Page images
PDF
EPUB

these employees who may be covered into the civil service happen to be Democrats or it is presumed they happen to be Democrats.

The CHAIRMAN. That may be a violent assumption.

Senator SCHWARTZ. Well now, so far as I am concerned, of course, I come from a small State and I have only had opportunity to make a few appointments, but I assure you, all i have made are Democrats so we can start on that basis, so far as I am concerned. But in other administrations and other times we have covered people into civil service. When I was a young fellow I was covered into the civil service and I don't think it materially hurt me, but it did one thing to me. Prior to that I had been an active Democrat working for the party and after they put me in the civil service I just sort of lost interest.

Senator BYRD. They didn't have the Hatch bill then ?
Senator SCHWARTZ. No.

I think if there should be criticism because the majority of theso people to be covered in the civil service are Democrats I will join in that but maybe from a different angle. I believe every person until he gets into the civil service ought to work for those political principles in which he believes and I assume, for the sake of argument, that most of them are Democrats. Therefore I believe they would work for that principle in which they believe until they get into the civil service. And it is my conviction if most of these 250,000 people are Democrats and you put them in the civil service they won't thereafter be worth a single dime to the Democrats, and so, I will join with the Republicans so far as that general situation is concerned. [Laughter.] However, I believe in the civil service and I think the Democrats can afford that degree of loss and still get by.

The CHAIRMAN, Colonel Harrington.

STATEMENT OF COL. F. C. HARRINGTON, COMMISSIONER OF WORK

PROJECTS

Colonel HARRINGTON. Mr. Chairman, I am appearing before the committee in the capacity of Commissioner of Work Projects to present a plea that employees of the W. P. A. be given the same opportunity to attain civil-service status as is granted by H. R. 960 to numerous other employees of the Federal Government.

I would like to say at the outset that I have no conceivable personal interest in this matter, being myself on the active list of the Regular Army, so that it doesn't affect me in any way.

The W. P. A. has a good many distinctions, Mr. Chairman. Some of them are quite enviable. It has one, however, that we don't like and that is the distinction of being singled out in legislation by having our employees barred from access to civil-service status.

The W. P. A. appropriation act for the current fiscal year in section 22 (a) contains a provision as to appropriations, that "such appropriations shall not be available for the compensation of the incumbent of any position placed in the competitive classified civil service of the United States after January 10, 1939."

That of course is fiscal-year legislation. I yesterday completed my testimony before the subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee of the House and although I testified in executive session I think it is permissible to say that I recommended as strongly and emphatically

as I could that that prohibition be not carried in the appropriation made for the next fiscal year.

So far as H. R. 960 is concerned it contains in title 1 a proviso that the provisions of this section shall not apply to any positions in or connected with the Work Projects Administration.

The W. P. A. has about 25,000 administrative employees of whom approximately 1,500 are in Washington and the balance in the field. The proviso which I have just mentioned bars this group from eligibility for attaining civil-service status.

of the 1,500 employees of the central office in Washington we know that about 325 have served for more than 5 years and that approximately 970 have served for periods of between 3 and 5 years.

I do not have the comparable information for the employees in the field but I think the proportions would be about the same.

This group of employees have given faithful and efficient service under conditions which have at times been anything but favorable.

They feel that it is an injustice and discrimination that they should be singled out in this proposed legislation to be barred from the advantages that are being accorded to approximately 250,000 other employees of the Federal Government.

Their reasons for desiring civil-service status are the same as those of other employees, that is, it gives them retirement privileges, it gives them right to transfer into vacancies in positions under the classified service and it provides protection to them against unjust terminations of their service.

On the administrative side I would like to say that the denial of the opportunity to get civil-service status raises quite a problem because our employees if denied those privileges feel that they had better try to get in a Government agency or elsewhere where they will have more protection, and therefore there is tendency on their part, particularly on the part of the most efficient of them, to seek positions elsewhere than in the W. P. A., and that results in quite a turn-over of our administrative force.

Now the objections which I understand have been raised to the inclusion of W. P. A. administrative employes in civil service are principally three.

