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August 1991, Vol. 114, No. 8
James P. Mitchell: social conscience of the Cabinet
Henry P. Guzda
President Dwight David Eisenhower appointed Martin P. Durkin as Secretary of Labor in January 1953. Alleging that the President had reneged on promises to support amendments to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, Durkin resigned, having been in office less than 8 months. Durkin was former president of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters union, and organized labor defended their fellow unionist's efforts to change what they called the "slave labor act."
Eisenhower appointed industrial relations specialist James P. Mitchell to replace Durkin. Joseph Loftus', of The New York Times, wrote that Mitchell "was like a man heading into an Arctic gale in a sunsuit." Most of the labor movement was critical of Mitchell's appointment because he came from management's side of the bargaining table, and labor, in general, viewed the Eisenhower administration as favoring business concerns over workers' interests. Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks, who believed his agency represented business and thus should have a voice in labor policy, deemed the appointment as "incredulous." American Federation of Labor president George Meany stated that "Jim Mitchell will be as good a Secretary of Labor [as Weeks] will let him be." Considering the scenario, The Washington Evening Star asked, why did Mitchell even want the job?
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