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Senator RADCLIFFE. Do you think that this is a situation that is likely to be temporary, or do you think that because of the character of foreign competition and other demands which enter into it, the difficulty to which you refer is a permanent situation? Just how much do
you think we must reckon with that as a permanent situation?
Father Walsh. Do you mean, sir, the disfavor?
Father WALSH. Unless the disfavor is remedied, it will become permanent; in fact, I consider it every day and every week getting worse and worse; or it may be only a temporary infection, if I may use that phrase, but the results will be permanent. Every day we are slipping
I have just come from the Pacific coast, from California, and that entire coast, as we know, has been in the last 2 years frequently almost paralyzed on this question of the maritime problem. It is not an economic problem, but a labor problem.
The rehabilitating both of the physical equipment and of the morale standing of our merchant marine before the world and the country is, I think, our immediate project. It is at its lowest ebb at this moment.
Here is the psychology of the thing: With the passage of the act and the publication of it, and with the publication of the Maritime Commission Chairman's report, there was a high wave of optimism throughout the country. It has fallen, because when the operators went out to get the necessary means to put into production what they had hoped for, they found a very frigid reception, and one after another of the companies reported, “We can't get it, and we cannot keep the commitments which we have undertaken under the act.”
Therefore, we are in a sort of second slump, Senator, which we ought to be pulled out of.
But I think, too, that the element of personnel and the very serious labor problems, about which you have doubtless heard in this committee, are a result of that other; and indeed, labor conditions may give rise to some conditions that accentuate the other.
Senator GUFFEY. Father, do you think we will ever get an efficient merchant marine with private capital?
Father Walsh. You are getting none at present with private capital.
Senator GUFFEY. We are getting none; I agree with you on that. If the Government furnishes a 100 percent of capital, which I think we will have to do, what is your plan of operation? Government operation or Government lease ?
Father WALSH. I would be opposed, and I say this more from the point of view of economics, having no interest in the matter of a personal nature-
Senator GUFFEY. I understand; but I am now seeking information.
Father Walsh. I would be opposed to absolute Government ownership and operation. I would be in favor of an initial Government ownership through the present period of stagnation and demoralization, with the obligation on the industry of acquiring, of itself, over a period of years, each unit of the merchant marine, operating it, in the meantime, privately.
I was tremendously interested in the suggestion of the previous witness that there should be more Government participation than ever before. I would concur in this, Senator, for as long as even 75 percent of the construction differential subsidy comes from the Government and a sliding amount of operation differential comes from the Government, the Government, more than at any time before, has more reason to know what is happening to its tremendous investment, by having people, in the way outlined by the previous speaker, or under the Steamboat Inspection and Navigation Bureau, or through the cooperation of the Navy, exercise some kind of supervision. That would be a matter which could be worked out by the competent authorities. But the principle itself is sound.
Secondly, more than ever before have we lost sight of the specific character of the merchant marine as distinguished from a land industry. Much of the controversy in recent months, and in the past years, respecting labor conditions has been based upon something which I think labor has overlooked. The merchant marine, I think, whether it be tied up at dock, at anchor outside the 3-mile limit, or in any foreign waters, is entirely different from a factory at Detroit, where a strike or sit-down operation may find some justification. They found certain justification in high places at the beginning of that new phenomenon, and it was at least controversial. There can be no controversy with respect to the fact that a floating factory, if you want to call it such, or a floating hotel or floating fortress—any Hoating thing which carries passengers as well as goods—is under the old, traditional, maritime and international law, which does not permit any of those other claims which are true on land.
Therefore, a strike at sea, even for certain grievances, would have been unheard of in the past. Now, as we know, it is debated. I have read with great distress authentic reports from our consuls at Shanghai, Marseilles, Havre, and Naples informing the proper authorities of actions in those ports of American crews which would have been unthinkable 25 years ago, and which, when I read, caused me to get down a report which was made to the British Parliament exactly 100 years ago.
