Oral History Interview with
In the Truman Administration served as Director of Labor
for the Military Government Group in Germany; general counsel to the National
Labor Relations Board, 1945-46; Assistant Secretary of Labor, 1946-47;
Under Secretary of Labor, 1947-48 (Acting Secretary June 9-August 2, 1948);
and as U.S. Government member, International Labor Office, Geneva, Switzerland,
1946-48. From 1948 to 1970 was Director-General of the International Labor
David A. Morse
July 30, 1977
by James R. Fuchs
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Morse Oral History Transcripts]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened October, 1980
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional
Morse Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
David A. Morse
July 30, 1977
by James R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Morse, if you'd like to pick up the thread,
all right; otherwise, I have a lot of questions.
MORSE: Well, I think what we were talking about was that special ad
hoc group that was chaired by Clark Clifford.
FUCHS: Whose idea was that?
MORSE: My recollection is that it was the idea of Clark himself. Also,
my recollection is that it wasn't so much to give the President a direct
view -- actually we'd never had direct access to the President from this
committee -- the idea was to give Clark Clifford our views. This committee
was to help him help the President. I don't even know if Clark ever told
the President directly that this committee was functioning, although I
assume he did. It would have been
very difficult not to, knowing the composition of this committee. But
Clark had the responsibility for overseeing the speeches of the President.
He was responsible for coordinating the Cabinet's input on programs to
the President; he looked at the budget documents that had to be approved
by the President; he was responsible for drafting or for final overview
of the President's State of the Union message, etc. He wanted to have
some way of getting a cross section opinion to educate himself better
so that he'd better understand what to give to the President and how to
give it to him. So that, broadly speaking, was the idea. To help Clark
and through that help the President. So we'd meet once a week and the
committee was rather interesting. I may miss one or two people, but my
recollection is that Clark sat as the sort of chairman of the committee,
although it was very informal. We met at dinner once a week
or maybe once every two weeks, depending upon whether we were all in town
at the same time, at the old Carlton Hotel on 16th Street near the Hay-Adams.
FUCHS: Whose room was that there?
MORSE: That was the room that was, I think, set aside and paid for by
the Democratic National Committee. Because I know none of us paid for
it, and Ed Flynn of the Bronx was one of the ad hoc participants
of this committee. He came in now and again. He was a great political
figure, great supporter of the President from New York. Then there was
a chap, Frank Stanton, who came from time to time. He was not a permanent
member but very useful. He was then President, I think, of CBS. He's more
recently resigned from CBS; just recently, actually. A very attractive
man, very intelligent.
FUCHS: Now, if we're talking about the same group, and I believe we are,
it's been said that they met, well variously, on Monday and another person
said on Wednesday at Oscar Ewing's apartment.
MORSE: Well, we did meet at Oscar Ewing's apartment from time to time;
the meetings I'm talking about were held at Oscar Ewing's apartment, that's
right, but more regularly at the Carlton.
FUCHS: The same group?
MORSE: Yes, I remember we had steaks and baked potatoes, every time,
and that's what makes me remember it. But Oscar was a regular participant
and if you would identify anyone as kind of chairman of the group, pulling
it together, making sure it was there in attendance on time, etc., it
would have been Oscar. That was before the HEW; he was Chairman of the
Federal agency for welfare of some kind at that time. Of course, very
active, very close to the President. In addition there was Leon Keyserling,
who was the economic adviser of Chairman of the economic advisory group
to the President. Charlie Murphy, who was then with Agriculture. I think
Charlie was either Deputy Secretary of Agriculture or maybe he was an
Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, I’m not clear. He later went
into the White House and after that I think returned to law practice.
He’s still living here in Washington. Then there was Jebby Davidson
who was I think Assistant Secretary of the Interior. Don Kingsley used
to come. Don is dead now. He worked with Oscar Ewing and later went with
the IRO [International Relief Organization], that relief organization,
after the Second World War. Then there were people that were called in from time to time but that
pretty much represents
the group. Each one of us was responsible for certain sectors. My responsibility
was to advise Clark on how the labor movement was feeling about things,
about programs. What their aspirations were vis-à-vis the President
and the Administration. How they felt particularly about the proposed
amendments that were coming along then of the Wagner Act, the so-called
Taft-Hartley amendments. To tell them how the labor movement was feeling
about him politically, and to advise on strategy vis-à-vis the
labor movement and industry from the point of view of labor-management
relations. I also gave my input on wage questions, cost of living questions
-- anything that would touch on inflationary tendencies; and then, of
course, anything in the international labor area. But it wasn’t
so much that; we were more concerned with the domestic situation, and
also advised on the split in the labor movement. How this affected the
of the President politically and what could or should be done to bring
them together to help the President. It was that kind of an input. Some
of these inputs cross-fertilized with Leon Keyserling. But while we each
had a sector, we all participated in each other's sector, so that you
got a complete integration of thinking, rationalization. It proved, I
think, very helpful indeed, and often we would look at drafts later that
Clark was preparing for the President, whether it be a speech, whether
it be a message, and we'd give our input at that time. But he always reserved
the final decision. He did not consult us on getting a consensus with
respect to the document. He only consulted us with respect to our political
or technical views. He never committed the President; never committed
himself. When the whole thing was finished he made his own judgment, gave
the President, gave the President options; the President made his own
decision. That's how it worked.
FUCHS: I've heard that Wayne Coy attended some of these meetings.
MORSE: Yes, he came in and out, but was not a regular member.
FUCHS: What about David Bell? Did he attend any of the meetings?
MORSE: He may have, but I don't recall. I didn't know Dave Bell.
FUCHS: I have seen a reference that he was at some of the meetings; that's
why I ask.
MORSE: I don't recall that he was at any of those meetings, but that's
easily checked and verified.
