AMERICAN LABOR IN
A CHANGING WORLD
Joseph A. Beirne
We who are entrusted with leadership positions in the American labor movement with more than 15 million men and women who make up our free and democratic trade unions are very proud of it—proud of the role we play in American life and proud of the responsibilities that we bear. In my lifetime, the American trade-union movement has come to occupy an accepted and respected place in the life of our nation, recognized in responsible places as one of the vital forces in the political, economic, and social life of our country.
When one considers that it was barely thirty years ago that
American trade unionists were virtually universally condemned by all the newspapers in this country, that we were engaged in violent physical battles merely in defense of our right to exist— this is a considerable achievement.
It is an achievement, I think, not only of the American labor movement but an achievement of the American system and American society. We have demonstrated our capacity to grow. American society demonstrated its capacity to accept change and adjust to the necessities of a changing world.
It is this characteristic of America—its ability to achieve change—sometimes drastic and radical change within the framework of government that gives the nation strength and the ability to move forward. Perhaps it is a characteristic of youth. Perhaps it is a remnant of the days, not too many years ago as history is reckoned, when there were still vast miles of unoccupied land for restless people to move to. Whatever the reason, it is one of our characteristics and a valuable one, I think.