The first one has been that the procedure would involve a blanket. ing into the civil service of a large number of employees some of whom may be incompetent.

The provisions of H. R. 960 I think fully protect the Federal Government against the possibility that this might happen in that any employees who attain civil-service status are required to take a regular examination for the position for which they desire to qualify.

I understand that the president of the Civil Service Commission has advised Representative Ramspeck that under the noncompeti. tive examinations that were given between July 1938 and December 1939 over 28 percent of the persons excluding the Postal Service and over 36 percent including the Postal Service either failed to pass the examination or were not considered suitable to be recommended for the examinations by the heads of the agencies in which they worked.

I believe that the stringency of the examinations, therefore in the face of those results is a conclusive answer to the charge of blanketing incompetent employees into the civil service.

228128-40-27

The second point that I have heard raised was that this would lead into an increase in expenditures because salaries would be raised.

I don't believe that it is necessary to convince this committee that that would not be the case. The W. P. A. is operating in the central office in Washington under the Classification Act of 1923, the positions having all been classified. Classification is now being extended to the positions in the field.

Therefore the question of civil-service status has nothing whatever to do with the question of salaries and the cost of administration.

Those two objections which I have just mentioned, that is, blanketing in and increased cost, are, of course, just as applicable as an argument against placing other agencies under the civil service as they are against placing W. P. A.

Now there is a third one that I believe has been cited more particularly as being applicable to the W. P. A., and that is the statement or argument that if our employees attain civil-service status, it will tend to make the W. P. A. a permanent Government agency.

I must say that I have never been able to see any validity in the argument.

The question as to the continuance of W. P. A. is one that will be settled by the Congress certainly on much broader grounds than whether administrative employees or any considerable portion of them are under the civil service.

The whole matter of the Public Works Program is one of the great questions before the country and before the Congress at this time. Ånd, as I say, I cannot conceive that this matter of civil-service status will have anything to do with the final determination as to whether a Public Works Program is to be continued under the W. P. A. or under some other agency of the Federal Government.

I do not desire to take any more time; I will be glad to answer any questions if desired.

I simply want to say in closing again that what this legislation does is single out one agency out of the entire Federal Government and say that the employees of that agency shall not be given an opportunity to attain civil-service status which is being accorded to practically every other employee of the Government. The effect of that discrimination runs through the entire organization with which I have to work. The employees feel it all the time and the sense of injustice that is engendered by it is one that is very destructive of morale within the organization.

The CHAIRMAN. Now, Colonel, you referred to the additional cost item. I don't know that I got you just right. You confined that to the W. P. A. program only; you didn't intend to include the entire field covered by this bill, did you?

Colonel HARRINGTON. No, sir. I did not. My remarks were based upon the situation in the Work Projects Administration.

Senator MEAD. Colonel, I presume the sponsors of the bill had in mind the temporary or transitory life of W. P. A. when they inserted that provision excluding W. P. A. from the civil-service benefits that are given to other agencies. I agree with your

argument that it should not be singled out and discriminated against, but I presume the temporary status of W.P.A. and the relief field that it serves might engender opposition much more substantially than would be developed in the case, say, of the Internal Revenue Bureau or other old fixed bureaus of the service. And yet you can't say, nor can I, when Congress can safely abandon W. P. A. or some form of public works as is contained in W. P. A. Can you see the time when it can be safely abandoned ?

Colonel HARRINGTON. I certainly cannot at this juncture, Senator. I am of course asked about that all the time both by congressional committees and elsewhere. This country is passing through a period of readjustment which I envision as extending over 5 or 10 years, in any event. And in that period I believe that a program of public works in one form or another will be carried out.

As I said a few moments ago, the present W. P. A. set-up may be changed by legislation, but in that connection I don't think that the question of whether we have people under civil service or not is going to have any effect on the broader question as to the continuance of a public-works program in America.

Senator Mead. The fact that they work a given number of years

a given task in any agency should permit them to enjoy a permanent status if they meet the requirements laid down by the Civil Service Commission

Colonel HARRINGTON. That is my feeling; yes, sir.