FUCHS: What about the awareness of the more
conservative members of the Administration, John Snyder and some of the
others from the Cabinet? Did they know of this?
MORSE: Well, none of us ever talked to John Snyder about this or to anyone
else. We just kept it all to ourselves. We left it to Clark or to Oscar
Ewing to do what they wanted about it. We never talked to the press about
it. It may have leaked. I don't recall of any press articles on this subject.
I think it's only become known recently. Actually, we had a reunion about
a year and a half ago of this old group at Leon Keyserling's house. Oscar
came up; Clark was there. One of the things we talked about was the fact
that this group worked with complete anonymity. That was, I think, also
anonymity as far as John Snyder was concerned, but he may have been told
by Clark, he may have been told by Oscar. But I'd be inclined to doubt
I think maybe John Snyder would have been consulted separately by Clark
after Clark had our inputs.
FUCHS: Keyserling would have been chairman of the Council by this time.
MORSE: Yes, he was chairman. Avery, very powerful voice and a very powerful
personality; very clear thinker and clear articulator.
FUCHS: This was primarily aimed, as I understand it, at influencing the
'48 election properly, and you did not get into the foreign affairs in
MORSE: Not really. We were really concerned about domestic questions
and we wanted to make sure that the President had the best input on domestic
factors. We wanted to make sure that he got elected. Of course, we all
were very keen about him and committed to him, and we
thought that he was what the country needed.
FUCHS: Do you recall Bill Batt being at any of these meetings?
MORSE: Do you mean the old gentleman?
FUCHS: No, Bill Batt, Jr. who organized the Research Division for the
Democratic National Committee.
MORSE: Yes, young Bill Batt, the chap who's now dealing with productivity
issues and so on. No, I have no recollection of Bill at these meetings.
Now, again, there were people who came in and out. I think if Bill had
been on the committee he would have been at our reunion last year, unless
he was out of town. It would be worth checking with him because he's such
a splendid fellow.
FUCHS: I don't think he was there regularly. But
some people came there occasionally.
MORSE: Some did, like Flynn, like Stanton, like one or two others whose
names I don't remember right now. If there was a special problem we'd
call them in. But I tell you, we tried to keep that very, very much to
the minimum because we didn't want to expose this committee and have it
become a public thing. We wanted to keep a low profile so we could do
a good job for Clark and the President. So we kept participants to a minimum.
That I'm very clear about, but it doesn't mean that some of these chaps
were not invited. I just don't remember.
FUCHS: Do you recall the turnip "session" or call back of Congress
being discussed? This was not actually revealed until the President made
his acceptance speech.
MORSE: No, I don't.
FUCHS: Are you familiar with the long memorandum that was written about
how the '48 election should be conducted?
MORSE: Yes, I am familiar with that.
FUCHS: Generally, it's been attributed to Mr. Clifford, but there is
considerable evidence that it was done by James Rowe. Do you know James
MORSE: I know him very well and he, of course, was doing a lot of heavy
thinking at that time and has great talent. Jim was in the picture.
I would have thought that it was Clark that did it with probably some
help from Jim. But that could be turned around very easily. Jim could
have done it with Clark having done the final editing. It's too far back,
I don't know.
FUCHS: I was just wondering if you might have
some insight into that?
MORSE: No, sorry, I can't help you.
FUCHS: What are some of the major things you recall being ironed out,
if you can at this late date, in this policy committee?
MORSE: Well, I remember that we decided to recommend to the President
that he oppose the amendment of the Wagner Act, the Taft-Hartley amendment,
the National Labor Relations Board amendment which was one of the big
issues at that time. We had a very long and difficult session on that
more than once, two or three. We finally came to an agreed view and position
on it, and this committee made a recommendation to Clark, actually, who
then, as I know, did recommend to the President that he oppose it, which
he did. Actually, on that point, it's rather interesting because I remember
that after the
proposal was put to the President by Clark, the President wanted some
more input and I was called over, then I think as Under Secretary of Labor,
to the White House with Paul Herzog who was still Chairman of the National
Labor Relations Board, and Bill Foster, who was then Under Secretary of
Commerce and who, as you know, is a Republican. The three of us were constituted
by Clark at the request of the President to take a look at the final part
of the message that he was going to deliver on the Taft-Hartley amendment,
and it was very interesting because Bill Foster, being a great public
official and a Republican, had to address himself very objectively to
this aspect. He was called in because he was so-to-speak "the spokesman
for industry," coming from Commerce. I was so-to-speak the "spokesman
for labor," coming from the Labor Department. Paul Herzog was a fellow
who was the trustee of the National Labor
Relations Act. The three of us finally agreed that it would be a mistake
for the President to do anything other than to oppose the Taft-Hartley
Act. I remember that because here we were three different kinds of people
coming to this final view and I think it's because all of us felt that
this would help the President politically, as well as the fact that we
thought it was the right thing in terms of development of labor relations
in our country, But there were always those two factors. If we had thought
that it would have been a wrong thing for the country, even though it
would have helped the President politically, we would have put it to him
that way so that he would have known clearly that he had those nuances
in his option. But I remember we did feel that it was the right thing
for him to do as far as the country was concerned and from the political
point of view.
FUCHS: I'm sure you know that it's been written that all the Cabinet members,
with the exception of the Secretary of Labor, were urging the President
to sign the act.
MORSE: That's right, that's right. Events subsequently proved that we
were right and they were wrong. He would have lost a lot from the labor
movement in the '48 election even though at that time they were less than
happy with him. His political fortunes were very low as far as polls were
concerned. I think this decision helped him very much. After all the same
thing happened when it came to his recognition of Israel. His Cabinet,
as you know, gave him a bad time and he again was very lonely. He had
[Jim] Forrestal against him; I think he had Marshall against him. These
were powerful members. I talked with Jim Forrestal about this a lot myself,
Marshall, and the President had to make his decision really against the
advice of those in his Cabinet who were responsible for that portfolio.
