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(The committee reconvened at 2 p. m.)
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM E. B. CHASE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE
BROTHERHOOD OF RAILROAD TRAINMEN, DETROIT, MICH. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chase, you have a prepared statement ? Mr. CHASE. That is right, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. You may follow your complete statement if you wish, or if you think it proper you could file the statement, and it will be carried in the record as though orally delivered, and you can summarize it, unless some of the Senators wish to have you read the portions that you have skipped over.
You may proceed.
Mr. CHASE. Mr. Chairman, first I would like to qualify myself. I think the Senator knows my name. I have been associated as an officer of the brotherhood since 1935. From that period to 1943 I have held practically every local lodge office in a lodge; and from 1943 until the present date I have been a deputy president and vice president of the brotherhood.
My railroad career dates back to 1919, at which time I was in the clerical forces; and intermittently until 1943 I was in what we classify as the nonoperating groups, with a few short turns in the transportation field.
In 1923 I started in the transportation service and have been in that service continuously up to this date.
Mr. Chairman, I would like at the very outset to express the profound gratitude of the membership of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen for this opportunity to appear before this distinguished committee of the Senate. More than 200,000 citizens, for whom I am privileged here to speak, look to this committee as the last-indeed, the only—tribunal which will dispassionately investigate the facts surrounding their disputes with the carriers, and which it is sincerely hoped will suggest a decent formula that will restore to them the status and rights of all other citizens.
They have been unjustly pilloried, sometimes even to the extent of having their patriotism impugned by a prejudiced press, by elaborate, expensive carrier advertisements, and by the words, action, and inaction of high Government oflicials. They are being forced to work for the private profit of carriers against their will, under conditions which are intolerable to them, and grossly unequal to those of their fellow American workers, and they are being forced to do so by the coercive whiplash of the hateful labor injunction obtained at the behest and the expense of Government, and premised on innocuous doctrines that we thought had long since been completely repudiated by the Congress of the United States.
Perhaps the legal mind can devise subtle and ingenious distinctions, but to those who man the American railroad system, government by injunction and involuntary servitude is the ugly, hard, economic, and psychological fact that dominates their present lives.
They are not insensitive to the peculiarly significant duty they owe the public and they owe the Government in these difficult days of national emergency. They are more than willing to expand their duty far beyond the legal rights granted them by statute or by Constitution, but they bitterly resent—and with complete justification& crude exploitation of the common danger that unduly victimizes them and unduly enriches their employers, and they proudly take the position, which I know this committee will sustain, that no national emergency justifies the corruption of those concepts of equity, decency, and fair play which are the essence of America. Senator MORSE. Mr. Chairman, may I interrupt?
Ι The chair has handed me a copy of the rules of the committee, rule 6 of which I assume the chairman discussed before I came into the room; is that right?
The CHAIRMAN. No. I merely called the witness attention to the fact that he had an elaborate statement here, and if he wished to follow his statement he could, or he could summarize it and have it carried in the record.
Senator MORSE. My only question about the fact is, the Chair has pointed out to me in personal conferences that under rule 6, the witness is certainly free to summarize the statement and file a full memorandum for the record. I shall be glad to discuss in executive session views of mine, however, as to the effect of a witness filing a statement into the record not orally delivered before the committee. I have no objection to filing the statement if that is what the witness wants to do, but I would caution the committee to have knowledge of the fact that I think insofar as possible in future legal actions they may wish to take against any witness, we depend pretty much upon what the witness orally stated to the committee, and not what the witness filed with the committee.
However, I am perfectly willing to follow whatever is the pleasure and the view of the chairman or the witness. I assume that this witness can summarize this statement by way of oral statements into the record, upon which I can rely. I only want to say that I, for one, would take notice of the fact that in view of what you say, the ears of the members of the Senate committee have more long-time effect than what you place in the record for their possible reading sometime in the future.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chairman wishes to say that he wants to recognize the wishes of the committee, and I am willing to have the witness testify completely and go completely through his written testimony, if any member of the committee desires.
