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[Press-Herald (Republican), Portland, Maine, August 12, 1937]
On Both Your HOUSES
Who is there to object to the Maritime Commission's announcement that the Government of the United States will not permit disputes between rival labor organizations to jeopardize its position in international shipping? Neither union may object, first because such objection would be hailed as intention to start labor war; and, second, because the pronouncement is so eminently fair to both sides as virtually to outlaw any organization that scoffed at its terms.
Chairman Kennedy has the happy faculty of speaking with clarity and force. When he said that the Nation has a stake in the shipping industry which it is now the business of his Commission to develop-a stake which transcends the claims of either capital or labor-he spoke the feelings of every citizen, tired of labor wars, and determined that the fundamental rule developed in the Boston police strike years ago—that no one has a right to strike against the Government any time or anywhere-shall be observed at the outset and during the continuance of our program to build nearly 100 vesseis.
The A. F. of L. and the C. I. 0. must be aware now that they will have taken hold of something too hot to hold if they start labor trouble in Uncle Sam's new merchant marine; they must be aware that the Navy itself can be pressed into active service, if necessary, to operate Government vessels; that the full military power of the United States can be enlisted, if necessary, to control dock areas. The only question has been whether this full power of the United States Government would be available. Those who have regretted the do-nothing policy of President Roosevelt in previous labor difficulties are entitled to have some doubts as to this matter. But Chairman Kennedy and the other members of the Maritime Commission have taken a positive stand which may be assumed to have the full approval of the President. In this stand, the Commission itself will have the solid support of the country at large.
(Free Press (Independent), Detroit, Mich., August 13, 1937]
“The industry cannot prosper without the whole-hearted cooperation of labor,” says Mr. Kennedy plainly. “The Government wants American seamen to have the best possible conditions aboard ship and the fairest wages. At the same time, it cannot permit factionalism and disloyalty to jeopardize our position in international shipping.".
These words not only describe a situation; they also convey a warning. But what force the Government is able or willing to employ to put an end to the factionalism and disloyalty he condemns, the Chairman does not say, other than to suggest an ultimate revision of the Martime Act.
In the meantime, it will appear to the country that a fight among labor organizers for control of wage earners, which subordinates the welfare of the country to ambition, is a very poor expression of patriotism and citizenship.
[San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 1937]
SHIPS MUST MOVE
The easy way to get things is to have a law that the Government shall give them to you.
But the warning by Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy of the Maritime Commission that “factionalism" will not be permitted to "jeopardize our position in international shipping" is a reminder to labor that the easiest way may carry a price which labor hitherto, has never wished to pay.
Labor wishes American seamen to have good wages and decent treatment and conditions. Hitherto it has sought these things by its own etforts and asked of the law chiefly not to interfere with those efforts and to protect it against the competition of foreign seamen on American ships.
But now labor has these things by law. Mr. Kennedy's commission has authority to put wages up and hours down and to charge the excess to the taxpayers if the earnings of the ships will not pay it. Power is very welcome, when used to confer these benefits. But any power adequate to control wages is also adequate to control conduct, and Mr. Kennedy says he is going to use it, to see that the ships move whether A. F. of L, and C. I. 0. can agree who is to move them or not.
Do not look to Government to confer something on you unless you are willing that it should grant the same rights to the others whom you wish to deprive of them.
[Times (Republican), Los Angeles, Calif., August 12, 1937)
Seamen's wages should be the best that the lines can pay. But most union disputes which have tied up American vessels have been over minor technical points rather than wages or hours. Bickering of rival union chieftains has been to blame in many instances.
Kennedy expresses the views of the ordinary citizen when he says that the opportunity for selling American goods in American ships should be seized now. It is an obvious conclusion that as trade grows, the ordinary sea man will stand a better chance of sharing in the benefits and getting higher wages.
Idle ships tied up by strikes make no money for anybody.
The great thing which is being threatened by continued hamstringing of the shipping industry by unjustified labor disputes is the broader goal of a more efficient merchant marine. American shipping has a long way to go to get in the front of the parade. There is no reason why it should not be there if the various elements involved will cooperate.
It is refreshing to know that the Government has waked up to the extent of serving an ultimatum on the warring unions. Kennedy undoubtedly means business and will get the necessary backing to make his warning stick.
Los Angeles and southern California are vitally interested in seeing sea commerce reach new heights. They should unite in backing up Kennedy's objectives. Full ships, moving on time, mean a stable and continuing prosperity.
[Post (Independent Democrat), Boston, Mass., August 12, 1937)
A thorough investigation of the labor situation is to be one of the first steps. Labor afloat and ashore will be guaranteed fair wages and good working conditions. But labor has its duties as well as its rights, and the factional warring between rival unions must be stopped.
