Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 3, 1946
Two senators, Ferguson of Michigan, a Republican, and Fulbright of Arkansas, a Democrat, have now proposed a system of special federal courts to deal with labor disputes. I believe the basic idea was original with Judge John C. Knox, of New York, who, in the twilight years of his judicial career, belatedly is coming to be known by the people as a giant in his defense of real American liberties.
Judge Knox is a much better man than any of the Roosevelt appointees to the Supreme Court but knowingly forfeited his chance of a distinction to which most judges aspire when, as a citizen, he fought Mr. Roosevelt on the court-packing plan.
He was one of the few who were able to dramatize the fact that Mr. Roosevelt intended not only to pack the Supreme Court but planned to corrupt federal justice below by naming a team of reliable New Deal devotees, with headquarters in Washington, who could be assigned to try cases in which the government and the ruling politicians and bureaucrats had a special interest.
To the extent that this evil intent was understood outside Congress Judge Knox earned credit for a loyal and self-sacrificing defense of American justice, in defiance of the leader of his own party.
I ASSUME that Senators Ferguson and Fulbright readily yield to Judge Knox the honor of having first proposed federal labor courts and equally confident that the judge would waive priority as of no importance. The important thing is to cause it to be talked up among the people, including union members, so that the arguments may be understood which show that the rulers of the union movement, with their fatal potential power over the nation, are, in fact, reactionaries, not progressives, and far behind the times.
These are old men, and Lewis, Green, Murray, Tobin, Dubinsky and Woll are among the most obstructive. Like the obdurate magnates of big business in their time, they have acquired that sort of power which is never yielded except to force, whether political or military, by a King John, a George III, a Vanderbilt or a Wayne B. Wheeler.
THEY HAVE THEIR incomes, comfort and security. They have fame and flattery for their souls. They are, in their way, historic and they constantly threaten their subjects with the fear that if they should be hampered the subjects would lose their “protectors” and be thrown to the wolves.
If labor courts were instituted, most of them would be broken, discredited and outmoded men and it is no exaggeration to say that some would crack up and die of shock, self-pity and bitterness in the way of Woodrow Wilson.
They have not progressed in all the years since Mr. Roosevelt’s first inauguration. They have taken their stand on an imperfect experiment, the Wagner Act, whose fallacies and harmful defects objective men soon recognized. And, while Mr. Roosevelt, their patron, preached experiment, progress and change as general political propaganda, they damned all change and still do.
TO THEM, for reasons of selfishness and “consistency,” the Wagner Act has been the goal, the final, if slightly imperfect development in labor relations. Progress has gone as far as it can go and any change would be a backward movement toward boss terrorism and serfdom.
I know that Judge Knox does not believe his proposed labor courts would mark the end of progress or even that his plan, in its present state, is the only means of salvation. In general debate, other useful ideas might be contributed. Mine would be that the unions would require the help of new laws to protect them from racketeers and arbitrary rule so that when unions should come to the bar for justice they could come with clean hands and not as petitioners for the private fortunes of unscrupulous and dictatorial union politicians.
Senators Ferguson and Fulbright doubtless are willing to debate, compromise and amend their proposals, and if the people will only follow the debates sensible, patriotic men and women, including union members may at last be made to see that the plan is actually progressive.