"PEACE, FREEDOM, SOCIAL JUSTICE-INDIVISIBLE VALUES"
An Address by DR. WALTER P. REUTHER President of the United Automobile, Aircraft and Agriculture Implements Workers, C.I.O.
A Joint Meeting with The Canadian Club of Toronto
Tuesday, October 11th, 1955
CHAIRMAN: The President, Dr. C. C. Goldring.
DR. GOLDRING: Gentlemen of The Empire Club and The Canadian Club and Members of our Radio Audience: It is my pleasure now to introduce to you our speaker of the day - Dr. Walter P. Reuther.
After spending the early part of his life in Wheeling, West Virginia, Walter Reuther went to Detroit in 1926 where he worked in the tool and die room of the Ford plant.
In 1933, along with his brother, he embarked on a world tour which took him to eleven countries in Europe and Asia. They worked in factories and studied labour movements in the countries visited. Returning to Detroit in 1935. Dr. Reuther plunged eagerly into the task of organizing the automobile workers. The following year he was elected to the International Executive Board of the UAW and a few years later became Vice-President. He was elected President of the UAW-CIO in 1946 and the same year was elected to the office of CIO VicePresident.
During his career Dr. Reuther has worked to bring about collective bargaining, he has advocated employer financed pensions and health insurance for union workers. More than one million members of the UAW-CIO have been covered by pensions wholly financed by employers and by health insurance plans for which the employer pays at least half the cost.
Dr. Reuther has pioneered efforts to eliminate discrimination in employment and in union activities. Dr. Reuther holds many posts in labour organizations. He is Chairman of the National CIO Housing Committee and a member of the Executive Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and of the Religion and Labour Foundation.
In recognition of his indefatigable efforts to improve the lot of the working man he has been awarded honorary degrees by six colleges and universities. In 1948 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from St. Mary's College of Oakland, California. In 1950 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Boston University and also the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from West Virginia State College. In 1952 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Wayne University, Detroit, Michigan. In 1953 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. In 1954 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio.
It is my privilege to welcome here today and to introduce Dr. Walter Reuther, President of the United Automobile, Aircraft and Agriculture Implements Workers, and a man who has contributed greatly to advancing the interests of Organized Labour. He will address us on the subject, "Peace, Freedom, Social Justice - Indivisible Values."
DR. WALTER P. REUTHER: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I want to express my very sincere appreciation for your kind invitation. I am very happy to be able to visit with you briefly. I might say I just came from a meeting of the Canadian Congress of Labour. They are in convention in this same hotel, and I was asked why I was going to speak at this luncheon. I told them that I thought that one of the mistakes that the missionaries make is that they spend too much time among the missionaries.
I haven't a prepared speech so I would like to think out loud with you about some of the many complex and challenging problems that we face in this very troubled world of ours.
My subject is "Peace, Freedom and Social JusticeIndivisible Values." I believe that we can all agree that peace in the world in which we live is an indivisible value, that Canada, the United States or any other part of the world can enjoy peace only if peace is universal.
Freedom is the same kind of value. Human freedom is not an absolute value, it is something you can enjoy only in a social content, only in your association with other men. If we want to make our own freedom secure we must therefore make freedom universal, so that all men may share it.
I believe that social justice is another kind of indivisible value. In the world in which we live the forces of tyranny are able to forge poverty into power, they are able to take the desperation of hungry people and exploit them. Here again if we are interested in making peace and human freedom secure we must recognize the need to work in the vineyards to make it possible for people everywhere to enjoy a fuller and fuller measure of economic and social justice.
Now I note that your Mr. Pearson is in Moscow and I wish him well. I have just returned from a trip in Europe and the Middle East where I had an opportunity of talking with labour people, with industry people, with editors, with people representing church groups, trying to learn as much as I could about the changes in Europe. I came back believing that the Geneva Conference had made a contribution toward lessening world tension. This is a hopeful sign, and the free world must make the most of its opportunifies. But I also returned believing that there has been no basic shift in the long range strategy of the communists. I believe that they are still out to dominate the world and I believe that Geneva essentially is but a shift in communist shifting tactics, and that we need to understand it as such.
