« PreviousContinue »
AMENDING THE MERCILANT MARINE ACT OF 1936
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 1938
UNITED STATES SENATE,
EDICATION AND LABOR,
Ilashington, D. C. The committees met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10:30 a. m., in the Commerce Committee room, the Capitol, Senator Royal S. Copeland (chairman of the Commerce Committee) presiding.
Present: Senators Copeland (chairman of the Commerce Committee) presiding, Thomas of Utah (chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor), Caraway, Donahey, Maloney, Vandenberg, Gibson, and Ellender.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will please come to order.
We shall hear first from Vr. Ralph Emerson. Jir. Emerson, will you come to the table and take a chair, please?
Give your name and background for the record, please.
STATEMENT OF RALPH EMERSON, LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTA
TIVE OF THE MARITIME UNIONS AFFILIATED WITH THE COMMITTEE FOR INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION, ALSO REPRESENTING MARINE CCOKS AND STEWARDS OF THE PACIFIC, AND MARINE FIRENEN, OILERS, AND WATER TENDERS OF THE PACIFIC
Mr. EMERSON. My name is Ralph Emerson. I am legislative representative of the maritime unions affiliated with the Committee for Industrial Organization. I also represent tie larine Cooks and Stewards Union of the Pacific, and the Marine Firemen, Oilers, and Water Tenders Union of the Pacific.
The CHAIRMAN. You have read the proposed bill, Vir. Emerson, particularly title X. Is it to that particular part of the bill that you wish to address yourself?
Mr. EMERSON. We have prepared a general statement on the bill as a whole, and we also wish to submit proposed amendments or substitutes for title X.
The CHAIRMAN. Very well.
Mr. EMERSON. Before going into an analysis of the bill S. 3078 itself, there are a number of subjects that I am going to comment on briefly and which are pertinent and directly connected to this proposed legislation.
The first of these is the subject of the intense propaganda campaign that has been carried on recently and which campaign has directed its attack upon maritime labor in an effort to show that the workers
in our industry are undisciplined and irresponsible. It is peculiar
to note that, although the majority of our seamen today are the same : ones who had been sailing our ships for years, including the period of the Vorld War, all of a sudden these same men should be classed as being irresponsible and undisciplined. If such is the case, then why was not this situation brought to light before? The answer, of course, is very simple. As in all other industries labor was not so highly organized and democratic unions were not in control, and therefore there was no reason to attack labor from this angle.
In further regard to this matter, I noted recently in an editorial in the Washington Post, headed “Training Merchant Seamen,” the following sentence:
Government-trained seamen would be sufficiently valuable to operators to warrant considerate treatment, and they would get it.
The implication was that the shipowner, being philanthropically inclined, would treat his merchant seamen well whether or not unions were in existence. Evidently the editor of the Washington Post is an optimist of the first water. He also evidently has great faith in human nature.
I would also like to add that the seamen would like to have that much faith in the ship operators, but owing to past bitter experience with these people they know that only the coming of the millennium would make such a condition possible; and until that time we must have strong, militant unions in order to force these same ship operators to grant decent living conditions.
I also bring to your attention at this time an article incorporated in the appendix of the Congressional Record by Senator Copeland on December 14, 1937, which is headed "The Problem of Seagoing Personnel and Its Possible Solution." This is taken from an address before the Propeller Club convention in Memphis, Tenn., on October 12, 1937, by the former Director of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, Joseph B. Weaver. In this address Mr. Weaver goes to great lengths and seems seriously alarmed over our maritimelabor situation. He cites the complete break-down in the enforcement of our maritime laws. He fails to state, however, that practically every maritime law on our statute books was enacted into law with the aid and help of these people allied or directly connected with the big shipping interests themselves. He also fails to state that since the La Follette Seamen's Act came into force in 1915 no other laws favorable to seamen were put on our statute books until we had the continuous-discharge-book law amended in 1937. Therefore, if there has been a break-down in the enforcement of our maritime laws, it is for the reason that those laws are either antiquated or prejudiced in favor of the shipping interests.
Since Andrew Furuseth has been incapacitated and unable through poor health to watch the seamen's interests here in Washington, the shipowners and their lobbyists have had absolutely no opposition whatsoever in having laws passed to suit themselves and detrimental to maritime labor. This was the problem that the committee headed by myself was confronted with when we first came to Washington a year ago. This is the problem we have to correct.
Mr. Weaver also raises the old cry of what the position of the maritime unions will be in time of emergencies such as a war. This can be answered very easily. We have gone on record at various times before
various congressional committees, stating that the maritime unions will back up our Navy 100 percent in any national-defense policy. Of course we have also made it clear that we would condemn
any of aggression, and I think that in doing so we only echo the sentiments of the American people as a whole.
In regard to Mr. Weaver's charge of drunknenness, obscenity, and profanity of the unlicensed personnel of American merchant ships in the presence of passengers of those ships, I will simply state that this charge is highly exaggerated and is too stupid to merit an answer.
