My Day, by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 5, 1953

FDR, Eleanor, and Senator Murray (University of Montana Mansfield Library Archives)

FDR, Eleanor, and Senator Murray (University of Montana Mansfield Library Archives)

Senator James E. Murray was a prolific writer and speaker on all progressive issues. Here, Eleanor Roosevelt reflects on a speech Senator Murray gave on the importance of food and clothing in creating peace in the world. Roosevelt’s column is available on-line through George Washington University.

I have been thinking a great deal of late about a speech made some time ago by Senator James E. Murray of Montana when a Senate Joint Resolution was introduced on a nonpartisan basis to “provide for an international food reserve.” Members of both parties joined in backing this resolution and Senator Murray gave very good reasons why it should be backed by every farmer in America and by every processor and distributor of farm commodities because, he explained, “it would encourage abundant production of food and fibres and provide a constructive method of preventing market surpluses.”

Then he remembered to consider the consumer, the general public, you and I, who are usually forgotten in the press of special interest groups, and he said it would protect against “shortages and the consumer price increases which accompany shortages.” Finally he said this resolution would be of interest to the other nations of the world which produce or import agricultural commodities. He pointed out that food and clothing are two of the most vital weapons in mankind’s struggle for a happier and more peaceful world and for all these reasons he felt we should create at once an international food reserve.

It was an unusual thing to have a resolution of this kind come from the Senate and not through negotiation on the part of the executive branch of the Government first with other nations but, as the Senator pointed out, sometimes these negotiations on the part of governments come to nothing because they are not inspired or participated in by the Congress which in the long run does have to put the machinery in operation to bring anything of this kind about.

The resolution is simple. The first section indicates why an international food reserve is needed. The second section explains the purposes that will be served by an international food reserve, and the third section authorizes and directs our mission members in the U.N. to enter promptly into international negotiations for the purpose of preparing a specific plan. The fourth simply asks that this plan and the information pertaining thereto come to the Congress for approval. No funds are provided but the mere fact that the information supporting this resolution was before the Congress must have started much thinking, not only in our own country, but in the world and I hope that it will go on until something really constructive comes of it.

Eleanor Roosevelt, September 5, 1953

Advertisements

Toward Revolution!

Untitled pictureNext week I will be speaking on the campus of University of Wisconsin – La Crosse at the Midwest Section of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS). The theme of the conference is “Towards Revolution,” and my contribution will be a paper on the path of James E. Murray to the top of Eamon De Valera’s support group, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic. Murray’s involvement with De Valera started when the Irish leader first toured America in 1919 and ended with the start of the Irish civil war in 1922.

Murray’s climb was promoted by the Butte Bulletin, a radical labor daily funded by his wealthy uncle. The paper, distributed to labor camps throughout the West, was backed by the IWW and championed labor, socialism, and the end of British Imperialism. New information will be presented at this conference on the relationship between Uncle Murray and the Butte Bulletin.

Book Review: When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level

when_mandates_workWhen Mandates Work [1] is a good resource guide for use in cities and airports located in primary urban markets. Most of the research centers on San Francisco, which likely applies to cities like Seattle, Portland and San Diego and their airports. The content of the book is drawn from individual journal articles written by several different authors, so the content varies dramatically from chapter to chapter.

Part one of the book looks at living wage ordinances in cities and airports. Significant benefits are found in terms of reduced turnover rates and improved employee morale. For restaurants in one study, price increases  of 2.8 percent occurred, which is remarkably similar to estimates on anticipated cost increases derived using MIT’s living wage models.[2] As an aside, I am confounded that there is not bi-partisan support for living wages at fast food restaurants across the country. Why any fiscal conservative would not want the fast food industry to stand on its own, and stop using federal subsidies to bolster worker’s living standards, is incomprehensible.[3] Every fiscal hawk should be wagging their finger at Ronald McDonald to get off the public dole!

Part 2 covers health care benefits and Part 3 provides execution strategies – including the use of Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs).

Anyone looking at CBA’s for their city should take a close look at the CBA negotiated with Twitter in San Francisco. The hearings on this document are readily available on-line in City archives. Twitter clobbered the City in negotiations. Adding insult to injury, the primary beneficiary of Twitter’s move to the City’s central business district (building owners) did not participate at all in the CBA.

If you are on a budget, review the table of contents and search for the individual journal articles that comprise this book which are relevant to your situation, and download those individually (most libraries provide patrons with access to JSTOR – the primary database for academic journal articles).


[1] Michael Reich, Ken Jacobs, and Miranda Dietz, eds., When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level (University of California Press, 2014).

[2] http://livingwage.mit.edu/

[3] McDonald’s has in the past directed employees to federal assistance programs through their employee hotline.