Perhaps the shift in tactics has come about for several reasons. They have the H-Bomb, as we have the HBomb. I believe that everyone who knows anything about the H-Bomb must come to the conclusion that the HBomb has made peace a condition of survival. No one can win an H-Bomb war. Certainly, in the terms of the basic human and democratic and spiritual values that we as a free people believe in, none of those values can be salvaged at the end of an H-Bomb war. Perhaps the Russians know they can't win either.
General Gruenther spoke in New York some weeks back and he said, the Russians could not beat us in a nuclear war, and he added of course we cannot win either.
We had a rain last Wednesday in Detroit and it tied up traffic for three hours. I thought to myself, as I was trying to get through that traffic, what would happen if we really had an H-Bomb attack, and I came to the conclusion that peace, peace alone is the only defence against the H-Bomb. There is no other.
Now, what other reason had the Russians to shift their tactics? I believe too, the Russians think that in the cold war they were able to exert great pressures upon the free world, they created the kind of international climate in which the free world alliance came into being, with the common denominators of fear and hatred as the essential forces that bound the free world together. The Russians figure if they can ease world tension, if they can get the free world to relax they can begin to diminish the fears and the hatreds that bind us together. Thus they hope the free world will return to business as usual with each free country going its own separate way with commercial rivalry, and intense economic competition straining our relationships. Then they plan to move in and exploit such division.
The great challenge that I believe we face in America, in the United States and in Canada, in conjunction with our allies and our friends throughout the rest of the free world, is the question, are we capable, intellectually and spiritually and morally and politically and socially and economically, are we capable as a free people, of creating positive peacetime common denominators in which common hopes take the place of common hatreds, in which common faith takes the place of a common fear, so we can develop positive common denominators that will bind us together more firmly?
Frankly, the question is posed, are we capable of fighting as hard for the things that we believe in as we have demonstrated we are capable of opposing the things that we are against? If we are, the free world will get stronger and the basic strategy of the communists will fail. But if we aren't, if we cannot develop these positive peacetime common denominators, based upon common hopes and common aspirations and a common faith, then the free world can be divided as the pressures of fear and hatreds can be diminished - that is the great challenge.
I think we need to remain in a strong military posture because this is of world necessity. We need, however, to understand that the struggle in the world between the forces of freedom and tyranny, between the forces of communism and democracy, is essentially a struggle for men's minds, their hearts and their loyalties, and that this struggle cannot be won by physical power, no matter how overwhelmingly we may assemble those forces. In the final analysis we shall win the hearts, the minds and the loyalty of people everywhere only if we demonstrate the capacity to dedicate our economic and material resources to human betterment.
This is the first time in the history of human civilization in which science and technology have given us the tools of abundance with which to conquer poverty, hunger and human desperation. We are going to be judged in this struggle by hundreds of millions of people in the uncommitted portions of the world, who are searching for the answer to their problems. We are going to be judged not by the eloquence of our democratic slogans, not by how effectively we talk about the virtues of democracy, nor will they be impressed by the size of our national budget or the tremendous size of our material resources or our productive capacity. They will judge us by the only true measurement of the greatness of any civilization - by the sense of moral and social responsibility with which our civilization is able to translate material values into human values, by which we are able to reflect technical progress in human progress, human happiness and human dignity.
In this great struggle the communists have developed a technique of forging poverty into power and where people are hungry enough they move in. They promise them economic security at the tragic price of political and spiritual enslavement.
We have the challenge of proving that man can have both bread and freedom. That to get food in his stomach man need not put his soul in chains. We face this practical problem: can we forge the positive common denominators of peace that will bind free men together in common dedication, common devotion to positive values, and achieve the same dynamic drive that we do in war?
I happen to be one who believes that that is possible. We have seen great nations and great peoples mobilized in war. We have seen them fight together, sacrifice together and die together because they shared common fears and hatreds. We must ask ourselves why can't we get people marching, working and building together because they believe in the same positive values? That is the great challenge.
