.

Then the various camps seem to have shaken down into a normal procedure. Now, they are getting straightened out the problems—when you start any new camp—of housekeeping; that is to say, food and clothing, and all the necessary supplies to keep the very large number of men going in the camps. They are making large savings too, as, for example, in food, which was looked into by a special Army board about a month and a half ago; and the new regulations in effect will save a great many millions of dollars.

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

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