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You elaborate on that somewhat. I think you gave an illustration of the tendency to look for a younger man in terms of a physically fit man. It is not clear to me why men with technical experience and skill, such as of engineers, firemen, conductors or brakemen, or men in the shops with skills, could not be returned to employment when the openings occur. If I understood you correctly, and as I read the Railroad Retirement Board report, that situation has been improved as far as some railroads are concerned, but there still remains a gap in the programs.
Can you indicate whether that type of thing can be handled by legislation, or is it more properly a matter of understanding and negotiating between the parties involved ?
Mr. OLIVER. I think it is inevitably a matter of cooperation between the Railroad Retirement Board, the carriers, and the labor organizations.
The legislative contribution to it, however, is to take care of the victims, if I may use the expression, of the technological change and to provide the incentive.
For example, in the Fair Labor Standards Act, there is a provision that overtime must be paid after 40 hours. Now, I, of course, would feel that such a provision is much better in the collective bargaining agreement, but the fact is that through the clause the Congress provided an incentive for reducing hours to as nearly 40 as possible.
The effect of the unemployment compensation in this legislation serves the same purpose. The sliding scale and the standards set up will give to the displaced employee a protection and will give to the carriers what I think will be a powerful incentive and an educational element that will do what you have suggested.
I think that legislation can do that and this legislation will. Mr. HESELTON. I think you referred to this legislation. You meant the proposed legislation?
Mr. OLIVER. The proposed bill; yes, sir.
Mr. RHODES. Mr. Oliver, do you consider unemployment compensation benefits on the railroad also as a sort of severance pay?
Mr. OLIVER. I believe the fundamental principle in the railroad industry is not severance pay. The fundamental principle is to provide for the employee until he can be relocated. Mr. RHODES. Is there any severance pay on the railroads? Mr. OLIVER. I wouldn't consider it severance pay; no, sir.
Now, there may be individual agreements at various places, in fact, I am sure there are, where something that could be called severance pay has been developed, but actually the central agreements and the central program on policy has been one of relocating the employee in the industry rather than calculating on his permanent displacement.
Mr. RHODES. What is the maximum number of weeks a railroad worker can receive unemployment benefits?
Mr. OLIVER. 130 days now.
Mr. JARMAN. Mr. Oliver, I have just one line of questioning that I wanted to develop very briefly.
To your knowledge, are railway employees and management in agreement on any of the provisions of 4353 ?
Mr. OLIVER. Well, as legislative proposals, to my knowledge, no. As principles, I believe I am justified in saying that the railways have indicated that the idea of providing for or relocating older employees in preference to hiring new ones, is a sound personnel policy.
There were meetings. I was in some of the meetings, but their character were not such that I think would be pertinent right here.
Mr. JARMAN. Meetings prior to this Congressional session, or since we convened?
Mr. OLIVER. Prior to this session, over a year ago.
Mr. JARMAN. To your knowledge has there been any opportunity for meetings, or have there been any meetings on, say H. R. 4353 and other legislation that is proposed in this session?
Mr. OLIVER. I believe there were some conferences. My information on it, though, comes from Mr. Schoene, who answered a similar question. I think he did speak of some conferences.
Mr. JARMAN. Representatives of the management and of the employees?
Mr. OLIVER. Yes. I was not in on any of them.
Mr. JARMAN. Sometime this year?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mr. Oliver, I want to compliment you on your statement, too. I was somewhat amazed by your figures as to the number of experienced railroad workers who are not put back on the job.
Would your figures be materially affected by the number of experienced railroad employees who are not in a position to move to another community? I have specifically in mind the West Albany shops in New York State which were closed down several years ago. We had a great many older men who were only a few years from retirement age.
The roots of which you speak were so deep in those cases that a very, very small percentage of those people could even consider moving any great distance.
Would you say that the number of people in that category would reduce to any great extent the overall figures you presented ?
Mr. OLIVER. My own study indicates that it would be a very small effect. The reason I say that is because, as I have told you, I went into the communities where men had been displaced and older men who owned homes had left and I had many pictures of the tumble down homes that they still owned, the buildings tumble down, in the towns they had left. They were way up in the age brackets.
Now, if unemployment compensation had been available, some of them would have preferred, I think, to stay in the towns, particularly those right near the retirement age.
But for such employees, of course, the retirement system would begin to operate and the unemployment compensation would carry only a part of that. But there would unquestionably be some of them.
Mr. O'BRIEN. If you were to exclude that group entirely, just assume that they would want to stay where they are, where there was a home or a grandchild, you would still have a substantial number of experienced railroad employees who could be hired, who should be hired ?
Mr. OLIVER. Yes, a great number. The results in Altonna demonstrated that. They were way up in age and yet they moved long distances.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you.
Mr. DINGELL. I was very much interested in your comments and I think you did a splended job this morning. However, I was interested in one thing.
You spent all your time on the unemployment compensation features of the two bills, 4353 and 4354. Do you have any comments in addition to those which you would like to make on the retirement features?
Mr. OLIVER. No, I have made no study of that situation. That is Mr. Schoene's specialty. I have done very little with it. It is an actuarial problem insofar as it gets over into the area adjoining my specialty and I am not an actuary.
Mr. DINGELL. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. SAGGERS. Mr. Oliver, the commitee does appreciate your being here and presenting your figures and your statement.
Mr. OLIVER. Thank you, sir.
Those are all the questions from the members, so the committee will stand adojurned until 2 o'clock this afternoon to hear other witnesses.
(Thereupon, at 12 o'clock noon, the committee was recessed, to reconvene at 2 p. m., same day.)
The subcommittee reconvened at 2 p. m., upon the expiration of the recess.
Mr. Mack. The committee will be in order.
Our first witness this afternoon will be Thomas Stack, president of the National Railroad Pension Forum, Inc., Chicago, Ill.
Mr. Stack, we are glad to have you with us this afternoon.
Mr. Mack. Do you have a printed statement ?
PENSION FORUM, INC. Mr. STACK. That is right. Mr. Chairman, my name is Thomas Stack. I reside at 1104 West 104th Place, Chicago, Ill. I am president of the National Railroad Pension Forum, Inc., an organization chartered under the laws of the State of Illinois as a nonprofit group to educate the rail workers of this Nation on retirement problems and secure remedical action from Congress to insure their security and independence when they retire; to frame our Railroad Retirement Act in accord with their views.
Forum membership comprise union and nonunion employees of the railroads and the retired workers who have no other representa
tion, and all of those who come under the Railroad Retirement Act and its jurisdiction.
The National Railroad Pension Forum, Inc., is the largest group in this field not influenced by management of the railroads or the leaders of the various union crafts.
We are nonpolitical and have membership on 328 railroads and affiliated bureaus, which include the Pullman Co., Railway Express Agency, and the sleeping- and dining-car employees.
Every member of our group is a voluntary subscriber. There is no coercion used to obtain membership. Most of our members view use as the only protective committee they have in dealing with protecting their rights under the Railroad Retirement Act, and they are unanimous in their views that only through this medium can they make known to Congress their wishes in connection with increasing benefits under our retirement system, as it is through this medium that they are at liberty to address both Houses of Congress and freely express their views in support of any pending legislation.
Although Forum headquarters is in Chicago we have some 1,800 group leaders and active workers in the various railroad offices, major shops, terminals and yards, nationwide. Many of those leaders are elected by the workers to keep us informed as to their needs and lend counsel to enactment of our program for the benefit of all.
In this way our organization comes in closer personal contact with employees and we have our hand at all times on the pulse of the rail workers, thereby freely expressing the views of our people to the various committees of Congress.
Ninety percent of our membership comprise men and women employees on the rails who are also members of the standard labor crafts. Seven percent, or a little more, comprise retired workers who are the beneficiaries of the benefits today under our system.
All forum officers are veteran railroaders with backgrounds of long employment, hence we can be truthfully termed as a rank and file group.
I had 38 years of rail service until I was drafted in 1947 to the position I now hold, at which time changes were made in our Railroad Retirement Act that were ill advised and deemed detrimental to the interest of the rail worker at large who felt that they were being exploited by interests that could never qualify to represent them on this important topic.
The decision made subsequently only helped to confirm this viewpoint, as even today those interests load up our act with fringe benefits immaterial to the average worker who, in many cases, does not have a chance to pass or view such questionable legislation until it is too late for them to take action.
Under this atmosphere the National Railroad Pension Forum, Inc., was born, to be of service to the railroad employees. Committees of Congress and Members in both bodies are familiar with our activities ever since.
We have many committees within our group, such as our finance committee that approves all bills and monthly statements, our membership committee, our publicity committee, and our legislative committee which keeps us posted with pending legislation.
We also have a very important platform committee. Each of these committees has at least five members who lend counsel to our endeavor. Last year our platform committee spent a considerable number of hours each in framing a program with which we could approach this Congress. This involved a review of the correspondence from our group leaders and other individuals. It also involved study of various retirement systems, many of which have endorsed parts of our program and successfully engrossed same in the interests of their employees.
This committee approved our program as reflected in our Rail Pension News, the quarterly publication of our group with 125,000 circulation. We have received many comments from our rail workers, most of a complimentary nature, as they express the views of our people who no doubt will contact you relative to same.
You have today before your committee various bills on railroad retirement that spell out distinctly what improvements rail employees desire in connection with their retirement act.
I will scan over these bills using key bills in each category and if your committee desires that I elaborate more fully on the provisions of those bills, I will be glad to do so.
H. R. 3974 by Representative Bryan Dorn, South Carolina. This gentleman knows the needs of rail employees. He has four railroads merging on his hometown. He is secretary of the South Carolina delegation who last fall held a meeting at Columbia, S. C., where rail employees appeared and expressed themselves in favor of the legislation as reflected in H. R. 3974.
This bill makes two important changes in our present act: it provides retirement at the age of 60 with 30 years of service, or 35 years of service regardless of age.
It is most important to the present rail workers and gives them added security against the hazards of our industry.
H. R. 3974 is perhaps the most important bill before you for consideration. Retirement at age 60 is today enjoyed by female employees of the rails with 30 years of service, yet male employees, many working at the same type job, receiving the same pay, would, if they retired at the age of 60 with 30 years of service, lose one-third of the meager annuity, or one one-hundred-and-eightieth for each month they were under the age of 65 years.
The provisions of H. R. 3974 were last year written into law on civil service employees.
There are pending before the Ways and Means Committee of the House 4 bills to reduce the age to 60 years for benefits under social security.
We have many employees working today who under the stern provisions covering disability in our Retirement Act—as they would almost have to be a stretcher case to qualify for such benefits—cannot get those disability benefits—they in many cases are too sick to work. Some work only a few days to establish their seniority, but their small earnings reflect on their average retirement credits, so that cases in this category have a lower average earnings and consequently a lower annuity when they are forced to preclude benefits until they reach the age of 65 years.
There are a great many in shops laid off in the change from steam to diesel power; many that automation has retired from railroad work.