We have in our collection of maritime records the notation that in 1837 the British Parliament appointed a number of men to make a study to find out what was the secret of the efficiency of the Ameriman merchant marine. Now, what the British are getting are published records, authenticated, with notarial seals on them, describing the inefficiency of the American merchant marine in many respects, although not altogether. Doubtless you have read the reports of our consuls at Shanghai, Marseilles, Hong Kong, Naples, and at other ports telling what is taking place; in other words, that the crew of an American vessel could sit down and dispute with the master as to whether or not it could do certain things which he had ordered ; that it could send a delegation to inform him that they were not going to do this, or that they would not do that, that, and the other thing.
Without entering, for the moment, into the question of controversy, the fact, I think, is one of the things itself that has to be corrected. It is a vicious circle: First, discredit and disfavor, because of, let us say, imprudence on the part of some operators since the passage of the first Merchant Marine Act; secondly, public criti
cism, from high sources frequently; thirdly, the reaction of personnel on board ship, all of which now conspires to make it true that day after day you are losing passengers from American ships.
You have in the record a collection of documents, attested, which would frighten anyone and discourage him from going on the ships any more.
The CHAIRMAN. Father, I am glad you have mentioned that, because the committee, and particularly the chairman, has been subjected to criticism because of the anonymous nature of the charges made, while, as you have suggested, the record is filled with the reports of consular agents, attested reports.
Father Walsh. Yes, sir. Not only that, Mr. Chairman, but I base my information also on a great deal of traveling that I, myself, have done; and what is included in the nature of official reports of consuls is, I think, justified by the dozens of instances I, myself, have come across abroad.
If it is proper in your procedure at this moment, I have with me my secretary, to whom I gave a vacation last summer to go abroad. He took his wife with him. They were on their honeymoon. They sailed from a southern port. When they came back they had firsthand information. He can give you his personal testimony. If it is within your procedure, he could tell you just what he experienced.
The CHAIRMAN. We would be very glad to have him tell us.
STATEMENT OF DR. JAMES LOWE, WASHINGTON, D. C. The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Lowe, did you have some experiences that you would like to tell us about?
Dr. LOWE. Well, there was the same condition on board this ship, which was a very small merchant ship, as has been described here. I feel that I was in a good position to observe the conditions, because I have seen them not only from the bridge but also from the forecastle. The first trip I made at sea was as a sailor. That was during my second year in college, about 8 or 10 years ago.
The CHAIRMAN. I have a suspicion that I read that record. I am not going to say more than that unless you do.
Dr. Lowe. Since that time I have made two other trips, both times as a passenger.
Last summer I went to Italy with my wife, and the first time that I had to inquire into the matter of discipline, and so on, was because our stateroom happened to be right next to the sailors' mess, and there was a lot of language there that I thought might be offensive to my wife.
I asked the captain if he would mind speaking to the sailors and reminding them that there were ladies on board and that it would probably or possibly offend them if the language that was being used continued. He said that he would be very glad to do this, but that, as I had probably observed by that time, the master of the ship had absolutely no control over the seamen with respect to a number of different matters, and that if he should go down to their quarters and suggest that they not use certain language, that would only make it twice as bad.
He said, “Our control over the personnel on board these ships has practically gone."
The second curious incident, from the standpoint of personnel, occurred when we reached our first foreign port in Italy. After staying there a week, or 7 or 8 days, we were moved to another port. When it came time to move the ship, less than one-half of the sailors came back to move the ship. The officers had to do the sailors' work—that is, those officers who had to come back. Some of them did not have to come back; they stayed only 2 or 3 days and took an overland train and met the ship a few days later,
Conditions grew from bad to worse on the ship. The sailors began 'to object to the orders they were receiving from the bridge, and they started to hold their meetings once or twice a day to debate whether or not they should do the particular things they were ordered to do.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean meetings of the crew!
Dr. Lowe. Yes. The radio operator on board considered himself something of a leader, I think, and he used to organize the meetings of the crew. Naturally the officers on board resented that very much, because when the crew decided they would not do a thing it would not be done.
