Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Statement on Labor Day.

September 05, 1942

There has never been a Labor Day as significant as this one. In a great many countries free labor has ceased to exist; a blackout of freedom has darkened Europe from the tip of Norway to the shores of the Aegean and sturdy working men who once walked erect in the sun now stumble and cower beneath the lash of the slavemasters. The rights of free labor and free men have vanished in the conquered lands. They are threatened and besieged everywhere.

This is indeed labor's grave hour as it is the grave hour of the farmer, the industrialist, the teacher and preacher, the aproned housewife, the smallest child in the cradle. All these are the beneficiaries and heirs of the democratic system, and it is democracy itself that the evil men of West and East hate and seek to destroy.

Happily, our good right arm is strong and growing stronger. In our own country, in the countries of our brother allies, the people who live by the sweat of their brows have risen mightily to the challenge of the struggle. They have given their sons to the military services. They have stoked the furnaces and hurried the factory wheels. They have made the planes and welded the tanks, riveted the ships and rolled the shells. Production of war materials here is now the greatest in our history, but it is not yet enough. It will be greater still.

This is an appropriate occasion to express my appreciation to the working people of the United States for the energy and devotion with which they have met the demands of the present crisis. They know what it is to work until muscles ache. They know what it means to be weary when the whistle blows at the end of the shift.

They know, too, that democracy has made labor's advances possible. They know just what stake they have in America, just what they are fighting for. There are certain to be stormy days ahead. Laborers, farmers, industrialists, all of us, are pledged to the war effort. We are certain to be asked for sacrifices. These may be sacrifices of wage increases, crop price increases, profit increases, bodily comforts. All this is little enough for free men to sacrifice in a world where freedom is imperiled.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement on Labor Day. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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