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FDR’s Personal Copy of 1934 Textile Industry Crisis Board Report Countersigned by Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins, the First Woman Presidential Cabinet Member
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This typed report was compiled in two weeks amidst a violent nationwide textile strike. In addition to Roosevelt initialing it twice, it is signed by his the chairman of the commission, and by Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve on a Presidential cabinet, in which role she played an important part in writing critical New Deal legislation, including the Social Security Act. The report was personally given to FDR at a meeting at Hyde Park to discuss the board’s findings which successfully brought an end to the strike.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. Typescript Signed with initials, twice, on the title page. Roosevelt’s personal bound carbon copy of “Report of the Board of Inquiry for the Cotton Textile Industry,” September 17, 1934, Hyde Park, New York. 38 pp., 9 x 11⅜ in.

Inventory #27690       Price: $8,500

Report of the Board of Inquiry / For The Cotton Textile Industry / To The President / Submitted September 17, 1934

Inscribed and signed by FDR: “by F.P. to F.DR. /in propria persona / F.DR.

Also inscribed and signed by Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (1880-1965): “Frances Perkins. All at Hyde Park / N.Y. – conference”. And also signed by John Winant, Chairman of the Board of Inquiry.

There is no doubt but that one of the basic causes of the present conflict is the wide-spread dissatisfaction on the part of the labor with machinery of code administration dealing with labor's rights under the code. The procedure for handling complaints of violation of section 7(a) and other labor provisions of the code, as it has existed up to the strike, may be described briefly as follows:

The Cotton Textile National Industrial Relations Board was, as already noted, originally conceived as a body for handling 'controversies' arising over stretch-out problems alone. More or less as an afterthought the Board was given jurisdiction over controversies arising out of 'any other problem of working conditions.' In all types of cases, however, the legal power of the Board was limited to hearing cases—on appeal from the State boards, whose power in turn was limited to hearing cases on appeal from the mill committees. Thus the National Board and the State Board were legally equipped to act only through the mill committee procedure, and only in case a 'controversy' arose in the mill.

The Board was seriously handicapped in other ways. It lacked facilities for performing its functions; it was granted no definite budget. Two of the members were unable to devote their full time to the Board. The member of the Board representing labor was from the printing industry and not a textile worker. Much of the work had to be experimental. The State boards often did not function satisfactorily and in the end several became virtually defunct. Without in any way wishing to reflect upon the integrity or sincerity of the members of the Board, its operations in practice under these handicaps resulted in wide-spread dissatisfaction with the Board as a part of the code administrative machinery.” (p18-20)

The principle of investigation by management of complaints made by workers against management cannot be defended from any standpoint consistent with the principles on which the Recovery Act is founded. The principle is in fact directly contrary to usual N. R. A. procedure, as expressed in N. R. A. regulations and enforced as to many other codes. And, as might be expected, there is considerable evidence, both from the union and from an independent inquiry conducted by a member of the N. R. A. staff, that the investigations were often less effective than would be the ease had they been independent in character.

Complaints of the violations of section 7(a), such as alleged discriminatory discharge and refusal to bargain collectively, were, handled by the same procedure. It appears to us self-evident that in no event should such complaints be handled by a partisan body made up of employers only. The code authority agrees to this conclusion and has already expressed its willingness to withdraw entirely from the handling of section 7(a) complaints.

In summing up the situation it may be said in general that the whole system of administering the labor provisions of the code has completely lost the confidence of labor in this industry and is for that reason alone incapable of functioning satisfactorily in the future. The Board therefore feels it necessary that there be set up entirely new machinery for the administration of the code insofar as it affects labor.” (p21-22)

Historical Background
During the 1920s, the American textile industry, facing increased foreign competition and an oversupply that led to price decreases, responded by moving its manufacturing facilities to the South, where labor costs were cheaper; but also by increasing its production demands, a practice known as a “stretch-out.” In response to worsening labor conditions, unions became larger and stronger, and by the late 1920s, laborers began to strike in significant numbers. The stock market crash in October 1929 exacerbated the situation, and many northern mills laid off portions of their workforce, increasing production pressures on those who remained employed.

In July 1933, the Code of Fair Competition for the Cotton Textile Industry was approved under the provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act that Congress had passed in May. A committee appointed to investigate the “stretch-out” problem recommended a national industrial relations board to aid employers and employees in resolving differences by negotiation.

In the meantime, to address large inventories piling up, the National Recovery Administration granted a 25 percent reduction of machine hours in June, July, and August 1934. This led the United Textile Workers of America to call for a general strike in the textile industry to begin on September 3. Soon, more than 375,000 workers were on strike, and the National Association of Cotton Manufacturers, representing 9 million of New England’s 11 million looms rejected attempts at a settlement. Over the next week, at least 15 people were killed in violent clashes between picketers and guards in Georgia, South Carolina, and Rhode Island, and several governors declared martial law.

On September 5, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a Board of Inquiry consisting of Governor John G. Winant of New Hampshire; attorney Marion Smith (1884-1947) of Atlanta, Georgia; and Raymond V. Ingersoll (1875-1940), borough president of Brooklyn, New York. Winant, with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, gave this report to the President at Hyde Park.

The board recommended the creation of a textile labor relations board and made other recommendations. Three days later, Roosevelt issued a statement on the report: “The excellent report of the board of inquiry for the Cotton Textile Industry presents findings and recommendations which cover the basic sources of difficulties, and does this in a way which shows the wholly fair and reasonable approach with which the board undertook its task. It is, I think, a good example of the practical way in which industrial problems can be calmly discussed and solved under a republican form of government.”[1]

On the basis of this report, the United Textile Workers leadership called off the strike and requested workers to return to their jobs on September 24. Roosevelt abolished the Board of Inquiry by executive order on September 26, and on the same day issued another executive order creating the Textile Labor Relations Board, composed of Judge Walter P. Stacy of North Carolina as chairman, James A. Mullenbach of Illinois, and retired Admiral Henry A. Wiley of the U.S. Navy. Among the responsibilities of the Board was to “immediately investigate, hold hearings, make findings of fact, and take appropriate action in any case in which it is alleged that there has been discrimination in taking men back to work after the textile strike.”[2]

Frances Perkins (1880-1965) was born in Boston, and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902. She held several teaching positions and volunteered at settlement houses, including Hull House in Chicago. In 1907, she enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School to study economics and spent two years working as a social worker. She then moved to New York City, where she attended Columbia University and became involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She completed a master’s degree at Columbia in 1910. She led the New York office of the National Consumers League and taught as a professor at Adelphi College. After witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, Perkins became the executive secretary of the Committee on Safety of the City of New York to improve fire safety. In 1913, she married Paul Caldwell Wilson, and they had one daughter before her husband began to exhibit mental illness, which led to his frequent hospitalization. In 1929, as Governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Perkins as the inaugural New York state industrial commissioner, where she championed progressive reforms. In 1933, as President, Roosevelt appointed her as Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. Holding the position until June 1945, she helped write New Deal legislation, including the Social Security Act of 1935. From 1945 to 1952, Perkins served on the U.S. Civil Service Commission. After retiring, Perkins held several educational positions at colleges and universities.

John G. Winant (1889-1947) was born in New York City and attended Princeton University but left before graduating. After a brief career as a teacher in Concord, New Hampshire, he was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives as a Republican in 1916, joined the United States Army Air Service in 1917, and served in France with the rank of captain. After World War I, he was elected to the New Hampshire Senate in 1920 and invested in oil stocks but lost much of his wealth in 1929. He twice served as governor of New Hampshire (1925-1927, 1931-1935). After Winant chaired the Board of Inquiry for the Cotton Textile Industry, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as the first head of the Social Security Board, a position he held from 1935 to 1937. From 1939 to 1941, he served as Director-General of the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. From 1941 to 1946, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. When Winant resigned in April 1946, President Harry S. Truman appointed him as the U.S. representative to UNESCO, but he soon retired to write his memoirs. He died by suicide in November 1947.

Condition: On watermarked paper and onion skin, bound with heavy-duty brads in a brown cloth binder; expected wear including gentle wrinkles, stray marks, and isolated foxing, with minor water stains affecting binder edges; Housed in a custom clamshell case, measuring 7½ x 10½ x 1 in.

Provenance: From The Franklin D. Roosevelt Collection of Donald S. Carmichael, whose bookplate is affixed to the interior of the clamshell box. This item was offered at the "Books, Manuscripts, & Letters by Franklin Delano Roosevelt" sale organized by a NY Bookseller, Inc. as Lot 64 at $12,500.

[1]Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement on the Receipt of a Report on the Cotton Textile Strike, September 20, 1934. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

[2]Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Order 6858—Creation of the Textile Labor Relations Board, Etc., September 26, 1934. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

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