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April 30, 1918

To make an investigation of the wages and hours of the more than two million railroad workers now in the employ of this Government has been a matter of engrossing interest. To ask of a man, "What wages should you in justice receive?" is to ask perhaps the profoundest of all human questions. He is at once compelled to an appraisement of his own contribution to the general good. He must look not selfishly on his own material needs, but take a far view of the needs of those dependent upon him. He must go into the whole involved problem of his relationship with his fellows, and to answer the question aright he must in the end come to a judgment which will be nothing less than a determination of what policy or plan of wage adjustment will make for the permanent well-being of the State. We have searched for no such ultimate answer, if there can be one. But our investigation sought to reveal the insistent problems that confronted these workers, and such recommendations as we make are the practical answers to an immediate and direct question: What does fair dealing at this time require shall be done for these people, who are rendering an essential service to the

nation in the practical conduct of this industry?

That question to the mind of the Commission is qualified materially by the phrase "at this time". The existing state of war prohibits anything approximating a determination of ideal conditions. The exceptional call that has been made upon the railroads, and upon practically all other forms of industry in the country, since the United States entered the war over a year ago, has created an abnormal demand for labor. Wages have always responded to a degree to the law of supply and demand. As a result of the war, the prices of the necessities of life have been mounting to unheard of levels. The railroads, with the pressure upon them for greatly increased transportation facilities, have been confronted with the problem of asking increased exertion on the part of labor at a time of extreme competitive labor demand and at a time when the purchasing power of the pay is shockingly small. The Commission has consequently considered the railroad wage problem with the idea that the Government must courageously direct its attention toward the maintenance of rates of wages for the railroad employees which are still adequate for those who, as they patriotically labor, recognize that the war has brought to us all the necessity for sacrifice.

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In undertaking its comprehensive labor of determining in a broad spirit what fair dealing at this time does require to be done by the Government for the railroad employees, the

Commission held a large mumber of public hearings. It requested to appear before it at those hearings, representatives of all classes of employees, organized and unorganized, in the service of the railroads. Those who came to speak for these employees were given a full opportunity to present their views concerning the character and conditions of the work performed by those for whom they spoke, and the necessity for an increased compensation to be paid them. In addition to the statements presented at the hearings on behalf of the employees, hundreds of letters, written statements and petitions which were sent to the Commission by individual employees and by organizations of employees, were classified, analyzed and considered by the Commission in connection with the oral statements. Men in the service of the railroads, who during the period of operation and control by the private owners thereof had directly to do with the work performed by the various classes of employees, and with the determination of the rates of compensation and conditions of employment, were also heard, not in controversy with the employees, but to give all the information they could concerning the work of the various classes of employees, the reasons for the existing differentials in wages between different classes, the extent to which increases in wages had already been given to meet the present exigency, and the extent to which increases ought to be given at the present time.


The requests which have come to us for wage increases would, if fully granted, involve an additional outlay in wages of somewhat over one billion dollars per year in excess of the wage fund of last year, which exceeded two billions. Some asked for an increase of one hundred per cent in their pay, and from this they graduated downward to ten per cent. None were satisfied with their present wages.

If we assume that this total sum should be given, the problem would at once arise as to its distribution. Quite evidently the need or the desert of each class of labor is not to be measured by its demands. The bolder should not be given all they ask merely for their boldness, while the more modest are insufficiently rewarded for the service they render because of their modesty. Some had evidently thought out their claims with particular respect to their power to compel concessions, while others based their demands upon the exceptional character of the services given, the long experience and the training or character required. Still others found this a proper time to put forward claims which they felt were but a slender part of what justice would award, were the whole scheme of wage-making to be taken up afresh under a new order of things.

To re-classify the many hundreds of employments

in which the two million railroad workers engage would be a task calling for more time, skill, insight and knowledge than we possess. At the outset, it was seen that there were grave inequalities in the rates of wages paid. But who should say what relationship each class of employees should bear to the other? Abstractly, why should an engineer receive $170 per month, and a telegraph operator $90 per month? What ratio should the messenger boy's wage bear to that of a brakeman, or that of a machinist's helper to a section boss, or that of a billing clerk to a train despatcher? Or to be still more particular, what should be the proportionate wage of trainmen and stationmen? Should there, in fact, be, or could any scientific scheme be devised by which there might be arrived at, some proper and certain method of determining the wage of a carpenter as against that of an electrician? So if the full amount of the claims were granted we should still be met with a problem impossible of certain solution the proportionate share out of the total wage

fund that should go to anyone.

In the world of economics this situation has been met by the simple application of supply and demand, which is in turn now varied, affected and modified by those limitations arising out of the artificial, but necessary and historic methods of collective bargaining.

These forces have classified employments. In the growth of the railroads there has consequently been evolved no

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