Historical Amnesia: The Humphrey-Hawkins Act, Full Employment and Employment as a Right (Ginsburg, 2011)

President Jimmy Carter signs Humphrey-Hawkins.

From the article abstract:

Economist William A. Darity has proposed a federal job guarantee with decent wages for all job seekers, an idea with deep, but largely forgotten, roots in US history. The article briefly explores some New Deal job-creation efforts and President Franklin Roosevelt’s proposal for an Economic Bill of Rights. It then focuses on two major attempts to secure full employment through legislation. The Full Employment Bill of 1945 was defeated; the compromise, the Employment Act of 1946 did not have full employment as its goal. After years of struggle, a much-weakened Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 passed, but then was violated and virtually ignored. Full employment shifts power from capital to labor, so major opposition can be expected from efforts to obtain it. Proponents need more power and a strong movement, including at the grassroots level, pushing for jobs for all–not just jobs for me or my group. Publicizing the benefits of past job programs and reintroducing the idea of a decent-paying job as a right are suggested, as well as making decent jobs for all the center of economic policy. This requires a fundamental break with neoliberalism and reallocating political power away from big business and Wall Street toward middle and working-class people and the working- and non-working poor.

Link to full article: http://www.njfac.org/bpe-ginsburg.pdf

The Missed Opportunity for an Economic Budget

JamesEMurrayFullEmployment“There is something wrong with the distribution of income in our economy. Not enough of the income created by production gets into the hands of those that will spend it back into production.

Senator James E. Murray, 1945 [1]

The end of World War II placed employment at the top of the national agenda. Seasoned lawmakers and experienced public officials had lived through the burst of an employment bubble after WWI, twenty-five years early, and the Great Depression that followed.

President Roosevelt, during his annual message to Congress, proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” to guide Congress in establishing “a standard of living, higher than ever know before.”

The rights included:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.[2]

Senators Harry Truman (D-MO) and Senator James E. Murray (D-MT) presided over a Senate subcommittee focused on the first point, to provide employment opportunities for all Americans. When Truman left the Senate for the Vice Presidency, the responsibility for shaping legislation fell to Murray. In 1945, Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, drafted Senate Bill 380, the “Full Employment Act of 1945” and found bi-partisan co-sponsors in Senators Wagner (D-NY), Thomas (D-UT), O’Mahoney (D-WY), Morse (R-OR), Tobey (R-NH), Aiken (R-VT), and Langer (R-ND).

S. 380 sought to go beyond the reactionary work-relief measures crafted after the Great Depression, by taking advance measures to avoid depression and unemployment altogether. A critical element of this proactive approach was for the President to prepare a separate “National Production and Employment Budget” (Economic Budget), apart from the regular budget, that prescribes a “complete and well-rounded program for maintaining full production.” Murray believed that the Economic Budget would focus lawmakers on substantive employment policy matters every year, as opposed to merely limiting the discussion to meaningless campaign rhetoric every presidential election. [3]

During the subsequent debates of S. 380, the bill was watered-down, the Economic Budget was dropped, as was “Full” from the title. The Employment Act of 1946, adopted and signed into law, created policy objectives similar to those outlined in F.D.R.’s Second Bill of Rights, but it fell short in focusing Congressional attention on the economy and unemployment.

An annual Economic Budget is a concept worth revisiting. It could pull the nation’s most important issue off the campaign trail and put it back into halls of Congress where it belongs. It would serve as a central point to discuss living wages, work-visas, public service employment and corporate out-sourcing.

[1] James E. Murray, “A Practical Approach,” The American Political Science Review 39, no. 6 (December 1945): 1119–26.

[2] http://www.ushistory.org/documents/economic_bill_of_rights.htm

[3] Murray, “A Practical Approach.”

Senator Murray nomination to Labor Hall of Honor

James E. MurrayThe Employment Act of 1946 will soon mark its 75th anniversary. Election of the “spark of will” behind the Act to the Department of Labor Hall of Honor prior to the diamond anniversary of this landmark legislation would be a fitting step toward the celebrations sure to follow. Murray would be the Hall’s first elected official from west of the Mississippi River, and only the second member from the Pacific Northwest. If Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman were alive today, they certainly would support this recognition for the honorable Senator from Montana. See the nomination on Senator Murray’s page.

So your political opponent is a communist…

Russian SpidersIn 1953, Representative Wesley D’Ewart (R) ran against Senator Murray’s liberal record, casting him  as a communist sympathizer. Vice President Richard Nixon campaigned for D’Ewart using the same approach. D’Ewart’s campaign produced a booklet listing Murray’s affiliations with communist sympathizers, adorned with compelling graphics that would make even the most aggressive campaign managers today hold their nose.

These images of a Russian “Spyder” were featured in the booklet Senator Murray and the Red Web over Congress.