Howard Ludlow Sr. Labor Day 1960
September 1st, 2012 | Back to Blog Listing

The Akai GX-280D-SS Reel-to-Reel player/recorder I purchased for digitizing my grandfather's tapes.

One of the reel-to-reel tape boxes from the 50s/60s
When my grandfather died in 2005, he left behind a handful of reel-to-reel audio tapes, all of which my father kept. Of course my father also had no way of listening to these tapes (nor do most people). I purchased an old reel-to-reel machine for a few hundred dollars and went about digitizing the old reels. One of them contained a speech my grandfather had prepared for Labor Day of 1960. It was a speech to his Catholic Parish regarding the general lack of responsibility permeating between union officials and management leaders. Sadly, the topic is even more relevant today than it was 52 years ago when he spoke it.

Unfortunately for preservation sake, his recording reel must have been broken because the rate of recording speed was variably inconsistent across the entire speech. This resulted in the beginning of the tape sounding very high pitched (like a chipmunk) and gradually slowing to his normal voice. You can listen to the unedited MP3 at the bottom of this post to hear what I mean. I've spoken with many audio experts online and all seem to agree the problem must have resided with the original recording device.

In the end, and with the help of Audacity, I was painstakingly able to reconstruct my grandfather's voice to match what it should have sounded like. The last minute or so of the tape had been unaffected and thus is his actual voice; I used that as the baseline for comparison.

That all said, there may be certain sections that sound slightly "off". This is because I not only had to reconstruct the pitch, but also the speed at which the words were spoken; it was a pretty challenging project. I have a few other reels and am trying to reconstruct them in my spare time. They're VERY difficult because they contain singing (who knows of what).

His full speech is transcribed below the video.

This speech is being specially recorded.

Irene Ludlow.

Your Excellency, Right Reverend Monsignori, Reverend Fathers, ladies and gentlemen. This morning I had the pleasure of joining with you at Holy Mass as part of our celebration of Labor Day. To many people, such a religious beginning for what is simply a very popular American holiday may appear to be rather strange. They know that Peter McGuire suggested the holiday in 1882 as a demonstration of fraternity and the harbinger of a better age when labor shall be best honored and well-rewarded.

Today labor has that better age and it has been both honored and rewarded. Indeed it enjoys every right and privilege that legal procedures can provide. But we as Catholics know that while Labor Day as a legal holiday quite properly commemorates the attainment of labor's rights, that these same rights and privileges call forth equal duties and responsibilities to the rest of society.

I think that it is almost as if labor's rights and labor's responsibilities were two sides of the same coin. And unfortunately we do not have to look very far to find ample evidence that the responsibility side of the coin is too often turned under so that only the side which emphasizes labor's rights seems to be visible.

Perhaps the working man, the employer, and the union official all need to be reminded of the ethical requirement that demands just actions and morally correct decisions and not merely popular answers or victory over the opposition at any price.

What of the union leader who insists upon a course of action during a labor dispute even though he knows in his conscience that his demands are unreasonable? He will attempt to explain away his actions on the grounds that he has been elected by the membership and must not offend the union rank and file for fear of losing his office. Tell me is he a politician looking for votes, or is he truly a leader who recognizes his responsibility to set an example by acting in a reasonable and just manner?

And what of the union leader who fears to lead and who looks to someone else to take his irons out of the fire for him? He is the type of official who hesitates to rule against one of his members during a grievance hearing and who sends the dispute to arbitration. Of course he knows from the evidence already in his possession that the union cannot hope to obtain a favorable award. But the union's money can be spent, the member can be given false hope, and when the decision is finally handed down, this type of union leader is in the clear; the arbitrator is the villain who is to blame.

Speaking of arbitration, it should be noted that this particular form of dispute settlement has increased tremendously in popularity in New Jersey in recent years. In all fairness, I believe it should be recognized that this increase in the arbitration caseload shows that our labor leaders are constantly striving to improve their service to the union membership and this is a fine example of responsible leadership on their part.