The free labour movement of the world I believe is one of the most important assets that freedom has in this positive struggle, this struggle to equate technical progress with human progress. The free labour movement of the world is in the forefront in the struggle against the immoral and ugly forces of communist totalitarianism, and all other forms of totalitarianism that would enslave the free human spirit. I believe labour is one of the most effective forces because free labour understands something about the social dynamics of our changing world.
Free labour understands and acts in the knowledge that the struggle for peace and freedom are inseparably tied together with the struggle for social justice. You cannot achieve peace or freedom in a vacuum-it must be achieved in the world in which people are hungry. It must be achieved in the world in which there is great social injustice and it must be achieved in the world in which people seek answers to simple basic human problems.
Look around the world tonight and in every country in the world where there is a strong free labour movement, a labour movement with courage and vision and a sense of moral and social responsibility and you will find that in those countries communism is weak and without influence, because the communists are unable to exploit injustice.
But then you find a country where there is no strong free labour movement - take Italy, where the bulk of the labour movement is communist-controlled, where it is used not to create social justice but to create greater strife and greater unrest. In Italy, the communists get 38 percent of the vote, together with left wing socialists. Until you understand the phenomenon of a deeply religious peasant who goes to Mass in the morning and attends a communist rally in the afternoon, you fail to comprehend the areas in which communism builds its power. In Italy there is great poverty. There is lack of a strong, free labour movement and the communists are powerful.
Therefore, if you want to fight communism effectively you don't do it in the ivory towers where generalities are cheap and slogans are eloquent. You do it where people are hungry and where they search for social justice.
That is why we believe that the free labour movement is a powerful, constructive force and that free management must begin to give greater and greater attention to these basic problems.
I would like to raise some of the principles around which I believe that free labour and free management must approach the bargaining table in the effort to find answers to these basic problems.
To begin with, I believe that the crisis in the world is not essentially political nor do I believe that it is economic. I think essentially it is moral. We face a moral crisis because mankind has made much greater progress in the physical sciences than he has made in the human and social sciences. We know much better how to work with machines than we do with men. There is developing a great moral and cultural gap between the progress that we continue to make in the physical sciences and our lack of comparable progress in the human and social sciences. I believe we need to give greater and greater attention to seeing to it that with our developing scientific, technical and production "know-how" we develop a comparable human and social and moral "know-why." Material wealth, economic power without vision or morality is wealth and power without a purpose. We need to equate these economic factors, these great material resources, with basic human problems. To do that I believe that free labour and free management must begin to understand each other's problems and must begin to work toward a solution of these basic questions.
We are on the threshold of the second phase of the industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution merely substituted machine power for human power. The second phase, automation-machines that think-substitutes not only mechanical muscle for human muscle, but the machine now substitutes mechanical judgment for human judgment.
Is this good or bad? That depends upon what we do with it. If we gear this abundance now made possible to the basic human needs of the world community, then that new abundance can build a better world from which we shall banish poverty and hunger, ignorance and disease. We can usher ourselves into a period of world history where the human family, having satisfied its basic material and economic needs, can devote greater and greater resources to the promotion of man's growth as a social being, a cultural and spiritual being. This is the true means of life. We are more than a biological process, requiring certain economic needs. Yet, for the first time in human history we are in that stage where the question arises, are we equal to the challenge?
The communists believe that mankind must go through endless struggles. I think that Marx made his great historical mistake when he thought that the world would always struggle to divide up economic scarcity. The reason that Marx is wrong, as Adam Smith has been proven to be wrong, is that instead of struggling as narrow economic pressure groups to divide up scarcity, with one person or one nation having enough bread only by denying another person or another nation their share, we now have the great, wonderful opportunity, not of struggling to divide up scarcity but co-operating in the creation and sharing of economic abundance. If we but have the good sense to use the new tools of abundance for moral and constructive purpose then every one, every group of nations, can have enough of the good things of life to provide that measure of economic and social justice to which every one is entitled, and which science and the new technology now make possible for people everywhere.
