Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Labor Quotes from U. S. Presidents

I. U.S. Presidents’ Views on Labor:

Thomas Jefferson:

“The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few (born) to ride them.”

Abraham Lincoln:
“If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.”“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

“All that harms labor is treason to America.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level –I mean the wages of decent living.”

“Goods produced under conditions which do not meet a rudimentary standard to decency should be regarded as contraband and not allowed to pollute the channels of international commerce.”

Dwight David Eisenhower:

“Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those — regardless of their political party — who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a hapless mass. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”

John F. Kennedy:

“Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.”“The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America.”

Jimmy Carter:

“Every advance in this half-century–Social Security, civil rights, Medicare, aid to education, one after another–came with the support and leadership of American Labor.”


September 5, 2006 - Posted by | labor


  1. Certainly I will acknowledge that labor unions have made some contributions that I like very much. On the other hand, labor is not equal to labor union and sometimes they are mutually exclusive. In Europe, for example, 10% unemployment is normal and much of the youth have no hope of a job and no future.

    Being a citizen of the world, I am happy about the huge increase in jobs internationally, even though it makes my position a bit more precarious. An Audi would be nice, but I am content with my VW.

    Since I work with outsourcerers periodically, I can tell you that living standards in China are rising rapidly as tech companies try to hire away each others staff without the benefit of labor unions.

    Yes, labor unions made an important contribution to civilization. The invention of the saddle made a contribution too. That doesn’t mean that labor unions are the way forward.

    Comment by Looney | September 5, 2006

  2. […] Labor Quotes from U.S. Presidents […]

    Pingback by Economics and Christian Ethics: Bibliographic Essays « Levellers | April 15, 2009

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: