Ike’s Strike Action Blasted by Kennedy
T-T Law Modification Urged
By Bill Chaddock
October 11, 1959
News-Register Staff Writer
Ike’s Strike Action Blasted by Kennedy
T-T Law Modification Urged
By Bill Chaddock
Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts lashed out yesterday at the Eisenhower administration’s handling of the current steel strike and urged modification of the Taft-Hartley law.
Speaking before some 400 persons who crowded their way into the luncheon staged in his honor at the Elks Country Home in Brooke County, Sen. Kennedy – who many feel is the leading candidate for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination – charged:
“Presidential action in the steel strike is the most one-sided, unfortunate, unfair action in this administration’s history.
“The course this strike has taken and the administration’s handling of it indicates the necessity of the Congress rewriting the national emergency section of the Taft-Hartley Act in order to prevent a repetition.”
Kennedy went on to promise that as chairman of the subcommittee on labor, he planned to call hearings on this subject at the earliest possible date.
The youthful Kennedy and his attractive and charming wife arrived in Brooke County yesterday morning by plane on the first stop of a one-day speaking tour in West Virginia.
They departed in the afternoon for Charleston, where Kennedy was the featured speaker at the state Democratic fund-raising dinner last night.
The senator lost little time after his arrival here in expressing his views on the steel situation.
At a press interview at the Wheeling-Ohio County airport, he charged that the administration’s intervention in the strike assisted only one party and did what the industry had been trying to accomplish – “break the strike.”
“After a record production during the first six months, companies have been disposing of stocks for the past three months and now, with the invocation of the Taft-Hartley law, they can now get work done for the remainder of the year,” he said.
Kennedy said that the companies “know that the President would invoke the injunction when they began to feel the pinch and therefore had no incentive to bargain.”
“I agree that the national emergency section of the Taft-Hartley law should be rewritten. The President needs more weapons.
“If the administration had various measures such as mediation, fact-finding, seizure, compulsory arbitration, injunctions with or without retroactive clauses, and the right not to interfere at all, then neither side could count on a particular kind of government intervention in their favor at any particular time.
“As the law stands now, the section discourages collective bargaining, and may result in a greater emergency at the end of 80 days for which no remedy whatever is provided.”
In response to a question as to what action he would have taken if he had had the decision to make, Kennedy replied:
“I feel that the earlier appointment of a fact-finding board of more than one person would have provided public opinion with a better idea of just where industry and labor stand on the issues.”
He said he felt a commission could have discussed the possibilities with both sides and produced compromise proposals on wage increases or other issues.
Shifting his comments to the recent labor reform legislation passed by Congress, Kennedy said that “taken en toto, the measure is the best that could be done under the circumstances and that the changes in the law will serve a useful purpose.”
Smiling as the inevitable subject of his candidacy for president came up, Kennedy said he is now considering various factors and will make a decision in January one way or the other.
In Boston Friday, Kennedy said he plans to “fish” until the end of the year and then make his decision on the campaign.
Rephrasing an old proverb, he told labor leaders: “There is a time to sow and a time to reap; there is a time to fish and a time to cut bait. I believe this is the time to fish, and January 1960 the time to cut bait.”
Following the press conference at the Wheeling-Ohio County airport, the senator was taken to Wellsburg for a conference with Democratic leaders from throughout the Northern Panhandle and then to the luncheon.
Intermittently flashing his well-known smile and speaking straightforward to the packed house, Kennedy proved himself a dynamic speaker as he threw away a talk he had prepared on “The Six Great Challenges of the Sixties,” and launched into the discussion of the Taft-Hartley injunction.
He retraced the history of the strike, pointing out what he termed the “administration’s record of missteps, blunders, and one-sided intervention when there should have been none, and no intervention at all when there should have been some.”
He listed these missteps, and then began his discussion of the shortcomings of the Taft-Hartley Act.
“In certain kinds of cases where there is a real national emergency – when there is a shortage of steel for defense purposes – the 80-day injunction provision of the law may be helpful. It may be helpful where the union is entirely at fault – or where the union has blundered into a strike and is looking for a way out – or where hotheaded action needs a delay to help both sides cool off,” Kennedy said with eyes flashing.
“But the fact of the matter is that this represents only a small minority of cases, and in all other cases the injunction represents an unfair, one-sided and generally useless tool of intervention.
“It deprives the employes of their only bargaining weapon, just at the time it is becoming effective – and forces them to work under the old contract. It reduces the incentive for either side to reach an agreement,” he said.
These are the reasons he gave for urging the Senate Labor subcommittee to re-examine the provision of the Taft-Hartley Act making it “fairer, more workable and more effective.”
Jacqueline Kennedy – beautiful and charming wife of the well-known senator from Massachusetts – has apparently discovered the secret most women are constantly seeking.
She has been able to devote herself and her personal life to the goals of her husband and his happiness.
“I know I have little or nothing to offer the political picture,” Mrs. Kennedy said, a warm smile on her face, “but my husband’s aims and goals and comforts are of prime importance to me and what I want most is for him to be happy.”
Dressed in a fire engine red, double-breasted jersey dress, Mrs. Kennedy presented a trim, neat appearance and her slim silhouette contrasted sharply to her short, dark tousled hair and her deep warm eyes that seem to come alive and shine whenever her husband is near.
And he is never far away.
She said she decided sometime ago that “wherever my husband is, that is where I want to be.”
Although quiet and reserved, Mrs. Kennedy is quite friendly and a willing conversationalist where she puts forth a warm combination of old-fashioned ideals with a sprinkling of modern ideas.
She had nothing but praise for the West Virginia countryside, especially the colorful hills and quaint “colonial archways” she remembers from a portion of her childhood spent in Virginia.
“I want a large family with lots of brothers and sisters for little Caroline (the couple’s child) who is spending the weekend with her grandparents,” she added.
Asked what she thought of the possibility of raising a family in the White House, she replied with all the traits of a polished diplomat:
“I’ll wait until that bridge comes before I cross it.”
The couple currently reside in Georgetown, Mass., and have a small home furnished with traditional furniture.
Although the wife of Sen. Kennedy says she does a lot of the cooking, she admits she “doesn’t like it” and has a general purpose woman to help her.
“The big part of my day is when John comes home,” she said. “I know he works hard and needs relaxation, and when he’s at home his comforts are my sole aims.”
She spoke of the Kennedy family, pointing out their closensss and how the entire clan will rush to the aid if one is in need (Sen. Kennedy is the eldest of nine children).
Asked what she thought of traveling over the country with her husband, she reiterated: “Wherever he is, that’s where I want to be. We don’t go too much, and I enjoy seeing the rest of our nation.”
From the women’s viewpoint, Mrs. Kennedy buys her clothing on what she described as a “hit and miss” proposition, purchasing whatever happens to strike her fancy.
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