Yet all of these things are not matters that can be solved in the abstract. Ultimately, you have to take generalities, economic theories and social philosophy and you have to apply them. You have to apply them in the areas where the problems are difficult. Peace and freedom will not be made secure by doing the easy thing. The real challenge to leadership in the free world is the capacity to tackle the tough problems, to solve the ones that are difficult, that are nasty. Yet those are the kinds of problems we have at the bargaining table. At the bargaining table you bring into sharp conflict the economic forces that are at work within a free world. Difficult as collective bargaining problems may be, I believe if both management and labour look at these problems sensible we can find the answers.
I would like to pose a number of principles I think ought to influence and guide the attitude of both labour and management at the bargaining table as they both search for common answers to these very challenging problems.
First, I think that labour and management ought to recognize fully and understand that freedom is an indivisible value. You can't have free management without free labour, and you can't have free labour without free management, and neither can be free unless they learn to work together to preserve a free society in a free world.
In terms of the basic values that we believe in, free labour and free management have a great deal more in common than they have in conflict.
Secondly, I think we need to understand that in a free society there is no legislative substitute for the voluntary acceptance and discharge of social and moral responsibility.
It is a strange thing that the very management people in the world who make the most noise about keeping the government out of certain areas of economic activity are the very people who by their failure to meet voluntarily their economic and moral responsibilities create the vacuum which government must fill.
There are only two ways to do things-voluntarily or under compulsion. When a problem needs answering and the people who ought to answer the problem voluntarily are unwilling to do so, they can create a situation in which compulsion from the government is inevitable.
Thirdly, we need to recognize that collective bargaining in a free society must be raised above the level of a struggle between competing economic pressure groups. Collective bargaining must reflect decisions geared to the interests and the well-being of the whole of our society for in truth neither labour nor management can make real and lasting progress excepting as they co-operate to facilitate progress for the whole of our society.
Fourthly, collective bargaining should be based upon a joint exploring of the economic facts and not based upon the exercise of economic power.
We have made great progress. It is encouraging that in the short period I have been associated with the labour movement, which will be twenty years next spring, we have made great progress in the automotive industry which has been my most specific responsibility. We came out of a social jungle. We struggled in 1937 and 1938, not for higher wages, not for better working conditions, but just for the right to sit down and talk about our problems. We fought for eleven months just to get a letter answered by the biggest corporation in America. For eleven months they refused to recognize the Union even to the extent of answering a letter.
We have come a long way. Workers in the factories have a greater sense of economic security but that is not the great achievement of the American labour movement. Wages are higher, their homes are better, their children are getting a better education. Many other economic and material gains have been won and the economic gains are important, but they are secondary.
Thousands and thousands of workers were nameless and faceless clock card numbers, completely dominated and absorbed in great factories. Through their Union, these workers have won a measure of industrial democracy, a place in society and a sense of belonging and participating. Through their joint effort, using their association within a free labour movement, they won a sense of human dignity and a sense of spiritual worth. This, and not the economic achievements, is the greatest contribution of the labour movement. This greater measure of economic security and this fuller measure of human dignity were not won without a full measure of sacrifice and struggle. Too often justice was won only after bitter and costly strikes.
A good case in point is the strike against the Kohler Company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which has been underway for more than two years. The UAW has done everything humanly possible to bring this strike to a conclusion on the basis of fairness and justice to both the workers and the Company. The Company continues in its refusal to negotiate, mediate, or to arbitrate the issues in dispute. They insist that the condition for settlement is surrender. They have proposed that the strike be settled by the Union agreeing to the discharge of 2200 workers who still remain on strike. No union, organized to protect and advance the well-being of its members, could maintain an ounce of self-respect nor morally be entitled to the support of the workers if it surrendered in the face of such a management attitude. This is not how to settle a strike nor to create the foundation upon which mutual understanding and mutual respect between labour and management can be developed.