Senator MEAD. Don't you believe—and this is perhaps a little away from the philosophy of the bill—that with technological advancements and the elimination of tradesmen, separation of artisans from their vocations, the creation of a large older workers' problem, the inability of these workers to find positions because of new methods of production, that an agency such as the W. P. A. which will find opportunity and give training to these dislodged employees until they are able to locate a position in private enterprise, is sufficient argument for the continuance of W. P. A. and its inclusion in this bill.

Colonel HARRINGTON. I do definitely feel so, Senator Mead.

And speaking of W. P. A., not in connection with this legislation but in general, I think there is a mistaken idea of the W. P. A. as a frozen group of people who stay on those jobs indefinitely.

The W. P. A. in four and one-half years has dealt with between 7,500,000 and 8,000,000 people. We now have on our rolls slightly over 2,000,000 but there has passed through the rolls a larger number of people, some only a month or two at a time, until they could get their feet back on the ladder again. With the increase in the labor problem, because of the shifting in age groups in our population the labor market is overcrowded. During this period of readjustment, I cannot see that a Federal work program can be abandoned.

Senator MEAD. There must be a sort of a reservoir for these temporarily dislodged groups of workers, not only to find employment but to find new vocations with which to fit in this constantly developing technical age in which we live.

I just learned of a railroad company that will not employ any workers over 23 years of age. I know of another one that will not transfer workers from one department to another after they are 40 years of age.

I know of a number of towns up in my section that are almost ghost towns because of new methods of manufacturing which necessitate the elimination of small units located in separate communities and their massing in one big industrial center. Well, we must do something with those people. They are not old enough to enjoy social security and they are certainly too young to give up all wealthproducing work. It occurs to me that from the standpoint of fitting them for new occupations, giving them vocational training, rescuing them from the despondency they will find themselves in, and also in creating useful wealth-producing projects, that the W. P. A. is here to stay until this economic or technological development is stabilized, and, no one can see the end of it right now.

Colonel HARRINGTON. I think that is correct, Senator. And I would like to say that as far as I am personally concerned, I have no ax to grind, in that connection because if the W. P. A. stops I go back to the Army and don't work as long hours as I do at the present time.

The CHAIRMAN. We are very much obliged to you.
Colonel HARRINGTON. Thank you very much, Senator.

The CHAIRMAN. Mrs. Rogers.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDITH NOURSE ROGERS, REPRESENTATIVE

IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS

Mrs. ROGERS. Edith Nourse Rogers, Member of Congress from the fifth District of Massachusetts.

The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed, Mrs. Rogers.

Mrs. ROGERS. I appear, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, in opposition to H. R. 960 because I believe in the merit system and I believe this is not a merit bill.

First of all, I wish to say that I believe thoroughly in the merit system; that I always employ the merit system whenever I have a chance to make appointments. In the case of my appointments to West Point and Annapolis, I first have a civil-service examination and then I take the boy who makes the highest mark in every instance.

Also, even in suggesting postmasters I use the merit system; and in every instance, so far as I can remember, I have selected the top man or woman, regardless of party.

I feel that party politics should not enter into the civil service.

I should also like to remind the committee that there has been for a number of years a very large reservoir of eligibles on the civilservice list. There are nearly 1,000,000 people on the eligible civilservice list.

Those people have been passed by during the past 8 years, year after year, and you can imagine their despondency. Those people on the eligible list won their spurs, they studied for their examinations, and they passed them, and of course expected to be appointed.

And, as you all know, many bills have passed both the House and the Senate that did not require civil-service status for appointment.

Only recently in the House also, measures have been passed and the people to be employed were not to be taken from the civil-service registers.

I believe in a bill that would provide for open competitive examinations, a real merit bill, but in order to be willing to compromise when the measure came before the House I introduced an amendment to the bill, which would allow the workers now on the non-eligible list who have no civil-service status to be taken in by noncompetitive examinations. Then after 1 year's time, and this is my amendment:

« PreviousContinue »