After ten months of war Washington officials are at last calling for an effective use of manpower. Faced by the staggering problem of providing 13,000,000 additional persons for the war industries and the armed forces in 1942, and a further 6,000,000 in 1943, Chairman Paul V. McNutt of the War Manpower Commission has urged the adoption of a universal draft. His proposal calls for an act of Congress authorizing the government to allocate manpower wherever the need is greatest, whether it be on farms, in war plants or in the armed forces. In the past, all such proposals were termed "forced labor" and dismissed accordingly. Today, the demands of total war make it imperative that we plan the utilization of our manpower as carefully as we are budgeting the use of our vital war materials.
There is no doubt that we have an ample supply of potential workers if only they can be brought into an active labor force. To do so is impossible under the present system of labor pirating. It can only be done by a direct exercise of authority. This authority must be based to prevent such steals as the one which occurred in Detroit recently when 52 toolmakers were lured from their jobs by a thirty cent hourly wage bribe. It must be used to forbid employers from hiring away workers except by express permission of the production authorities. It must train clerks and shopgirls as welders and machinists, and send them where they are most urgently needed. It must assure adequate farm labor to produce the food necessary for maintaining our own civilian and armed forces as well as those of out allies. Finally, it must stand ready to compel any worker to abandon a non-essential job for an essential one, regardless of the sacrifices involved.
All these measures of job control exist in Great Britain, where they were adopted not only by democratic consent, but even as a result of democratic insistence. As such they in no way resemble the forced labor of the Gestapo and the concentration camp. Similar methods can be used in this country. Once convinced of the necessity, the workers themselves will and should sanction the total mobilization of labor, and must be given a large share in putting it into effect. It is up to us to prove that we can do the job and still remain a free people.