Senator Morse. I would not ask for that. I, as one member of the committee, simply want to say that I will do my best to read everything that goes into the record, as I always try to do, but I will rely primarily upon the transcript of the record insofar as oral testimony is concerned.
The CHAIRMAN. I would like to ask the witness, in your summarization of this testimony, you will completely cover the important matters that you have in your written statement ?
Mr. CHASE. To some degree, Senator.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you swear to the truthfulness of every statement that is in this prepared statement?
Mr. CHASE. That is right.
The CHAIRMAN. And you will be responsible for any testimony that is in there, as to its accuracy and truthfulness?
Mr. CHASE. Outside of one date in there, I can say offhand there isn't any question. There might be an odd date that may be incorrect for a day or two, but the information here is more or less of the chronological review of the events right up to date, with some of the pertinent information relative thereto contained in here.
The CHAIRMAN. I trust that you will give us a very complete summarization of it, so that we will have a very full understanding of what your complete statement contains without having to read it all, at this time. Of course, we will have the right to go over the record when it is concluded, if we so desire.
Also, I might call your attention to the fact that any witnesses appearing here may be recalled later on for cross-examination, further cross-examination.
You may proceed.
Mr. Chase. I would like to state to the members of this Senate committee that the late President A. F. Whitney assigned me to assist him in handling this rules movement in March of 1949, and since that time I have been connected with the movement up until the present date, assisting President Kennedy after the expiration of President Whitney, and I have cooperated and worked with him from that date up to this, through all phases of the case, including mediation, emergency board hearings, mediation subsequently, and part of the White House conferences.
The CHAIRMAN. You intend to give us, then, a chronological statement of the facts in connection with this controversy from the very commencement up to the present time?
Mr. CHASE. That is right, as contained in this statement; and I might elaborate on it a little, but it has more historical viewpoints.
Being in this case from its inception, it is my considered opinion that if fair play had been engaged in by both parties from the commencement of these negotiations back in September of 1949, we wouldn't have had any resultant wildcat strikes throughout the United States, any unrest among the men in the country whom we have the privilege to represent; and if we had had fair play on the part of management and a fair decision from an emergency board some months ago, ,
this question would have been resolved long before this. And if, after Government intervention some time in July, the Government had made any fair attempt, that is, in my opinion, to settle this, it still could have been resolved and it wouldn't have been necessary for us to come before this committee.
This dispute is rather complex to the ordinary layman, and I would say that it covers a background, you might say, of a lifetime history of railroading.
In that emergency board hearing at Chicago there were 8,385 pages of transcript and 14 exhibits that were produced, pertaining to both sides of this picture, so that the members of the Senate committee will have some idea as to the hugeness of the task.
This summary has been prepared, and when I finish these statements I will just briefly, for the benefit of the Senators, if they wish, cover it. And if they wish me to read it, I will do it; but it is practically nothing more than a history, and I would be glad to brief it.
I have been quite interested during my sojourn in Washington by seeing the Railway Labor Act attacked through the columns of the press, by press statements, by editorials from the various press writers, and by the carriers themselves, to the effect that this act is completely bogged down and it is antiquated and unworkable.
I would like to say, from my experience with the Railway Labor Act, that it isn't any panacea for labor ills, and I don't believe, from my limited experience and I say this because I am not an attorney
— I don't believe, in my opinion, that any law rectifies or completely eliminates adverse conditions. You have laws for murder, and some of them are stringent, but still we have murders committed. You also have laws involving punishment for theft, and still people steal.
The CHAIRMAN. There is no law against murder in the United States, as I understand it; there is punishment, but no law prohibiting it.
Mr. CHASE. I say, from my legal background, limited to that, that is right.
I would say this, Mr. Chairman, that the Railway Labor Act, if it were properly applied, would be workable in any case, if men of mind and conscience and purpose of intent sat down across the bargaining table with a willingness to settle these disputes.
