Solomon Barkin Interview 1

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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GEORGE STONEY: Sol, when you were first coming to Washington in 1933, what did you think about that -- what did you think the NRA was going to do?

BARKIN: Well, the country was very much at a -- troubled. Every group in the society, from the richest, the most powerful, to the common man and to the most deprived were all uncertain as to what the future would be. There was a sense that a new administration was coming in and that it would bring a new world into 00:01:00bearing. And, uh, young men like myself living in New York felt this new impulse and, uh, many of us thought that wed like to play a part in this major scene of rescuing the world and our country. And, uh, we knew of these hunger camps of the unemployed, marches of the unemployed. Yeah, we knew of the hunger about and we were all praying. Everybody, from the most powerful, as I suggested, to the person in the most resigned and forsaken positions were hoping 00:02:00that a new life was ahead of us. And, of course, the great call to each one of us young per-- young people was to join the parade and, uh, do our bit in this function. So it was a -- it -- it -- uh, those of us who had any social concern were very quick to respond to this call.

GEORGE STONEY: What was your first job with the New Deal?

BARKIN: My, um... My first job and actually my only job because I came in July 1933 and I left in February 37 and, uh, I -- the name of the organization with which I was associated changed -- was changed three or four times. The 00:03:00org-- the basic organization was the National Industrial Recovery Administration and the Blue Eagle, uh... This was the organization of industrial revival and labor revival and, uh, revival was the word. Reemployment was the battle cry and, uh, well, as young men our place in the world was to help and, uh, those of us who had dreamt of it just responded.

JAMIE STONEY: OK. Im just ch--

[break in audio - 03:37 - 03:45]

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you were representing labor in the New Deal.

BARKIN: Well, that --

GEORGE STONEY: Can you describe that?


BARKIN: I mean, that, uh, is not -- is -- is partially true, um, but it doesnt really, uh, describe the role which we were placed. Um, in the NIRA there were three advisory committees to General Johnson, who was the administrator. Now, uh, I was employed in the labor advisory board, which consisted of representatives of the trade union movement and our function was to advise the administrator on the terms -- each -- the terms of -- labor terms of the codes of fair competition. Under the system which evolved, industry management submitted proposals for the codes. The administrator heard that, 00:05:00held hearing, public hearings and our function was to advise the administrator as to whether the term -- the terms of the -- the labor terms of the code conformed to the purposes of the code and that became a very serious contest because you must understand, um, that the trade union movement was very weak. It was absent from most industries. And, uh, the staff of the board in effect, of which I was a member and became assistant director, uh, in time, um, the, uh, 00:06:00our responsibility was to aid trade unions in presenting their case, or where there were no trade unions or inexperienced leadership, was to offer them advice and counsel as well as to present our views as to what the terms of employment should be. And then behind the screens, so to speak, we bargained with the administrator to be sure that the terms were adequate. And, of course, our bargaining power was very limited because the trade union movement was very weak. And the consequence is that we were constantly engaged in negotiations with the administrator in trying to secure the most favorable terms, labor terms of the codes.


GEORGE STONEY: Now, you could tell us, then, about the textile code, which was the first.

BARKIN: Thats right. Now, the textile code -- the cotton and -- the cotton textile code was the first adopted and the industry was, uh, very, uh, much in favor of this code, uh, or such a code. The reason for it was that the Depression had had a very destructive effect on industry. Many bankruptcies. People were un-- displaced and prices dropped very severely and they were seeking various ways of achieving stability, which was the word of the time. 00:08:00And they hoped that the NRA, uh, would help them. And they drafted a code, submitted it to the administrator and it became the, um, the guideline for all the other 500-some odd codes which were subsequently adopted.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, talk about the labor facil-- labor commit-- part of that code.

