« PreviousContinue »
ignorance and misinformation among the employees and the management in its application. This application is embodied in some of the agreements.
I have here an example of one. This happens to be the trainman's agreement, Alaska Railroad, effective March 10, 1957. I do not know whether this is the most recent.
The agreement as a whole, as an employee tool; no objections to it. However, under rule 28-D, with the subtitle "Reduction in Force," it is blank. Under the schedule on the index for rule 28-D, it has typed in "Vacant." To my knowledge, or the information available to me, I know of no existent rule in writing. It would appear that this would have been left that way as a convenience.
However, this is a point that I should like to bring out, and this is the last sentence in the paragraph under rule 55:
This agreement or any part thereof is subordinate to and superseded by any conflicting Federal laws that are now or may later be enacted.
It would, in our opinion, appear that, to be an acceptable document in the management-employee agreement, they could not possibly flaunt the law to the extent of not making some reference to the reduction in force. The reduction in force under the Veterans' Preference Act has a procedure whereby the employees are grouped in their competitive levels. In that area, where there is a veteran and a nonveteran, the misinformation has it that possibly any yardbird in the railroad can possibly bump an engineer. That is belied by the text of the Veterans' Preference Act itself in the fact that they would not necessarily be in the same competitive field. So that isn't a possibility.
There is also a misuse, we will admit, on the railroad by veterans, and partly from the ignorance of just what the Veterans' Preference Act does provide. There have been instances brought to our attention to the effect that--well, for instance, in the Whittier closure, that two men of the same skill, in the same competitive level, being considered whether or not one or the other would be assigned to Whittier, the veteran is purported to have said, "I have preference; I do not need to go to Whittier. Send the nonveteran." That is misinformation. The Veterans' Preference Act is not a tool in that respect.
In coming back to the paragraph without regard to provisions of civil service regulations, we were particularly concerned in that this section is in conflict with section 11 of the Veterans Preference Rules in that if the railroad is removed from the laws of the civil service there is the probability that the means or the mechanics of redress of appeal of the veteran would be taken away in the fact that in the adverse actions their chain of command or appeal is through their agency to the Civil Service Commission.
The other portion about review, in giving the organization the authority to negotiate and enter into written agreements with duly authorized union representatives, which agreements may-note thiswithout regard to the provisions of the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944 relate to but not be restricted to wage rates, rules, promotion, demotion, retention, discharge, layoff, recall, seniority of employees, and the settlement of grievances and disputes.
This portion we are particularly concerned with in that section 14 of the Veterans' Preference Act.
I would like to further repeat that the local veterans organizations have no quarrel with the labor organizations of the railroad or with management except so far as these legislative actions and proposals tend to shave away from the veterans these rights, these rights being set down by law, they are not necessarily the most ideal in all respects, but they are recognized and accepted by other Federal agencies of the land. They are made to work and apply. The application in other agencies probably is more ideal, but it could be a working tool in the railroad, too, if proper education and application were made of the law.
The Alaska Railroad is unique in that it is trying to pattern its obligations entirely by the railroad traditions, and that is fine. We belong to different fraternal organizations and we try to pattern after a national organization, too. But we all abide by what is on the statutes of the law.
Such drafts or proposals here, while they affect Alaska, we in the veterans organizations feel that it is a means of getting the foot in the door to shave other veterans' preferences and other veterans' rights. It is hoped that we never have another war, but certainly there is no one in this room that would deprive their young men who might be faced in the next war the privilege of education, of protection, and job rights, that are set down under the Veterans' Preference Act.
We cannot, any of us, flaunt a traffic ticket, nor at the same time can we, even though it is unpopular, flaunt the law on income taxes. It is the law. We remain within it.
Senator BARTLETT. Thank you very much, Mr. Queer, for your illustrative statement.
Do you or do you not agree with testimony previously offered that the only consequential effect of this bill, should it become law, would be to deprive the veteran of a bumping right?
Mr. QUEER. If I understand the question right, this bill, were it to be enacted, would serve in all respect to invalidate and make in applicable the Veterans' Preference Act as a whole in all of its aspects on the railroad.