This was also a question we discussed in our Clifford committee and our
view was that he should not only recognize Israel but he ought to be the
first to do it. We felt that we were voices in the wilderness because
we didn't know what the President was going to do. After all we were giving
this view to Clark -- but a very interesting coincidence: my wife -- Mildred
-- and I were with the President the night he decided to recognize Israel.
There was a dinner being given by the Democratic National Committee at
the Mayflower. I was there as Acting Secretary of Labor. Schwellenbach,as
I've told you recently, was ill. All the members of the Cabinet were there
and we assembled in an anteroom to await our marching on to the dais.
Mildred and I were talking with the President and Mrs. Truman about
Margaret. I think he was telling my wife how much he approved of Margaret's
using some sort of a system for doing her own hair.
MRS. MORSE: It was a Toni.
MORSE: It was a Toni system, and he liked that. He said, "That Margaret, she's a fine girl. That's an economical
thing to do, and she looks nice doesn't she Dave, doesn't she Mildred?"
Of course, we thought she did anyway, so we did say yes; and at that
point someone came up to him and I don't recall just who it was. He turned
to us and he said, "Well, you know, Dave, I've just decided finally
to confirm my decision on Israel." Of course, you may get other versions
of this, because this is a very interesting thing to look into. But that's
why I'm glad my wife is sitting here while I'm taping these because if
I'm wrong about this, she can refresh my recollection. But it was
then that he said that he had confirmed his views and made his decision.
Of course, it was announced and he did come in just before the Russians,
who I think came in just before midnight or something and this was --
I think we were gathered there about 8 at night just before going to dinner.
I'd be fascinated myself, to get further illumination on this point, but
actually this is what did happen. But there again, it was a problem that
we had hammered out.
Now, of course we had had a great number of debates we'd hammered out
in this Clifford committee. We also had a number of debates in the committee
on the implementation of the full employment side of the Full Employment
Act which Keyserling had the responsibility for; and there, of course,
we were rather strong in support of whatever needed to be done to implement
in a positive manner that
legislation. Keyserling, of course, was a very strong advocate of it.
These were the kinds of things that we did.
One other thing that I told the committee about -- just comes into my
mind when we're talking -- which has a certain national significance.
David Lilienthal, as you recall, was one of the first directors and General
Counsel of the Tennessee Valley Authority and then later became Chairman
of it. He succeeded Norris, and was asked by the President to set up the
Atomic Energy Commission. He became the first head of the Atomic Energy
Commission. One of the things that disturbed Dave when he came in was
what do you do with something like an Atomic Energy Commission from the
point of view of labor relations. It's a public agency; it's a kind of
agency that one would have been more comfortable with in a socialistic
country. It was a public agency. It was not, properly
speaking, a private sector employer. You're dealing with a very volatile,
sensitive subject. What kind of a labor policy should you have for such
an agency so as to avoid strikes and at the same time insure that the
workers and the management had their just rights protected? He came to
me and asked me, since we were old friends, if I could give him a proposal
on the kind of regulations that he could promulgate that would be acceptable
to the nation, to the President, to himself, and to labor and management
meaning the NAM, the Chamber of Commerce, and the split labor movement.
I said, "Yes, Dave. I'll do that for you." It's rather interesting.
I got together a committee, which I chaired, to help me on this. I remember
Lloyd Garrison; I appointed him and George Taylor, who was a prominent
professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a great expert in labor
matters, and we addressed ourselves to this issue. We
proposed to Dave Lilienthal how this should be done. I don't have these
documents before me, of course. This was a very long time ago, '46-'47.
But suffice it to say he accepted these proposals and, of course, they
did not have any strikes. They've gotten along just fine, within the framework
of that labor policy that we had proposed to Lilienthal. The interesting
thing is, a fellow named Oscar Smith, who had been in charge of administration
at the National Labor Relations Board when I was General Counsel, was
the fellow that I recommended to Lilienthal to be moved from the NLRB
over to the Atomic Energy Commission to be responsible for the implementation
of this policy. They called him Labor Management Director or something
of that kind. That I think helped very much because he was a very good
man. Now, this policy was discussed a great deal amongst ourselves, this
group, because it was in the forefront of our thinking
at that time. This could have been very explosive. But I consulted the
labor movement. I consulted employer organizations. I explained to them
what it was. I finally got their agreement in principle, so that when
it was promulgated there would be no quarrel about it. I got the trade
unions to agree that they would act with restraint in something as important
as this and educate their membership to that. They did a very responsible
thing. Now, I was fortunate in this. I was with the Government in the
Franklin D. Roosevelt administration back in the early thirties and I
was General Counsel of the Petroleum Labor Policies Board. Billy Leiserson
was Chairman of that, and Billy Leiserson who had been a professor at
Antioch and Norris was then the head of TVA and Norris called him to TVA.
He said, "Could you give me a policy to help me deal with labor relations
in the Tennessee Valley Authority, because this is a new animal. This
is a kind of a specialist thing." Billy Leiserson said, "Certainly
I'll do that." He did it by himself, with me as an assistant, and
I dug back, when the atomic energy challenge was put to me years later
by Dave Lilienthal, to that TVA experience and used a lot of it with adaptations
in the proposal that we finally made to Lilienthal for the Atomic Energy
agency. Rather interesting, that connection. There again, I learned from
Billy Leiserson that you don't do these things just like that; you've
got to consult, and we did, all the partners of industry in the private
sector before we promulgated it. That, I think, is an interesting flashback.
I don't suppose there are five people who know about this. I'd even forgotten
FUCHS: I have one more questions, at least, about the
policy committee. You indicated that you did, at least in the case of
Israel, advise on foreign affairs to a degree. Do you recall Oscar Ewing
speaking to the point that he had conducted an individual private study
about Israel to enlighten the President about the background of the international
law applicable to the problem.
