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improvement of their situation in the matter of wages, hours of labor, or other conditions, as shall be found desirable from time to time.1
Two ideas, namely, the right of workers to organize, and the shop committee idea, i. e., the meeting of employers with committees of the workers, were carried out in far-reaching ways during the few months of the War Labor Board's activity. As regards the recognition of the unions, the Board continuously refused to require an employer to enter into a contract with a union, as such, except in instances when a union contract had been in force prior to the submission of the controversy. The right of workmen to organize was sustained repeatedly. On August 1, in the Columbus Street Railway adjustment, the Board upheld the right of employees to display the union button; it frequently ordered the reinstatement of men discharged for union activities; it repeatedly discountenanced the individual restrictive contract with employees, and instead expressed itself in favor of the collective agreement.
The shop committee was promoted by the War Labor Board at every opportunity as the proper agency for collective bargaining. In some cases the form of this promotion did not go further than the bare finding that the employers must deal with committees of the workmen. In other cases the Board went so far as to prescribe the way in which the committees of the workers should be selected, as for instance in the following:
10. Election of Committees.
The election by the workers of their representative department committees to present grievances and mediate with the company shall be held, during the life of this award, in some convenient public building in the neighborhood of the plant, to be selected by the examiner of this board assigned to supervise the execution of this award, or, in the case of his absence, by some impartial person, a resident of
1 Monthly Review, U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 1918, pp. 56, 57.
Pittsfield, to be selected by such examiner. Such examiner, or his substitute, shall preside over the first and all subsequent elections during the life of this award, and have the power to make the proper regulations to secure absolute fairness.
In the elections the examiner shall provide, wherever practicable, for the minority representation by limiting the right of each voter to a vote for less than the total number of the committee to be selected. Elections shall be held annually.'
This sketch may suffice to indicate the scope of the War Labor Board and the nature of its work. As a force for industrial peace and continuity of production in war, it played a notable part. Unquestionably such restraining influence as it was able to exert was due in the main to the spirit both of employers and employees during the national emergency. What use can be made in the coming period of its basic principles and of its technique is a question. The extent to which labor groups are willing to be controlled in their collective bargaining will in the last analysis determine the issue. Possibly they will agree to governmental control when its exercise is vested partly in their own national representatives. The shipbuilding type of labor adjustment, based on the pledge of the leaders of the national unions, gives promise of being used in peace time. In it lie perhaps the germs both of a sound democratization of labor control and of a conscious collective responsibility of labor to the community at large. But this, as well as the War Labor Board's work itself, is mainly educational. Both have broken down some of the barriers between management and labor.
The other important adjustment machinery developed by the government during the last ten months of the war, namely, that in the Railroad Administration, is of considerable magnitude. As distinguished
1 Findings of joint chairmen as arbitrators in re Employees v. General Electric Co., Pittsfield Works, July 31, 1918.
from the somewhat more fortuitous machinery of the War Labor Board, it was planned in advance with great thoroness. The outstanding features of the labor administration of the railroads are, first, the laying of a foundation of standard wages and working conditions in advance by a board composed exclusively of government appointees, not one of whom was a representative of labor; second, the omission of mention, in the basic documents, of a union or a union standard, altho the system for further standardization and for adjustments in individual cases is largely dependent upon the action of persons selected from among the unions for service as officials; and third, the right of appeal to the Director General, from the decisions of the boards whose function it is to change the basic standards and to interpret and apply them. These boards are made up equally of representatives of capital and labor, and their decisions must in any event be approved by the Director General; they are thus reduced to the status of agencies merely advisory.
Altho the standards thus established and the scope allowed to the unions have greatly improved the relations between labor and management, the arrangements leave labor no final voice in the determination of standards. As compared with the War Labor Board, the labor adjustment system in the Railroad Administration, from the point of view of institutional development, is distinctly conservative.
So much by way of general analysis. The steps taken in creating this important system of railroad labor adjustment were in detail as follows. At the very outset of his administration, the Director General had averted certain threatened strikes by entering into preliminary arrangements with union leaders. On January 19,
1 See this Journal for February, 1918, p. 362.
1918, a few days later, he appointed a Railroad Wage Commission, of four men - Secretary Lane of the Department of the Interior, Charles C. McChord of the Interstate Commerce Commission, J. Harry Covington, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, and William R. Wilcox, of New York. The Commission was directed to "make a general investigation of the compensation of persons in the railroad service, the relation of railroad wages to wages in other industries, the conditions respecting wages in different parts of the country, the special emergency respecting wages which exists at this time owing to war conditions and the high cost of living, as well as the relation between different classes of railroad labor." On April 30, 1918, this Commission made its report. It took account of all railroad employees, whether manual or clerical, receiving less than $3000 per annum. It found that "the man who received $85 a month on January 1, 1916, now needs 40 per cent additional to his wage to give him the same living that he had then." It recommended a detailed sliding scale of increases, under which, for instance, an employee receiving $50 per month would receive an increase of $21.60; a $150 per month employee, an increase of $24.25; and a $245 per month employee, an increase of $5.00.
On May 25, 1918, the Director General of Railroads adopted in the main this sliding scale basis of increase as recommended by the Wage Commission and at the same time established the Board of Railroad Wages and Working Conditions, naming its six members, three of whom are railroad officials and three trade union officials. This Board was to investigate inequalities effected by the new scale, competition with employees in other industries, and rules and working conditions. By the terms of the order creating it, it was to be solely
an advisory body and was to submit its recommendations to the Director General for his determination. Its activity has consisted largely in making decisions on interpretations of the orders and rulings of the Railroad Administration respecting labor.
In addition to this general board, other agencies have been set up for the several groups of employees. Three separate boards of adjustment have been established, each composed of eight members, of whom four are designated by the railroad managements and four by the unions interested in the jurisdiction of such board. Board No. 1 has to do with " train service employees," such as engineers, firemen, conductors, trainmen, switchmen - employments covered by the by the "Big Four," or Railroad Brotherhoods. Board No. 2's jurisdiction is over the railroad shops - employments covered by the "Mechanical Department of the Railway Employees Department" of the American Federation of Labor. Board No. 3 is concerned with telegraphers and maintenance-of-way clerical and station employees. To a fourth board are left on appeal such local disputes as do not come up through channels of organized labor. It consists of the two assistant directors of the Division of Labor the first for a number of years a government officer as a member of the United States Board of Mediation and Conciliation, the second until recently a president of one of the metal trades international unions. Finally, grievances of women workers follow a fifth course, being handled directly by the Director of the Division of Labor.
Besides having for their bases in general a wage scale increase determined upon by the Wage Commission, Adjustment Boards Nos. 1, 2 and 3 have for their guidance certain direct agreements between the Railroad Administration and union officials. Thus on March 22,