Questions to be answered are: Are American ships necessary to insure deliv. ery of exports and imports? Do American ships profit us from exorbitant rates? Will American ships develop foreign trade? What does the Navy need in merchant ships as a supplement to the warships?
The problem is evidently being approached in a businesslike way. Instead of going off half-cocked, throwing millions here and millions there, Mr. Kennedy wants to know what the people are going to get for their money. It is quite a refreshing difference from what we have been used to.
[Boston Herald, August 19, 1937]
Before Chairman Kennedy, of the Federal Maritime Commission embarks on a lavish shipbuilding program, should he not use every agency at his to command to straighten out the present labor muddle and ensure the safe and punctual operation of those ships already afloat?
[Tribune (Republican), South Bend, Ind., August 15, 1937)
Apparently with presidential approval Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy announces a “labor policy” for the Maritime Commission which is to relieve the American merchant marine. It is that “the Government will not permit disputes between the American Federation of Labor and the Committee for Industrial Organization to jeopardize its position in international shipping." The maritime activity is important “as an adjunct to national defense.” In effect, then, union disputants may be classified as if they were sabotaging the Army or the Navy.
Private employers and workmen and consumers who have been distressed by union jurisdictional bushwhacking might contend that institutions and agencies directly under the Federal Government's wing are not all that are "adjuncts to national defense.” Aside from that are the issues of fair play and constitutional rights. It is decidedly interesting that a Government which has permitted much radical “labor trouble” in private industry has announced that at least one of its own projects positively will not be exposed to similar trouble.
(Press Telegram, Long Beach, Calif., August 11, 1937)
NEW HOPE FOR MARITIME PEACE
How determined the Commission's efforts may be or how much authority it can muster to inforce its edict remains to be seen. The announced policy indeed is a distinct departure from the Administration's procedure in the past and one which requires political fortitude. However, it is certain that the Commission cannot carry out its program for a steady growth in American shipping or the construction of nearly 100 additional ships—both parts of the six-point program-if the industry is to be paralyzed by strikes or other labor disorders.
[Bee (Independent), Sacramento, Calif., August 16, 1937]
Is it not a fact that until some plan of arbitration is set up, similar to that which governs negotiations between the railroads and their employes, to affect seat transportation, there is no assurance the ships will continue to operate?
[Times-Record, Troy, N. Y., August 16, 1937]
The labor conditions to which Mr. Kennedy refers are not the outcome of a dispute between employers and workers over wages and conditions. They are the result of a bulldog fight between the C. I. O. and the A. F. of L. for control of shipping labor. They are the result of a war of ambition in the ranks of labor itself.
“The industry cannot prosper without the wholehearted cooperation of labor,” says Mr. Kennedy plainly. "The Government wants American seamen to have the best possible conditions aboard ship and the fairest wages.
At the same time, it cannot permit factionalism and disloyalty to jeopardize our position in international shipping."
These words not only describe a situation, they also convey a warning. But what force the Government is able or willing to employ to put an end to the factionalism and disloyalty he condemns, the chairman does not say, other than to suggest an ultimate revision of the Maritime Act.
In the meantime, it will appear to the country that a fight among labor organizers for the control of wage earners, which subordinates the welfare of the country to ambition, is very poor expression of patriotism and citizenship.
The Government, with the help of the Maritime Commission, is in the process of developing a sound merchant-marine policy which will put the American merchant flag on the seas again in a fair position to compete with the flags of other nations. In the accomplishment of this end, Mr. Kennedy believes, neither irresponsible capital nor irresponsible labor should be allowed to interfere.
An adequate American merchant marine is needed not only for the promotion of American commercial policy but also as an important item in American defense policy. American shipping is under private ownership, but it is called upon to perform a vital public function as well.
An informed public will agree with Mr. Kennedy's opinion that neither labor nor capital, in the assertion of its “economic power," has a right to prevent the United States from assuming its rightful position as a great maritime power.
[The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, La., August 27, 1937]
In these unsettled conditions, neither the American merchant marine nor the Maritime Commission can know "where it stands." Chairman Kennedy estimates that from 300 to 350 new cargo and passenger ships are urgently needed to handle our commerce and provide an adequate naval auxiliary in case of war. His conclusion that “a disgusted public is not going to spend a penny,” and the people's taxes should not be spent on our merchant marine "as long as present conditions prevail" invites national attention to the grave disorders caused by industrial divisions and strife in this field of vital national importance.
[Record, Philadelphia, Pa., September 5, 1937]
But the seamen's leaders ought to be able to realize that the world does change, that they will not necessarily always be treated unfairly by Government agencies. Other labor groups have been enormously benefited by Government help during the New Deal.