MORSE: Yes, he did do that. I do remember. He did do that. He was very
concerned about this problem and, of course, it was a big issue for the
President and his Cabinet. He was very concerned. He did make it. He did
polls on other things, too. But certainly on that one he did.
FUCHS: Going back a little ways, the President called a Labor-Management
Conference right after the war, either '45 or early '46, which was when
you were still in the NLRB. Do you have reflections about that? Of course,
it was rather abortive, I guess.
MORSE: It was abortive; I do recall it. My recollection is very dim. One
of those things that I don't recall produced very much. In my time it
was the beginning of an effort to bring labor-management together. But
I think one of the problems there, too, was the split in the labor movement.
But it didn't take hold. Of course, I just want to say this, Mr. Fuchs,
you've got to remember also that during this whole period despite everything
I'm telling you, the fact is that Harry S. Truman was having a hard time
with the labor movement. It's funny, but it's true. Here this man was
fighting their battles but he was having a hard time. I don't know if
I told you this last time, but I used to go to speak on behalf of the
Secretary of Labor since he was ill. I went in my capacity of Acting Secretary
of Labor, to national conventions of great international trade unions
in this country. Let's take the Amalgamated
Clothing Workers, for example. I remember going to speak there on behalf
of the Administration and that was in Atlantic City. I made a talk to
the ACWA; that was the communications workers, I think. There were others.
On these occasions, I was actually advised by friends of mine in the labor
movement, "Well, talk about what you're doing but don't mention the
President's name because you may get booed."
Now that stuck in my mind and I never forgot that. Of course, I did mention
him and didn't get booed, but didn't get any applause either. So he was
at a very low political ebb with these chaps at that time, but not with
the members, as the '48 election showed. This is something I can't comment
on more than that at the present moment, but I think it's historically
important to look into.
FUCHS: There were strange situations which developed. He had the support
of the railroad unions so strongly when he was running for Senator and
they thought he would lose in '40, but by '46 actually, because of the
draft of strikers and so forth, they were swearing they'd get him.
MORSE: They'd get him. Yes, he had all of these things. So it was very
interesting. But he was the best friend they ever had.
FUCHS: Do you have any knowledge of the rapproachment, so to speak, in
'48 with Whitney and Johnson, the principal railway union leaders?
MORSE: No, because I was then on my way to Europe.
FUCHS: What about the President's view on fact-finding boards; how did
you look at that?
MORSE: Well, I thought he was right. We discussed that also in our group.
I was very much in
favor of it. As a matter of fact, I think it's been proved since that
this whole fact finding apparatus is very useful and now, of course, an
FUCHS: You mentioned the labor attaché program and that the Ambassadors
resisted that program. Just why would they? Because of vested interest
MORSE: Well, in the first place labor was always, at that time, the lowest
thing on the totem pole. Domestically, in terms of national public opinion,
certainly the Labor Department was always at the low rung of the totem
pole. Internationally, the Foreign Service just thought it was a lot of
nonsense, and they looked at the entrance of the labor attaché
as an incursion on some kind of normal function of theirs. They thought
it would be just an unnecessary duplication of something that they were
sophisticated in themselves. They figured that if there were political
implications in the labor movement they would be the chaps who could evaluate
that; and after all, these labor fellows who were coming in were not properly
speaking Foreign Service people. They didn't seem to fit into the establishment.
They also feared the fact that it would kind of create problems by having
split authority between State and Labor. It would involve unnecessarily
the labor movement, things of that kind. So they didn't like it. It was
new; they didn't like change, except for this Ambassador I referred to
the other day in Chile. Well, now, of course, it's accepted. It's become
a very potent part of the Foreign Service in terms of information gathering
and intelligence, as you know. But at that time it was not appreciated
FUCHS: I have read that you found that in Italy
you couldn't foist American principles of labor upon them. That you needed
to preserve some of the finest points of the syndical system.
MORSE: In Italy I proposed that the Fascist corporative syndical system
be abolished entirely. That was my own personal view, my political view,
and my technical view; and it was my policy view, which I made clear to
my superiors. This view in Italy was accepted. I said that what we ought
to do is abolish them, give the labor movement the opportunity to come
back on a free basis. I remember right after the liberation of Naples
-- up that far -- that we had the first meeting of the free Italian Labor
Movement in Bari, Italy. What we did do, however, was examine what the
implications of this were and we found that there were certain things
of a technical nature which had nothing to do with the ideological aspect
of the labor movement which would be good to retain from an
institutional point of view. For example, social security, unemployment
benefits, the administration in those areas. There we made a great effort
to try to retain those institutions, keep the best people we could, and
work them into the new national institutional setup rather than the trade
union movement. So we had the job of sorting these things out -- what
belonged to the free labor movement, what belonged to administration,
what was purely political. But the trade union movement was completely
liberated and the Fascist corporative syndicalist system was completely
abolished, except for these certain technical aspects. I think it was
like President Carter today saying that he is going to start with zero
budgeting. We were starting with a zero situation. In Germany -- and I
was called over there to be the Director of the Manpower Division and
the Control Council because of the experience I had had in Italy --
what they wanted me to do there was exactly what I'd done in Italy except
for certain changes. But there I had more trouble because General Lucius
Clay was the head of the Military Government. I had more problems there.
There again I had recommended a complete liquidation of the Nazi-German
labor front. I found it an aberration and an abomination, and I also felt
that people who had been leaders of that movement should have been moved
out of it entirely, and so on. But I had great difficulty with Clay who
at that time felt that this would be a mistake, it would weaken the occupation
forces, and it might play into the hands of the Communists; that what
we ought to do is keep the structure and modify it rather than liquidating
most of it and starting all over. But my views actually finally prevailed
and I think that's why we have today in West Germany a free and strong
labor movement. I think if it had gone some other
way we wouldn't. That's a point that scholars one day will want to look
FUCHS: One of the other Labor Department people we interviewed offered
the opinion that he thought John R. Steelman was too eager to get into
the labor disputes. Do you concur in that?
