Eleanor Roosevelt to A. F. Whitney

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Eleanor Roosevelt to A. F. Whitney

17 June 1947

In ans. to your letter, I feel that I was being fair in this present labor situation. I have definitely expressed my disapproval of the Taft-Hartley Bill. I am not responsible for the headings on my column and I distinctly said some labor leaders. John Lewis I named specifically.4

I have always felt that the railroad unions were above the average. However there are some other unions whose rules and regulations do not make sense—such as for instance, a painter can not use a paint spraying machine on a barn and a man must confine himself to so much work a day, even if it means loafing part of the time. On occasion I am an employer of labor and these rules seem stupid and not conducive to good relations between employer and employee.

I have repeatedly stated my belief in and support of unions and in a man's right to strike. There is, of course, the consumer's rights which must be taken into consideration and we are all consumers.

I am sorry you think I was unfair. Evidently I did not make myself clear enough. I hope the Taft Hartley Bill is killed because it is a bad Bill.5


1. See n1 Document 253.

2. The headline read, "Labor Leaders Are to Blame for Many of Their Troubles." Neither ER nor her distributor, United Feature Syndicate, titled the My Day columns, but many newspapers that carried the articles titled them as their editors saw fit.

3. MD, 10 June 1947; A. F. Whitney to ER, 17 June 1947, AERP; Donovan, 299-303; Patterson, Grand Expectations, 46-47, 51-52; William S. White, "Senate Battle On," NYT, 21 June 1947, 1; "A.F. Whitney Dies; Head of Rail Union," NYT, 17 July 1949, 57. For more on ER's views of organized labor, see Document 64, Document 46, n7 Document 87, Document 115, and n22 Document 84.

4. On Lewis and the 1946 UMW strike, see Document 115.

5. ER continued to express her disapproval of the Taft-Hartley Bill (the "bad Bill") in My Day in June 1947. On June 14, she called the bill an attack on "the fundamental rights and protections of labor," and said that passage of the bill would "lead to unending agitation and unrest; and it will not achieve the one thing which we need above all else to achieve—namely, increased production … This bill will not help to achieve this essential factor in our return to a normal situation under our present free-enterprise system." As ER predicted, the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act on June 23 did result in worker unrest, with 20,000 New York shipyard workers and 18,000 coal miners in several states staging walkouts the very next day. On June 26, ER observed:

The papers are full of the news of the number of coal miners who are just calmly walking off their jobs in protest against the Taft-Hartley labor law. Many of us have hoped for unity in this country and for the understanding, on the part of management and labor alike, that the economic salvation of the world lies in our productive capacity. Now we have created groups bitterly divided against each other.

If Congress wanted to hurt democracy and make it difficult for us to show what a united nation can do to give its people the widest distribution of opportunity through a successful, cooperative economic system, they could not have succeeded better (MD, 14 June and 26 June 1947; Charles Grutzner, "Miners Walk Out," NYT, 24 June 1947, 1; "20,000 Halt Work in Shipyards Here," NYT, 24 June 1947, 1).

Debating Cassin's Draft Declaration

After its initial discussion of the preliminary draft of the international bill of rights prepared by John Humphrey and his staff,1 the Human Rights Commission delegates assigned to draft the declaration decided to direct a smaller working group consisting of ER, Malik, Cassin, and Wilson to prepare written drafts of the document as the work of the full committee proceeded.2 The smaller group then asked Cassin to produce a revised and more organized version of the Humphrey draft.3

The following excerpt from the thirteenth meeting of the drafting committee records the committee's discussion of an article that at this point in the process was Number 15 and included language drawn from three of the articles in Cassin's draft: Number 15 (right to a legal personality), Number 17 (right to marriage), and Number 20 (right to counsel and a fair trial). As chairman, ER began this portion of the meeting by reading the current text of the article; then, as the US delegate, articulating the American position on the proposed terminology.4

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Eleanor Roosevelt to A. F. Whitney

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Eleanor Roosevelt to A. F. Whitney