BARKIN: Well, the labor commitment and the contents of the code were generally -- provided for a minimum wage. In the first code for textiles it provide a minimum wage of $12 for the South and $13 in the north. Uh, that would seem, in terms of our present levels, rather outlandishly low but you must understand 00:09:00that at the time there were many mills that were paying four and five dollars a week for a 54-hour week. Now, the second thing that the code contained was a 40-hour week, which became the standard. And then there were all kinds of miscellaneous provisions. One was, for example, the prohibition against child labor at 16 -- below 16. There were provisions for safety and health codes written into the -- the act. And, uh, those were the -- and, of course, most outstandingly was what was called section 7A, which, uh, uh, provided that workers had a right to organize and to select their own representative and the 00:10:00employers were not to interfere with their organization nor coerce them in any way, effective that the workers organization should be workers' organizations thoroughly who would counterpose, uh, management in bargaining. The word which became very popular was countervail. The unions -- the workers representatives would countervail the monopolistic power of the management in the formulation of the terms of labor.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, we have had a whole series, hundreds of letters, from textile workers protesting against not getting the right wages, not getting the -- the right hours and also, uh, being denied the right to have unions. Why all those letters if it was written into the code?


BARKIN: Why these were letters written into the code?

GEORGE STONEY: No. If all of these provisions were written into the code why did all those, uh, textile workers protest?

BARKIN: Yeah, yeah. Now, of course, they were written -- those litter [sic] -- letters, many of them were written before the code was adopted. Secondly, there were many employers who didnt comply with the terms of the code. Uh, the, uh, workers were looking for help, uh, from the national administration to enforce the code. Um, you must, uh, get -- gain an insight into the spirit of the time. Roosevelt was a messiah and particularly in the textile industry. They, uh, all were looking for him to lead them into a new promised land and, uh... And they wrote to him and as you suggest there were hundreds and 00:12:00thousands of letters about the breaches by individual employers all through the country of the -- the terms of these codes and they wanted relief and, uh, the question basically was that the relief was really in the hands of the code authority, which was manned completely by employers. And, uh, that was under the terms of the code. And therefore there was very -- no -- no re --sympathetic response. The letters were just shunted aside and ca-- and the result was many, many, uh, workers, uh, felt frustrated and disappointed and rebellious and -- and those were the, uh -- without relief from any side. Of 00:13:00course, you must understand also that the same attitudes or similar attitudes prevailed throughout the country in all other industries. The -- the period of 1990 -- 33 and 34 are his-- periods of historically high -- large number of strikes. Uh, bitter strikes, prolonged strikes, strikes in which, uh, workers was, uh -- were defeated in many instances by having -- by the militia and the national guard were called out by the governors of these various states. heir whole -- the entire industrial relations system had collapsed and there was no easy answer immediately then or help to these people.


GEORGE STONEY: Was there no enforcement arrangement for the code, for 7A?

BARKIN: Well, later there began to, uh, such enforcement appeared. But at the beginning all of the violations had to be sent to the code authorities, uh, and, of course, the code authorities, with very few exceptions -- and these were exceptions where there were real strong unions like the mineworkers and others, the, uh -- they rejected them, dismissed them, um, and, uh, got -- there were no answers.

GEORGE STONEY: Ive got to ask you to do that again but not say about the miners, uh, because we (inaudible) tight, you see?


GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible). Were there no enforcement authorities?

BARKIN: There was -- the only enforcement authorities there were were the code 00:15:00authorities and the members of the code authorities were almost uniformly exclusively employers and, of course, they were unwilling to acknowledge that the worker had any rights to complain.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, we have heard from so many textile workers that they loved Roosevelt.


GEORGE STONEY: And they said that Roosevelt said they should join a union. Did you ever hear Roosevelt -- where did they get that idea?

BARKIN: Well, it was a free interpretation of the language of the NIRA and, uh, when they said Roosevelt they really meant the Congress of the United States plus Roosevelt. But in a short [shibboleth?] they assigned all the responsibility to Roosevelt himself and many of the, uh, slogans of the day were 00:16:00formulated in those times -- in those terms. It was Roosevelt the messiah who wanted us to join unions and, of course, union leaders and organizers and people, organized people carried that message far and wide.

GEORGE STONEY: Youll be amused to know when somebody -- we recorded somebody saying Roosevelt got on the radio and said you should join a union. I went through 12 volumes of Roosevelts speeches and I couldnt find it (laughing) and youve explained why.

BARKIN: Yeah, yeah.


HELFAND: I had a question.


HELFAND: Um, could you again -- could you again explain the role of the textile industry in creating the code and the kind of, um, you know -- the kind of power 00:17:00that they had in constructing this code and their excitement at being able to do so if you thought they had. But could --

GEORGE STONEY: But talk to me when youre doing it.

HELFAND: But be specific to the textile industry.

