Samuel Gompers Papers

To Daniel Willard

                                                        Advisory Commission of the [Council of National Defense]

                                                                                                                                  April 25, 1917.

Mr. Daniel Willard,
Chairman, Advisory Commission, Council of National Defense,
Munsey Building, Washington, D.C.

My dear Mr. Willard:

          Under date of April 18 you referred to me a telegram from F. N. Hoffstot, President of the Pressed Steel Car Company of New York. The telegram referred to the custom of the working men of the Pittsburg District of celebrating numerous holidays, a custom which seriously interferes with the desire of the Pressed Steel Company to hasten production at the present time.

          I at once wired to Mr. John Williams, President of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, to come to Washington for a conference, as Mr. Williams knows more of the conditions among the steel workers in Pittsburg than any other person.

          A conference was arranged with Secretary Redfield, Secretary Wilson, a representative of the American Federation of Labor, and Mr. Williams. The latter was accompanied by another official of his organization.

          As you know the Steel Companies have pursued policies hostile to the organized labor movement and have done everything possible to prevent organization among their workers. One policy which was adopted for this purpose was to secure immigrant workers. It is a matter of common knowledge and Congressional record that in the steel industries of Pennsylvania and around Pittsburg, the groups of foreign workers were kept isolated so that there could be the least possible communication and intercourse. No effort was made to Americanize them; on the contrary, the companies did everything within their power to prevent the greatest agency which has proved its effectiveness in Americanizing foreign workers from operating in that field. Consequently these steel operators now find themselves with workers out of harmony with American customs and institutions. In the preparation for a national defense they are dependent upon these foreigners and have found their efforts frustrated by foreign customs such as that mentioned in the telegram to you.

          Among another class of workers in the state--the miners--there are also a great number of foreigners, but the United Mine Workers' Organization has succeeded in establishing some of the American ideals among the miners, and the organization has been able to control the celebration of holidays. This illustrates one of the effects of the organized labor movement.

          Mr. Williams briefly presented this matter to the conference I mentioned. Another point was brought out by Secretary Wilson, who stated that he knew of union organizations in the steel industry that were unable to keep up their usual productivity because they were unable to secure the raw materials. Secretary Redfield asked for the names of these union concerns and stated that he would see to it that they received raw products and were able to secure the cars in which to transport the same.

          Altogether, those participating in this conference felt that an understanding resulted which might be the basis for preventing similar occurrences if no obstacles were interposed to the efforts of those competent to deal with the situation.

          I am very glad you referred the matter to me, as I think a better understanding has resulted.

                                                                    Very truly yours,

                                                                    Saml Gompers.
                                                                    Chairman, Committee on Labor.

P.S. It may also be interesting to say that as the result of my committee's work and through the agency of Mr. Williams and Secretary Wilson, a strike in the tin plate industry was brought to a speedy and mutually advantageous close.    S. G.

TLpS, Files of the Office of the President, Letterbooks, Advisory Commission, Council of National Defense, reel 20, pp. 424-26, AFL Records.