With the War over and with America gearing back to peace, the cutbacks and sacrifices the labor force had to make during the time of emergency was now a thing of the past, and the focus was now on achieving the better life we had been promised once the fighting was over.
In this discussion/debate over wages and a demand for an increase, Head of the Auto Workers Union, Walter Reuther goes toe-to-toe with George Romney (later Governor of Michigan – and the father of future Presidential candidate Mitt Romney) over the issue that increasing wages were inflationary and the fear it would cause an inflationary spiral by increasing wages along with costs and prices were not good for the current state of the economy. Reuther responded that the wage increases were not inflationary and no costs or prices would be raised as a result.
Mr. Reuther maintained that industry in general and the auto industry in particular could make the wage increase out of profits without raising the prices of cars. He arrived at the figure 30% as the number represented the drop in take-home pay anticipated by the reduction of a wartime 48 work week to the normal 40 hour week. The Auto Industry disputed the claim, and rejected the demand outright. But both sides could agree on one thing; it was more than a collective bargaining quarrel, it was a national problem.
Mr. Reuther whose union represented workers at General Motors debated George Romney, who was General Manager of The Automobile Manufacturers Association and was representing the views of the Auto Industry.
Debates such as this were regular occurrences in public forums such as this one – the need for the public to be informed of issues that directly affected them were of major importance. America’s Town Meeting was only one of several programs dealing with issues in the public interest. Sadly, most all of those programs have been gone from the airwaves for a long time – much as the need to be informed has taken a distant bacseat.
But as a reminder that debate could be lively as well as civil, here is that episode of America’s Town Meeting, as it was broadcast on October 11, 1945.