BARKIN: Yeah. The, uh... The entire -- as Ive indicated, the entire administrative structure of the NIRA was in the hands -- in the hands of the employers, except for the few codes where there were union representatives. And, uh, the -- and invariably [laughter] they were not very sympathetic to the complaints which were being filed and nothing happened. Later on, um, you -- people could file complaints with the local representatives of the NIRA but they too were not very numerous or adequately policed and there were some cases which 00:18:00were brought but hardly sufficient to -- to correct the -- the resistance which existed in management toward the government standards, which in effect were developed with management for each one of the codes.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you were in Washington when the textile code was, uh, delivered or developed. Did you ever meet, uh, Mr. Anderson or Donald [Comer?] or any of those people?

BARKIN: I personally didnt. Um, actually, um, the textile code was adopted [laughter] about a week and a half before [laughter] I signed my commitment to 00:19:00the NIRA so I had nothing to do with the code itself, with the enactment of the code.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you recall the -- the 34 strike?


GEORGE STONEY: That wonderful terrible three weeks. Could you just tell us how you felt at the time and how you felt about the resolution of it.

BARKIN: Well, [throat clearing] I was -- during that period --

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us which period.

BARKIN: The -- the period of the strike of September 1934 I was then a government employee who was -- who... By that time I had become assistant director of the labor advisory board and I was in charge of the staff, guiding them. So my knowledge, uh, was largely in guiding and steering and advising and aiding the person on my staff who was acting as the official government labor 00:20:00advisor on the code. And, uh, uh -- so that, uh, I got my communication and knowledge of what was happening and the complaints which subsequently were filed from, uh, this -- this person.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, could you -- do you recall the strike itself and the news that was coming in and the excitement or the flurry?

BARKIN: Oh -- oh, yes. It was the most dramatic event, um, short of war. Um, because there was no precedent for it in American history. Uh, the -- people estimate that there were more than 400,000 people on the strike. And not only were there so many but they occurred in -- largely in three different sections 00:21:00of the country, primarily in New England, the middle Atlantic, and the south-- southeastern states. Um, an unheard of event in American history, where workers revolted and theres no -- no, uh, denying it was a revolt. But you must also understand that concurrently there were similar revolts of a local nature or more local nature in many other industries. Uh, in the mining industry, uh, in Toledo, in the auto industry, in Minneapolis in the trucking industry, in San Francisco and the West Coast on the longshore industry and these were -- and together with the 34 strike were real war. People were killed in the midst 00:22:00of these. The National Guard were called out, uh, in many kind -- in New England and in the South and open warfare was de-- declared against the strikers and many were killed. Uh, of course, the numbers look puny when -- just as numbers but here were civilians exercising the normal expected right to strike who were hounded and shot down and injured and, uh, it created a tremen-- tremendous sense of internal turmoil during that -- those few weeks.

HELFAND: How did you feel?


HELFAND: How did you feel?

BARKIN: How did I feel? Well, actually (inaudible). I was sitting in Washington and the result is that I, uh, responded largely in terms of one -- 00:23:00how we could help bring about a settlement for the strike and see whether we couldnt correct conditions. And, uh, many, many suggestions went to Roosevelt in order to help, to suggest ways in which to solve this problem.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, Madame Perkins took some action there. Were you privy to what was happening there?

BARKIN: No. Uh, she sent her recommendations to the President at the time, like -- like many of us. For example, I -- my recommendations were forwarded to the chairman of the labor advisory board, who was the -- my immediate superior and 00:24:00they were forwarded on to the President and he made his choices. Uh, I presume youve heard about the fact that the President appointed, uh, two boards that is successive of -- two successively. One where Mr. [Brourier?] was the -- a mediator who accomplished nothing and then one by Mr. -- Governor Winant of New Hampshire as a chairman of the second board in September. And, uh, theyve -- the latter finally sub-- submitted recommendations which the President adopted and which brought an end to the strike.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, when the strike was ended, Gorman called it a great victory and yet the workers went back the next Monday and many of them were blacklisted.


GEORGE STONEY: And could you just talk about that?