Senator BARTLETT. Your remark would include preferences in initial hiring, too, as I take it?
Mr. QUEER. The preferences in original hiring, in my opinion as it could be applied in the railroad, would not put a railroader in any of his capacities in jeopardy, primarily in the fact that all the veterans preference is in preferential hiring is the fact that a veteran and a nonveteran approaching the hiring window at the same time does, by the veterans preference law, have an edge for hire. It does not say, in the veterans preference law, that you will hire the veteran because he is a veteran if he is not qualified for the job you have to offer him. Senator BARTLETT. But if he is qualified, then he does have that preference?
Mr. QUEER. If he meets all of the qualifications that management puts on the job, then he has that preference.
Senator BARTLETT. And that is in the Veterans' Preference Act itself?
Mr. QUEER. That, and substantiated by civil service.
If two men approach the hiring officer of the Alaska Railroad, equal in respect to experience and, so far as he knows, equal in respect to ability, and one of them is a veteran and one a nonveteran, under those circumstances the veteran will be hired by the Alaska Railroad, will he not?
Mr. QUEER. If the application of the law is enforced, it would. Senator BARTLETT. You don't think it is being enforced now; am I to infer that from your remark?
Mr. QUEER. NO; I wouldn't necessarily say that it is not enforced. However, I believe that, were the hiring statistics of the railroad available, it would show a conspicuous number of temporary hires in veterans, on a temporary status, and a possible rehiring in another temporary status, which would deprive him of the probability of gaining status where he could be competitive.
Senator BARTLETT. Let's say that you need have no fears on that subject. Let us say that that is not so. Let us say that even you would agree that there were strict adherence to those provisions in the Veterans' Preference Act, giving the veterans a head start under the conditions which I outlined.
My question is this: If that is the case, would those rights be eliminated if S. 2593 were to become law?
Mr. QUEER. In my opinion, that would be eliminated by your section J, in which the employee groups in their agreements would have promotion, demotion, retention, discharge, layoff, and recall rights. It does not spell out here that they would retain the hiring right.
However, in section A, it does provide that the Interior Department will have the power to appoint or hire such officers, agents, attorneys, and employees, not necessarily the manager or supervisor but employees, so that that would place the power within the Secretary of Interior to discriminate if he saw fit.
Senator BARTLETT. Here we have two diametrically opposed viewpoints, yours just expressed and that expressed this morning by Mr. Smith, General Manager of the Alaska Railroad, whose testimony, as I recall it, suggested that the only difference this bill would make is with reference to the bumping provision. You can't prove your case; Mr. Smith can't prove his case at the moment. I certainly can't.
I suggest that as to technical interpretations we had best leave that to the professionals on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. Do you know if the sentiment of Alaska Railroad employees, veterans and nonveterans alike, has been tested on this proposition?
Mr. QUEER. If by "tested" you mean a fair, unbiased, and unpressured survey, I would say "No, it has not been," in the fact that to my knowledge, or brought to my attention through the veterans organizations, there have, on occasion, been petitions circulated to determine the sentiment of those people. And I believe that it could be substantiated that at least one man, an officer in an employee group, on a salary with the employee group, was removed from that position, either directly or indirectly, because of the fact that he was reluctant to state his free views that he would desire veterans preference.
Senator BARTLETT. He was removed from his job with the union? Mr. QUEER. As an officer in the union, which is the prerogative of the employee group. We can think of dozens of reasons why a man
might be removed. But it would be that his sentiments were wrong relative to his views of having a petition crammed down his throat that he was not in agreement with.
Senator BARTLETT. This is a very controversial issue, then?
Mr. QUEER. Yes; it is a controversial issue on the railroad. I believe that it is on the part of both management and the employees. I believe that it is brought about primarily by the desire of management to play railroad like the big boys do in the railroad industry, and not in particular properly orienting or in applying the act. They have been quoted to say that this veterans preference can bring about all manner of ill to the veteran on the Alaska Railroad.
