« PreviousContinue »
I have had, myself, approximately 20 years' flying experience as a pilot in all branches of American aviation, principally the Air Corps of the Army, and some 81/2 years on the air lines. I have had in the neighborhood of 10,000 hours in the air.
We would like to discuss this morning two bills, and our discussion will have to do not so much with rates and economics as it does with the question of air-line safety.
With your permission, I would like to have our executive representative, Mr. Hamilton, continue the discussion on H. R. 5234, commonly referred to as the Lea bill. We are not going to discuss this bill to any great length, but we would like to touch lightly upon certain parts of it. If it is agreeable, Mr. Chairman, I will have Mr. Hamilton proceed.
Mr. CROSSER. Very well.
Mr. HAMILTON. My name is Edward G. Hamilton; my address is the National Press Building, Washington, D. C.
In regard to the Lea bill, we favor it in principle, but there is a serious omission which we think should be corrected by amendment.
By the terms of this bill, the Air Mail Act of 1934 is repealed; and in the Air Mail Act there is a section-section 13, to be exact-which has done more to bring about peaceful relations between the pilots and their employers than any other one thing. To repeal this provision at this time, or at any time, would be to leave the doors wide open so that anything might happen from here on out.
Section 13 of the Air Mail Act establishes minimum rates of pay and maximum flying hours for pilots; and it should, by all means, be retained in any new law that may hereafter replace the Air Mais Act.
Accordingly, we have two amendments to offer: First, on page 6, after line 8, include the following definition: “(m) The term 'air pilot includes copilot.”
Second, on page 14, line 9, after the word "condition", insert a dash, drop down one line, and insert "(1)” followed by the remainder of subsection (g) as written. At the end thereof, insert the following:
(2) (a) That the rates of compensation, maximum flying hours, and other working conditions and relations for air pilots of air carriers engaged in interstate commerce shall conform to decision no. 83 rendered by the National Labor Board on May 10, 1934, notwithstanding any limitation as to the period of its effectiveness included in said decision;
(b) That the compensation for air pilots of air carriers engaged in overseas and foreign commerce shall be at least comparable to and not less than the compensation of air pilots engaged in interstate commerce; and
(C) That nothing herein shall be construed as restricting the right of any such air pilots by collective bargaining through their lawful representatives to obtain higher rates of compensation and more favorable conditions of employment and relations.
(3) That the holder of such certificate shall comply with all the provisions of title II of the Railway Labor Act and any future amendments thereto.
This is the same protection which is now included in the Air Mail Act and which we are asking be transferred to this bill.
To illustrate what this provision means to the pilots, we recite briefly some of the disputes which have been peacefully settled since the enactment of this section.
Following the enactment of the air-mail law, none of the new contractors who came into being after the cancelation of the old air
mail contracts attempted to comply with the labor provisions of the air-mail law. We filed with the Post Office Department a complaint against the worst offender. Following a hearing on October 25, 1934, a decision was rendered in our favor, and starting January 1, 1935, all air lines, with the exception of one, complied. This one remaining air line finally complied on February 1, after being requested to do so by the Post Office Department.
By the terms of the Labor Board decision, which was incorporated in the Air Mail Act by reference, the decision was good for but 1 year. Accordingly, on May 10, 1935, 1 year from the rendering of the decision, one air line took advantage of this technicality by announcing a 40-percent cut in pilots' wages. It became necessary to amend the Air Mail Act to clarify this section in order to protect the pilots from further unfair atempts to break down their working conditions. This is a very good example of what will happen the minute this section is repealed.
In the fall of 1935 it was discovered that the same air line was still cheating the pilots out of some measure of the pay which was rightly theirs by means of juggling the seniority of their pilots. By way of explanation, the pilots' pay, under the Labor Board decisions, is increased from year to year according to length of service. This matter was brought to a hearing before the Post Office Department on January 8, 1936, with the result that the company was ordered to reimburse their pilots for all the pay which had been withheld from them back to the date of the granting of the air-mail contract.