BARKIN: Yes. Um, the, uh, cotton textile industry dismissed the terms of the -- the, uh, Presidents order which required him -- required them to reemploy people. Uh, we know there were hundreds of, if not thousands of people, who were never reemployed. And the, um -- the United States Chamber of Commerce, for example, issued leaflets and brochures describing how they could circumvent the terms of this -- this presdential order so that they didnt have to hire anybody. Uh, as -- hire anybody but, uh, those whom they preferred to recruit. And, of course, they -- they were prohibited from discriminating against 00:26:00leaders of the strike at the local level. But of course that was furthest from their mind. They -- their -- the victims ran into thousands and if you -- even to this date if you move in among the Southern textile workers' families there are many, many who tell the story of how they had been ostracized and many tell the story of how they had to leave the South and seek employment in other areas of the country so that the -- the experience left a great scar in the minds and memories of the people living in the textile South.

GEORGE STONEY: How do you think Roosevelt felt about that?

BARKIN: Well, I cant tell you. I -- I -- I wont -- Im not privy to anything personal from Roosevelt. Uh, Roosevelt throughout this early New Deal 00:27:00period, uh, very -- on the whole, uh, had to respond to the opposition of employers, which antedated the strike and antedated the NIRA. And, uh, and he had to listen to the unions and to his advisors who favored new solutions and, uh, very often he, uh, resolved it by executive order, which happened to favor the union. Uh, often he avoided... Um, so you -- you know the general feeling was that this -- [phone ringing] -- that despite...


GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible) people like Calloways and [Comers?] and that kind of people who -- who --

BARKIN: I would say -- (break in audio)

GEORGE STONEY: Hold on. Want to -- have to wait to -- OK. Tell us about Roosevelt and the end of the strike.

BARKIN: Yeah. Well, Roosevelt on September 22, 1944, those were the --

GEORGE STONEY: Im sorry, it was 34.

BARKIN: Thirty-four.

GEORGE STONEY: Lets start again. Lets start again.

BARKIN: Thirty-four.

GEORGE STONEY: Roosevelt. Go ahead.

BARKIN: Roosevelt on September 22, 1934, uh, issued a exec-- executive order reflecting the recommendations of the Winant board on how to settle the strike. The, uh... By and large the violations and avoidance of the terms of the order 00:29:00by management was, uh, real widespread. Created many, many victims. They didnt rehire thousands of them and as is, uh, known, uh, if you travel through the South and talk to people and families about it, um, the number of people who left the area to go to other parts of the country. Now, Mr. Roosevelt, uh, during this entire period was faced by many, many industrial relations disputes and he of course had many advisors. There was Ma Perkins, General Johnson, et cetera, and members of Congress, particularly Senator Wagner 00:30:00of New York State. And, uh, on the other hand there were pressures from management and, uh, the conservative forces in the country. And, uh, there were all kinds of issues which came up, all of them urgent, all of them involving thousands of people, uh, all of those, uh, involved in challenging the rights of, uh, the property interest, the management interest in this country. And, um, hes an elected official and consequently had to find his way through, uh, this morass of conflict. The, um... By and large he was very helpful to the 00:31:00trade union movement. Very many instances, for example, in the negative sense where local -- local, uh, uh, officials and governors asked, uh, for the National Guard to be sent in. Uh, he would turn to the conciliation service, mediation service for advice of the conditions and then decided not to send the National Guard. Uh, it must be tens and tens of cases where that was true. Now, the, uh -- of course, management, chamber of commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, uh, the conservative forces kept prodding him and forcing him and threatening him and describing, uh, horrible cases. One governor from Rhode Island even described what was happening as a revolution and, uh, asked for a 00:32:00national guard. And he, uh, denied them those requests. But there were -- he was trying to find some way of resolving a very bitter intense situation. Sometimes, of course, his decisions didnt favor the immediate tactical advantages for the worker or the union but, uh, in -- in that type of bitter conflict you -- youre going to hurt one or the other when you make a decision. But on the whole, obviously the unions came out much stronger, uh, because of the attitudes that he did take during this period.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, this is taking us much, much further down the line. But if 00:33:00the textile strike had succeeded or even gained the right for people to organize what difference do you think it would make to -- have made to the development of the South then and the South now?