A little thinking about it, which a lot of people at the lower level, the general employee, might not diagnose properly, and he on the surface would say, well, I could see it is possible that Joe on the railroad down the State could bump me off a job here, without thinking of it, because the status or the treatment that the Veterans' Preference Act has received on the railroad, and on the individual veterans, there is an inclination, a human inclination, that when the shoe starts to pinch then they will cry wolf, then they are all for the veterans preference.
There are those types of veterans.
There is the other that through not going out on his own and determining all of the facets of the veterans preference believes what he is told about it, and he is inclined to believe that it is an allpowerful tool in his behalf, and it is not necessarily so. It is like any tool that management or an employee has; it has two sides of it.
Senator BARTLETT. It was only a couple of years ago, as I remember it, that this issue was raised. Has your research into the matter disclosed why it was that it didn't come to issue before?
Mr. QUEER. My personal opinion as to why it didn't come to issue before would stem back to conversations with different employees of the railroad through my association with the veterans organizations. where a ruling set down in 1944 or 1945, at a time when the railroad was administratively under the Federal Government or an active duty status quo, or something of that nature, a ruling was sent down that veterans preference did not apply, and in the case cited, as I recall it, that was so, it did not apply in that particular instance. But the seed of that decision has been the seeds passed down in years past that it did not apply. I think the reason why it has raised its head lately is that more and more information is being pressed out by such organizations that I belong to, educating the people of veterans preference and veterans rights.
In the Anchorage area it has received a considerable amount of lipservice from service officers and engineers, and I believe that this is raising the problem to the foremost that there are some teeth in the law, and it can be applied.
I believe that another factor involved is the fact that there have been cases, appeals made under the Veterans' Preference Act, that have withheld, withstood the acid test in the decisions from the Civil Service. Not all of them were won, but a sufficient number were won that makes it a matter of record.
This that I am going to say I probably could not substantiate. Mr. Shelmendine probably could be more qualified to do that than I.
However, conversation has brought it to my mind that very few of the employees or ex-employees of the Alaska Railroad who have made an appeal are still employed by the Alaska Railroad. I don't uphold the fact that management shouldn't have fired them or shouldn't have dismissed them because they are the people who have to get the work done, because there would have had to have been just cause for them to have been dismissed.
Senator BARTLETT. Do you have anything else?
Mr. QUEER. Other than, as I have said, that the local post here has no quarrels with and do encourage the collective bargaining rights of the employee groups and management, and that our stand here is only, the only conflict, with the Alaska Railroad and its management in this bill, is that it does appear to tend to hack at veterans' preference. Senator BARTLETT. I shall say to you that which was first stated earlier in the day, and this applies not only to you but all other witnesses on the subject; namely, that we are going to lift this testimony in one way or another and transmit it to the Senate Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, of which Senator Johnston of South Carolina is chairman, because that is the committee to which the bill was referred.
Thank you, Mr. Queer.
Mr. QUEER. Thank you, sir.
Senator BARTLETT. Are there any other witnesses here to testify against this legislation?
Senator BARTLETT. Are there any witnesses here to testify for it? Come forward, sir.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT L. SHAKE, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA; GENERAL CHAIRMAN OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF RAILROAD TRAINMEN, THE ALASKA RAILROAD
Mr. SHAKE. Senator Bartlett
Senator BARTLETT. Will you state your full name and mailing address, and the capacity in which you appear here?
Mr. SHAKE. My name is Robert L. Shake, 105 Manor Avenue, Anchorage. I am general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, the Alaska Railroad. I also am here today to represent the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engine Men of the Alaska Railroad.
I would like to say that I am a veteran in the U.S. Navy, of World War II, and I am entitled to all the rights and benefits granted under the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944.
I would like to tell you what application of the Veterans Preference Act of 1944 on the Alaskan Railroad would do for me.
At the present time I am No. 40 on the trainmen's seniority list. With application of the Veterans Preference law I would immediately move to No. 16, which would set me up pretty nice senioritywise. Senator BARTLETT. May I interrupt you there, or do you want to continue uninterrupted?
Mr. SHAKE. No, go ahead.
Senator BARTLETT. How would you get there? How would the existence of the Veterans Preference Act on the Alaska Railroad, without any doubt at all, enable you to jump from No. 40 to No. 16?