During the summer of 1936 it was found that one air line was deliberately flying its pilots far in excess of the maximum flying hours permitted by the Labor Board decision. Again a complaint was filed with the Post Office Department, and again the matter was settled peacefully:
Further, on this same point we quote from the testimony of the Honorable Karl Crowley, Solicitor for the Post Office Department, given before the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee on August 6, 1935, when a similar bill, the McCarran bill of that time, was being considered. On page 121 of the hearings, Mr. Crowley said:
Section 13 of the present law is to be repealed by this bill. It is a provision which recites that it shall be a condition upon the awarding or extending and the holding of any air-mail contract that the rate of compensation and the working conditions and relations for all pilots, mechanics, and laborers em ployed by the holder of such contract shall conform to decisions of the National Labor Board. This section shall not be construed as restricting the right of collective bargaining on the part of any such employees.
And Mr. Crowley continues : I cannot find anything in this bill that will give any protection whatsoever or provide any means by which pilots and mechanics may be protected.
We have been having considerable difficulty in some places in enforcing it. There have been strikes threatened, but we have succeeded in settling several strikes because of that provision.
That ends Mr. Crowley's remarks. As the bill was finally approved by the Senate committee it carried the amendment suggested by Mr. Crowley and us.
It is self-evident that had not the pilots had some protection in the air-mail law, the disputes referred to probably would not have been settled without a strike. It is also self-evident that if this re
straint is suddenly removed from the law, many of the air lines, if not all of them, would immediately attempt to lower the pay and increase the hours of their pilots.
We are thoroughly convinced that if this protective measure is removed from the law at this time the results will be disastrous as far as the pilots are concerned, and strike conditions are likely to ensue. In the circumstances, we strongly urge that this committee amend the bill H. R. 5234 as suggested, to the end that the pilots and the industry will be at least as well off as they are now.
Mr. COLE. Would you be in favor, Mr. Hamilton, adding a provision that sit-down strikes by pilots shall not take place while in the air?
Mr. BEHNCKE. The difficulty of a sit-down strike would be that the air pilots would have no place to sit.
Now, Mr. Chairman, in regard to the Lea bill, 5234, in addition to what has been said, I would like to point out that in the air-mail law we now have a protective section; and that law which is being amended by this law will remove this protective section which is not included in this bill; so the air pilots will not have the protection they have had for upward of 3 years. The air-mail law gives them protection relative to wages and working hours. That dates back to June of 1934. Now, before we had this protection in the air-mail law we had all sorts of trouble; there was always threatened difficulties and conferences. On September 30, 1933, all of the airlines of the entire United States came within about 30 minutes of being grounded because of the arbitrary wage reductions that the air carriers had imposed on the pilots. But since the enactment of this protective section in the present air-mail law almost all of this trouble has straightened itself out, and we have been getting along very well ever since, and for that reason we feel that this protective section ought to be included in the present law. It has proved to be one of the real stabilizing elements in the industry, and up to the time this section was included in the present air-mail law, the operating companies had gradually forced wages down and pilots' flying hours up. Even since the pilots have been protected under the air-mail law they have been having some trouble with a few operators in their constant efforts to chisel and break the law.
In this fight back in 1933—and I have been representing the pilots now for almost 6 years—I lost my job because I was fighting for this pilots' protection—that is, wages and hours—which was back of all of this trouble, and efforts to reduce wages and lengthen hours, all of which was taken care of by the present pilots' section of the airmail law, and that is why the pilots are asking for it in the proposed legislation. In any legislation that is passed they merely ask for the same protection that they now have. In the enactment of any law that is passed we feel that this protective section should be in the law that has control over the economic balance of the industry. It has its proper place there because it prevents the chiseler from coming in and making trouble, and the chiseler always makes the trouble, especially where they come in and try to destroy the established standards. It is necessary to have high standards in the interest of safety.
Mr. COLE. Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question?
Mr. CROSSER. Mr. Cole.
Mr. COLE. Mr. Behncke, it is your claim that the existing air-mail law now provides for wages and hours?
Mr. BEHNCKE. Yes.
Mr. COLE. And you want the bill amended so as to take care of just the pilots carrying mail or all pilots subject to provisions of this bill?
Mr. BEHNCKE. I think it cught to apply to all air-line pilots whether or not they are carrying mail. I think they ought to be included in this proposed legislation.
Mr. COLE. You made the statement, as I understood you, that the existing law is specifically repealed in this bill. Will you point out where that language is?
