Page images

ing. Also, these employees in most cases have come up from the ranks and wish to remain members of the union in order to protect their equities in insurance and other beneficial activities of the union. This bill would deprive them of that right.

I do not know whether the magnitude of this can be appreciated, when you stop to consider that nearly every union in the American Federation of Labor takes into membership or permits to remain in membership certain types of supervisory employees who had been members of that union for a good many years. I know that my own international union, the Metal Polishers, Electroplaters, Buffers, and Helpers International Union, permits supervisory employees to retain their membership if they are promoted to straw-boss jobs or supervisory jobs provided they do not have the right to hire and fire, in which case they must take out a withdrawal card. I have been a member of that organization for more than 30 years. If I were to become a foreman or straw boss tomorrow I would not like to be deprived of my membership, because of the pride I have in such membership and because of the insurance features that I have or that I am entitled to. That is true of hundreds of thousands of men who are members of American Federation of Labor unions.

But there are other unions in other trades which have consistently refused to admit foremen and supervisory employees into membership in their organizations on the ground that they are agents of the employer and might spy on union activities for the benefit of the employer.

That was particularly true in the old days, when employers spent millions of dollars on espionage work in an endeavor to learn the names of members and the activities of the unions. It was common practice in those days to take certain people who were active in the unions and promote them to foremen's jobs and give them more leeway to work among their fellows, in order that they could get certain information. Many unions reserve the right to exclude that type of supervisory foreman or straw boss from their membership.

I have occasionally been asked by groups of foremen and supervisory employees to issue them a charter for a separate union in the American Federation of Labor. This I have consistently refused to do. I have taken this position: That if these men wish to join the union established in the plant, and if that union wishes to accept them into membership, all well and good; but it would be impossible for the American Federation of Labor to charter a separate and possibly hostile union for foremen and supervisory employees in the same plant.

I think that that is readily understandable when we consider the type of organization that was represented here the other day by a man who favors this legislation. That was a group of foremen who belong to an organization that in the last analysis amounts to nothing more or less than a mutual admiration society dominated by the employer. I know that the Federation would not care to grant a charter to such a group as that. For that reason President Green has taken the stand he has taken.

In my opinion, the National Labor Relations Act can be employed to cover the subject matter of this bill without recourse to punitive

or prohibitive legislation. Under the National Labor Relations Act, as we interpret it, foremen and other supervisory employees have the same right as other workers to decide for themselves whether they want a union to represent them, and if so, what union. However, the National Labor Relations Board has issued clashing and contradictory interpretations of how this act applies to such situations. In some cases, the Board has excluded even straw bosses from the collective bargaining unit to the detriment of the American Federation of Labor with whom they have evidenced a desire to affiliate. In other cases, the Board has admitted foremen, supervisory employees, and straw bosses into the collective bargaining unit when such action operated against the interests of the American Federation of Labor.

I firmly believe that the cure can be found not through the adoption of H. R. 2239, but by the adoption of an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act which the American Federation of Labor has long advocated. This amendment would specifically permit, just as the Railway Labor Act does, any class, group, or craft of employees to decide for themselves whether they wanted to join a union, and if so, what union. By this method, compulsion would be avoided and the supervisory employees accorded the same rights as other workers.

The other sections of this bill are so completely unintelligent, impractical, and un-American as to be unworthy of detailed consideration.

The American Federation of Labor firmly believes that H. R. 2239 constitutes a dangerous threat to America's war production program and urges this committee to reject it.

I might add, Mr. Chairman, that it was very interesting to me in the early part of these hearings to see the people representing large companies coming here, following one another on the stand, and all singing the same song: That unless you adopt this legislation prohibiting foremen and supervisory employees from joining unions, the country is going to go to pot, and utter chaos will ensue. Would it not seem to you I know it does to me—that the employer has been a little negligent of this group of employees? I know something about industrial relations, and I would not attempt to sit here and discuss this matter with this committee if I did not feel that I was qualified to do so. I served in the Mediation Bureau of the Department of Labor of the State of Pennsylvania for 6 years. I later became secretary for 4 years. I directed organization for the American Federation of Labor for several years. I was eastern representative of the American Federation of Labor for a number of years. I have sat at conference tables countless times with employers. I have negotiated contracts thousands of times. Obviously I must have absorbed some knowledge of the psychology of those situations and a knowledge of the employers' problems.

