Optional Small Group Discussions (With questions and answer guides)• Leadership: Different Decisions• Leadership: Different Styles• Organizing: Human Rights
2LEADERSHIP: DIFFERENT DECISIONSThe DAR: As First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt thought carefully about hermembership in different organizations, often the base for coalitions working on important issues.She posed the question “If you belong to an organization and disapprove of an action which istypical of a policy, shall you resign or is it better to work for a changed point of view within theorganization?” In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson,the world-renowned opera singer, to perform at Constitution Hall because she was AfricanAmerican. Roosevelt women had belonged to the DAR for generations and Eleanor Rooseveltbelieved that you needed to work actively in organizations to which you belonged and try tochange policies with which you disagree. She was not an active member in the DAR, but she didjoin many others in asking them to change the “whites only” policy. In this case, she told thereaders of her syndicated My Day column, without naming the organization, that “They havetaken an action which has been widely talked of in the press. To remain as a member impliesapproval of that action, and therefore I am resigning.” Arrangements were made for Marian Anderson to sing on Easter Sunday at the LincolnMemorial. 75,000 people gathered at the base of the memorial, stretching towards theWashington Monument. She began her recital with the powerful words of “America” and closedwith the soulful “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” The First Lady did not attend.Questions for Discussion-DAR1. What were the pros and cons of Eleanor Roosevelt’s decision to resign from the DAR?2. Why do you think she didn’t name the organization or attend the concert?3. Did such a decision take courage in Washington, DC, in 1939?4. How do you think the public reacted?The GUILD: Just over a year later, the CIO unions were directly affected by the internationalcrises as the world moved toward World War II. When the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pactwas signed in 1939, leaders of the Communist Party USA immediately reversed position andstrenuously opposed aid for Western allies. They were joined by the leaders of several unions,
3including the American Newspaper Guild, but strongly opposed by others. Westbrook Pegler,one of the most influential columnists in the country, had begun a crusade against communism,which he suspected had infiltrated the press and influenced the New Deal. The AmericanNewspaper Guild and Eleanor Roosevelt were two of his prime targets. In August 1940, delegates to the Guild convention told ER that a small group from NewYork City, with Communist Party connections, had dominated the meeting, forced throughresolutions, and blocked proposals to condemn communism. Some members publicly resigned,but May Craig, a friend of ER’s and a Washington correspondent, counseled her not to quit, for“That would ruin us and do no good. It would please the publishers who don’t want a Guildanyway.” Pegler boldly asserted that the Guild was controlled by communists, that ER wasineligible for membership because she was “a diarist and a dilettante” and her union allies were“thugs.” On September 25, 1940, ER attended her first meeting of the Guild. Arriving at the HotelCapitol, she showed her Guild card at the door and received a slip entitling her to vote. The mostcontroversial issue was the question of endorsing FDR’ bid for a third term. John F. Ryan, Guildorganizer, reported on the contentious CIO state convention in Rochester. A heated debateensued about the domestic and foreign policies of FDR, punctuated with charges andcountercharges of communism. In the final vote, ER was in the minority and a report critical ofthe president was approved. She met with members afterwards until well past midnight. After several more disagreements with the Guild, ER announced her support for a slate ofofficers to oppose the board of the New York Guild. The left-wing incumbents won. That samemonth, she attended her first meeting of the Washington Guild. With her “ivory knitting needlesclicking away” she listened to speeches and voted with the majority, passing Mary Craig’sresolution “to denounce communism, fascism, and Nazism.”Questions for Discussion-The Guild 1. What leadership skills did Eleanor Roosevelt use? 2. How was this situation different from Marian Anderson and the DAR? 3. Have you ever faced a situation in your union where you considered resigning? How did you resolve the problem?