Mr. MARTIN. I believe that is in section 13, is it not? Mr. BEHNCKE. Yes; section 13. Mr. MARTIN. On page 46, line 16? Mr. BEHNCKE. Yes. Mr. MARTIN. That is the section which you referred to? Mr. BEHNCKE. Yes. Mr. CROSSER. Are you going to discuss the other bill? Mr. BEHNCKE. Yes. There are just a few other things I would like to say in reference to the Lea bill before I take up that bill.
Mr. CROSSER. You do not have a great deal of time; you understand.
Mr. BEHNCKE. Before leaving this protective subject I would like to say that the present section 13 of the present air-mail law has been a fine stabilizing element in the industry up to this time because in air-line operation the equipment is more or less standard and uniform, so that when one gets into the matter of operating costs about the only place he can make any change is by reducing wages or increasing hours. When one gets into the question of cheap operation, the present section 13 of the air-mail law comes into effect and provides that the working hours and wages shall be practically uniform, and it has been a very healthy stabilizer for the industry. At this point I would like to tell the committee a little about pilots' working hours.
Mr. BULWINKLE. What are the flying hours of pilots?
Mr. BEHNCKE. We have in section 13 of the present air-mail law a provision limiting pilots' flying hours to 85 per month. I was about to come to that. Piloting an air transport at speeds of 150 to 200 miles per hour, at various altitudes, sometimes as high as 17,000 feet, is a great nervous strain and very fatiguing, and a tired pilot is not a safe pilot. Flying at high levels in rarefied air, where there is not the proper amount of oxygen, is also very fatiguing.
The pilots' working hours must be protected. One hour in the air is easily equal to 2 hours in most any other occupation. In addition, a pilot puts in practically 1 hour on the ground for every hour spent in the air, checking weather, practicing blind flying, studying, bad. weather delays, and so forth. Computed on this basis a pilot who flies 85 hours in 1 month spends as much energy as he would working
255 hours in most any other occupation. Figured on a 40-hour-week basis, the average man works approximately 165 hours a month. If you take the actual hours flown by the average air pilot, 85, doubled in expenditure of energy, another 85, plus the 1 hour on the ground for each hour in the air, represents a total of 255 hours per month.
It is absolutely necessary that we have some protection in the law because the membership in the pilots' union is scattered over such a large area. For instance, at the present time we have a wage difficulty in Buenos Aires; we also have trouble in Alaska, and the approximate distance between those two points is 12,000 miles. Our membership is scattered so widely and over such extensive areas that we must have a section in the law to protect the pilots because of the difficulty in securing effective control and regulation, since the time to get a communication from one end of the area covered by the pilots to the other takes a long time.
There is another reason why the pilots should be protected, and that is because of their military value. There are four major groups of pilots in this country, all of which have a very definite nationaldefense value. This is true because of the highly specialized training of the respective groups. The four groups are the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the air-line pilots. There are approximately 1,000 air-line pilots in this country at the present time, 900 of whom are under constant, strenuous training by reason of their employment on the air lines engaged in long overland and overocean flying, day and night flying, bad weather and instrument flying on transport equipment, which is similar to Army bombing equipment. The military value of the air-line pilots as a group is tremendous. The Government has always made it a policy carefully to safeguard the welfare of the Army air pilots, the Navy pilots, and the Marine pilots. The Government should do the same for the air-line pilots. If they neglect to protect the air-line pilots the operating companies, in their mad rush for profits, will quickly tear down the standards of the air-line pilots that have been set up through a period of years.
Mr. HALLECK. May I ask a question?
Mr. HALLECK. Is there any provision in any similar regulatory act as applies to other systems of transportation such as this provi sion you are asking for?
Mr. BEHNCKE. The railroads have the 8-hour law and the 16-hour law and that can be compared to this. But this is a little bit different because of the fact that the pilots are so widely scattered and of the very great necessity of properly limiting their hours.
Mr. MAPES. Are pilots paid according to the number of hours that they are in the air, or how are they paid?
Mr. BEHNCKE. Well, it is sort of a complicated scale. It is based on hours and miles, and there is a speed differential, and also a base pay. But it is primarily based on the amount of flying that is done.
Mr. MAPES. Do they as a rule fly approximately the maximum number of hours that the law provides?
Mr. BEHNCKE. Well, yes. The pilots in this country on the average fly about 70 or 75 hours a month, on actual flying; that is in addition to the work they do on the ground, which requires a