Chuck Mack: Address of the president
Listed below is part 4 of a 5-part speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered by radio from the White House on May 2, 1943. The speech was mentioned in Chuck Mack’s column appearing Sept. 22 in the Saturday Morning Press.
The speech was largely aimed at coal miners who had gone on strike. Mack wrote that the radio speech makes “good reading” and that he will feature the other four in coming columns.
I understand the devotion of the coal miners to their union. I know of the sacrifices they have made to build it up. I believe now, as I have all my life, in the right of workers to join unions and to protect their unions. I want to make it absolutely clear that this Government is not going to do anything now to weaken those rights in the coal fields.
Every improvement in the conditions of the coal miners of this country has had my hearty support, and I do not mean to desert them now. But I also do not mean to desert my obligations and responsibilities as President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.
The first necessity is the resumption of coal mining. The terms of the old contract will be followed by the Secretary of the Interior. If an adjustment in wages results from a decision of the War Labor Board, or from any new agreement between the operators and miners, which is approved by the War Labor Board, that adjustment will be made retroactive to April first.
In the message that I delivered to the Congress four months ago, I expressed my conviction that the spirit of this nation is good.
Since then, I have seen our troops in the Caribbean area, in bases on the coasts of our ally, Brazil, and in North Africa. Recently, I have again seen great numbers of our fellow countrymen – soldiers and civilians – from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Mexican border and to the Rocky Mountains.
Tonight, in the fact of a crisis of serious proportions in the coal industry, I say again that the spirit or this nation is good. I know that the American people will not tolerate any threat offered to their Government by anyone. I believe the coal miners will not continue the strike against their Government. I believe that the coal miners as Americans will not fail to heed the clear call to duty. Like all other good Americans, they will march shoulder to shoulder with their armed forces to victory. Tomorrow, the Stars and Stripes will fly over the coal mines, and I hope that every miner will be at work under that flag.
Well now you have read the text of President Roosevelt’s speech. And it was a mighty good speech detailing things just about exactly how they were at the time. We were lucky to have a strong willed man like President Roosevelt to lead us through the depression years prior to the war and right on through the war years.
The miners returned to work without any increase in wages. They were definitely entitled to a raise in wages to bring their standard of living up to match that of most everyone else. The price of coal had gone up considerably but the miners’ wages had remained the same. The strike had been mostly to test the waters, hoping against hope that they would receive a fair wage increase. They had not intended to stay on strike. Coal miners were and are still too patriotic to disrupt war efforts.
In 1943 and throughout the war years, coal was still king. The nation was run on steam back then; almost everything depended on coal. Without coal, the nation would have come to a grinding halt. The railroads were almost entirely powered by steam engines as were most of the big factories etc.
The mighty warships and cargo ships were powered by steam engines. Most all of this steam was produced by coal. So the government had every right in the world to take over operation of the coal mines ensuring the nation’s supply of coal would not be interrupted. However it would have seemed more fair if the War Board would have granted the coal miners a raise in wages. Without the toil and sweat of the coal, miners the war could never have been won. Without coal our nation would have ground to a halt and our enemies could have walked us right into the ground!)
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