Tactless Talk

3 minute read

With the subtlety of a punch in the nose and with no sense of public relations at all, spare, terrier-like Rear Admiral Emory Scott Land, Chairman of the Maritime Commission and War Shipping Administrator, stood up last week before the Investment Bankers Association of America, in New York, and said: “. . . organizers . . . ought to be shot at sunrise!”*

It took guts or sheer stupidity (or both) to make a crack like that. Laborites were out baying after Jerry Land before an investment banker could say “excess profits.” Joseph Edwin Curran, National Maritime Union president: “We’ve known all along what that old bird ‘thinks of labor. … He should be removed so the war effort should not be further impeded.” Philip Murray, C.I.O. president: “. . . one of the most dangerous blows at the unity of this nation. . . .” William Green, A.F. ofL. boss: “. . . stupidity and utter ridiculousness.”

Next day Jerry Land countered: “I neither used the word ‘labor’ . . . nor the word ‘union’ in connection with ‘organizers’. … As everyone knows, there are all kinds of organizers.” Said Joe Curran: “Nuts! Everyone knows who he meant.”

Of all the guesses as to what was behind Jerry Land’s tactless talk, best guess was that he was plain tired of being needled. Like a bear with bees buzzing around its noggin, he had struck out wildly. His cronies were agreed that he was not thinking of N.M.U. or any other union; he was just plain mad—at newspaper talk about shipyard loafing, at union squabbles between Joe Curran’s N.M.U. and the Seafarers’ International Union.

Trained to the quarterdeck, he likes only to get jobs done; to heck with people who pause to ponder, fret or quibble. But —as one of his fellow commissioners pointed out last week—proper organization and supervision of work also has its part to play in cutting loafing and that is a management problem.

Despite labor’s near-unanimous demand, at week’s end it seemed likely that the worst that able, bad-tempered Jerry Land could expect would be a White House reprimand for not submitting his speech to the Office of War Information in the first place.

*The full quotation: “I have a few pet hates: 1) organizers, 2) profiteers, 3) needle boys—intriguers and 4) typewriter strategists. As far as the organizers are concerned, for the duration, in my opinion, they ought to be shot at sunrise.”

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