Wednesday, May 15, 1946

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, May 15, 1946


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the Government recessed the coal negotiations indefinitely following the rejection by coal operators of the demand by John L. Lewis for a seven percent payroll tax to form a welfare fund for miners to be exclusively administered by UMW.

The President signed the stopgap draft bill to extend the draft 45 days, though it exempted 18 and 19-year olds as well as fathers.

In light of the legislation, the President had another 45 days within which to exercise authority pursuant to national security to seize the coal mines if necessary to end the strike.

Virginia lifted its brownout in the wake of the two-week truce in the coal strike, set to continue, if not resolved, May 25.

Dwindling wheat supplies threatened a six-week cessation of flour milling for domestic consumption.

At the four-power foreign ministers conference in Paris, Secretary of State Byrnes proposed that the treaty with Germany be reserved for determination in a peace conference set to begin November 12. The French wanted complete separation of the Ruhr and Rhineland from Germany and French control of the Saar.

Harold Ickes, in his column, discusses the Federal Government's assertion of rights to tidelands oil, pending in a case before the Supreme Court. Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada, who Mr. Ickes says could not be elected alderman in Chicago, had performed mightily to save the tidelands oil for the states, had convinced the Judiciary Committee of which he was chairman to approve the bill. His support was an enigma since Nevada obviously has no coastal tidelands.

But, given his interest in silver mining, big cattle, gambling, and liquor, generally fronting for corporate interests, it was not surprising that he would back with a passion this fight. The bill had sailed through the House, but not yet through the Senate. If ultimately passed, it would render moot the Supreme Court case.

He was not the only Senator who had gone to Washington thinking himself the representative of a state or district or special interests. Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland had galled Mr. Ickes by helping a constituent accumulate scrap iron for the Japanese prior to the war. But at least the company was in his state, not as Senator McCarran, representing corporate interests outside his state.

He concludes that it was always possible, however, that the oil interests had promised to make Las Vegas their winter resort of choice.

Bugsy to the pink and white tent.

Hal Boyle, still in Berlin, states that it was one of the most comfortable cities in the world for anyone save a German. Giving a review of world cities, he provides that New York was a sardine can, San Francisco, not far behind, Honolulu, probably charging by the foot. Tokyo was okay but looked as a mouth full of broken teeth. Korea was not worth mentioning. Shanghai was good for bachelors but the prices were high. Hong Kong was a ruined paradise.

In Philadelphia, two Welsh girls were discovered as stowaways on an American merchant vessel which had docked a week earlier. They were ordered deported and two sailors who had assisted them were placed under a $2,500 peace bond to prevent their further assistance in such actions. The young women had stowed away secretly after an evening onboard spent with the two sailors drinking and partying. Their presence aboard ship was betrayed by their perfume. They were unfortunates.

In Charlotte, the three members of the Municipal Airport Commission tendered their resignations, saying that it would be better for their duties to be performed by the City Council and City Manager. Morris Field, the Army Air Force training facility during the war, had just been turned over to the city the previous day.

In New Orleans, a near riot among 75 black soldiers aboard a Southern Pacific train was quelled by city police, as 24 of the soldiers were taken off the train and held on charges of disturbing the peace and disobedience of orders. Two military officers stated that the disturbance had erupted as they entered the train to quiet dissension and an attempt to disarm them ensued.

In Los Angeles, a new device was announced to impart to expectant fathers the news of the birth of a child via an intercom system from the operating room to the waiting room. Will wonders never cease? Next, they'll be having the fathers in there assisting.

A photograph shows a lieutenant commander sitting at the radio controls of a drone Hellcat fighter on the flight deck of the Shangri-La during the preparations for the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests scheduled for July.

A robotic Hellcat would take off from the Shangri-La to drop an atomic bomb on the ships off Bikini. Stay tuned. It sounds sexy.

On the editorial page, "History Has An Unpleasant Stutter" comments on the analogy being drawn between M. Talleyrand at Vienna in 1815 and the current peace negotiations. At the earlier time, a defeated France had no place at the peace table of the Congress of Vienna, but slowly the delegates made their way to Talleyrand to negotiate terms which would protect them from mutual encroachment such that France sided with Prussia and Russia against Austria and Britain, establishing a good place for itself despite defeat. The fear was that Germany could do likewise out of the mutual paranoia developing between Russia and the West, with both Britain and Russia seeking to revive Germany for opposing reasons, to cultivate it as a bulwark against the other.

There was danger of a powerful Germany arising from such ashes, able to wage terrible war within a generation. There was danger of causing a war between Russia and the West.

The Nuremberg trials were thereby converted into a farce as the accused in the docks might already be seeing a rebirth of the Fatherland despite the crushing defeat.

"Mayor Baxter and the Golden Fleece" compliments the persistence of Mayor Herbert Baxter of Charlotte in plowing through the Washington red tape for months to acquire finally Morris Field. It would serve as the basis for a new airport.