4ANSWER GUIDEQuestions for Discussion: DAR1. What were the pros and cons of Eleanor Roosevelt’s decision to resign from the DAR? Pro: ER brought national attention to the issue of race discrimination, strengthened her allies, and showed her own personal power. Con: ER lost influence within the organization, risked alienating some allies, and risked her own political influence.2. Why do you think she didn’t name the organization or attend the concert? Her approach was understated and non-threatening which would appeal to many of her readers and she did not want to take attention away from Anderson.3. Did such a decision take courage in Washington, DC in 1939? Yes, DC was a racially segregated city. During ER’s life-time she received death threats, the Ku Klux Klan put a bounty on her head, a bomb exploded in a church where she was speaking, and some newspapers cancelled her column because of her civil and labor rights support.4. How do you think the public reacted? Positively, polls showed popular approval except in the south and she received more mail supporting this action than anything else that year.Questions for Discussion: THE GUILD1. What leadership skills did Eleanor Roosevelt use? Active participation, listening, compromise, risk taking.2. How was this situation different from Marian Anderson and the DAR? ER opposed communism, but defended others right to disagree. She believed strongly in what the unions were trying to do and she found an alternative solution. She found no justification or alternative for the racial segregation policy of the DAR.3. Have you ever faced a situation in your union where you considered resigning? How did you resolve the problem?
5LEADERSHIP: DIFFERENT STYLESThe New Deal was influenced by three powerful, but very different women who remainedfriends throughout their long lives. Identify and discuss their complimentary leadership styles.How were they similar and how did they differ? Frances Perkins served as Secretary of Labor in the administration of President FranklinD. Roosevelt for twelve years. She was the first woman to hold a cabinet position. A graduateof Mt. Holyoke College, she turned to social work as a way to improve workers lives. Critical toher leadership was witnessing the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire where 146 workers died, most ofthem young immigrant women. She was a key player in establishing the Wagner Act, the FairLabor Standards Act, and the Social Security. Under her leadership many workers secured theright to join a union and bargain collectively, to receive a minimum wage and maximum hours,and to security in retirement. She developed legislation, negotiated with Congress, andadministered complex legislation in a growing bureaucracy. Married with an ill husband and onedaughter, Frances Perkins kept her personal life very private and had difficult relations with thepress in general. Rose Schneiderman, president of the Women’s Trade Union League, served onPresident Roosevelt’s Labor Advisory Board and later as New York State Secretary of Labor. Ayoung Jewish immigrant from Poland, she soon became a cap maker by trade and fiery unionorganizer by vocation. After the Triangle Fire she scathingly told the social reformers “We havetried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting.” She actively supportedwomen’s suffrage and ran for the U.S. Senate on the American Labor Party of New York State.In 1922, she became a mentor to Eleanor Roosevelt teaching her, and then Franklin, about thesocial unionism of the garment workers. They were concerned not only with the critical issuesof improving wages and working conditions, but also about the housing, health care, and culturallife of the workers. Rose Scheiderman understood that the labor legislation would only beeffective if it was enforced on the shop floor. Unions and strong labor education programs werecritical to this effort. She fought for both supported by a close circle of women friends. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. To celebratethe first anniversary of her syndicated My Day column in 1936, she proudly joined the AmericanNewspaper Guild, CIO, and was a member for over twenty-five years. She used her column as
6one of several tools to educate the general public about the policies and programs of the NewDeal, gaining their trust and support. After FDR’s death she became a delegate to the UnitedNations where she led the effort to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sheacknowledged Rose Schneiderman as her mentor and actively supported Frances Perkins forpublic office. Both women were part of an extensive network of family and friends thatsurrounded the Roosevelts and their five children.Questions for Discussion 1. How were their leadership styles similar? 2. How were their leadership styles different? 3. Were they complementary? 4. Do you have different leadership styles among your union leaders?
7ANSWER GUIDE1. How were there leadership styles similar? Frances Perkins, Rose Schneiderman, and Eleanor Roosevelt were each committed toimproving the lives of workers, especially working women. They were part of an extensivegroup of coalitions beginning with the Women’s Trade Union League. They understood theimportance of learning women’s priorities and they encouraged other women to take leadershiproles. They supported both legislation and unionization to improve the lives of workers and theyunderstood the need to take risks, as well as to compromise.2. How did their leadership differ? • Frances Perkins was more educated, reserved, and analytical, working behind the scenes on the details of strategy, legislation, and administration. She was required to work with all the unions, not just those considered more progressive, as well as with employers. She favored legislation as the way to improve working conditions, but came to value unionization as well. She did take very public positions and actions in support of the Administration, but she disliked working with the press. • Rose Schneiderman was an inspirational speaker who came from the working class and understood the dynamics of the workplace and the union hall. She was a direct link to workers, their problems, and the solutions being offered: organizing, educating, lobbying. She relied on a strong network of women colleagues and maintained a life long focus on the problems of working women. • Eleanor Roosevelt came from a world of wealth and privilege, yet learned many lessons from a sad childhood, a large family, and marital strains. She learned from others to listen carefully to people’s concerns, to effectively use the media to reach both the poor and the rich, to write extensively, testify before Congress, give public speeches, and to work behind the scenes, as well as in public with the progressive community.
