Franklin D. Roosevelt

Statement on Signing a Bill on Reconversion.

October 03, 1944

I have signed S. 2051, a bill "to amend the Social Security Act, as amended, to provide a national program for war mobilization and reconversion, and for other purposes."

I have signed the bill because it is important, as this bill provides, that the Office of War Mobilization should be promptly expanded and given clear statutory powers to direct' and supervise the tremendous task of reconversion in all of its numerous and related phases.

Last October at my suggestion Justice Byrnes set up a unit in the Office of War Mobilization to deal with war and postwar adjustment problems. The work of this unit was placed in charge of Mr. Bernard Baruch. In February of this year, Mr. Baruch and his associate Mr. Hancock made a report recommending that the coordinating powers of the Office of War Mobilization be extended to cover activities relating to reconversion and that separate units be established in that Office to deal with the problems of Contract Settlement, War Surplus Property Disposition, and Retraining and Reemployment.

Shortly thereafter by Executive Orders, I set up separate units in the Office of War Mobilization to deal with these problems so far as was practicable under existing law until legislation clarifying the powers of these units and defining the basic policies to be pursued by them could be enacted by the Congress.

Last June the Congress passed legislation establishing the Office of Contract Settlement with adequate powers to supervise and expedite the settlement of war contracts.

Just before its recent adjournment the Congress passed H. R. 5125, setting up a Surplus Property Disposal Board and defining its powers, and S. 2051, the bill now before me, which expands the Office of War Mobilization into an Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion and places within it the Office of Contract Settlement, the Surplus War Property Administration, and the Retraining and Reemployment Administration.

So far as the bill goes, it is quite satisfactory. It applies the lessons which we have learned during the war as to the need of continuing coordination of related activities to the problems of reconversion to peace. It does not and cannot, of course, eliminate the problems and difficulties of reconversion, but it goes far to expedite and facilitate their solution.

But I feel it my duty to draw attention to the fact that the bill does not adequately deal with the human side of reconversion. When I signed the G.I. Bill on June 22 last, I expressed the hope that "the Congress will also take prompt action, when it reconvenes, on necessary legislation which is now pending to facilitate the development of unified programs for the demobilization of civilian war workers, for their reemployment in peacetime pursuits, and for provision, in cooperation with the States, of appropriate unemployment benefits during the transition from war to peace." The bill is not adequate to obtain these 'ends.

Provisions, which were in the bill as it passed the Senate, to provide transportation for war workers from the place of their employment to their bona fide residence or to the location of new employment arranged by the workers were omitted in conference. So also were the provisions, in the bill as it passed the Senate, ensuring appropriate unemployment compensation to Federal workers.

Moreover the bill fails to prescribe minimum standards to govern the amount and duration of unemployment benefits which should be paid by the States to all workers unavoidably out of a job during the period of transition from war to peace.

We have rightly committed ourselves to a fair and generous treatment of our G.I. men and women. We have rightly committed ourselves to a prompt and generous policy of contract settlement to aid industry to return to peacetime work. We have rightly committed ourselves to support farm prices at a fair level during the period of reconversion. We should be no less fair in our treatment of our war workers.

I am glad to know that the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has announced that his Committee will give consideration to further amendments of the Social Security Act after recess and I hope that the deficiencies which I have pointed out in the bill before me will be promptly rectified.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement on Signing a Bill on Reconversion. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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