Harry S. Truman photo

Statement by the President: Labor Day.

August 30, 1947

LABOR DAY offers us a yearly opportunity to pay tribute to the contribution the free working men and women of the United States have made to their country's progress, prosperity, and world leadership. This Labor Day of 1947, 2 years after we defeated our enemies in battle, is an appropriate moment for us to evaluate our accomplishments during war and reconversion, and to plan for the peace we still must win. Labor Day, therefore, should be a holiday not alone for celebration of past accomplishments, but for dedication to the future, and to the hope which that future holds for mankind.

The organized labor movement of America has rewarded working men and women with higher wages, shorter hours, and improved working and living conditions. But these rewards have been possible only because, as unions grew stronger, they developed increasing responsibility for helping the wheels of industry to turn. Wherever a responsible labor movement flourishes, there industry prospers, production increases, and the living standards of the community, State, or region improve.

The right to join a union of one's own choice is unquestioned today, and is sanctioned and protected by law. The bargaining table at which labor and management sit to work out their common problems is indispensable to our democracy, and must be safeguarded against any attempts by misguided or ill-mentioned groups or individuals to weaken or replace it.

Good labor relations, however, cannot be brought about by legislation. They are created by the men and women concerned, cooperating sincerely and earnestly within the framework of a minimum amount of regulatory law. I believe that enlightened labor and enlightened management, working together, can accomplish far more by peaceful bargaining than is possible through legislation. Cooperation by labor and management, in a spirit of honest concern for the welfare of all the people, will speed the day when strikes and lockouts are discarded, and will safeguard labor's freedom to solve its problems without restrictive Government regulation.

Government, also, has a responsibility for promoting the welfare of all the people by pointing out and eliminating injustice and inequity. In order to enable the Government to discharge its constitutional and legal duties, the Department of Labor must be adequately staffed, and be given jurisdiction over those governmental functions which are an appropriate part of a department created to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States. Millions of our unorganized workers are living, in this day of high national income and high profits, on substandard wages. A prompt increase in the minimum wage rates is needed. Our social security system can and must be broadened by extending its benefits to a greater number. Nor can we long delay, without incalculable loss to the Nation, the establishment of an adequate system of health insurance. All these problems deserve the attention of the Congress early in its next session.

It is fitting that on Labor Day we should acknowledge the debt this country owes to its workers of hand and mind, and that at the same time we should solemnly recognize our common responsibility to preserve and strengthen the democratic principles which have made labor and the Nation strong.

Harry S Truman, Statement by the President: Labor Day. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232274

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