Page images
PDF
EPUB

people are out of employment you can

not maintain your organization.

Mr. MURRAY. That is true, and yet I could see a different picture if we had a voluntary organization. This amendment does not suggest that Congress by a mandatory provision should compel an employer to give employment to union men only, but it woul furnish the opportunity for the individual who belonged to an organization if he so desired and guarantee him that he would not sacrifice his position because of membership in that organization.

The CHAIRMAN. From a practical standpoint, Mr. Murray, the better thing to do in reference to that is probably to let this bill go along and then put in another bill on the line of your thought, and then you could fight it out on its merits. There are men in the House and in the Senate who might support this bill as it stands, but would not support it if the other proposal is added. You would have a combination of opponents to each part of the bill.

Mr. MURRAY. Yes. I find it extremely difficult, because I happen to be a layman, to follow the trend of court decisions, but I do give some attention to them. I have in mind the famous Red Jacket case, which caused a most bitter dispute in the Senate when Judge Parker was nominated to be a justice of the United States Supreme Court. In that the Federal courts decided that mining as such did not constitute interstate commerce and that the commodity would have to enter interstate commerce before the Federal Government assumed jurisdiction. The court ruled to that effect in the Yellow Jacket case and yet issued an injunction restraining 40,000 mine workers from striking to improve their conditions; the Federal court issued an injunction restraining men from the right of belonging to organizations. It set up regulations surrounding the productive activities of every man mining coal in the State of West Virginia. The Supreme Court says in one case that it is without authority to assume jurisdiction because coal as such is not interstate commerce and on the other hand a Federal court issues a sweeping injunction regulating the lives of 40,000 mine workers in that given area and preventing them from joining organizations, preventing picketing, which, for all practical purposes, went right at the heart of production itself.

Mr. LOVETTE. But, Mr. Murray, the same principle of law does not govern in each case.

Mr. MURRAY. That is true.

The CHAIRMAN. One involves interstate commerce and the other protection of property.

Mr. LAMBERTSON. Your workers would be in a very critical situation even if there had not been crisis because of the extension of oil and natural gas to the operation of industry. If there had been no slump in 1929, your workers would still be in a distressing condition.

Mr. MURRAY. There is no question about that. Our workers have been in distress for about 15 years.

Mr. LAMBERTSON. And that aggravating condition has simply been made worse by the depression.

Mr. MURRAY. It is very much aggravated by the depression. The figures we have submitted to the committee show that the per capita

a

productivity of each miner has more than doubled in the last 20 years, due, of course, to increased mechanization. During the last 10 years other industries have not been able to absorb our surplus workers, mine workers. The other industries seem to be situated similarly to us, and there is no hope for an absorption of the excess mine workers by other industries.

Mr. GRISWOLD. Most of your men are employed in accordance with your contracts six hours a day, I believe?

Mr. MURRAY. No; under our contracts we have the regular 8-hour day—6 days a week and 8 hours a day.

Mr. GRISWOLD. And you are anxious to obtain the 6-hour day and the 5-day week.

Mr. MURRAY. Unquestionably:

Mr. LOVETTE. How many miners would be out of employment to-day if the coal mines were working up to capacity to meet the demand?

Mr. MURRAY. Our index is keyed to produce approximately 800,000,000 tons of coal a year. I mean the bituminous mining industry. The normal consumptive requirement is about 500,000,000 tons a year. At that rate our men would work only five-eighths of 308 work days a year.

Mr. LOVETTE. If five-eighths of them worked regularly, three eighths would be out of employment ? Mr. MURRAY. Yes. Mr. LOVETTE. How many would that be, 200,000?

Mr. MURRAY. The most recent figures available show there are 270,000 bituminous mine workers completely idle. Our production in the bituminous coal fields amounted in 1932 to 305,000,000 tons.

Mr. ELLZEY. Did the Nation ever consume the amount of capacity production?

Mr. MURRAY. No; the peak production of the Nation was something in excess of 600,000,000 tons. I think it was 619,000,000 tons, to be exact.

Mr. LAMBERTSON. Is there any bituminous coal imported ? Mr. MURRAY. I do not know of any bituminous coal imported. There are about 300,000 or 400,000 tons of anthracite coal imported into the country.