83. Were their styles complementary? Yes, legislation needed to be written and administered once the laws were passed and the agencies established. Someone had to work on getting new laws implemented on the factory floor. It was crucial to meet with the press and help educate the public about New Deal programs so that they would support the efforts. One person doesn’t have to do everything nor is there only one way to do things. 4. Can you identify different leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses, in your leadership and in the leadership styles of other women with whom you are working or organizing?
9ORGANIZING: HUMAN RIGHTS Better wages and working conditions are the cornerstone of union organizing. For manyworkers, however, being treated with dignity and respect is also crucial. They want to have avoice in decisions that affect them everyday at work. Nurses, for example, are concerned aboutthe number of patients they can care for safely. Teachers bring expertise and experience toquestions about quality education from classroom size to textbooks. Unions give people a voice at work; a basic human right. Eleanor Roosevelt, First Ladyof the United States, delegate to the United Nations, and union member believed that “the rightto explain the principles lying back of labor unions should be safeguarded, that every workmanshould be free to listen to the pleas of organization without fear of hindrance or of evilcircumstances.” As a working journalist, ER, as she often signed her name, joined the AmericanNewspaper Guild in 1936 and was a member for over 25 years. In 1945, shortly after PresidentRoosevelt’s death, she was asked to serve as a delegate to the newly formed United Nations.First she declined, saying that she wasn’t qualified. She went on to become one of the mosteffective diplomats of her time. Later she advised others that “You must do the thing you thinkyou cannot do.” ER worked closely with David Dubinsky of the International Garment Workers’ Union,Mathew Woll of the Photoengravers Union, Jim Carey of the CIO, and Rose Schneiderman ofthe Women’s Trade Union League to secure trade union rights in the Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights. She explained that the United States delegation considered that “The right toform and join trade unions was an essential element of freedom.” Under ER’s guidance, and with union support, Article 23 declares that everyone, withoutdiscrimination, has the right to a decent job, fair working conditions, a living wage, equal pay forequal work, protection against unemployment, and the right to form and join a union. Whenasked “Where, after all, do human rights begin?” she answered “In small places close tohome…the neighborhood…the school or college…the factory, farm or office…unless they havemeaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
10Questions for Discussion 1. What risks did ER take and how did she overcome her fear? 2. Can you use the human rights approach to educate workers who know little about unions and to counter the negative images portrayed by employers? 3. How can you use this document to reach immigrant workers? It is available on-line in over 300 languages. 4. Is the appeal to democracy and a voice at work one that gains support from the broader community-faith, civil rights, women, environmental? 5. Have you ever done something you thought you could not do? Give Examples
11ANSWER GUIDE 1. What risks did ER take and how did she overcome her fear? ER was concerned that she was not an experienced diplomat or an elected official. As the only woman on the delegation, she thought failure would set all women back. She worked very hard, reading materials and attending meetings, invited women to her hotel for discussions, and worked closely with her friends in the labor movement, as well as with delegates and staff from other countries. Have you braved doing something you thought you could not do? 2. Can you use the human rights approach to educate workers who know little about unions and to counter the negative images portrayed by employers? Employers often portray union organizers as outsiders only interested in collecting dues and/or raising wages to the possible harm of others. The human rights approach shifts the discussion to questions of basic democracy at work and shows a long term commitment to human rights on the part of unions. 3. Available on-line in over 300 languages, how can you use this document to reach immigrant workers? In the global economy, it is increasingly important for unions to reflect an international awareness and perspective. The UDHR is a document well-known around the world and one that can help to unite a diverse workforce. 4. Is the appeal to democracy and a voice at work one that you can use to gain support from the broader community-faith, civil rights, women, environmental? Many other community organizations are engaged in human rights issues. They are likely not aware of labor’s role and the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt in this area. This issue can provide a bridge to work together with the larger community. 5. Have you ever done something you thought you could not do? Give examples.