Chuck Mack: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address on the coal crisis
October 13, 2007
Compiled by Chuck Mack
Listed below is part 2 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 gone on strike. Mack wrote that the radio speech makes “good reading” and that he will feature the other four in coming columns.
In the present coal crisis, conciliation and mediation were tried unsuccessfully. In accordance with the law, the case was then certified to the War Labor Board, the agency created for this express purpose with the approval of organized labor. The members of the Board followed the usual practice which has proved successful in other disputes. Acting promptly, they undertook to get all the facts of this (the) case from both the miners and the operators. The national officers of the United Mine Workers, however, declined to have anything to do with the fact-finding of the War Labor Board. The only excuse that they offer is that the War Labor Board is prejudiced.
The War Labor Board has been and is ready to give this (the) case a fair and impartial hearing. And I have given my assurance that if any adjustment of wages is made by the Board, it will be made retroactive to April first. But the national officers Of the United Mine Workers refused to participate in the hearing, when asked to do so last Monday.
On Wednesday of this past week, while the Board was proceeding with the case, stoppages began to occur in some mines. On Thursday morning I telegraphed to the officers of the United Mine Workers asking that the miners continue mining coal on Saturday morning. However, a general strike throughout the industry became effective on Friday night.
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The responsibility for the crisis that we now face rests squarely on these national officers of the United Mine Workers, and not on the Government of the United States. But the consequences of this arbitrary action threaten all of us everywhere.
At ten o’clock, yesterday morning – Saturday – the Government took over the mines. I called upon the miners to return to work for their Government. The Government needs their services just as surely as it needs the services of our soldiers, and sailors, and marines – and the services of the millions who are turning out the munitions of war.
You miners have sons in the Army and Navy and Marine Corps. You have sons who at this very minute – this split second – may be fighting in New Guinea, or in the Aleutian Islands, or Guadalcanal, or Tunisia, or China, or protecting troop ships and supplies against submarines on the high seas. We have already received telegrams from some of our fighting men overseas, and I only wish they could tell you what they think of the stoppage of work in the coal mines.
Some of your own sons have come back from the fighting fronts, wounded. A number of them, for example, are now here in an Army hospital in Washington. Several of them have been decorated by their Government.
I could tell you of one from Pennsylvania. He was a coal miner before his induction, and his father is a coal miner. He was seriously wounded by Nazi machine gun bullets while he was on a bombing mission over Europe in a Flying Fortress. Another boy, from Kentucky, the son of a coal miner, was wounded when our troops first landed in North Africa six months ago.
There is (still) another, from Illinois. He was a coal miner – his father and two brothers are coal miners. He was seriously wounded in Tunisia while attempting to rescue two comrades whose jeep had been blown up by a Nazi mine.
These men do not consider themselves heroes. They would probably be embarrassed if I mentioned their names over the air. They were wounded in the line of duty. They know how essential it is to the tens of thousands – hundreds of thousands – and ultimately millions of other young Americans to get the best of arms and equipment into the hands of our fighting forces – and get them there quickly.
The fathers and mothers of our fighting men, their brothers and sisters and friends – and that includes all of us – are also in the line of duty – the production line. Any failure in production may well result in costly defeat on the field of battle.
There can be no one among us – no one faction powerful enough to interrupt the forward march of our people to victory.