Recently in Indiana we had another example of what happens to labour-management relations when reason takes flight and collective bargaining matters are settled by naked economic power. In this strike, as you undoubtedly read in the newspapers, martial law was declared. Here again the company had refused to negotiate, mediate, or arbitrate. Instead of meeting their responsibilities at the bargaining table and acting in good faith, the company chose to arm a small number of people whom they had within the plant. These armed management people from within the plant shot strikers outside of the plant. The strikers in turn went to their cars where they had hunting guns with which they returned the shots. Such acts of violence settled nothing for ultimately labour and management problems must be settled on the basis of economic facts and standards of human decency and morality. Everyone on both sides of the problem needs to recognize that in a free society, labour and management must sit at the table with a single set of economic standards and a single set of standards of morality.
We fought hard battles for pensions. I saw workers who when they got to the years of life when they couldn't buck the assembly line were thrown on the street to become public wards or to eat off their relatives. We believe that a worker who has made his contribution to our free society, who has carried his share of the world's work, when he gets to that place in life where he is too old to work but too young to die, ought as a member of a free society be entitled to a measure of economic security and human dignity. Yet workers were denied such security and dignity and we had to fight long, hard, bitter struggles to win what should have been had as a matter of economic and social justice.
I sat across the bargaining table, and I say this not with bitterness in my heart-I say it just because we need to be honest with ourselves, because before you can be honest with your fellowmen you must be honest with yourselves. I have sat across the bargaining table with the highest paid corporation executives in the world. Not too long back, I sat across the table with a man who makes $332.00 per hour. It was $312.00 last year - he got an increase. In 1949, I was representing people making an average of $1.50 per hour. When we raised the question of pensions to workers, so that workers could enjoy that measure of economic security and human dignity in the autumn of life to which they are entitled, we found that these corporation executives were operating under a double set of economic and moral values.
They said to me, "Mr. Reuther, why don't you tell your workers to save their money for a rainy day? If they save their money they don't need a pension."
I replied, "Do you realize that workers who have worked and saved for years can have one sickness in their family and can wipe out all their savings?"
I said to them, "How can you tell me it is wrong for the worker to expect a privately negotiated pension plan to give him security in his old age? How can you expect him to save, when you sit across the table getting over $300 per hour, and yet your board of directors have provided a $25,000 per year pension for you when you are too old to work or too young to die?"
I say these double standards must go for they are incompatible with the values upon which we have founded our free society.
The degree of social progress and economic betterment is not a matter which either labour or management can arbitrarily determine. They must of necessity be a reflection of the level of our technology and the productiveness of our economy. Free labour seeks the achievement of the maximum social progress and economic betterment consistent with the full and intelligent use of our economic resources and our productive "know-how". We believe that the underlying problem in our free society is the tendency to develop greater progress in the physical sciences, in the arts and techniques of production while failing to develop comparable progress in the human and social sciences, the art of relating economic achievement to human betterment. Ours is the task of finding a way to match our scientific, technical and productive "know-how" with comparable human, social and moral "know-why."
Unfortunately, as is the case too often, management groups resist economic progress and social change not because they are economically unsound or beyond our reach, but rather because they appear to be opposed to change for any reason. Earlier this year, when we first raised at the bargaining table the question of a guaranteed annual wage, certain management people began to pull their hair. Today, despite all the doubting voices who said that the principle of the guaranteed annual wage was unsound, the UAW has collective bargaining agreements covering more than one million workers in which the principle of the guaranteed annual wage has been established.
Our experience in the field of collective bargaining over the past five years has been both amusing and encouraging. In 1949, when we first raised the question of funded privately negotiated pension plans, these same management groups said that such funded pension plans were revolutionary and that they would destroy the very foundation of the free enterprise system because they would immobilize and instagnate large sums of capital. Today, less than five years after these agreements were incorporated into our basic contracts, these same management people are boasting about our pension agreements and they are telling the world that the funded pension plans are a new source of capital for expanding our free enterprise system.
In the light of this 180 degree shift in less than five years with respect to our pensions, I am safe in predicting that within ten years, as we build greater security and stability around the principle of the guaranteed annual wage, these same management people will wind up boasting about how wonderful the guaranteed annual wage idea is and while they are boasting about the guaranteed annual wage we shall be raising some other basic collective bargaining demands. This is how we make human progress.
One further idea before I conclude. We hear a great deal of talk in our world about free enterprise. The labour movement of the United States has never challenged the free enterprise system. We recognize that it has given us the highest standard of living of any group of workers in the world. Many times, however, under the slogan of free enterprise, business is neither free nor enterprising, and we do not hesitate to criticize such an arrangement.
France is in trouble today because they have a free enterprise economy in name, but there is little freedom and there is much less enterprise. Italy, to a lesser degree is in the same boat. What is their basic problem? They have been developing a highly cartelized system that rapidly holds down the levels of production while charging the highest price that the market will carry. Low volume and high prices victimize both the wage earner and the consumer. It is both economically unsound and morally wrong to extract high profits out of the economics of scarcity by restricting production artificially.
The key to our success and the key to our future is the achievement of the economics of abundance on both the production and the distribution end of our economic activity. Only as we achieve and maintain a dynamic expanding balance between greater productive power and greater purchasing power can we be certain that the growing abundance made possible by developing technology can be geared to the basic needs of the human family. Economic abundance is the golden key that opens economic doors. Only as we create and share abundance can worker, employer, and consumer all make progress together.
It is much easier to find a sensible and sane way to share a larger and larger economic pie. Yet, unfortunately, too often new ideas advanced by labour are rejected not on their worth but simply because they have been advanced by labour. Both labour and management must arrive at a place in their relationship - one to the other - where they will each be prepared to accept or reject a new idea not based upon its sources but based upon an honest and rational evaluation of the idea.
I would like to say to my friends in the business world that new ideas are an essential part of the growth of a free society and that while you are prepared to defend the free market place in which commodities are changed, you must also be willing to defend with equal devotion the free market place where ideas are exchanged. Unfortunately many people accept new commodities much more willingly than they are prepared to accept new ideas, no matter how sound such ideas may be. This unreasoned resistance to new ideas can seriously weaken our democracy.
During the past year I have had an object lesson from those few people in the United States who have been making an effort to repeal the Twentieth Century. They have been challenging every new idea that the American labour movement has put forth and since I have championed some of these ideas, they have characterized me as the most dangerous man in the United States because, as they have said, I am attempting to bring about the revolution without seeming to change the status quo.
I was accused by a congressman some months back of being more dangerous than all of the communist nations put together. I was not accused of being a communist, nor was I accused of being all-powerful. It was my ideas that were being challenged. I am not arguing against anyone's right to oppose anyone else's ideas. What I am urging is that the free market place of ideas be kept free and that labour-management people, public figures, and everyone be prepared to evaluate the other person's ideas on the basis of their worth and morality, honesty and soundness, and that they be accepted or rejected on the basis of these values rather than be pre-judged by the standards of prejudice.
I have unlimited faith in the future of free men and free institutions. I have unlimited faith that we can prove the communists are wrong and that free management and free labour and free people can find a way to work together so that we can gear increasing abundance to the needs of the human family and achieve economic security without sacrificing our basic political or spiritual freedom.
This is the great challenge before the free world. We in Canada and the United States who share a greater measure of freedom than any other people have a comparable responsibility. We need to understand that in the world in which we live freedom is not a luxury. Freedom, rather, is a tool to build with and a weapon to fight with.
I believe that free men, united in common dedication, can find the answers to common problems. I believe that somehow we can find a way in the world to get nations and people who have demonstrated the capacity to fight and die in war, motivated by their common hatred and common fears, somehow we can tap the great spiritual reservoir that lies deep within the human breast of every individual created in the image of God, and somehow we can begin to give outward expression to that great spiritual power. I believe we can begin to get people working and marching and building in the image of their hopes and their common faith and their common aspirations. If we do that I believe that peace and freedom and social justice, these indivisible values, can be made secure, and together with free people, together with men of good will everywhere we can build a better tomorrow, we can shape that better tomorrow in the image of peace and freedom and social justice and human brotherhood.