The mate had given the crew a 7-hour day instead of 8, as was required. He let them knock off work, as they described it, at 3 in the afternoon instead of 4, but when things began to come to a climax he said that thereafter they would have to work the regular 8 hours.
I happened to be seated on the deck when the representative of the crew came to the bridge, knocked on the door of the mate, and told him that the crew had decided that there was not enough work on that ship for an 8-hour day and that henceforth they would work 7 hours.
By these few personal incidents I do not mean in any way to be guilty of that indiscretion of which Father Walsh has just spoken; namely, to destroy confidence in our merchant marine, which I respect very much; but those were the conditions as I saw them.
The officers seemed to be in a quandary as to what their rights were under this new set-up. They were afraid to take any positive action for fear they would be criticized, possibly, by the union, or possibly by their employers. There was a great feeling of uncertainty and, almost, of despair among the officers as to just what the procedure was to be with respect to the demands on the part of the crew and what it might be tomorrow.
The CHAIRMAN. You spoke about serving as a sailor. Have you any comments
to make about that experience! Dr. Lowe. Only this: I think that conditions on board American ships, from the sailors' point of view, have always been bad. That is, living quarters have been bad; the food has been bad. In most cases, the officers on American ships are not Americans at all. They may have their naturalization papers, but—and this is a guess-it may be that only 1 in 10
The CHAIRMAN (interposing). You are speaking of officers?
Dr. LOWE. Born here. Under those conditions, the pay has not been what you could get ashore; the food has been bad; the hours of work have been long; and those conditions which I saw as a sailor are undoubtedly the reasons for the increasing demands on the part of the unions for better conditions.
I think the most regrettable part of the activities of the unions, particularly those I saw on board ship, was that the most irresponsible among the sailors were always the representatives of the sailors in their treatment with the officers. The man who is the most impudent to an officer often seems like the one the sailors think ought to represent them.
I remember one particular meeting in the ship. We had picked up a sailor who had been stranded abroad and had got into some kind of brawl in a waterfront area somewhere in Europe. He was anxious to get back to the ship at the first opportunity. When he came back to the ship he was anxious to work and did his full 8-hour-a-day job without any complaining.
He was taken for quite a ride by his fellow-seamen, who said that that attitude was wholly out of keeping with the new labor movement; that unless they evidenced a feeling of hostility toward the officers and insisted upon each right, step by step, they were liable to lose those gains which they had made. This fellow who came with a spirit of cooperation and wanted to work, and so on, had to be informed of the new set-up.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Dr. Lowe.
Father Walsh, you have provided us with a very interesting interlude.
STATEMENT OF REV. EDMUND A. WALSH, S. J.-Resumed Father Walsh. I shall pick up from where Dr. Lowe left off in his purely factual narration. That picture, which corresponds with what I myself have found, depicts the decline in the American merchant marine after its peak in our history, when we carried 90 percent of our foreign trade in our own bottoms. We fell, as we all know, to the appalling depth where, before the war, we were carrying 10 percent of our commodities in foreign trade under American flags, leaving the other 90 percent dependent upon foreign ships.
During that decline, due to certain economic conditions, there was a decline in personnel, and the competition of the sea was no longer that honorable, adventuresome, and romantic thing that it was during the early colonial period, during the War of 1812, and up to the Civil War, when the coming of steam displaced sail and the coming of iron displaced wood and the old clipper ships.
Down we went, and the personnel that was picked up during that intervening period was not, I think, representative of the true type of American sailor, but it was the type which, owing to the necessity of shopping around, has given the impression that has been narrated to you now. The true American seagoing character, such as I knew from New England, around Bath, Maine, and those regions, would not be guilty of this type or sort of thing, because those men had a real interest in the merchant marine. For that reason, I would merely wish to add that I would not want to be interpreted as indicating the American workman on shipboard. He had to go into a profession that was more or less despised in the drop of the merchant marine down to the 10-percent carrying capacity which I mentioned.
The industry had to pick up whatever it could get. So, we were no longer the efficient sailing Nation, devoted to our ships, as we were before.