MORSE: Yes. Well, you recall the other day when we met, I said that one
of the big problems about Steelman -- whom I liked very much, a very good
man -- being in the White House dealing with labor matters, was that he
was a conciliator. So he wanted to get into everything. He did get into
everything. And he would say to the President, "You know, let's anticipate
steel. Let's bring the parties into the White House," and the first
thing you know he was in the middle of everything; the President had no
buffer. I think it was wrong, a mistake. It created a lot of problems
and dissatisfaction in the
country with the labor movement. I think that's one reason why some of
the labor people were unhappy about the President, because: "Look
here, Mr. President, I'm here, what are you going to do for me?"
Rather than having to say that to the Secretary of Labor, if you will,
or the Director of the Conciliation Service and the Secretary of Labor,
who could then say, "Well, I think this," so they could then
have an appeal to the President who would have a more objective perspective
for settling the matter. So I think there it was a mistake, and of course
that whole trend has been reversed; no longer exists.
FUCHS: They had no place else to go once they went to the President unless
MORSE: Yes, let's go there. Why bother with the Secretary of Labor or
the Conciliation Service,
if we have access to the President. Especially since he needs our votes
FUCHS: Did you have knowledge of what Schwellenbach called his "Secret
Six" that he brought in to sort of overview the reorganization of
the Labor Department when he took over? John Carson headed the group,
MORSE: Yes, I know about that.
FUCHS: Were there bad repercussions from that?
MORSE: Well, I tell you, that was an exercise in futility in my opinion.
Carson's a good man. All the chaps were. But I don't think that reorganization
proposals mean very much unless you've got the political will and stamina
to implement it. I think the problem, and there was a problem with the
administration of the Labor Department, was not in these reorganizations
but in the latter thing. That was due
to the fact that Lew Schwellenbach was a sick man. He had an Under Secretary
at that time, Governor Keen Johnson, who was, again, a very good fellow,
but not really interested in the labor business. In the reorganization
he had to bring in chaps who could help keep the labor movement together,
Phil Hanna, John Gibson. There was myself on the international thing,
but that was not, I don't think, part of the Carson report. They were
looking at other things. So the report I suppose was all right but the
implementation wasn't there. A fellow like Leo Werts, maybe, who looked
at this later, and there was another chap before him who was in charge
of administration and dealt with the budget and personnel, might give
you some views on that. I didn't go into that very much but I don't think
it amounted to much either.
FUCHS: When you took over as Under Secretary of Labor I believe there
was quite a period there
when the Assistant Secretary's position was vacant. It eventually was
filled by Kaiser, whom you said you wanted to speak further about. There
was quite a period in which there was no third Assistant Secretary.
MORSE: What happened was -- I remember it very distinctly -- I discussed
with the Secretary of Labor what to do about it. You may recall we had
some pretty good chaps on my staff then. There was Millard Cass, Thacher
Winslow, and there was Philip Kaiser. There were one or two others. We
weren't sure what to do about it. It was a question of recruitment, the
right person. Phil Kaiser was a very good man but he was still learning.
Thacher Winslow was a very good man.
FUCHS: What was his background?
MORSE: Well, he was a man of good educational
background. He was a political scientist. He had gone to Harvard. He'd
come into the Labor Department from one of the other agencies. I forget
FUCHS: Not from NLRB?
MORSE: No. Millard Cass was in NLRB with me. He'd been my legal assistant
when I was General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. Now,
there is a rather interesting story about Phil Kaiser. I think we could
say it here on these tapes because he's now become a fellow prominent
in his own right. You see when I became Assistant Secretary of Labor for
International Affairs, I needed a strong special assistant and I wanted
someone who had the confidence of the labor movement and I cast around.
I knew a lawyer by the name of Henry Kaiser; Henry is a brother of Phil
Henry's a lawyer here in Washington -- at that time he was a lawyer in
the office of Joe Padway. Joe Padway was then the General Counsel of the
AF of L and Bill Green's General Counsel. A fine man; good friend of mine.
I liked him; competent. Henry Kaiser was an excellent lawyer; clear, strong
man. I made up my mind that I would like to bring him into the Labor Department
to be my Special Assistant. So I decided to call Henry Kaiser over. I
said, "Henry, how about coming over to be my Special Assistant?"
He said, "Let me think about it."
He came back a couple of days later. He said, "Dave, I've thought
about it and there's nothing I'd rather do than work with you and help
set up this new operation, but it would mean leaving my profession and
means leaving Joe Padway; and it means leaving being a lawyer for the
labor movement, and I just don't think I could afford to do that or that
I should do
it. I'm sorry. But I'd like to make a recommendation to you. Somebody
I think could do the job better than I."
I said, "Who?"
He said, "My brother, Phil Kaiser."
Well, I'd never heard of Phil. Phil was then doing some kind of job over
at the State Department. I said, "Well, I'll think about it.”
I looked at a number of people, and on paper Phil Kaiser looked pretty
good. I had a very good friend, Herb Marks, who was General Counsel of
the Atomic Energy agency and we had gone to Harvard Law School together,
and he knew him. He checked him and said, "Dave I think he'd be good
at this." We were in a very great need, so I called him in and I
interviewed him and was satisfied and I took him on. That was his entrance
into this area. That had to be just before I became Under Secretary. Then
came my move over to be Under Secretary. I hadn't felt then that any of
these fellows had quite yet come to grips with what we needed. It wasn't
that they couldn't, it wasn't that they wouldn't, it was just that we
weren't sure. I talked with Schwellenbach about it and Schwellenbach said,
"Look, I don't think we ought to appoint anybody now anyway, Dave."
