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statement, which, of course, has nothing to do with the legislation that is before us, yet I can only speak for myself—but I am sure that I speak the thought that is in the mind of others, that those who have had the opportunity to be associated with Mr. Harrison over the period of years know that he is intensely interested in the welfare of the railroad worker and I would not want that this statement be taken as any indication of any lack of interest on his part.
I know how sympathetic he is. I know how anxious he is to be helpful and while you may not agree with all that he has said or done, neither do I agree with some of the most estimable Members of Congress in all that they have said or done; but I do recognize that the sincerity that prompts suggestions must be taken into consideration, and for that reason, I could not be in accord with what you have said, if it is meant to imply any lack of interest or sincerity upon the part of Mr. Harrison.
Mr. STACK. I just wanted to give a background of this organization, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions?
Mr. HALE. Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hale.
Mr. HALE. Mr. Stack, you made a statement which I did not quite understand about the average age of the railway workers being 58. years.
Mr. STACK. That is 56.86.
Mr. HALE. Now, what do you mean by that? Do you mean that that is their expectancy?
Mr. STACK. That is the expectancy. That is taken from the Machinists Journal for October 1947 and November 1947. There in the brief is given page and it shows the number who died, 206 was the number and it shows the total number of years that they lived, 11,714, and that divided by 206 gives you 56.86.
Mr. HALE. Was that their general expectancy; do you know?
Mr. STAcK. We were told during the hearings of the Crosser Act that it was 77 years; but that was an actuarial figure there. This is a fact. This is right from the magazine.
Mr. HALE. Well, I note what you say. Is that your figures as to the expectancy, the life expectancy of railroad workers? You give it as 56.86?
Mr. STACK. That is 56.86.
Mr. HALE. You do not know what the corresponding figure for some other industries might be?
Mr. STAcK. Well, they all give different figures. They all give figures on the expectancy, but this is in the railroad. This is just one line.
Mr. MILLER. Mr. Hale, will you yield?
Mr. HALE. Yes.
Mr. MILLER. I think that Mr. Stack is only using the dead ones. There are a lot of live ones. As an insurance man I like to count the live ones as well as the dead ones. I like to count them in connection with life expectancy. That is the average of just a small number, 206 that happened to die in those 2 months.
Mr. STAck. Yes, sir.
Mr. MILLER. They might have been bad months.
Mr. STAck. That is the average.
Mr. MILLER. I do not think that Mr. Stack wants to leave in the record a statement that the average life of a railroad worker is only 56 years. That may be true of the 200 dead ones. How about the 400,000 who are still alive? The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions? Mr. HASELTON. Mr. Chairman. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Haselton. Mr. HESELTON. Mr. Stack, I have listened to your statement ve carefully. I want to get this one point cleared up in my own mind. In analyzing the bill before the committee, which was introduced before, it is not your intention that the bill does not actually present some very desirable improvements? Mr. STACK. It does; it is very, very good. I compliment Mr. Wolverton on his bill. It is very, very ooi Mr. HESELTON. That is all. The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions? Mr. HARRIs. Mr. Chairman. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Harris. Mr. HARRIs. Are you in favor of it? Mr. STACK. Yes; I will be in favor of it. I would rather have the O'Hara bill, but I will go along with Mr. Wolverton's bill and support him in any way that I can. The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions, gentlemen? We thank you, Mr. Stack.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT B. BYRNES, REGIONAL WICE PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL RAILROAD PENSION FORUM, INC., BALTIMORE, MD.
The CHAIRMAN. The next witness will be Mr. Robert B. Byrnes, regional vice president of the National Railroad Pension Forum, Baltimore, Md.
Mr. Byrnes, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee: My name is Robert B. Byrnes, clerical analyst, employed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. in the general offices at Baltimore, Ma., and I represent, as regional vice president of the National Railroad Pension Forum, Inc.—serving without pay—a total of 9,000 members employed in various fields of the railroad industry who have contributed over $9,000 to the fight to have the highly discriminating Crosser bill which amended the Railroad Retirement Act of 1937, either repealed or amended. The present bill seems to be popular only with the officials of the union. The majority of the railroad employees have always, since 1946, been opposed to this law.