Mr. ELLzEy. Except for the high cost of railroad transportation, could you compete with natural gas as a fuel ?

Mr. MURRAY. Yes; in many instances we can.

Mr. ELLZEY. In other words, the high cost of railroad transportation is prohibiting the people in the South from using coal instead of natural gas?

Mr. MURRAY. I think that is right. The high cost of transportation in the Southern States generally prevents the use of coal.

Mr. ELLZEY. Transportation of coal costs considerably inore per ton than the coal actually costs at the mine, I believe!

Mr. MURRAY. Yes. Under present conditions the labor costs in many instances is down to 50 cents a ton, and wages in that instance are a negligible factor, while the freight rate to the Atlantic seaboard is about $3.

Mr. ELLZEY. Do you anticipate that the number of miners in the bituminous field will gradually decrease unless the cost of transporta

tion is decreased so that the people in the States having natural gas may use some coal!

Mr. MURRAY. It is true that the freight problem is a serious one confronting the industry, but it is not a particularly aggravating one. The thing I have particular reason to fear is the maintenance of a living standard that will at least afford these workers who are citizens of the United States of America to live properly. We believe it is the function of Government to protect these workers who have long been in a state of complete poverty, for approsimately 15 years at least.

Mr. LAMBERTSON. And in order to carry on this industry the coal operators must be able to sell their product.

Jr. JITRRAY. There is no question about that. The coal operators have to market their coal. With a market for 150.0*0.000 tons of bituminous coal a year and a proper distribution of employment, including a set-up for voluntary collective bargaining within the industry, there would be a tendency to destroy the forces of eut-throat competition, there would be a tendency to destroy the forces of low prices that wipe out protits, and establish a living condition within the industry that would make for pruit for the emplovers and profit and a decent living standard for the employees.

One result of this amendment would be to protect the workers from the various practices now in effect in many establishments of not only refusing to employ members of labor organizations but also to require emplovees to sign individual, or so-called - vellowdog" contracts under which they are denied all possible rights of even joining a labor organization. Congress declared its opposition to such contracts in the recent anti-injunction legislation and this public policy finds its application in the limitation placed upon the powers of the Federal courts in dealing with such contracts. But these contracts may still be enforced in the State courts and still persist in many places. All fair-minded persons. I believe, agree that the individual contract is unfair and contrary to the fundamental rights of American citizens. They also agree. I believe, that no worker or group of workers should be denied the right of organization and coilective bargaining if they so desire. The suggested amendment is thus in keeping with the best thought of the day and is also in keeping with the spirit of the Connery bill.

In summary, therefore, I may say that the proposal for the 30hour week as provided in the Connery bull, subject to the suggested amendment, meets with the full approval of the United Mine Workers. Our present situation is desperate. For example, there are some 270.000 miners now out of work in the bituminous fields alone. Of these, about 170.000 have lost their jcos since 1929. the remaining 100.000 had already lost their jobs before the present depression, as a result of mechanical inventions and improved technique. It is to this latter group of 100.000 whose jobs were lost before the depression, that attention may be particularly directed, for this is indicative of the real evil of the situation_namely, that even aside from the depression, the new industrial world has been steadily creating a condition in which there is a vast surplus of unwanted labor. No inteiligent observer or student. I believe, really expects to see any considerable proportion of this surplus labor

reabsorbed in industry, even though a pick-up in business should come. We are doomed to have a permanent army of millions of idle workers-unless they are taken care of by the logical method of reducing the hours of labor.

And, it is necessary that such reduction should be mandatory, because it must be universal. To leave the matter to the whims of private industry will be to leave control to the worst element in all industries. We have had notable examples of this, as in the cotton textile industry, when the desire of 90 per cent among the industry to abolish night work was thwarted by the selfishness of a few.

The shortened work week is essential, no matter what other additional remedies may be needed to bring our economic life to a sane and prosperous basis. To avoid taking this step is to invite disaster.