He said, "After all, you've got the bureau going; why not just add
that to your duties as Under Secretary of Labor. Then we can make a decision
later on as to who it ought to be; you'll have a better perspective.
Well, this thing went on. Phil Kaiser actually acted, for all practical
purposes, as the Assistant Secretary of Labor. He assumed the responsibilities.
These other chaps began to work with him, and he then became the logical
person for the appointment later. I think if I'd moved out of the Department
of Labor rather
than become Under Secretary, it would have been different. I think the
appointment would have been made very quickly; but that was really the
FUCHS: Were you involved in dealing with strikes throughout that period
in any significant way?
MORSE: As Under Secretary? I was involved in two ways. First, in these
periodic meetings we had with the Director of the Mediation Service we
gave advice, we gave assistance; and also personally as someone the Director
of Mediation would consult. But never physically involved because we thought
it was not the thing for us to do. We thought it ought to be done by the
Mediation Service, but actually what happened was it was being done by
John Steelman. So there was that problem again that I talked to you about
earlier. It was handled between the Mediation Service and the White
House with the Labor Department just playing a coordinating role.
FUCHS: Do you view the Labor Department as primarily being the representative
of labor, rather than an agency that also represents management?
MORSE: I viewed the Labor Department as having to do a couple of things.
First, to be faithful to the implementation of the legislation that it
was asked to administer. That legislation had to do with protecting the
rights of workers whether it was in the health or safety field or whether
it was in the action field where you're dealing with wage rates, or whether
it was an inspection, or whether it was dealing with the physically handicapped,
and so on. So that by virtue of legislation itself it became protector
and advocate, promoter of these rights.
We spent an awful lot of time in our Department working with employer
consulting with them and with the Chamber of Commerce. I think it’s
fair to say, though, that the Labor Department historically has been the
agency that the labor movement and working people look to. But I think
that it would be a mistake not to reflect and to protect the entire public
interest. It’s that kind of a thing.
FUCHS: You had a letter from Paul Herzog in ‘49 -- of course this
is during your ILO service -- and he mentioned that the Civil Service
Commission was rejecting about half of the full time trial examiners.
I wonder if you have any idea why that was? I am connecting this with
what you said the other day about veteran’s preference and so forth,
but maybe there is no connection. I'm not aware of what the rejection
MORSE: That’s rather interesting. I don’t recall
that letter, of course, that's such a long time ago -- but you know, at
about that time, I think there were all these questions being raised about
certain people in the Labor Board; not so much about their qualifications
as their political orientation and what Paul Herzog wrote there may have
been as a result of that. I remember there was this chap, Nat Witt, who
had been head of the unit at the NLRB, that was responsible for the examiners.
I recall that he had been accused from time to time by outside groups
for being much tied in with Lee Pressman and the two of them were very
much tied in with the Communist Party. Since trial examiners came under
him, and we were getting into the McCarthy era, that may be what was happening.
They were not people selected by the General Counsel, so I wouldn't know
about that. Actually, there were a number of trial examiners that weren't
all that great
at that time. The NLRB was still in its teething stage. So we may have
had a combination of both; but that's my own judgment.
We're now at the point where I was about to become Director General of
FUCHS: I want to go into that, of course, but I have some questions that
go away back. One, you mentioned your involvement with (1) the Truman
Doctrine and (2) the Marshall plan in using your good offices to get labor
behind these. How did you go about that?
MORSE: I went about that as far as the Truman Doctrine and Greece was
concerned by very intensive and carefully thought out use of this international
labor advisory group that I'd set up in the Labor Department to advise
me on international labor questions. It was composed of top rank people
from the AFL and the CIO. When the question of the Truman
Doctrine came up, as I said last time, support was required politically
for that. The President was anxious that the labor movement support it
when he made the announcement. So, I had a number of talks about this
with Dean Acheson who was then Under Secretary of State and Dean asked
my advice on how this could be done.
"This is going to be your job, Dave."
And I said, "Well, after all, these are all good American citizens."
He said, "Yes, but you know the CIO is still tied in with the EFTU
which is Communist oriented and I wonder if there won't be some inhibitions
because of that, since the Communists are sure going to attack the Truman
I said, "Well, Dean, I can't believe that the American chaps in
the CIO would fall into that kind of a trap even if it meant splitting
with the WFTU. I think their allegiance is to our own country, but the
problem will be to get
them to see it -- to see the issues and the need for it; therefore, we
need to prepare."
So he briefed me politically and gave me all the intelligence on the
situation so I understood it. I then called a meeting of the top people
of the advisory committee, not their delegates. Like Bill Green of the
AFL-CIO, Phil Murray for the CIO, just the top men. I remember Matty Wohl
came with Bill Green and two or three others. Dave Dubinsky came to these
meetings. Jim Carey came from the CIO and there were one or two others
who were very prominent at that time. Anyway, it was the top of our country's
leadership. Fellows who were not talking to each other domestically but
they responded to my call, every time I called them. On this issue, I
said they had to come because this was urgent. Then at the Labor Department
privately, secretly, I briefed them. I said, "Look, I
don't think it's good enough just for me to brief you. This is a matter
of great national and international concern. I've given you the reasons,
as I understand them, for what's going to happen, the need for us to fill
this political vacuum, the consequences if we don't fill it, the importance
that the President attachés to it, his understanding with Winston
Churchill on this matter," etc.
"Now, I would like to have what I'm telling you confirmed by Dean
Acheson. But I don't want Dean Acheson to come over if there isn't a fair
shake that you're going to do this, because bringing Dean Acheson over
means we've got to consult the President and I just don't want to do this
if you feel right now there's no go."