BARKIN: Yeah. Well, thats asking to construct a future which never took place. Um, one must recognize that the South during the last five years, particularly and subsequently, will -- has and will be really reorganized economically. Areas like Texas, which were barren deserts are sources of wealth. New industries are locating there. And the same thing is happening in 00:34:00the South -- southeast in the textile states like North and South Carolina, foreign countries. The most dramatic, of course, is the, uh, advent of the German auto plants in the Carolinas. So that, uh, there was an imminent drive. As a matter of fact, you might be interested, is that during the war when our -- the textile union was, uh, trying to organize and, uh, we were seeking for new ways of overcoming the resistances and the indifference, too, of the political systems of the South, I for one suggested various programs of economic development which would foster, uh, the industrialization of the southeastern 00:35:00states, such as Ive just said have occurred since -- during -- since the last -- during the last five, seven years. So, um, the great problem in the South is that, uh, the population had been poverty stricken for years. Their educational standards were low. The, uh, political and social system was dominated by, uh, a few interests, particularly the textile monied interests. And there was no drive to, uh, in-- get new investment. Uh, as a matter of fact, we have many, many cases where an existing textile agent -- community would resist new industries lest they bring in a higher wage scale. So that we had not yet 00:36:00initiated nation-- a nationwide system of encouraging enterprise and, uh, new industries. As a matter of fact, I might just -- another personal feature of it. I was at that time, as I still am, a member of the board of the National Planning Association and, uh, and an observer and observing how, um, backward the south-- southeastern states were economically. Proposed that we undertake a study to delineate courses of action which would rehabilitate or create new industries in the South. This was in -- about 47, 48 I believe it was. 00:37:00Um, at that time, um, there was not too much support for it from the governing interests of the South. Now, that -- that attitude has changed and has helped, uh, promote, uh, further industrialization so that, uh, my general observation was that -- and particularly in areas like the southeastern states, uh, unions can function very constructively in prodding the political authorities and economic authorities to initiate new developmental programs and, uh, the fact that the established interest in these areas resists new industry, uh, uh, would be overcome by a counterforce, countervailing force is the word we often use, 00:38:00uh, which would offset the conservative restrictive, uh, interest of established, uh, capital. And this is, uh, come in all backward areas [phone ringing] ni-- need that kind of condition.




BARKIN: We have -- we had a similar problem, uh, in later years in the textile industry. Uh, in 1960 -- 60, um, the union, uh, sought ways in which to accelerate the -- the innovations within the industry in order to offset the 00:39:00increasing competitive threat from abroad. And, uh, we proposed in Congress that the industry, uh -- that Congress appropriate money to help, uh, such innovations. Uh, President Kenndy in 61, in May 61, uh, endorsed this program and Congress adopted it. I think it was $750,000 to conduct research and the research committee was established for that purpose. Um, I was appointed the labor [member?] of that -- that research, uh, effort. But we never got very far because the big manufacturers who represented management on 00:40:00that committee thought that was not the function of government and the result was that our effort and the money we spent, uh, bore no fruit.

HELFAND: Im going to have him go back. Were going to cover some of the sa-- some of the same ground that weve done already. But I want you to remember that some of the folks that are going to be listening to this... Uh, imagine that youre talking to people who dont -- who dont know some of the basics. So Im going to want you to... Like what the NRA was supposed to do. Some very ba-- some basic information.


HELFAND: Um... So -- because a lot of... Just -- just recount. And -- and -- and -- and short. In July of 1933 you came to Washington as a -- as a New Dealer on -- you know, on the heels of the NRA coming in. And what -- what -- what you -- what you felt the -- what -- what, in your mind, the NRA was -- was supposed to do.


BARKIN: Well, the title of the -- of the agency, NIRA Recovery Administration, was to stimulate the economic recovery of, uh, this country. Ive already suggested that, uh, the nation was in very dire economic circumstances and the people obviously were suffering greatly and Roosevelt, um, was elected to bring these changes. Now, the major effort that the NIRA sought was to, uh, from the point of view of labor, was to shorten work hours and raise wages to a more decent level, minimum wage level. And management, on the other hand, had a different sort of goal. Theirs -- theirs, uh, was the goal of establishing 00:42:00stability, uh, which meant to them people didnt cut each others throats in setting prices and, uh, they didnt build up excessive inventories. And the result of that was that the codes, besides having labor provisions in them, had, uh, pr-- pr-- provisions regulating commercial practices, uh, and these commercial practices, which were forbidden under these codes, were all designed -- were all intended, uh, to cut prices and to build excessive inventories and to destroy competitors. And the code provisions, uh, sought to correct those -- those conditions.


