What happens when the country’s five biggest labor leaders – all under economic and political pressure – come together on one small set? Meet the Press saw the results in its lively 1975 Labor Day program featuring Leonard Woodcock, President of the United Automobile Workers; I.W. Abel, International President of the United Steelworkers of America; Jerry Wurf, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Robert A. Georgine, President of the Building & Construction Trades Dept., AFL-CIO; and John Ryor, the incoming President of the National Education Association. By the August 31 show date, the country had been through a long summer of economic recession, unemployment, and inflation – and the unions were also feeling the pinch. As that Meet the Press program made clear, unions were going through a landmark upheaval at the time, as they saw their political clout lessen and public attention turn to the salaries and benefits of their workers. Each MTP guest put up a passionate defense of his own group to the Meet the Press panel – and the debate between the leaders quickly became heated.
But NBC’s Tom Pettit began with a political discussion that drew a unified response. Like today, two leading concerns that Labor Day were unemployment and inaction in Washington, and the labor leaders expressed one overwhelming emotion on Meet the Press: disappointment with the President and Congress. Jerry Wurf began by saying that the effect of President Ford’s economic policies “Added up to absolutely zero at the present time.” And throughout the show all five men continued to critique Washington and imply that their unions had been cheated by the political system. You can watch the full clip from 1975 below – including Georgine and Ryor’s views on the President’s treatment of public sector workers. And catch up with Meet the Press’ most recent Labor Day show here.
Every Monday, Betsy Fischer Martin - the Executive Producer of Meet the Press - poses a trivia question on Twitter about the 64 years of history-making moments and guests on Meet The Press. Check back every week for answers and video clips!