I believe that if the employers had seen to it that foremen were given a square deal, there would not be any need for coming down here and opposing foremen's unions. The fact that foremen organize is due to the fact that they do not get a square deal. In the early stages of the N. R. A., I served on the Adjustment Board and had a chance to observe industrial relations in that particularly era. I

know that many times I advocated that industry pay a little more attention to industrial relations by setting up industrial relations councils.

For instance, I heard the employers in the department stores of Philadelphia one time at a meeting before the mayor talk about their $8,000,000 industry.

I said, “Gentlemen, you would not think it was worth a dime, the way you handle it. You would not spend $25,000 a year for an industrial relations set-up that could nip a lot of these troubles in the bud and have your industrial relations run along smoothly.”

It seems to me that if General Motors, the coal companies, and the other large employers who are seeking to have Congress do the job that they should have done themselves, had paid more attention to the problem of the little fellow in the supervisory capacity, there would not be any need for talking about blocking these efforts of organization.

I submit that to you for what it is worth. I do not think that you can legislate industrial relations; I am sure you cannot. I think that the record of the Conciliation Service has proved this. Many people think that all that is necessary is to come here, pass a law, and that that is all there is to it; that after the law is passed, it is going to run smoothly. It is not as easy as that. Industrial relations is one of the most important problems before the people at all times, and it is certainly the most important problem at this time.

I should now like to discuss briefly the Wadsworth bill, H. R. 1742, and preface my remarks by making a few statements in connection therewith.

We talk about a manpower shortage. I happen to know, from my own official capacity in Pennsylvania, that one of the things that we were constantly annoyed with was the fact that we could not get contracts placed in those sections of the State where there were many people idle but willing to go to work. I have particular reference to the hard-coal regions. I read the other day that in Berwick, whis is a short distance from Wilkes-Barre, 6,000 people were laid off. Why should 6,000 people be laid off in a plant making tanks! Is there not somebody down here capable of knowing when a tank order is going to be canceled, so that another order can immediately be put in to absorb that manpower!

That is one of the tyes of things I think we should look into. I believe the employer should put his house in order. I should like to hear some of these representatives of the large employing groups down here seeking this legislation tell us something about these problems or answer some of the questions that have been asked them by the gentlemen on this committee as to what they are doing to try to utilize the manpower they already have. I know that in many places the situation is pretty well botched up. I should like to say to this committee: Bring some of the employers down here and ask them what is being done to get every bit of manpower that is available used in the effort to produce things needed for the war.

We heard all this talk about feather-bedding. A man from the textile industry told us about feather-bedding on the railroads. It used to be the stretch-out system that we were at one time caught at, but now it is feather-bedding.

Mr. FENTON. Mr. Hines, would you mind defining "feather-bedding” for some of us who are not familiar with that term?

Mr. HINES. I am like the late, lamented Will Rogers. All I know is what I read in the papers. It is not part of labɔr's vocabulary. It is like the so-called closed shop and open shop that our people make a habit of using erroneously. We recognize only one thing in the trade-union movement, and that is the union shop, with everything it implies. “Closed shop" and "open shop” were terms coined by hostile employers when they tried to wreck unions shortly after the last war and they adopted what was known as the so-called American plan. They tried to put the onus on labor by referring to the closed shop and the open shop. They wanted an open shop as against what the union maintained in the form of a closed shop. We have been foolish enough in some instances to pick those words up and use them. They are not our words; they do not belong in our vocabulary. We recognize nothing but the union shop and the nonunion shop.

While I am on that subject, I should like to make another statement. A number of questions have been asked here as to whether or not under the terms of the Wadsworth bill, if we had complete mobilization, and persons were placed in industries where their skills were needed, they would have to join a union. I have been a union man all my life, and I believe in unions. I believe they are a very good thing. I believe they are playing an important part at the present time, not only in assisting in the war effort but in preserving conditions for the peace after the victory comes. I would say that if there is a plant employing a thousand people and they are all union members, and they have a contract that no one shall be allowed to work there without being a member, but new people are placed in there by the Federal Government, those new people should join the union; in fact, they ought to be tickled to death to have the opportunity, because they will have the opportunity to preserve and maintain conditions for the boys when they come back home. That is one function every union member has at the present time—to see that when our brothers, fathers, and other relatives come back from the far-flung battlefields, conditions will be preserved, and there will be no aftermath such as there was following the last war.

We have built our unions strong and intend to keep them strong. I think there is a moral obligation on the part of everybody-people and the Government-to see that where there is a union, and better working conditions have been brought about by union negotiations, if other persons are employed they should certainly become part of the scheme of things and join the union.