In answer to his charge that communism exists, I am stating here and now that I have heard more about communism in any one hour here in Washington than I would hear in a lifetime on the water front. It is my point of view that communism largely exists in the minds of a certain number of our reactionary Government officials, and it would be well if these officials dwelt less on this subject, for fear of themselves becoming tainted with this or some other ism.” To sum this article up briefly, it is simply another piece of the type of antilabor propaganda which we have to contend with.
Also, whilst I am on this subject I would like to bring the attention of the committee to a circular headed "An Important Message to the Men Who Man Our Ships." This was issued by the United States Lines Co., 1 Broadway, New York City, and was circulated to the various crews of the ships controlled by the International Mercantile Marine. This, too, is a vicious, misleading piece of propaganda. In it the steamship company tries to give the inference to its employees that the rotary system of employment would mean that men regularly employed on shipboard would be forced to get off and have their places taken by men who are unemployed, thus creating a situation where continuous employment was impossible.
This we know to be an absolute falsehood, as the rotary system, through the union-operated hiring halls, was only devised so that the unemployed seamen who had been longest without work would be the first to secure employment when a vacancy occurred. There was never any thought in our minds in devising this set-up of taking men off their steady jobs. This, as you can see, is another form of propaganda being used to discredit the maritime unions.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me understand you. Do you say that the rotary system is not practiced by your union?
Mr. EMERSON. Yes, sir; it is practiced, but not for the purpose of taking men off of jobs. It is for the purpose of putting a man longest out of work into a job. That is the rotary system of employment. It is not a rotary system of replacement.
The CHAIRMAN. That is to say, if you had an employee on a ship, who had been there a long time-10 years, we shall say-you would feel free to drop him and to put in a man who had been without a job for a long time?
Mr. EMERSON. No, sir. Under no circumstances would he be removed or would he be touched. No man will be taken off a job; but when a man quits of his own free will or volition, then, through the rotary system, he is replaced by the man at the top of the list.
This rotary system has been practiced by the longshoremen's union on the Pacific coast since 1934, and it works very successfully.
The CHAIRMAN. I want you to be very positive in your statement here, because there will be testimony to rebut what you say.
Mr. EMERSON. Yes, sir. If we found at any time that any man was being taken off a job without just cause and was being replaced by another man, we would like to know about it, because that certainly would not be a fair system.
The next item I am going to take up under this subject is the film now being shown in the Trans-Lux Theater here in Washington, and, of course, at all other theaters throughout the country, called the March of Time. Part of the current issue of this film has been allotted to the maritime industry and to the so-called unsettled labor conditions in that industry. One part of this picture depicts a scene where a ship's union delegate is shown at the top of the gangway, submitting demands to the ship's officers. In addition to other demands, the scene shows this delegate asking that 22 cases of beer be put aboard for the use of the crew. An ofiicer, evidently the ship's captain, is shown answering this delegate to the effect that the 22 cases of beer will not be put aboard my ship.”'
Now, I am stating right here that if any such incident as this had ever occurred in real life, that delegate would not be today a member of our union, and if anybody here has any proof that such an incident did happen, I demand to know the name of the ship and the name of the seaman making the demand. Of course the inference to be drawn from this is very clear.
The CHANNMAN. I want to say, as far as I am concerned, that I never heard of this before.
lir. EMERSON. Yes, sir; but it seems peculiar that what seems to be an authentic film, that comes out regularly called the larch of Time, supposed to depict subjects impartially, should dare to put a thing like that out. We would like to have the proof.
The CHARMAN. Having been myself a vicüm several times, I can understand your feeling.
dir. EMERSON. This type of propaganda is used to show that drunkenness abounds among the crews of American ships.
Furtber on this subject, I should like to submit for the record a resolution endorsed by the New Orleans branch of the National Maritime Union. This resolution reads as follows:
In accordance with motion made (Terry, 12227, seconded Sullivan, 8370) at meeting of the steward's division, New Orleans branch of the National Maritime Union of America, on December 30, 1937, instructing the Agent to draw up a motion condemning March of Time motion-picture review of current week; the said resclution is herein enacted;
Resolved, Whereas the March of Time, a motion-picture review shown in the leading theaters of the United States, Canada, and other countries, which is sponsored by the Time Magazine, and has an undeniable public influence on the people at large, and
Whereas the release for the current week of December 30, 1937, presents to the public a ridiculous and unirue picture of the American merchant sailor and menibers of the National Maritime Union, showing crews of ships as disruptive and insubordinate, and enacting incidents relative to the deportment of said American seamen in a manner offensive to every true seaman and the best interests of the National Maritime Union; the said review refrains from showing the constructive advances and healthy gains, the improved working conditions, increased salary and overtime, and the clean, efficient morale that is the National Maritime Union, substituting instead shoddy and scandalous activities with aid of professional stooges; and
Whereas we recognize this criticism as part of a concerted effort to discredit American seamen in the eyes of the public by the reactionary press, radio commentators, and other selfish interests in an effort to hinder the progress and advancement of said seamen, and to create fertile ground for the sowing of seeds