Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972; Blandford, John Bennett, 1897-1972; Schwellenbach, Lewis B. (Lewis Baxter), 1894-1948; Forrestal, James, 1892-1949; Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965; Patterson, Robert Porter, 1891-1952; Clark, Tom C. (Tom Campbell),
Cabinet meetings; Demobilization; Housing policy; Industrial relations

Cabinet Meeting Minutes, November 30, 1945. Matthew J. Connelly Papers - Notes on Cabinet Meetings I.



1. Discuss labor


Asked the Secretary of Labor for news on the labor front.


He believed that there would not be much activity in either the General Motors or steel strike before the first of the year. Glass industry is shut down for the month of December. There have been some settlements in the rubber and lumber industries. Was of the opinion that the steel strike will break first. However, that will not occur before the first of January. Was of the opinion that the President should appoint someone to go into the steel situation and try to prevent a strike.


Senate will not adopt any punitive legislation. However, he was not so sure that the House of Representatives would not.


The labor-management conference did not agree to voluntary arbitration or fact finding.


If the President advocates legislation, Wallace was certain that the President would be attacked by both management and labor.


Is of the opinion that something like the Railway Labor Act might be a solution. However, public opinion must be built up before this could be done effectively. Believed that if the Labor-Management Conference fails to develop any constructive policy the House of Representatives will then take drastic action and possibly within the coming week.


A statement by the President should be issued looking to the setting up of a fact finding machinery. Legislation should be passed granting authority similar to that given the War Labor Board.


Thought that companies would produce records to the President's advisory committee without subpoena. He agreed however that the President's position would be stronger if given statutory authority.


Changed the subject to the discussion of the shortage of physicians in the Veterans Administration which has assumed alarming proportions. Also stated that the veterans housing shortage had become critical and some relief must be granted. However, he stated that a solution was not yet in sight.


Said that the Army transferred 1,000 or more doctors to the Veterans Administration and commissioned Veterans administration doctors. However, all doctors now want to get out of the Army. They do not want organizational practice as they are desirous of returning to private practice. This pressure is so strong that the War Department is attempting to get Army Medical personnel reduced to actual needs.


Was of the opinion that the Navy might be able to provide additional doctors for veterans care.


Stated that you cannot turn veterans out of hospitals. He would rather have complaints come from doctors rather than from veterans.


Suggested that the War and Navy Departments get together with General Bradley and the President's Military Aide to determine what relief might be granted to veterans.


Predicted that in 1946 we will have an acute housing shortage. By the end of 1946 three million families will be forced to double up. The housing authority is attempting to steer priorities to war veterans. They are using every possible available means. Congress on the other hand is impeding the progress of his organization by cutting appropriations. Housing needs money but the present appropriations are entirely inadequate. He expressed the need for 175 million dollars. There must be a new volume of permanent construction and it should be kept in mind that industrial and commercial construction is absorbing labor and materials, to the detriment of the housing program. Stated that his organization hoped to being construction of 1/2 million units of private construction.


Stated that he believed the Veterans Administration in planning its program has accepted a false premise in that people do not get ill according to population. Hospital facilities should be determined in direct ration to population density.


Cabinet Meeting - November 30, 1945

At this juncture it is clear that the Labor Management Conference will fail to agree on mechanisms and procedures for preventing industrial strife and that responsibility for action will rest on the government. It is also clear that in its present frame of mind the Congress, if left to act on its own initiative, will probably enact legislation which may well be resented by both management and labor and, on balance, probably be adverse to the interest of labor. In this setting it is proposed that the Administration be prepared to adopt a labor policy, as necessary in the following stages:

1. As a first step, the Administration should support the McMahon bill (S.1419). This bill contains provisions for fact finding boards of inquiry, strengthened mediation and conciliation services, and a Federal board of arbitration for voluntary use. It in no way infringes the right of labor to strike or the right of management to shut down.

2. As a first step beyond the McMahon bill, it is proposed that the Administration support a measure requiring compulsory arbitration, in industries affecting public health or safety, including public utilities, if management and labor do not voluntarily agree upon arbitration procedures.

These two steps would undoubtedly be fully condoned by public opinion and would on the whole probably not meet with too intense antagonism on the part of either management or labor. These steps, however, would still fall short of providing a solution to the strikes such as the General Motors strike or the imminent steel strike. To meet these types of situations the Administration should be prepared to support:

3. Legislation which would compel, under penalties, the use of arbitration procedure in industries in which strikes or shutdowns would interfere with the free flow of interstate commerce if disputants have not voluntarily agreed to arbitration procedure, for avoiding the industrial strife based on disagreements under existing contracts.

These steps, although they would limit labor's freedom to strike or management's freedom to shut down, would not completely abrogate these rights. Strikes and shutdowns would still be possible prior to the negotiation of a contract or subsequent to its termination. It is felt that the Administration should not contemplate compulsory arbitration in such situations at this time, although it should make every effort to assist labor and management to arrive at peaceful agreements through collective bargaining, fact finding, mediation, and conciliation.

The steps proposed above provide no solution for work stoppages resulting from jurisdictional disputes. It is proposed, therefore, that the Administration be prepared to:

4. Support legislation which should compel the use of arbitration procedures if the parties involved do not voluntarily use arbitration procedures to prevent work stoppages arising from jurisdictional conflict.

In applying the principles outlined above, it is recommended that each step be taken only as needed. In taking these steps, legislation should be so designed as to give disputants the option of setting up their own arbitration boards or using a government arbitration board. Moreover, it is assumed, of course, that the arbitration procedure would be required only after collective bargaining, fact finding, mediation, and conciliation have failed to prevent open conflict.

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