I was a member of the Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks for a period of 8 years until my suspension from the organization by the grand president, Mr. George M. Harrison, for organizing opposition in my local lodge, Baltimore, Md., to the Crosser amendments, and for acquainting Members of Congress with the true feelings of railroad workers toward the unjust features of the amended railroad retirement law. During the year 1946 to 1947, a former officer of local lodge No. 567, Baltimore, Md., Mr. Charles J. Weidman, my assistant, was instrumental in circulating a petition throughout the Baltimore & Ohio system calling for the repeal of the Crosser amendments, and this petition was subsequently distributed to many Congressmen by Representative George M. Fallon, of Maryland. The act of the grand president in suspending a large number of union members, including local officials, throughout the country from the Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks for their open opposition to the amended Railroad Retirement Act brought a wave opresentment that led to a great number of persons resigning from the union. One in particular, Miss Helen A. Kane, of Baltimore, now secretary of our local pension forum, was informed by the grand president that under the constitution of the Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks she would not be permitted to resign, but needless to say she is not now a member. Our local organization of the National Railroad Pension Forum has attempted in as many ways as possible to keep the railroad employees of the Baltimore area advised of any new legislation pending which will repeal or amend the Crosser amendments or effect the Railroad Retirement Act of 1937, and we are gaining support more and more every day. I wish to include in the record at this time a statement that neither I, nor any member of this organization, to my knowledge, has accepted funds or any material aid from the , Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, or any other railroad. Our mailing list includes more union members—including local office brotherhood representatives—than nonunion, indicating that union members were not given the opportunity to voice their opinion on such a controversial piece of legislation—the Crosser amendments. To aprove this point, prior to the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks convention at Cincinnati in 1947, a resolution was passed on the floor of my local, lodge No. 567, Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks, one of the largest locals in the brotherhood, to the effect that the delegate of that local to the convention—Mr. James Scharf, division chairman, should take some action toward repeal of the Crosser amendments, after Mr. Hartman Barber, a representative of the grand president of the brotherhood, had threatened everyone present that Mr. Harrison would expel from the organization 4,000, 40,000 or 400,000 members if they persisted in opposing his will along these lines. Mr. Barber also informed the members present that things had been lined up in Congress, and that the rank and file could never get a bill passed over the heads of the brotherhoods. I come before you gentlemen today not to be stubborn or hateful, but to appeal to your sense of fairness and justice to ask support of bills H. R. 6298 and H. R. 6397. I might say when I came in here I did not know of the existence of the bill introduced by Chairman Wolverton. I should like to briefly outline a few of the many objections that railroad employees have raised to the Railroad Retirement Act as it exists today. First of all, we should not lose sight of the most important factor in the present execution of the law—the cost. Throughout these hearings I suggest that you place yourself in the position of the average railroad employee making less than $300 per month. Place yourself in the average railroad employee's position—even $15 a. month would be a lot of money to pay for any type of compulsory insurance, let alone the $17.25 now being paid, when you take into consideration the factors of withholding tax, State income and sales taxes, cigarette tax, luxury tax, contributions to church, Red Cross, welfare, and so forth, and the extremely high cost of living, which we are told will continue to climb this coming year. The tax burden of 5% percent—soon to be 6 percent—which actually represents a reduction in salary of that amount, should be . of an argument to stop any further effort to retain the present features of the law at such an excessive cost. Our second objection is the elimination of the death benefit by enactment of the Crosser amendments. Thirdly, where husband and wife—both employees—contribute 5% percent tax, in case of their accidental death only one annuity will be paid to the beneficiary. The greatest fault of all, and the one that has caused the greatest resentment among railroad workers, is the discrimination between male and female employees and widows of railroad workers. Why is a widow of a railroad employee forced to wait until she is 65 years of age before she can qualify for survivor benefits, yet the female employee at age 60 can retire on a full annuity. How can this glaring discrepancy be explained? Why not give widows their full annuity at age 60 also? Their husbands are paying a high enough tax for that. Those railroad employees who have spent 20 or 30 years in the employee of the railroads cannot understand the provision