Knoxville News-Sentinel/April 3, 1942
NEW YORK April 3 — Every now and again Mrs. Roosevelt flies a kite to test the wind or get us ready for something new. A few weeks ago, Mrs Roosevelt dropped a hint in her column which has been on my mind ever since.
“We had some very interesting discussions Sunday afternoon in the White House on the subject of what the general attitude of the people should be during this war period,” Mrs. Roosevelt wrote. “I’ve come to one very clear decision, namely that all of us men and women in the services and men and women at home should be drafted and told what is the job we are to do. The only way I can see to get the maximum service out of our citizens is to draft us all and to tell us Mr. Pegler where we can be most useful and where our work is needed.”
Now surely this is not mere irresponsible babble like that of a child who drinks in the dinner chat of the family and then goes next door to blab to the neighbors what mamma and papa said about them. So I take this to be a preliminary presentation of a serious proposal.
President Has Bungled
BUT assuming that such conscription of civilians does come, will each of us so drafted be compelled to join one or more of the unions and, in the jurisdiction of the AFL, pay initiation fees of from $19 to $3000 for the privilege of serving under compulsion plus special assessments, dues and other fees?
There is no reason to think otherwise, because the Government for which Mrs. Roosevelt speaks with the feed-box authority of one who sells for personal profit very interesting discussions which take place in the privacy of the national palace, has bitterly fought those elected representatives of the people who have tried to adopt laws to protect the people from the bosses of the unions.
On the day of Pearl Harbor, an arbiter appointed by the president delivered a decision which compelled a minority of coal miners in a certain area to join John L. Lewis’ union, thus denying these men the right to be represented by bargaining agents selected by their own free choice. This is the same union from which Mr. Roosevelt’s Administration eagerly accepted a great contribution or loan of money in the 1930 campaign, well knowing that rank and file members had not been consulted.
Now, I realize that the president has made a mess of union relations and that an abrupt reform which took the form of a hostile repudiation of his leadership in this field would harm us all and hearten the enemy. But obviously we cannot drift into total conscription without adopting guarantees that such conscripts would be subject to no authority but that of our lawful Government. In the lack of such guarantees a man drafted to drive a truck, for example, and refusing to join the Teamsters’ union would be a slacker and a candidate for a concentration camp or prison.
Draft Is Needed
THE need of such reforms was great before the war began for the right of the people to work at lawful civilian occupations in time of peace was being flouted by the unions and with the encouragement of the Government, including the Supreme Court. But the whole people were not aware of the situation and it took some time to educate them and Congress. Now, however, they know and Mrs. Roosevelt had better realize that they will never accept conscription for work as a patriotic duty subject to union taxing powers and the intrusion of union bosses, most of them ignorant, cruel men and women into their private affairs.
I too but with some reluctance am inclining to the idea that this will be a very long war, that it will be necessary to draft or anyway to compel labor eventually, and that it were better to anticipate this situation than to be too late, as our side has been so many times in this war. Way back in January New Zealand, ordinarily a very free country, authorized the minister of national service to draft any person for work in defense industries, and our danger is no less than hers in the presence of the same enemies, although hers is closer geographically.
But I doubt that in New Zealand the government permits racketeers and political padrones to bully and actually rob the workers of millions of dollars and throw their money into the political funds of candidates whom the individuals may oppose. Unioneers from the British countries who visit the United States are amazed and incredulous when they read and hear of the corruption of the union racket here, but Mrs. Roosevelt’s Government is responsible for that corruption and the political exploitation of captive workers because it has fought every reform and the reformers too.