Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts of Remarks to the British Management-Labor Mission.

October 22, 1941

Of course, as you know, I have been with the trade unionists we don't call it that—but I have been with them for thirty some years. And I always remember the story that I used sometimes in campaign speeches.

Senator Wagner and I were both in the State Senate in 1910-1911, and we introduced a bill, and were promptly labeled Communists. I think it was Nihilists, as they called them then. An anarchist—literally. And the bill was considered so violently radical that we were just tagged for all time. It was a bill to limit the hours of women and children in industry to 54 hours a week. Just think of that! We sent another bill I got through, the "One Day Rest in Seven" bill, for the State of New York. And in order to get it through I had to compromise. I had to make an exception here and an exception there. The result was that in organized labor I had to exempt and except about half the people from my own bill.

Now again we are making progress. I don't think there is any question but that when the war is over, and you good people win it—with a little help from us—the old system will not come back the way it was before. We will certainly make no loss out of it. We will probably achieve a good many gains out of it, as I see it. It is going to be a better system all the way through.

Of course, I do wish that we could straighten out some of our jurisdictional troubles. We have always had them. And even with the Federation, as you know, we haven't eliminated them altogether. The size of our country is one thing, and you have certain geographical problems, even in Great Britain. Ours, of course, are multiplied ten times- three thousand miles across country, two thousand miles north and south- with its different living conditions, climate, and things like that. But I think the big gain that we have made over the last eight or nine years has been the breaking down of sectional lines. I wish you had visited the South, because that is such an entirely different problem.

I have a place down South, for infantile paralysis. The whole standard is so entirely different. The first year I went down there, for instance, I discovered that the teachers in the local schools were getting two hundred to two hundred and fifty dollars a year. In the North they were getting twelve to fifteen hundred dollars a year. In the North they required some kind of training. In the South they were lucky if they had a grade-school education. And when it came to a first-class white carpenter down there, he would be glad to take two and a half dollars a day, which was above the standard. He was lucky. He was a millionaire. In our village, he would be a millionaire if he had two hundred and fifty dollars a year. All through the South today, we are beginning to educate them to the idea that if they will raise the scale of wages down there, it will automatically help them, because they can buy more things from the North, and they can make more of their own 'things down there. So that in these years we couldn't have done all we have done, even in the last two years, unless we had centralized it from all over the country. We say we are going places. We haven't got there yet. . . .

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts of Remarks to the British Management-Labor Mission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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