"John L. Has Family Troubles Too" tells of the bitter feelings within labor against John L. Lewis, among steelworkers who were out of work during the coal strike, among CIO rank-and-file, urged on by president Philip Murray.

Mr. Lewis had left AFL in 1935, leaving behind bitter opponents, but that had healed and now he was back within the organization. He had left the New Deal camp in 1937 in the midst of the auto strike, supported Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Thomas Dewey in 1944, leaving behind enemies among Democrats. The miners followed him in union matters but not politically. They were following him for the sake of their pocketbooks, not because of personal loyalty.

And Congress was now targeting Mr. Lewis with legislation and labor feared that because of his antics, all would suffer.

A piece from The Democrat, DNC publication, titled "Democracy at Work", quotes President Truman finding the American people the most powerful pressure group in the world when they wanted their voices heard, and says that it was another way of saying that democracy works. But it worked only when the majority of the representatives elected by the people translated their desires into action.

It took time for the people to express their opinions en masse. The majority of Americans had voiced approval of the President's post-war plan, but the Republicans, a minority, had opposed it and sought to block it. For a time, it appeared to succeed, but only because it took time for the people to catch on to what the Republicans were doing.

When it became obvious, with the heart of the veterans housing bill, the subsidies provision, chopped out and the emasculation of OPA, the people caught on and let their representatives know what they thought. Now, the subsidies had been restored and it appeared OPA would also be given its proper powers for the duration of its existence.

Other programs still awaited action. The Wagner-Murray-Dingell health insurance bill was one. A poll had shown 70 percent of Washington residents in favor of the bill. The piece urges the people to let their representatives know that they wanted the health insurance bill also.

That one, unfortunately, PPACA, would only take another 64 years to obtain approval by the Congress, and another two years after that before the Supreme Court would uphold it.

We hope that it will be revised for the better, when and if revised, and not for the worse. If dissatisfied with it, blame the recalcitrant Tea Partiers and Republicans who fought it tooth and nail, not the President and leaders in Congress who showed courageous leadership in getting it finally passed. It is not the bill which anyone really wanted but a starting point at least to provide better and more affordable health care to all.

Such, alas, is the problem with democracy. It is slow and wieldy. But the alternative is not acceptable to anyone in the end, even the dictator, who usually winds up dead or in exile.

Drew Pearson indicates that political observers found two events illustrative of the styles of leadership of President Hoover and President Truman, the Bonus Army march of 1931 under the former, and the coal strike under the latter. President Roosevelt had faced both issues squarely, positively, and decisively and thus his handling of them had been forgotten. But President Hoover and President Truman would be remembered for their lack of leadership in decisive times. FDR had sent the Bonus Army to Ft. Hunt, Va., where they were clothed and fed and sent into productive work. In 1943, he had established mediation with the miners 60 days before the contract deadline and delivered a scathing denunciation of John L. Lewis via radio. The latter capitulated.

While FDR had the no-strikes pledge in his corner, President Truman waited until thirty days before the contract deadline to have the Government enter the negotiations.

The previous fall, when Mr. Lewis had started a strike to establish a foremen's union, without rank-and-file backing, Harold Ickes had advised the President to go over the head of the UMW boss and end the strike, to weaken his power. But the President refused to act. The strike ended, but with Mr. Lewis's power still intact.

Mr. Ickes had also recommended to the President that the two oil pipelines used during the war to pump oil to the East Coast be converted to natural gas to afford competition with coal, but again the President had not acted thus far. Even a threat to open the lines would chill John L. Lewis.

The President also could have urged Congress to pass an adequate mine safety law which would have pulled the teeth from Mr. Lewis's chief current demand.

Mr. Pearson next relates of the real story behind the Washington society gossip that Margaret Truman had shown up with a beau at the 72nd annual Kentucky Derby and stood up a luncheon arranged in her honor. In fact what had happened was that a special train was arranged from Washington to Louisville by Wichita McCullough, a former West Virginia WPA'er who now worked for the C&O Railroad and was doing an A-1 job for them. On the way to the Derby with the President's daughter were Secretary of the Treasury and soon Chief Justice, Fred Vinson, and his wife, Attorney General and future Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark and his wife, OPA head Paul Porter and his wife, and Congressman Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson—a pretty impressive train to Kentucky, which we are glad did not wreck.

Six months earlier, the dignitaries aboard had been invited to a soiree to be thrown in Paris, Ky., by Edward Prichard, counsel for the DNC. So they went to that instead of the McCullough luncheon and took the President's daughter with them. She then showed up at Churchill Downs with Henry Prichard, the brother of Edward—and the society columnists took it from there, even though it was the first time the two had ever met.

It was something surely mysterious that J. Edgar Hoover would wish to examine assiduously with a microscope.

