|83. Special Message to the Congress Reporting on the Situation in the Steel Industry|
April 9, 1952|
To the Congress of the United States:
The Congress is undoubtedly aware of the recent events which have taken place in connection with the management-labor dispute in the steel industry. These events culminated in the action which was taken last night to provide for temporary operation of the steel mills by the Government.
I took this action with the utmost reluctance. The idea of Government operation of the steel mills is thoroughly distasteful to me and I want to see it ended as soon as possible. However, in the situation which confronted me yesterday, I felt that I could make no other choice. The other alternatives appeared to be even worse--so much worse that I could not accept them.
One alternative would have been to permit a shutdown in the steel industry. The effects of such a shutdown would have been so immediate and damaging with respect to our efforts to support our armed forces and to protect our national security that it made this alternative unthinkable.
The only way that I know of, other than Government operation, by which a steel shutdown could have been avoided was to grant the demands of the steel industry for a large price increase. I believed and the officials in charge of our stabilization agencies believed that this would have wrecked our stabilization program. I was unwilling to accept the incalculable damage which might be done to our country by following such a course.
Accordingly, it was my judgment that Government operation of the steel mills for a temporary period was the least undesirable of the courses of action which lay open. In the circumstances, I believed it to be, and now believe it to be, my duty and within my powers as President to follow that course of action.
It may be that the Congress will deem some other course to be wiser. It may be that the Congress will feel we should give in to the demands of the steel industry for an exorbitant price increase and take the consequences so far as resulting inflation is concerned.
It may be that the Congress will feel the Government should try to force the steel workers to continue to work for the steel companies for another long period, without a contract, even though the steel workers have already voluntarily remained at work without a contract for 100 days in an effort to reach an orderly settlement of their differences with management.
It may even be that the Congress will feel that we should permit a shutdown of the steel industry, although that would immediately endanger the safety of our fighting forces abroad and weaken the whole structure of our national security.
I do not believe the Congress will favor any of these courses of action, but that is a matter for the Congress to determine.
It may be, on the other hand, that the Congress will wish to pass legislation establishing specific terms and conditions with reference to the operation of the steel mills by the Government. Sound legislation of this character might be very desirable.
On the basis of the facts that are known to me at this time, I do not believe that immediate Congressional action is essential; but I would, of course, be glad to cooperate in developing any legislative proposals which the Congress may wish to consider.
If the Congress does not deem it necessary to act at this time, I shall continue to do all that is within my power to keep the steel industry operating and at the same time make every effort to bring about a settlement of the dispute so the mills can be returned to their private owners as soon as possible.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
NOTE: See also Items 82, 103, 110.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project. John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.