The CHAIRMAN. That was the theory that was involved in providing this machinery. It was expected that the men on both sides would be honest and sincere and make every effort possible to arrive at an honest solution to their problem.
Mr. CHASE. That is true.
The CHAIRMAN. And where there is dishonesty and where there is an effort to take advantage of the other side, it always results in serious trouble.
Mr. CHASE. I agree with that.
In the instant case, I will say this sincerely, the organizations, both the conductors and myself-in other words, we started this long path of travail, you might say, together. We made every honest effort down through the 23, and it is now reaching 24 months of negotiations, to reach some kind of a conclusion satisfactorily, one that we could say would justly reward our men commensurate with other labor; and in every phase of these handlings we have made an attempt to negotiate. But through these--Mr. Hughes touched on it briefly this morning in his testimony—through these conferences from the date of their inception on September 22, 1949, after 13 weeks there was no serious attempt or no inclination on the part of these carriers to resolve any dispute. They did spend a great portion of their time looking out the window, or questioning us on the 40-hour week rules, which would be rather an innovation in our industry; and I might say to the committee at this time that we are practically, to my knowledge, the last industry in the United States, in yard service on the railroads, that do not have a 40-hour week.
In these negotiations, in the handling of this dispute in this case, we have exhausted every phase of the Railway Labor Act.
The CHAIRMAN. How long were these negotiations continued, as you say?
Mr. Chase. The original negotiations continued for 13 weeks.
The CHAIRMAN. During that time, you did not get together on any of the phases of the problem?
Mr. CHASE. There was never any effort made at any time, on the part of the carriers, to basically negotiate these disputes. There were some 12 or 13 issues that involved, in their intricacies, possibly 20 or some-odd more rules changes and disputes. With the exception of one, which is a 40-hour week, I think we listened to the carriers' attachment A, which I will enlarge upon a little later-with the exception of spending several days with these carriers and listening to their counterproposals, and several days on hearing road rules, the rest of the time was completely spent on exploratory attempts to gather what we could arrive at in connection with the 40-hour week for yard-service employees.
The CHAIRMAN. You have already stated in the record just what was involved, the different questions that were involved in this dispute.
Mr. CHASE. Yes.
As I said, in exhausting every phase of this Railway Labor Act, it includes the original negotiations; then it includes mediation; strike votes by the organizations, which creates an emergency; an emergency board hearing; and then the cooling-off period after the decision of an emergency board; and then to avert further trouble, we went into an additional mediation period for weeks prior to the time of our calling of the first token strikes; and then the national strike which caused the Government to seize the railroads.
One of the complexities of this case, as I view it, is the fact that due to the diversified items and the hard checking possibilities, originally there were no retroactive claims made upon the carriers. Until October 1 of this year, when the carriers signed up with the Switchmen's Union of North America in what we feel was an attempt by them and Dr. Steelman to embarrass us--but prior to October 1 of this year, there was no practical method of claiming any retroactivity.
I might say, I don't know, and it is only an opinion, but in the past where effective dates have been set in bargaining processes, it seems to me, in my opinion, that we have always had a little more success bargaining around the table. But in this particular case, it was easy for the carriers to sit back and look out the window and expect Government intervention and government by an injunction, because every day that this case was postponed, it amounted to millions of dollars for the railroads. I don't say millions every day, but annually it amounted to millions.
I would just like to read a little financial survey that was made by one of our economists. It was handed to me the other day. It says, and I will read it:
1 Since the last increase the trainmen received, the carriers have increased their net operating revenues by 48 percent. This is an increase at the rate of $824 million annually.
I would like to remind the committee, on the carriers' actual figures that they presented to this emergency board, if they gave us every one of the rules that we had asked for, every one of the demands, their inflated figures only approximated it at $281 million, and taking out all of the rules and demands that were not favorably recommended by the emergency board, it would dwindle down to something just over $100 million.
Specifically, from the last quarter of 1948 to the last quarter of 1950, 30 carriers covering over 75 percent of the industry increased