Seamen may find that the Maritime Commission can be even more help to them than the National Labor Relations Board has been to other workers.
It is certainly bad tactics to condemn the Commission in advance.
[Press Telegram, Long Beach, Calif., August 29, 1937]
Labor disputes in shipping circles on the Pacific coast and elsewhere during recent years have caused a demand, for legislation which will prevent such interference with maritime service. A regulation similar to the Railway Labor Act is in mind, and with the backing of Senator Guffey and other leaders the proposal should bear fruit.
The Commission already has power to lay down wage, hour, and living standards aboard ship.
Labor stability and definite policies of assistance for the building up of the merchant marine are two requisites of progress on the ambitious program for the construction of ninety-five modern ships as a beginning, at a cost of $250,000,000, with an additional 225 to 250 merchant vessels during the next five years, the total cost having been estimated at $800,000,000.
Benefits of such an endeavor to put the Stars and Stripes where they belong on the seven seas are so obvious that there should be no hampering of it because of labor troubles or for lack of assurance that private investments in these commercial fleets will not be penalized by radical legislation.
(The Nautical Gazette, America's oldest shipping journal, founded in 1871—December 1,
COURT DECISIONS AND THE STATE OF MARITIME LABOR
The most cogent arguments on behalf of a national mediation board, along with a national adjustment board, for our seagoing personnel are contained in the opinions of the courts which have had a plethora of complex issues before them. Since the passage of the several Federal labor statutes within recent years, misconceived theories of rights have sprung up in the ranks of labor and glib legal protagonists have been quite ready to distort the extent of the fields of action. The "sit down” strike has been the most insidious weapon that has been resorted to by misguided maritime labor, through such means have been contrary to basic principles in our law. It fell to Judge Coleman of the United States District Court in Maryland to make short shrift of the case of the Oakmar (The Nautical Gazette, October 23, 1937) when he chastised the members of the crew, terming them "trespassers" and then castigated the lawyers who had prompted and defended the right of a “sit down" strike on that ship. Again, that articulate jurist recently expressed himself in no uncertain terms regarding the master's prerogatives in discharging members of a crew in the case of the Losmar (see admiralty decisions herein). Judges in the many districts along our seaboard have had before them a variety of angles arising from labor disputes and the subsequent drastic steps taken by crews upon the advice of expedient organizers and their legal henchmen. Some of the opinions have been tepid, some have been vigorous, while others have been couched in abstruse wording. Each of these rulings has been rendered on separate facts and on individual points of law. It is, therefore, difficult to make these holdings applicable generically as legal shadings in tactics can warp the situations. The alleged liberality of our laws has even been misconstrued by crews of foreign ships with the resultant disaffections in our territorial waters. Passengers have had sailings canceled. Cargoes have been withheld from consignees. Shipowners have incurred cumulative losses. Members of crews have been deprived of livelihood.
Let's imagine the gyrations behind the scenes of one of these labor difficulties. "Why, I'll get a writ" brags the lawyer to his clients, “I'll make that steamship company come to terms.” A further retainer must be paid and the till of the union must be tapped. “That old judge is afraid of his own shadow. He doesn't know what those new laws mean,” might be the reassuring approach. “You know that Senator
and Congressman are old buddies of mine and I've told them all about this case. I have a couple of wires right here from Washington"—then some other impressive officials may be invoked. "Now, you boys just stick right there. They don't dare throw you out. You've got to be in sympathy with that shore crowd. There's power in unity and we've got 'em on the run."
It can happen here. It may have happened here. It is revolting and yet it is consumed by the credulous. That lawyer or organizer has spoken the language well understood. The legal decisions are remote and vague dissertations. There lies the tragedy. By and large, the men want to work but these implements of “sit down" strikes and other violations of discipline are graphic methods that they comprehend to gain their ends. They require better working conditions, they want improved quarters and subsistence, and they need more wages. What other way can they convey their demands to shipowners? It is better to pass over the repercussions while the shipowner worries over how he can fulfill his contracts of affreightment, what will Washington do next and how will the stockholders or the bank view the matter.
The very premise of any maritime legislation is in equable solution of labor difficulties. It should be the first order of business of the congressional committees considering the proposed revisions of existing statutes. It is to the advantage of our seagoing personnel that our ship operation be expanded and be busily engaged. With but a few vociferous exceptions, it is doubtful whether maritime labor wants governmental operation and moreover, only a handful are adherents of communistic thoughts. They want conditions and remuneration compatible with our economic scheme and they are entitled to both. They crave employment with continuity. They are tired of digging into their dungarees for more contributions to organization officials and lawyers. They need a respected forum where their pleas may be heard in an orderly manner.