« PreviousContinue »
Mr. STEPHENS. No; the public does not get the benefit. I say the public pays the bill.
Senator WHEELER. If they pay the bill why would they not likewise get the benefit of it?
Mr. STEPHENS. Because we have certain utilities and governmentally regulated functions like railroads. I believe the statement is on record that certain railroads have been buying coal at less than cost of production.
Senator WHEELER. When you were speaking of the public buying coal at less than cost you just had reference to some of these companies; is not that true?
Mr. STEPHENS. Railroads and utility people. I do not believe that the individual householder, as such, as an individual, is buying coal at less than cost.
Senator WHEELER. I just wanted to make the point clear, because your statement as you gave it, it seemed to me, was confusing.
Mr. STEPHENS. I would say that there is no profiteering in the softcoal business and not likely to be while supply remains in excess of demand, unless the Government makes itself a party to a joint effort in conjunction with union labor and the soft-coal industry to bring about such a situation.
Senator WHEELER. Do you sell soft coal ?
Senator WHEELER. Do you buy it direct from the mine operator or through a wholesaler?
Mr. STEPHENS. We buy direct from the operator.
Mr. STEPHENS. From $2.69 to $2.74 is the freight to the New Jersey loading ports. Then you have the freighting of the coal to your yard, which varies according to the tonnage of the boat and whether it is beyond what we call towing limits or not. Our average is about 43 cents.
Senator WHEELER. That would make a total of what?
Mr. STEPHENS. I was wondering if you would allow me to finish this statement. It is only two pages long.
Senator WHEELER. Yes.
Mr. STEPHENS. Then I would be glad to go into that question further.
If there is no shortage and no profiteering to be remedied by legislation, what is the purpose to be accomplished? Perhaps it is desired to raise the earnings of labor in the soft-coal industry. If so, how can that be accomplished! There are only two ways to bring this about. By raising daily wages or by increasing the time worked by each employee at existing or lowered wages. If wages are increased, prices will increase, and competitive fuels will profit by the advantage accorded them, and soft-coal consumption will decrease, and you will have embarked upon a policy which will lead to a disaster, such as the producers and miners in England are now facing with no remedy in sight.
If you seek to increase annual earnings of miners without raising wage rates, you will have to operate the mines more days or will have to reduce the number of men engaged in mining soft coal. The first method would be self-destructive. Any increase in tonnage produced over the present rate of production would make the existing conditions in the industry worse than ever. If you intend a decolonization of labor in the soft-coal field, why not say so, and attempt to write such a program into legislation?
My conclusions with respect to the effect of this legislation are that it will help no one unless it tends to elevate the price of soft coal to a point where existing mining corporations will be guaranteed so high a price for their product that, regardless of how many days they may be able to operate their mines, it will be possible to pay overhead and operating expenses, pay an annual living wage to their employees, regardless of how many days they will be employed, and show a fair profit at the end of each fiscal period.
This can only mean one thing. The Federal Government will be underwriting profits of the soft-coal industry, and wages of employees engaged in that industry, and the public will foot the bill. I doubt very much that Congress will choose to alienate the consuming public in order to curry favor with the leadership of a discredited union, which has lost its hold on its own members and forfeited the good will of the public by a policy of strikes and violence coupled with disregard of Federal authority and of the welfare of the rank and file of its own members and of the public.
Mr. LEWIS. I challenge the truth of that vicious statement; and I say to the witness that it is gratuitously offensive.
Mr. STEPHENS. It represents a statement of opinion which, I believe, is based upon facts which are available to everyone who has studied the question.
Mr. LEWIS. Sir, I say to you that it is a vicious untruth, and you can not maintain the accuracy of that statement.
Mr. STEPHENS. May I conclude?
Mr. STEPHENS. As the official representative of the National Retail Coal Merchants Association I hereby record our carefully considered opposition to this bill and all such paternalistic or class legislation as it represents. The retail branch of the coal trade is the one branch of that industry in closest contact with the coal-consuming public, and I speak here not only in my official capacity but individually as a citizen and a consumer. The effect of this bill will be to increase the price of soft coal to the public as well as to involve the Federal Government in an unjustifiable interference with, and participation in, the affairs of business. We also believe that this legislation will be detrimental to the very industry and class of labor that it is designed to assist.
Senator WHEELER. Let me ask you this. I was trying to find that paragraph
Mr. STEPHENS. That is the second paragraph on page 2 of the statement of objections.
Senator WHEELER. In which you state as follows: I doubt very much that Congress will choose to alienate the consuming public in order to curry favor with the leadership of a discredited union, which has lost its hold on its own members and forfeited the good will of the public by a policy of strikes and violence coupled with disregard of Federal authority
And so forth. What Federal authority has it disregarded! Mr. STEPHENS. I consider that the president of the United Mine Workers flouted the President of the United States and disregarded public authority in the attitude he took while President Harding was the Executive of our country, on the subject of arbitration.
Senator WHEELER. Let me just ask you, what about the coal operators who flouted the Secretary of Labor when he asked them to come down here and have a conference on the coal question?
Mr. STEPHENS. My understanding is, sir, that there have been somewhere from twelve to fifteen investigations of this industry in the last ten years, or perhaps less. I do not know of any instance when any branch of the trade has refused to cooperate with commissions or committees of Congress or has refused information except when they felt that their constitutional rights were being violated.
Senator WHEELER. Do you think their constitutional rights were being violated when they were requested by the Secretary of Labor to come into a conference?
Mr. STEPHENS. I am not familiar with any refusal to enter into a conference. I am not speaking for the National Coal Association or the bituminous coal producers. I can only speak for our own association.
Senator WHEELER. But you made the statement here that they had disregarded the Federal authorities.
Mr. STEPHENS. I spoke then in relation to the unions. In my own opinion that is the case.
Senator WHEELER. And in your own opinion that was the case when they refused to meet with President Harding, you say, in a conference ?
Mr. STEPHENS. Yes, sir; when they rejected the principle of arbitration.
Senator WHEELER. What Federal authority is there that requires any coal operator or any employee to submit to arbitration unless he wants to ?
Mr. STEPHENS. I could discuss the Herrin massacre or
Senator WHEELER. You know perfectly well that that was not a Federal authority at all, and it was purely an isolated case, of course.
Mr. STEPHENS. Perhaps, Senator
Senator WHEELER. You are making a broad statement here that is going to be given wide publicity, and, frankly, I think from your own standpoint, if you have something upon which to base it, it is perfectly proper for you to make it; but certainly the statement of fact upon which you base your conclusion is entirely unwarranted if that is all you have.
Mr. STEPHENS. I believe that the history of the United Mine Workers, under their present leadership, will fully warrant the statement that I have made.
Senator WHEELER. I would like to have you give me some specific instance other than that, because I feel that that does not support your conclusion in the slightest degree.
Mr. STEPHENS. I think it would be more fair if I were permitted to supplement this statement by a written memorandum, which I shall be very glad to do.
Senator WHEELER. You are coming before the committee and you are making a general charge
Mr. STEPHENS. Yes, sir.
Senator WHEELER (continuing). That this union has flouted Federal authority. I presume, since you come here and make that statement, that you had in your mind when you prepared that statement something to prove it?
Mr. STEPHENS. I certainly have. All I would say is that I would be very glad to prepare a detailed statement
Senator WHEELER. No; I would like to have it now.
Mr. STEPHENS. I would like to have opportunity to present it to the committee officially either in writing, which I think would serve the purpose, or verbally if you choose.
Senator WHEELER. I would like to have you give it to me verbally now.
Mr. STEPHENS. In order to do that I would have to get my records, I did not bring them with me because I could not bring everything with me.
Senator WHEELER. You say that this legislation would be paternalistic, and at the same time you condemn the union because of the fact that you say they refused to arbitrate when they were asked to arbitrate by the Federal authorities.
Mr. STEPHENS. I think we are very many of us in favor of the principle of arbitration. There seems to be a little hesitancy toward committing ourselves in writing. But when it comes to the practice of arbitration I believe we are all agreed upon it. Many of us might object to a bill making that mandatory under the law; but this question of arbitration, in my opinion, is the only means of arriving at a settlement of disputes between labor and capital.
Senator WHEELER. Your only interest in this is that you feel that you want to protect the public from the high cost of coal ?
Mr. STEPHENS. We want to protect the public from the high cost of coal, and we want to protect ourselves and our rights as business men to do business on the same basis as business men engaged in other commodity lines.
Senator WHEELER. And you would feel, if the President of the United States asked you to come down and arbitrate and you did not come, that you were flouting the Federal authority?
Mr. STEPHENS. I would feel, if I did not show him the courtesy of at least attending the hearing and giving him opportunity to present his case—if I did not treat him with respect, I would feel that way; yes.
Senator WHEELER. You would feel the same way about it if the Secretary of Labor asked you to come down here and arbitrate!
Mr. STEPHENS. I would; yes, sir. I might not arbitrate, but I would certainly come down and talk with him unless I had been here so often that I had said everything that could be said.
Senator WHEELER. Coming back to the price of coal to the retailer, would you give me those figures again, please ?
Mr. STEPHENS. $2.15 at the mines.
Mr. STEPHENS. I wonder whether that ought to go into the record ?
Senator WHEELER. I feel it ought to go into the record. I suppose you have no secret agreement with any company, have you?
Mr. STEPHENS. It is awfully good advertising for them.
Senator WHEELER. Would it not be for you, too, if you are handling a good grade of coal?
Mr. STEPHENS. I am speaking, now, of what is known as Culver coal, produced by Coleman & Co., a very excellent navy standard coal. It is $2.15 net at the mines. The freight rate on that coal is $2.69 gross. The harbor freight to piers alongside of most of our yards figures out about 43 cents, including the insurance and extra towing beyond towing limits.
I have not here a table from gross to net. I have got to bring that $2.15 up to gross--about $2.34. It figures $5.53 per gross ton alongside.
To that there must be added the cost to the dealer of discharging, yard operation and maintenance, delivery, selling, finance, and administration.
Senator WHEELER. What do you figure that?
Mr. STEPHENS. Let me get that exact, Senator, as long as these figures go on the record-$5.53 gross would be $5.05. We have a gross or working margin of $2.70 a ton to cover the cost of discharging, yard, delivery, selling, financing, administration, and profit.
Senator WHEELER. You are selling that coal in New York at the present time at what price?
Mr. STEPHENS. $7.75.
Senator WHEELER. Would you mind giving the committee the figures on that?
Mr. STEPHENS. If we are going to go into the figures on anthracite, Senator Wheeler, we are going to have to go into the thing thoroughly. I mean, we can not take a specific size of coal as we can with soft coal. We handle soft coal run of mine and the figures with respect to that are typical. When it comes to anthracite we handle domestic sizes, pea coal, and steam sizes.
Senator WHEELER. Take any one size.
Mr. STEPHENS. I do not want to take any one size, because it may show what looks to be a high profit, and if I take another size it will show loss. The only thing we are interested in as retail dealers is that we get a fair return on our investment from handling the various kinds of coal that we supply our customers.
Senator WHEELER. In view of the fact that you are speaking as a retail coal dealer in behalf of the consuming public I thought it might be well to get a statement with reference to anthracite coal
Mr. STEPHENS. I think, sir, that I can make the statement that the average profit per ton that the retailer in the metropolitan district can show under present conditions runs somewhere from 15 to 35 or 40 cents a ton. During the life of the coal commission they found that the average profit of the retail dealers in that territory was about 33 cents à ton. The profits to-day are less