FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Essays for the Presidency

European Legislation for Industrial Peace

Labor strikes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. FDR Library

It was inevitable that the sharp labor conflicts characteristic of our day here in the United States should evoke a discussion of laws "to do something about it." What that something is, or should be, is not agreed upon among the advocates of state action. Their proposals vary from a Fascist demand for the prohibition of strikes to the adoption of an industrial code like that now under controversy in Michigan. Here and there one hears a revival of proposals for compulsory arbitration—this despite the failure of such a plan in Kansas. Demands for the incorporation of unions are frequent. Before we rush into any plan for rigorous state control of unions or of strikes we would do well to look at European experience.

An inquiry into what has been attempted in Europe must be prefaced by a word of warning. The background of industrial warfare is the same in all industrialized nations, but there are differences in national attitudes, in forms of government, and in conditions of organization both among workers and employers, which make it quite impossible to say that such-and-such a plan has worked well in Great Britain, France, or the Scandinavian countries, and therefore would work equally well in the United States. No successful American legislation can be purely imitative. Unfortunately we have problems of racketeering virtually unknown in the European democracies; we also have a problem of internal democracy within unions sharper than exists abroad. But even taking account of qualifications like these we unquestionably will find it advantageous to inquire what the European experience has been, and specifically what has been the result of state intervention to secure industrial peace.

We must exclude from this inquiry the Fascist countries and Soviet Russia. The Fascist countries have momentarily obtained comparative industrial peace at the price of outlawing the free association of workers in their own unions and forbidding strikes. The uneasy industrial peace which has resulted is not a lasting peace of happiness or of

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