This is the statement of President Green on the Wadsworth bill: I am here today to state the views of the American Federation of Labor on S. 666 and H. R. 1742, introduced by Senator Austin and Representative Wadsworth, and popularly known as the labor conscription bills.

There has been a great deal of discussion on the subject of these bills for some weeks. Most of that discussion has sought to emphasize the leniency of the provisions of the bills and the many safeguards they contain against abuse. But sugar-coat them as you may, the unalterable fact remains that under these bills work is subject to compulsion under threat of imprisonment for 6 months and a fine of $1,000. Soften the provisions as you may, these bills impose involuntary servitude in violation of the thirteenth amendment to the Federal Constitution, and in violation of our basic and most cherished concepts of freedom.

The American Federation of Labor must be and is unaiterably opposed to these bills, and is unalterably opposed to any similar proposals that so directly under


mine the most important props of our democracy. Let me make it as clear as I know how that the opposition of the American Federation of Labor has been reached only after the most careful and minute study of the provisions of these bills, the stated reasons for their necessity, and their purported relation to the war effort. The Federation has come to the conclusion that so drastic and unprecedented a measure is unnecessary.

To organized labor the present world conflict presents the most important challenge in its history. The issue is clear, free labor versus slave labor. We are determined to prove for ourselves and to the world that the capacity, the spirit and productivity of free labor is far and away superior to that of coerced labor. And I believe I can say, without fear of contradiction, that we have already accumulated an imposing array of proof-the most amazing records of production ever accomplished-in support of our conviction.

If the issue be as I have stated it, is it not self-evident that this proposal must be defeated? Are we to say that free labor has lost its crucial battle? Are we to announce that slave labor can be defeated only by slave labor?

I say to you that enactment of these bills into law would take from millions, both on the battle and production fronts, the very essence and meaning of this war; and with that it would take from them the enthusiastic zeal and spirit now so characteristic of their efforts.

I take it that this proposal is predicated on the assumption that there is a dire necessity for compulsory labor in order effectively to prosecute the war. I categorically deny the truth of that assumption. It has not and cannot be established that the absence of compulsion of labor is a factor in retarding production. It is my firm and studied conviction that such delays as there have been were prompted by conflicting governmental policies and not by any failure of any segment of our working population voluntarily to perform the jobs that have to be done.

It is beyond argument that the first indispensable to maximum production is a coordinated and consistent war program administered in a coordinated and consistent manner. The manpower problem cannot realistically be regarded and treated as an isolated problem. It is but a part or a function of all other phases of the war program, such as the extent of the armed services, the awarding and allocation of war contracts, the continuous and efficient flow of raw materials from the proper sources to the proper outlets, and the like. To compulsorily send an additional 1,000 skilled workers to a plant that is already below its production levels because of a want of an essential raw material does not solve any problem; it clearly aggravates it. This proposal is not a cure for any difficulty; at best it is a very potent and dangerous drug.

I have abstained in these remarks from discussing in detail the provisions of the bills because the basic foundation upon which the bills rest, namely, "labor by compulson," is objectionable to the American Federation of Labor. However, there is one provision-that is the amendment offered by Senator Austin-which I cannot refrain from discussing directly. The admendment provides and incidentally this is in the Austin bill— "That every person assigned to service under this act, including every accepted volunteer, shall have the right to join any union or organization of employees, but no such person shall be obliged to join any such union or organization if he or she shall not frenly choose so to do."

This is a radical departure from the principles enunciated in section C, page 2, of the bills, wherein it is set forth:

"The Congress further declares that there is no intention by this act to modify, reaffirm, or otherwise affect existing laws relating to maximum hours, minimum wages, overtime pay, or collective bargaining

The amendment would directly interfere with the processes of collective bargaining as guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. If through the processes of collective bargaining an employer and a union entered into a closed-shop contract, the effect of the amendment would he to violate such contract if a worker assigned to such plant refused to join the union under the contract.

It seems obvious that such a provision would be a mighty weapon for an open-shop drive, and that the existence of all closed-shop contracts, even though existing for years, would be threatened. It would seem that such a provision is entirely unnecessary in view of the jurisdiction vested in the National War Labor Board and the National Labor Relations Board to decide questions pertaining to the closed shop. This subject should be left to the existing tribunals having jurisdiction over it.

« PreviousContinue »