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Letter on Peace in the Ranks of Labor.

September 30, 1939

My dear President Green:

PLEASE EXTEND my warm personal greetings to the delegates to the Fifty-ninth Annual convention of the American Federation of Labor and my regrets that I cannot avail myself of your kind invitation to attend because matters of national concern make it imperative that I be in Washington.

These are trying days for the world and the international situation also brings problems to all of us here in the United States. It brings problems to labor, as well as to bankers and industrialists and Government officials. When we see Europe in a war which may cost many lives and imperil civilization itself, we may well offer thanks to God for the peace we have on this continent. It is the duty of each of us to leave nothing undone to promote the continuation of that peace for us, our children and our children's children. Peace, like charity, begins at home.

Perhaps the highest service we Americans can render at this time is to demonstrate that our personal liberty, our democratic ways of life, our free representative Government, make it possible for us to disagree among ourselves over many things without bitterness and find quickly the means of settlement and adjustment of controversy when it has gone far enough. A world emergency such as the present gives us new realization of the blessings of democracy and liberty. In the presence of these blessings and in the face of this world necessity we must adjourn our small grudges, our differences, and find the way to peace and good will within our borders in every department of life. So we become a free and fearless nation with people of all shades of opinion and walks of life, united in common purpose to maintain and to practice and to protect this American way of life.

Labor's development of status in our economic and industrial life by free-trade-unionism and sound constructive relations with employers is one of the items we want to maintain. There never has been a time when there were so many negotiated working agreements between organized labor and employers. There never has been a time when the rights of labor and the minimum necessities of working conditions were so well protected by statute. The American people generally have nothing but good will toward labor and in the democratic process of legislation by elected representatives have participated to achieve this standard.

If we desire peace and good will in the world we must learn to practice these in the small and large things of our own life. The continued conflict and separation in the labor movement can hardly be overlooked, in these days, when discord in any group is so harmful to world peace. The joint committee which was appointed by your body and by your separated brothers in the Congress of Industrial Organizations has, I know, done faithful and effective service to promote reunion and negotiate a practical and sound peace in the labor movement. I take this occasion to thank the members of that committee and the two organizations, which they represent, for the intelligent and persistent efforts toward peace and to congratulate them upon the substantial progress made. This must be continued until a sound negotiated basis of peace between the labor groups is reached and agreed upon. If it is hard to continue it is all the more a challenge to the members and leaders of these labor bodies-to their capacity to serve the workers of America—to their capacity to put aside pride and self-advantage in patriotic service for national unity in this time of trouble and distress.

I have faith in the capacity and intention of rank and file wage earners and of labor leaders in both camps to do this and to make a peace which will make it possible for labor to play its full and generous part, along with other groups and interests, in solving our pressing national problems in this time of stress and emergency.

And so I ask you, as I shall ask the Congress of Industrial Organizations in its convention a little later, to continue wholeheartedly and generously the search for an accord. The men and women working daily in the mills, mines, factories and stores, and in the transports, want this accord. The American people want it and will hold in honor those whose insight, courage and unselfishness can effect it.

I hope that you will let me hear from you that the progress already made will be continued, and that your committee is prepared to renew the negotiations and continue them until a settlement is reached.

In closing let me say that I appreciate all the help and friendship which the membership of the Unions of the American Federation of Labor have given to me. I return your friendship and thank you for your help.

Very sincerely yours,

Honorable William Green,

President, American Federation of Labor,

Netherland-Plaza Hotel,

Cincinnati, Ohio.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on Peace in the Ranks of Labor. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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