Letter to the American Federation of Labor on the Automobile Code.
My dear Mr. Ogburn:
Your letter of January 28th and communications along the same line, to which you refer, place a construction upon the creation, powers and functioning of the Automobile Labor Board, with which I cannot agree. The Board was established by the Government and not as a Board of Arbitration, created by the parties to an agreement.
There was in March, 1934, the possibility of a strike in this industry, arising out of controversies particularly concerning the right of employees to organize freely for collective bargaining. The "principles of settlement" at that time recognized, not only the possibility, but the probability that groups of employees in this industry might choose different representatives or organizations to act in their behalf. Provision was made for the N.R.A. to set up a "Board responsible to the President of the United States" and in the "principles of settlement" it was stated that "the Government makes it clear that it favors no particular union or particular form of employee organization or representation."
The Board established by the Government was, therefore, created for the benefit of all employers and employees in the industry and to prevent discrimination against any employee who exercised his right freely to designate his representatives for collective bargaining.
The Board so established is responsible to the President and it is for the President to determine whether the Board is fulfilling its duties and how long the existence of the Board should be continued. The Board was not established in the code; but it will be noted that the authority under which the Board and the code were both established expires June 16, 1935.
In the original creation of the Board there was no provision for the nomination of members of the Board by anyone and in accepting advice, or giving to persons an opportunity to suggest selections, the Government did not give to anyone a right to name members or otherwise to determine the membership of the Board.
At the present time the Board is not only functioning to prevent discrimination against employees and otherwise to carry out the purposes of its creation, but it is engaged also in the very important work of holding elections, whereby through secret ballot, under Government supervision, all employees are being given a full and fair opportunity to designate their representatives, choosing them either as individuals, or as representatives of a labor organization. The result of these elections must be to provide for the first time conclusive evidence of how and by whom the employees desire to be represented.
When these elections are completed, the freely chosen representatives of the employees will be able to associate themselves together to bargain collectively, or otherwise to represent the interests of their constituents. Thereby both the employers and the Government will be able to determine the wishes of the employees and will be assured that those who claim to represent the employees and their wishes are, in fact, their duly designated and authorized representatives.
Under these circumstances, it would seem that any organization of employees in this industry, or any organization claiming to represent such employees, would avail itself fully of the opportunity to establish the authentic character of its representation.
From the reports of recent balloting in the elections now being held, it appears clearly that all but a very small percentage of the employees are availing themselves of this opportunity. If the Government should, at this time, annul or impair the power of the Automobile Labor Board to conduct these elections, it would be placed in the position of preventing the employees from voting instead of fulfilling its promise to afford them a full and fair opportunity to exercise this right.
Very sincerely yours,
Charlton Ogburn, Esq.,
Union Trust Building,
Washington, D. C.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to the American Federation of Labor on the Automobile Code. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208173