In conclusion I want to quote from an article in the January 19, 1933, Washington Times, by Mr. Claude G. Bowers, under the caption. “ The radicalism of reaction.” It says in part:

The plan, as we understand it, is to divide the jobs and the wages. An employee makes $40 a week. He is put on half time that another man without a job may get half time. The man who had been making $40 a week then gets $20 a week, and the man who had been getting nothing gets $20 a week. This does not impose any sacrifice on the employer who pays out no more money by giving work to the man without a job.

It is quite true that there is a fear among many thoughtful people that the drastic reduction in wages, which drastically lowers the American standard of living, mas not pass easily with the crisis. If conditions improve and prosperity returns, are we quite sure that wages voluntarily will be raised accordingly? Has that been the history of the advance of wages and the improvement of the standard of living? If we have read labor history aright, it has not. On the contrary, wages have gone up usually after a struggle. It has been the work of organized labor; and in this connection it is interesting to find that organized labor has lost enormously in membership and, therefore, in power.

I have nothing further to say.

The CHAIRMAN. If there are no further questions, let us thank the gentleman for his interesting statement and hear the next witness.

*

STATEMENT OF MISS MARY G. KILBRETH, CHAIRMAN OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE WOMAN PATRIOT CORPORATION

The CHAIRMAX. The next witness is Miss Mary G. Kilbreth, chairman of the board of directors of the Woman Patriot Corporation, 712 Jackson Place, NW., Washington, D. C.

Miss KILBRETH. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I have a prepared statement that I should like to read because it is controversial and I want to be questioned in connection with it. I think it is only fair to my opponents and to myself that I should be questioned on it.

I have not been able to be present at all these hearings to meet some of the arguments but I should like to meet one or two arguments made this morning. I should like to have time to do that, and I hope it will be given to me. It will not take long to read the paper I have prepared. It is as well documented as I can make it; but I am anxious to be questioned about it. However, if you can not give me the time to read my paper, which is short, I will ask

178

including groceries, received at the company's store, and when these deductions are made the worker finds himself in debt to the company.

Mr. RAMSPECK. They are in the same position as is the Negro on the Mississippi flood-control work who worked nine days and then owed the company money,

The CHAIRMAN. The colored man owed the contractor $1.05 at the end of his employment.

Mr. LOVETTE. Speaking of your proposed amendment, do you not think in view of the fact that there is a serious question about the constitutionality of the bill, and that your amendment would add another burden to it in that respect, that it would be better to see whether or not this bill, if it should be reported by the committee, would stand, and take that up in the future and let labor work this out itself by whatever means it can, such as collective bargaining, after this bill is passed and declared to be constitutional? In other words, if you do not get my question clearly, do you not think you would by your amendment add an additional burden to an already serious question of whether or not this bill, if the Congress should pass it, would be constitutional ?

Mr. MURRAY. I can appreciate the difficulties in connection with the constitutionality of the bill, but I am dealing not as a lawyer, but as a layman, with a practical solution of our economic problems, hav. ing a due appreciation of the constitutional difficulties. Congress only last week, I believe it was, adopted a resolution the slogan of which was “ Buy American.” That resolution was predicated largely upon the theory that the importation of cheap merchandise from low-wage countries into the United States was hampering our industry and aggravating our condition of unemployment. I think that is an excellent resolution.

Mr. LAMBERTSON. And then we have the importations from cheap money countries!

Mr. MURRAY. Yes; from cheap money countries. I am thinking in the meantime of this interminable situation wherein there is the constant trend toward reduction of wages in unorganized industries, because that is gradually dragging organized industries to the pauper level, taking from many industries the elements of organization that have obtained there for many years.

The CHAIRMAN. I am in sympathy with the purpose of your amendment, Mr. Murray, and suppose we add this amendment and the bill passes the House and the Senate and is signed and then goes to the Supreme Court, which would declare that part of the bill constitutional—the part which applies to the hours of labor—and said that the open-shop proposition was unconstitutional. You would not like that, would you?

Mr. MURRAY. Why not have a proviso in the legislation to protect the 6-hour day and the 5-day week, saying that if any part of the bill is found unconstitutional the other parts may stand; or we could add another section?

The CHAIRMAN. You could do that. I would say off-hand that the simpler the bill at the present time, in view of existing conditions, the better chance it has of getting through the House and the Senate. Of course, the more controversy created the less chance the bill would have. You would probably get much opposition on

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »