James C. Petrille has every right to be concerned about the unhealthy economic state of American musicians as a group. The industry is acutely overcrowded, a condition for which one cure would be an application of the age old rule of the survival of the fittest. But Petrilo's is a different prognosis, although it involves almost as old a principle, namely that technological progress constitutes a social menace. The new record ban, according to his announcement, is not just a means of obtaining for musicians a bigger share of the $210,000,000 annual income from recordings, but a move designed to get rid of the institution permanently as a job-reducing evil.
Unfortunately for Petrillo's ever all popularity, technological progress is in favor with most Americans. It creates as well as destroys jobs, and whatever its temporary effect may be on one particular group of workers, it usually results in more benefit than loss to the general public.
But with a long history of success against hostility outside the musicians' union behind him Petrillo is facing as his most imminent danger the possibility of internal breakup.
Judging from past experience, his legal vulnerability is not so great, Several years ago, on the inspiration of a similar Petrillo ban, Congress passed the Lea Bill, which forbade the forcing of a radio station licensee to hire any more employees than necessary for the running of his station. The Act was judged unconstitutional by an Hlinois District Court in 1946 on the grounds of being indefinite, discriminatory, and a violation of the thirteenth amendment forbidding involuntary servitude. Petrillo might possibly be stopped in the courts either by an appeal from this decision, by an application of the Taft-Hartley secondary or unfair labor practices provisions, or on the basis of some new law not yet on the statues; but proceedings will, in all probability, never get that far. The fifth column activity of those unwilling to let foreign and non-union recording musicians make hay in fields that used to be theirs ought to do the trick.