for new employees who earn but $150 in any one benefit year being eligible for full benefits under the Crosser amendments. As example— earns $150, is entitled to a maximum unemployment benefit of $227.50. [Reading:] Amendments to these two acts were not prepared on a collective-bargaining procedure, that apparently the provisions of these bills were prepared by certain officers or employees of the Railroad Retirement Board and then approved by the chief executive officers of certain railroad labor organizations, which is not in keeping with the previous agreement between the railroads and the brotherhoods. That quotation from page 340, paragraph 2, hearings before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Seventy-ninth Congress, on February 14, 1945. Testimony of Mr. John T. Corbett, assistant grand chief engineer and national legislative representative, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. In line with present living costs all annuity and survivor benefits now being paid and provided for in the existing law are much too low. As regional vice president of the National Railroad Pension Forum it has been my good fortune to meet personally a great many railroad men and women employed on all of the lines between the South and the New England States. These have included trainmen, office workers, trackmen, shopmen, signal maintainers, station agents, car builders, and traffic solicitors. The majority of these workers in every walk of railroad activity sought me out in the hope of obtaining early relief from the burdensome features of the railroad retirement i. as it was amended in 1946. The railroaders of America are recognized as a stable element in the various communities of the United States. They have permanent residences, pay their taxes and their bills promptly, and conduct their lives on as high a scale of living as their earnings will permit. The present high tax of 5% percent on employee and employer alike—to be advanced to 6 percent January 1, 1949–actually deprives these people of some of the essentials of decent living. Therefore, I request this committee to consider the reduction as effected by H. R. 6298 of the railroad retirement tax to 3 percent, on employee and employer alike, which would prevail according to the balance now in the Railroad Retirement Fund of over 700 million dollars. I consider it against public policy to allow forthright citizens, such as the railroad workers are, in every city and town in the land, who have been receiving incomes just about large enought to permit them to avail themselves of the services extended by the merchants of their communities for 30 years or more, to find themselves after a life of service to the Nation, through its transportation, suddenly retired at a modest pension too small to allow them to continue their way of life. Gentlemen, under the present set-up of the railroad retirement law the toilworn railroader is provided with a pension that is $120 a month or less even for former high salaried workers, but which averages only $61 a month for all the railroad workers at present on retirement pensions. It is only fair then that the law be changed to provide pensions of at least half pay to all railroad workers whose monthly salaries or wages is $300 or less. Since the railroad retirement law tax takes such a large portion of a railroad worker's income during the years when every penny of money earned is so urgently needed to live, support a family and educate children, I believe that the law should provide for the safeguarding of that money for the continued benefit of the railroad worker. At his death before reaching retirement age his survivors should have restored to them full sum of his payments to the railroad retirement fund, plus interest, and he should be given the right to consider such moneys paid into the fund as his accumulated savings which he might bequeath to any heirs or survivors he might name. The law should be amended to provide this benefit. So that there may be no discrimination between men and women workers I recommend passage of H. R. 6297 providing for retirement at age 60 for men and women alike, after 30 years in railroad service. In addition I recommend that widows of railroad men be allowed to obtain their annuity when they reach age 60 if they were younger at the time of their husband's death, or immediately after his death if they have passed age 60 at time he passes away. Gentlemen, more than a million and a quarter railroad workers, their families and their friends, all over this Nation are looking to your actions today in the hope that you will bring them the relief that they have patiently awaited for the past 2 years. Ease their burden now and you may be sure that they will not forget your goodness to them in the days ahead. The CHAIRMAN. We thank you for your statement, Mr. Byrnes. I note what you said about present living costs and annuities, and survivor benefits now being paid and provided for under the present existing law being much too low. I suppose for that reason you can approve of the bill I introduced. Mr. BYRNEs. Yes, sir; most heartily. The CHAIRMAN. Even though it may not go as far as you would like, you would like to approve of that? Mr. BYRNEs. We would like to approve it. The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions, gentlemen? The next witness will be Mr. Harry H. Warner, chief clerk of the engineering department of the Savannah & Atlanta Railway Co. at Savannah, Ga.