They said, "No, if the full interests of our country are involved
as you indicated, Dave, obviously this is something we'd have to do no
matter what the consequences to our other allegiances may be. We'd like
Dean to come over."
So, I set another meeting and Dean came over secretly through the back
door of the Labor Department, and sat down with this committee and myself.
We co-chaired the meeting and he then confirmed, but in very eloquent
terms, the political implications of the Truman Doctrine. And I'll never
forget Bill Green and Phil Murray and all these people saying, "Okay,
let us know when it will be announced and we'll support it." That
was a matter of great importance.
FUCHS: Was this prior to the speech that Truman made?
MORSE: Prior to the speech.
FUCHS: Was the ICFTU [International Confederation of Free Trade Unions]
organized by that time?
MORSE: I don’t know if they called it the ICFTU, but there was an
international federation which was like the ICFTU, but whether it was
called ICFTU or the International Federation of Free Workers, I don’t
FUCHS: Did they attend?
MORSE: Oh, no we had no one from the outside. We were just American fellows
representing the American trade union movement.
FUCHS: WFTU [World Federation of Trade Unions]?
MORSE: WFTU wasn’t even consulted. The CIO people had to decide
whether to go on the national line or the WFTU line. Of course, they chose
the national line. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the things
I think that contributed eventually to the breakaway of the CIO from the
WFTU. Just one; there were others. But that was rather interesting.
Now, as far as the Marshall plan is concerned, there, you will recall,
we had the same problem. I used this committee the same way but there
I didn't have to bring in Dean Acheson. We met once over at Dean's office
with the leadership. There the President personally asked me if I would
take the necessary steps to get Paul Hoffman accepted by the American
labor movement. He came out of industry, Studebaker. They knew him, they
liked him. So I went about my business taking him to every trade union
convention I could all over the country, and it didn't take long before
Paul was one of their friends.
Of course, there are some interesting things about the Marshall plan,
if you want me to regress just a minute. This is going into another period.
It goes into when I was Director-General of the ILO. It just comes to
When I became Director-General of the ILO -- and we’ll go back to
that whenever you like -- I was a young fellow. I didn’t know much
about international affairs except what I’d learned during the war
and what I’ve told you about already, and what I was studying. But
here I was elected. I went over and I got to know, in France, the great
leaders of that time. Leon Jouhoux was one. Jouhoux was head of the French
trade union movement called the Force Ouvrier CGT. Then I got to know
Paul Ramadier, who had been Prime Minister of France, and at that time
I came over was Minister of Finance. I’m now talking about ’48-’49.
I think it must have been when Vincent Auriol was President.
Now, I was in Geneva and got a call one day from Averell Harriman. I
went to Paris to have breakfast with him at his house and he said, “Dave,
I don’t know what’s the matter. I can’t seem to get
the French to support the
Marshall plan. They're suspicious of it. I don't seem to have their confidence;
it's just bad. I can't seem to get the dialogue going with them and particularly
with Paul Ramadier, the Finance Minister, who is so important to us. He's
an old Socialist; when he was Prime Minister he was the man that broke
with the Communists" -- he drove them out of the Government at that
time. Remember up till then they'd had a common front -- "and we're
not going to get going unless we have his support."
I said, "Averell, I don't understand it, but I can suggest something.
The closest friend of Ramadier is Jouhoux, who was head of the CGT, trade
unions. He broke with the CGT when the Socialist Party broke with the
Communists and he formed a new trade union movement in France called the
Force Ouvrier CGT of which he was the leader. He later got the Nobel Peace
Prize, by the way, I think in the 1950's. He
was in detention by the Germans during the Second World War.
I said, "I think we can do something about this, Averell."
I spoke to Leon Jouhoux and I explained the whole thing to him.
"Well," he said, "we've got to do something about that.
This is bad and the Marshall plan means so much to our country and for
its development and for Europe, and for the future. Let's invite Harriman
to my little apartment for lunch with Paul Ramadier and you come."
Well, we did that. And old Ramadier, a big man with a beard, Leon Jouhoux,
a big man with a beard, and Averell Harriman and myself sat down and we
had luncheon of choucroute, that's frankfurters and sauerkraut and boiled
potatoes. It was good, with some white wine. In the wintertime, it's marvelous.
You get that hot sauerkraut and wonderful frankfurters
and boiled potatoes and a big bottle of beer, or they'd serve chilled
white wine. By the time we finished two or three bottles of white wine
at lunch, and this wonderful food, everyone was relaxed and we got a commitment
from Ramadier that he would, of course, give the Marshall plan full and
unreserved support. And that was the turning point in the whole French
position towards the Marshall plan. From that point on, Averell was flying
high. Doesn't mean that he wouldn't have flown high anyway, but it really
facilitated the situation because it gave him the support of the Government
and of the free labor movement in France, because the CGT, which was the
Communist group, was opposing him. But if he'd had the opposition of the
Socialists, too, he'd been in real trouble. Well, that took care of the
FUCHS: Do you have any remarks about the influence of the Marshall plan
upon the international
MORSE: Oh, yes. I think the Marshall plan I observed very carefully.
It's difficult to answer your question because it was a national thing
in each of the countries concerned which had an immediate effect on the
labor movement. But as far as the labor movement was concerned it gave
the labor movement the opportunity that it needed to find its fullest
expression of freedom. I think if there had not been that help and that
timing, the labor movement could have gotten into the hands of the Communists.
Frustrations were real; the Communists at that point were riding high.
If there'd been a vacuum I think they would have had great advantage and,
therefore, I think the Marshall plan not only saved labor so that it could
continue as a free labor movement, but as a result of that saved Europe.
I think it was the
single greatest political event of the postwar period.
FUCHS: I had a note here to ask about John T. Kmetz.
MORSE: Yes, John Kmetz.
FUCHS: I couldn't find anything about him, except he's listed as an Assistant
Secretary of Labor.