Marquis Childs discusses the coal strike negotiations and the center of it being the welfare fund for miners, to which the operators had agreed in principle, but not on status of control. If they were to do so, giving Mr. Lewis control of a multi-million dollar fund, he could establish himself as a czar not only of the coal industry, but the entire labor movement. He knew how to use money and how to accumulate union dues.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had disclosed two years earlier that Mr. Lewis had constructed a deal in the Illinois coal fields whereby the rival union, the Progressive Miners of America, despite winning two elections at Springfield, ultimately lost out. The mines were closed after the elections and, when reopened several weeks afterward, a new election found UMW in the majority. The lessor of the mines in the interim had received a "loan" from Mr. Lewis for $225,000, and twelve members of the rival union were retained on the UMW payroll during the controversy.

A subsequent investigation was initiated by the IRB to determine whether the "loan" was actually a taxable bribe, and eventually, the Justice Department investigated to determine whether there had been a conspiracy to violate the National Labor Relations Act.

An executive of UMW claimed not to know of the payment and that it did not appear as proper effort on behalf of the rank-and-file members. This executive was then suspended from the union for six months and removed from the board. The president of the UMW Illinois district resigned in disgust. Mr. Lewis had authority to appoint provisional officers until elections could be held, and no elections had been held in the Illinois district since 1933.

Another deal had Mr. Lewis advancing via a holding company a million dollars of UMW funds to the Rocky Mountain Fuel Corp. in Colorado, headed by a friend of Mr. Lewis and a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Josephine Roche.

The methods of Mr. Lewis were in distinct contrast to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union which, through education of its membership, had eliminated most of the sweatshop conditions extant prior to its existence in the garment industry. The mines of Kentucky remained "slum mines" under the leadership of UMW by John L. Lewis.

A piece by George Ericson from the Christian Science Monitor discusses legislation to restrict the right to strike. Some political leaders, as former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, a favorite for the 1948 Republican presidential nomination, wanted the right maintained as inviolate. Others believed that the right to work was as deserving of protection, that the right to strike should not extend to affecting adversely the essentials of life and health by depriving communities of light and heat, transportation and food.

Historically, public servants, such as firemen and policemen, and public utilities employees were considered not entitled to strike. Coal, while not in those categories, nevertheless had such an impact on life and health that it should also be separately categorized.

The Wagner Act had been passed to alleviate an imbalance heavily favoring management, but now had caused an imbalance on the side of labor. The Smith-Connally Act, passed during the war as emergency legislation to deter strikes, had, according to management, provoked an unprecedented wave of strikes, the unions being confident that Government would take over plants and then coerce the hand of management to resolve the dispute causing the strike.

There was a call for elimination of the "wildcat strike", the "quickie strike", and the "slowdown strike", but legislation passed too hastily could do more harm than good.

He favors seizure of the mines by the President to halt the coal strike and some form of Congressional action which would produce a procedure under which strikes could be compromised after due fact-finding.

Samuel Grafton, seeking to tap the pulse of the culture since the end of the war, imparts that a book publisher had informed him that the public had come in the previous year to react negatively to books about the war and that book sales generally had dropped, along with magazine sales, though partly a seasonal phenomenon. Amusing books were the top sellers. How-to books on housing construction were also hot.

An expert on radio entertainment told him that it was difficult to discern trends in radio as it changed only when shows died, but he believed that the screwball comedies were doing better than others. Political humor was less sparing of the feelings of leaders, and stunts which resulted in inadequate cures of a problem were popular, such as blowing out a candle while hanging by one foot from a ceiling.

A jewelry manufacturer informed him that sales of cheaper jewelry had slightly diminished, that low-income people were becoming more careful in spending their money while those better-heeled had more cash, some perhaps accumulated out of the black market.

"This kind of spending pattern is, of course, typical of an inflated period, during which the well-heeled become even a little better-heeled than they were before, while the relatively unheeled lose what little economic heeling they had."

A similar phenomenon was occurring in the cafe trade. Good entertainers were receiving salaries of which they had never dreamed, as much as ten thousand dollars a week.

The overall picture was of a society which had lost its sense of world affairs and was concentrating on personal goals and ambitions. The veterans had not turned into any political bloc, conservative or liberal, but were more interested in establishing businesses and earning a living.

"It is a confused, spiritually hungry time, in which attention shifts from the great world, and turns inward, partly as the result of a bungled reconversion; it is an insecure, off-center, tired sort of time, ideal for the making of large national mistakes. Perhaps that is what ultra-conservative opinion counts on, as it hopes to clinch an election victory this Fall: an uncertain mandate, absent-mindedly given by a preoccupied people."

Whatever the ultimate cause, the strategy would work, as the Republicans would capture overwhelming majorities of both chambers of Congress, albeit only short-lived, as the Democrats would recapture substantial majorities in both houses in 1948.

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