HELFAND: OK. Now, the -- it seems like one of the -- that one of the definitions of the NRA, that there was going to be a partnership between industry and government and working people. Am I right? I --

BARKIN: Well, that -- that term partnership is, uh...

HELFAND: Well -- bu--


HELFAND: Can we stop for a second.

BARKIN: Is a very, uh...

HELFAND: That -- that -- when did you -- when did it become obvious to you that the textile code, that the -- that the employers werent -- that the textile -- that the -- that the workers were not being responded to? (inaudible) wanted to --

BARKIN: Now --

_: Wasnt the idea that the striking -- did (inaudible) --

BARKIN: You see, the code ruled in July 33 and, uh, complaints continued to be filed. The, uh, union began to grow in size as --


GEORGE STONEY: Lets hold it because thats exactly what we want. So role and you start the code at 33.

HELFAND: Start over.

GEORGE STONEY: And were going to start over and well record this.

BARKIN: All right.


BARKIN: The code was adopted -- was approved by the President.

HELFAND: Can you say the textile code?



BARKIN: In July 1933 and, uh, shortly thereafter --

HELFAND: Could you start -- I -- Im sorry. Could you start again. The textile code was approved in 1933.

BARKIN: All right. The Cotton Textile Code was approved in July 33 and, uh, complaints of nonconformance and stretch-out and, uh, loss of wages were beginning to be filed. And, uh, these were filed and were sent to the Cotton 00:45:00Textile Authority, which is, Ive indicated, was an employer -- exclusively employer-manned committee. The result was great dissatisfaction was common and threats of strikes were taking place throughout the industry. The, uh... As indicated by the -- by the fact that the union membership multiplied during this period. People were looking for outlets for their, uh, dissatisfaction. Now, the most extraordinary thing happened in, uh, Alabama, uh, where, uh, spontaneously the local unions in Alabama, about -- I think it was about 10 or 12 local unions at the time, declared a strike in -- in August, I think it was, 00:46:001934. But widespread dissatisfaction because -- two things. First, employers in many cases didnt pay the minimum wages. Secondly these people had been working 50 and 54 hours a week and all of a sudden their hours were reduced to 40, so their pay -- even though the pay -- the individual rates of pay per hour were raised, the total earnings per week were cut in many cases. And the employers at the same time sought to overcome the rising cost of production where they were complying with the code. So they undertook what is called by the textile workers the stretch-out, which means that workers would have to 00:47:00attend a larger number of machines, uh, under their control. Now, all of this, uh, wreaked great havoc with the morale in people and you had stoppages, so much so that in one state, Alabama, I think it was about 20 mills, unionized mills just went out on a strike of their own without getting permission from anybody, just because the heat of disgust and abuse had just risen to such a level that the workers did themselves, uh, uh, went out and conducted a strike -- began to strike. And the spirit -- and then al-- also the fact, as Ive recited, the strikes in other industries which were taking place all over the country of 00:48:00course sort of gave sanction to the workers of the South that they too had a right to strike and to get corrections and that increased the fury and the heat and the -- the temper of Southern workers.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, there was a belief in the South that textile -- that particularly textile worker-- workers wouldnt join unions.


GEORGE STONEY: And there was a belief in other parts of the country that the South was safe from unions. Surely there must have been a great surprise when suddenly all of these people came out. Could you talk about that?

BARKIN: Well, surprise was -- was really there but that didnt change their attitude any. It merely meant that they resorted to more severe repression during this period. People were fired. Uh, ringleaders were weeded out and, 00:49:00uh, the, uh -- throughout the, uh, area, as well as in New England, the, uh -- the kind of, uh, recrimination was, uh, extraordinary. So, uh, it was an un-- unprecedented experience about which the employers in the South had to, uh, learn and to come through.

HELFAND: Now, here you are. You were -- were you yourself surprised at this? I mean, you were watching all of this, I know, from Washington.


HELFAND: So when you saw all these Southern textile workers organizing local unions at such a great rate what did you -- what did you think about that?

BARKIN: Well, one -- one reaction. How do you help? How do you resolve this problem, um, and that was -- as I reported we all -- many different groups, 00:50:00including myself and my agency, uh, forwarded recommendations as to what the president should do. This was much beyond the power or the, um, any single part of the government. It had to be done by the President.