MORSE: I remember the name. He came from the Mine Worker's Union. I guess
he came in while I was Under Secretary. He was a very nice fellow. He
was a miner, and there was a transition in a very short time. He didn't
stay very long. I don't know what's happened to him. I don't know if he's
still living. I do know that he had no experience before in Government
affairs. A good man, mineworker, fine fellow. But that's about all I can
FUCHS: I believe Philip Hanna wrote that he resigned because of his opposition
to the Taft-Hartley law and was going to work against it. Do you think
he was well advised in taking that position?
MORSE: Well, first of all, he was well-advised to do it because he couldn’t
have lived with that legislation. If you don’t believe in something
you can’t stay and work for it, especially when you’re at
that high level. I think it was the honest thing to do. Phil was a remarkable
man. He was a very honest man and a very decent man. As a matter of fact,
every time I went up to be appointed Assistant Secretary or Under Secretary
and had to get Senate confirmation, I was accused by Taft of being Communist.
It was Phil Hanna, who came from Ohio, who made it very clear to Mr. Taft
that not only was I not a communist but in his view a great American and
if Taft didn’t stop that nonsense and didn’t
stop mouthing things that were being fed to him by disgruntled enemies
of mine, Phil Hanna would take them on publicly. It wasn't long after
that that Mr. Taft withdrew those statements and I, of course, was always
unanimously confirmed. But Phil did the right thing.
FUCHS: What about Secretary Tobin and Under Secretary Gavin? Do you have
some reflections upon their administration of the Labor Department?
MORSE: Well, you see Tobin came in right at the point that I left. I
knew him. He was a Governor in Massachusetts, Mayor up there in Boston.
He came to Geneva quite a lot to see me and he struck me as being a very
attractive man, political animal. He brought in Gavin. Gavin was a lawyer,
as I recall, but what I was told by my former colleagues there was that
he was not anyone that they cottoned to as being a great administrator,
but that's just hearsay.
But Tobin was a political animal who probably helped the President very
much in the campaign. He was very useful. From that point of view, a very
good selection. The labor movement liked him, but how he administered
his affairs -- the best illumination on that would come from Millard Cass,
who became Tobin's assistant, and was a very good man. I'd hate to comment
on it more because I was out of the Department.
FUCHS: What about the tribulations of Edgar Warren of the Conciliation
Service in connection, of course, with the Washington Bookshop? Were you
aware of that?
MORSE: Ed Warren of the Conciliation Service. I do remember something
about that. Gee, that's a long time ago.
FUCHS: I tried to run him down but couldn't, and I don't know whether
or not he's dead.
MORSE: Probably. I'd have to refresh my recollection. I knew a lot about
it at the time but I must say it's gone.
FUCHS: The Office of International Labor Affairs that was created by
you in 1946 was later reduced to -- and this is more or less a quote --
"a high level bureau, the International Labor Affairs Bureau."
Would you have any remarks about that? Do you think it still has the influence
MORSE: No, it doesn't. I think from the time it was given a reduction
in its rank, it went from an Assistant Secretary to a Deputy Assistant
Secretary and then to a Deputy Under Secretary. It began to be deputy,
deputy, deputy; and that's a dilution, and it lost a great deal of its
I also think that for those bureaus to be effective, you have to have
access to policymaking
and once they began to dilute the level, it diluted the opportunity for
direct relationship with the other agencies at the corresponding levels.
That was one reason, actually, why Schwellenbach and I agreed that I should
hold that portfolio as Under Secretary, because of the personal relations.
You see, I had this direct access to Dean Acheson, to the Under Secretary
of Commerce, to Forrestal, to Marshall, to all of these people in this
area, as well as other areas, and it would have been difficult to make
a transition of that. It depends so much on your personal relations. I
remember that was a factor: “Maybe we shouldn’t interrupt
that at this stage?” But when an Assistant Secretary was finally
appointed, Phil Kaiser, you had the opportunity of the Assistant Secretary
having leverage because he could meet with Assistant Secretaries, but
when you move it down to Deputies, that’s finished in our bureaucracy,
that was one of the problems.
FUCHS: I find a note here that William Batt connected George Elsey, only
by name, with the Policy Committee.
MORSE: I remember him, and I remember his being consulted. He was not
a member of the group. Bill Batt would have been more a member of the
group as it were. As I think back now I guess he was in and out of more
FUCHS: Mr. Batt’s also had the meetings being on a Wednesday night,
where Oscar Ewing and several others have said they thought they always
met on Monday night. They would go to Oscar’s apartment for steaks.
MORSE: Well, we did meet at Oscar’s apartment.
FUCHS: It’s a small point, but do you remember it being a particular
night of the week?
MORSE: I think it was Monday, yes. I think it was Monday because we all
wanted to be fresh after the weekend. We always sat very late and we didn't
want to sit late during the middle of the week. We never finished these
meetings until 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning. We did meet at Oscar's place,
but our regular meeting place, take it from me, was the Carlton. That
I remember because, you see, John L. Lewis used to be at the Carlton.
He lived there, he ate there -- he didn't live there so much -- but it
was so clear in my mind that we were going into the place that John L.
Lewis had his luncheons. I remember the waiters coming in and out with
those steaks, sure.
FUCHS: Maybe we had ought to get down to the ILO, which was a very large
career change for you a the others.
MORSE: Very, and there's a lot to say about that
that has to do with Harry Truman and the politics of that time, and the
U.S. Government's position on various important points. Also the question
of whether I'd run for the United States Senate rather than go to Geneva,
or whether I'd do other things, all of which came at the same time. Whether
I should be his Secretary of Labor instead of going to Geneva. All those
things, and my talks with Truman and Clark about those matters. But it's
a big subject. I think what we would need is just one more session to
cover that, of about an hour and a half.
So, I would stop now, if you agree.
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