However there are some irresponsible aspects of this which also need a few minutes of our attention.

Our nation's largest railroad system was brought to a halt last week even though two separate arbitrators had made settlement proposals. Now I do not propose to question the merits of the union's position in the strike, but you cannot very well have a binding type of collective bargaining action like arbitration which can be ignored at will.

Nor is management altogether innocent of wrongdoing when arbitration abuses are discussed. How many companies throw almost every grievance into arbitration in order to weaken the union's treasuries? For many industrial relations managers, the word responsibility exists only in the dictionary and the social implications of their jobs are never allowed to overshadow the legal status given to them by their corporations. They may control the job destinies of thousands of their fellow men, but they never forget the source of their paychecks.

And when there are sweetheart contracts or other illegal relationships with dishonest unions, the public is often lead to believe that only labor is at fault and we are asked to conveniently forget that there are two sides to that coin also. That the dishonest union leader cannot succeed without his management counterpart.

All of this talk of responsibility reminds me of the article written several years ago by one of our American Bishops on what he called the "Philosophy of Excuse". The author's contention was that far too many Americans occupy their time trying to think up suitable reasons for not doing what they are supposed to, instead of carrying out their duties in accordance with their vocations in life. Unfortunately I believe that this "Philosophy of Excuse" permeates far too large a segment of those who are engaged with labor-management relations.

The working man who justifies his support of dishonest labor leaders on the grounds that they take pretty good care of him at contract time. The management man who always opposes anything asked by the union because he feels that that is the role that he is supposed to play. The union official who asks the impossible at a bargaining session because he believes that his members will appreciate his show of strength. All are guilty of adhering to the "Philosophy of Excuse" instead of acting in a proper and responsible manner.

In our own state we have the unique situation whereby the AFL and CIO have been unable to join forces as on the national level. Questions of dues, leadership, jurisdiction, all enter into the arguments against the proposed merger. Good reasons I am sure, but isn't there at least some of that excuse philosophy also present?

Many of you are leaders within the labor movement and you may feel that I have been too harsh in my remarks this morning. On the other hand, management representatives may accuse me of emphasizing a labor position too much. In this connection, I am reminded of the story told of the management official who had had a very bad day in dealing with his union at a bargaining session. Everything had gone in favor of the union and he had received quite a pushing around from labor's representatives.

To make matters worse, on the way home from his unsuccessful negotiations with the union, our management man was hit by a car and was taken to a hospital to be treated. Even then he had problems because the operating room was occupied at the time by a woman patient and the injured management official had to wait in the hall outside.

Being angry and in pain and as our union friends would say, acting like a true management man, our management friend began to demand some treatment. He told the nurse to get the woman patient out of the operating room so that he could be treated for his injuries.

"But I'm sorry sir," said the nurse, "But we cannot get the woman out of there. You see, she is in labor."

"In labor!" screamed the management man. "All day I've gotten that kind of argument and now even at the hospital. That's the trouble today. It's everything for labor, and nothing for management."

Well, as we celebrate this Labor Day of 1960, we do not believe that it is everything for either labor or management. As Catholics, we recognize the rights of both sides and we are happy to pay tribute to those who have struggled to improve the fraternity of labor that was spoken of by Peter McGuire seventy-eight years ago. But also as Catholics, we recognize the other size of that coin. The side devoted to responsibility and we urge the representatives of both labor and management to have led the fight for economic success in America to battle with equal vigor along the ethical path to true social justice.

Thank you for the privilege of speaking to you on this beautiful Labor Day morning.

And thank you doll, my toothless little friend.

Full speech audio (unedited): 1960-09-04_HowardLudlow_LaborDay_Unedited.mp3 (11.0mb)
Full speech audio (edited): 1960-09-04_HowardLudlow_LaborDay_Edited.mp3 (9.1mb)