HELFAND: This surprise at Southern unionism, Im wondering if, um, prior to the strike if you recall you -- you yourself or your colleagues being, um, surprised at the militance of the Southern workers.

BARKIN: Well, we were surprised, um, that --

HELFAND: Could you say you were surprised that they were joining unions? You have to include some of my answer -- my question in your answer --


HELFAND: -- so we can keep it in context.

BARKIN: The, uh -- we were surprised that the -- the Southernworker who, uh, 00:51:00had endured these conditions for decades would rise so unanimously and widespreadly to protest But the surprise is not a -- is -- was merely a further incentive for all of us to seek new answers. And the only man -- the only power in the Washington setup for taking action is the President because each one of our agencies are circumscribed in the initiatives that we can take.

HELFAND: Now, whats ironic is that the -- is that -- that the industry, you know, set up these codes and set up these rules and then they didnt follow the very thing that they set up. And thats a hard [fit?].


BARKIN: No, you see, its not your, uh... You have to recall how the codes were adopted. The employers, generally speaking, uh, with very few exceptions, initiated the process. They drafted the code. They were required to put certain provisions in the code, not that they liked them. And, uh, they just had to. They couldnt get their provisions in unless there was section sev-- also section 7A and the labor provisions of the code. So that, uh, the, uh -- they were very lukew-- as Ive indicated repeatedly, they were very lukewarm and, in fact, I would say they were cold -- cold to these complaints which were coming in. And they dismissed them as just rattle of these -- these nitwits who were our employees.


HELFAND: Now, how was it that they also got to become the code authority?

BARKIN: Whats that?

HELFAND: I understand they drafted the code but why is it that the industry also became the code authority?

BARKIN: Thats right.

HELFAND: But why? I mean, how is it that they could draft it and then they could become the code authority?

BARKIN: Well, the whole NRA was a -- a compromise, uh, developed by the admin-- by Roosevelt of trying to meld and unite both management and unions in support of this legislation. And he had to give management certain rights which they didnt have before and he had to give unions or labor certain rights which they didnt have. So this compromise was something that the management had to 00:54:00swallow but that -- obviously they were very half-hearted about the idea of enforcing the labor provisions of the code.

HELFAND: Now, how do you think the, uh -- how do you imagine that the textile workers thought about section 7A and that labor provision? What -- how did they read that section of the code?

BARKIN: Well, to the workers generally it was an invitation to organize and to establish unions in the industry and, uh... But the employers didnt -- didnt willingly concede and therefore there was constant discrimination against people who took the initiative to establish unions and discrimination against them.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you say that again because I think weve got something about --


BARKIN: Oh, well, the unions -- the employees sought to organize and, uh, where they succeeded they then met the employers' resistance. For example, the union won many, many -- I recall during the first two years of the organization the union won something over 50 elections, which -- wherefore -- which they never consum-- consummated agreements with employers because the employers resisted and wouldnt agree. And there was no real, um, judicial system for enforcing the code. And thats one of the great weaknesses, uh, which existed in the early NIRA, was the absence of tools for enforcement and it was only when the Wagner Act was adopted in 37, uh, that such policing authorities were granted 00:56:00to the new National Labor Relations Board. So that during the four years -- during the four years from 33 to 37 all the -- that an agency could do was to remove the blue eagle and, uh -- from the -- a company which violated. And, of course, that was not a very severe penalty to pay for gaining an absence of a union.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you hold it off just a minute? Such a -- (break in audio)

HELFAND: Thats very important.

GEORGE STONEY: -- key statement.

BARKIN: Yeah, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: That I just want to make it absolutely right.

BARKIN: Excuse me a moment.



BARKIN: It just shows sometimes (inaudible). All right, uh... The Wagner Act... These, uh, judicial, uh, and, uh, administrative powers were for the first time granted -- granted to, uh, the administration under the Wagner Act, which was passed in 1935 and began op-- became operative then. Uh, the reason -- one of the reasons which became, uh -- reasons for passage of the Wagner Act was the realization that management was not going to do this voluntarily and that there had to be some tools for enforcing and penalizing violators and those 00:58:00were provided for in the Wagner Act.

GEORGE STONEY: Good. (inaudible).

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible).