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Bureau was established in 1917 under the 1916 act. Congress ratified the creation of the service, in effect by providing specific appropriations in 1918 and in 1919. It appears, therefore, that there is legal authority for the creation of a system of sea training and the Commission is convinced that the United States Government should undertake this function.
A plan accordingly is being considered for the training of 500 young men under supervision of the United States Coast Guard.
It has been proposed that the Commission set up a shore base on Hoffman and Swinburne Islands in New York Harbor. These Islands are under the control of the Treasury Department, which has agreed not to dispose of them until the Commission determines whether or not it desires to make use of them. The islands were formerly used by the Quarantine Service, but have not been in use for some years. Hoffman Island has 15 buildings on it which are in exceptionally. good condition. The buildings are easily adaptable for living and training purposes. Swineburne Island is located a short distance from Hoffman Island and would be a helpful adjunct to the main training station. The Commandant of the Coast Guard and his aides have inspected this property, consider it suitable for the purpose, and are willing to undertake the work.
Students for the courses of training would be recruited from all sections of the country. They would be American citizens between the ages of 18 and 23, unless the age limitations were subsequently changed, and would be enlisted for a period of 1 year. In cases where a recruit showed aptitude for further specialized training, and enlistment for an additional year's training could be permitted.
The training would cover approximately 3 months at the shore training station on Hoffman Island; 6 months on a training merchant vessel; and 3 months on a cruising cutter of the Coast Guard. Estimates submitted by the Coast Guard indicate that the cost of training 500 recruits would be $1,443 per man, or a total of $721,418 for the year. This would cover all costs except the expense of rehabilitating Hoffman Island, estimated at $100,000; the reconditioning of a Coast Guard patrol boat, estimated at $40,000; original outfits, estimated at $40,000; and reconditioning of one of the vessels owned by the Commission, to accommodate recruits and crew, estimated to cost $465,000. The total outlay by the Commission for the first year would therefore amount to $1,356,419.
The Commission has also gone into the subject of training in sail, as is done by many foreign nations. It is believed that, for the present at least, such training should be confined to a sailing vessel to be attached to a shore base. James A. Farrell, owner of the full-rigged ship Tusitala, has offered to give this vessel to the Commission for use as a training ship. It is recommended that Mr. Farrell's offer be accepted.
It has been suggested that organized labor might oppose the inauguration of such a program.
The Commission does not believe that labor would oppose any reasonable plan for raising the standards of its craft. Under this program the number of men to be introduced into the merchant service, with allowance for failures and withdrawals, probably would not exceed 400 a year. This small number, it is believed, is but a fraction of the normal replacement requirements of our seagoing vessels. The graduates of sea-training systems abroad-notably in England, where the so-called closed shop prevails—have no difficulty in securing places aboard ship. The unions accept these young men as members and welcome their wholesome influence in the ranks of seagoing workers.
The Commission also has been giving consideration to the advisability of establishing a national merchant marine academy for the training of officers. Schoolships maintained by the States of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and California now offer such training. There are many who believe that the training of officers is properly a Federal and not a State function. This work, it is maintained, could be done to much better advantage, and probably at less cost, by a national academy that would partake of the nature of the Army's West Point, the Navy's Annapolis, and the Coast Guard's New London. Possibly the existing system of State schools could be strengthened by Federal grants to those States now maintaining such a service. The Commission is making a study of the matter preliminary to a report to the Congress.
The Commission has given consideration to a more comprehensive program affecting the existing personnel. It has considered the establishment of a maritime service, which members of the existing personnel of the American merchant marine could join after having successfully completed a course of training. Under the proposed plan, the enrollment would involve no element of compulsion; men would be encouraged to join by the payment of at least 1 months' pay per year to those enrolled in the service, as well as payment during the period of training.
The Coast Guard bas consented to assume the task of conducting any such training course which might be established. The whole objective of such a program would be to raise the caliber of our marine personnel. It is believed that with an improvement in working conditions, and assuming that labor relations will be established on a harmonious basis, there is every reason to expect that a high type of personnel drawn from all sections of the country can be attracted to our merchant marine.
The Commission is of the opinion that such a program should not be undertaken, however, until there has been further opportunity for study.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions?
Senator VANDENBERG. I am very much interested in the voluntary mediation contracts, which you spoke of, and agree with you that if they can be made voluntarily it is far more preferable. For my information, will you tell me how one of those contracts works in respect, let us say, to a dispute which arises on a ship at sea?
Mr. CURRAN. The instructions are very clear as to the matter of a dispute arising on a ship at sea. Any dispute arising at sea is to be held in abeyance pending arival in the home port, where the dispute can be adjudicated. At sea, the authority of the master is to be preserved in all respects.
Senator VANDENBERG. That is certainly adequate and satisfactory if it works. Does it work?
Mr. CURRAN. It has worked, and it is working now.
If I may quote from the labor statistics report of the past month or so, there have not been any strikes or any disputes of any nature in the merchant marine field.
Senator VANDENBERG. You are undoubtedly familiar with many of the stories we have heard in recent months and years about insubordination at sea. Is there any justification for those tales? I know
. that is a rather curious question to ask you, for I cannot identify the incidents I am talking about.
Mr. CURRAN. I think that is very curious, and I think it calls for an answer that I am not especially in a position to give. I do not believe I could satisfactorily cover the disputes that have occurred in the past years. I can say that in the past few months, since we have been able to go through with our elections before the National Labor Relations Board and enter into negotiations for agreements, we have experienced less and less difficulty in adjudicating labor disputes. In fact, we have had no difficulty whatsoever in the past few months.
If we are allowed to continue along those lines, there will not be any disputes. The National Labor Relations Board is very ably handling all the disputes that occur.
Senator VANDENBERG. The jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board is confined, is it not, to the matter of elections? It cannot mediate subsequently, can it?
Mr. CURRAN. Where unfair labor practices are apparent, where we have complaint of discrimination, those complaints have been filed with the Board. The Board takes action on those complaints and holds hearings on them, and we abide by the results of those decisions of the Board.
Senator VANDENBERG. I think, Mr. Chairman, that it is impossible for Mr. Curran or for me to ask any specific questions regarding this problem about which there is so much controversy, but I think it would be fine if Mr. Curran could return again after, perhaps, some of this other information has been developed.
The CHAIRMAN. I think that is satisfactory.
Mr. CURRAN. I should like to say, too, that we agree wholeheartedly with the statement made by the chairman of the National Labor Relations Board here. We feel that the Maritime Commission recommendations did not in any way intend that the powers of the National Labor Relations Act should be curtailed in the jurisdiction of labor disputes.
The Chairman. If you will refer to the bill S. 3078, at page 36, beginning at line 9, you will see the following:
Sec. 1004. Disputes between a maritime employer or group of maritime employers and any of its or their employees growing out of grievances, or out of the interpretation or application of agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, or working conditions, shall be handled in compliance with the provisions of any agreement relating to the settlement of such disputes or in the usual manner up to and including the chief operating officer of the maritime employer designated to handle such disputes; but, failing to reach an adjustment in either manner, the disputes may be referred by petition of the parties or by either party to an appropriate adjustment board, as hereinafter provided, with a full statement of the facts and supporting data bearing upon the disputes.
Does not that contemplate that such voluntary agreements as have made shall be given consideration?
Mr. CURRAN. No; I am afraid that it does not. I am afraid that the continuity of the bill detracts from any possibility that it may have. This deals very clearly in disputes growing out of grievances and states that they shall be handled in the usual manner. The usual manner is that the chief operating officer of the maritime employer attempts to adjudicate the dispute with the employee. Failing in that, according to the rest of the bill, it will move on to the Mediation Board or to the National Adjustment Board, so I do not think it covers that at all. It is something that has been done over a period of years. Where a small dispute occurred, we attempted to adjudicate it first with the officers of the company or with the officers of the vessel.
The CHAIRMAN. It would seem to me as I read this, I did not write it—that it is very definite, in lines 13, 14, and 15, that these disputes shall be handled in compliance with the provisions of any agreement relating to the settlement of such disputes or in the usual manner.
Mr. CURRAN. The question arising there would be an interpretation of the usual manner. The employee always has the right to go to a superior officer and complain of conditions or of whatever may be wrong. Then, if the official just above cannot adjudicate it, they move on to another official in the company. Nine times out of ten the employee ends up on the blacklist if he continues. It has been the practice in the past, if they complained along these lines, to wind up in the little black book, so they find themselves without employment and without the possibility of getting it in the future.
The CHAIRMAN. Is not one purpose of the bill before us to avoid the existence of the little black book?
Mr. CURRAN. Well, as it now stands, the agreements being reached between the union and the shipowners very efficiently do away with the possibility of a blacklist, inasmuch as they provide that if any employee is not acceptable to the steamship operator, the steamship operator shall give written reasons why the man is being rejected. Usually those written objections will be along the lines of inefficiency, sobriety, and so on. Before, it was just a question of a man applying for a job and the employer, without any reason whatsoever, just saying, “There is no job for you.”
In the contract it will stipulate that the employees under the agreement shall be hired through the union hall. The CHAIRMAN. Are there any other questions?
Senator VANDENBERG. How far have you gone with voluntary contracts providing for mediation?
Mr. CURRAN. We have six to eight under negotiation. You realize, of course, that we cannot move any more rapidly because of the National Labor Relations Board conducting or holding elections. They have to hold elections in each steamship company before any negotiations can be carried on. They have to designate, through the balloting, the collective bargaining agency.
Senator VANDENBERG. How would that compare with the total maritime situation?
Mr. CURRAN. It would be 18 out of approximately 75 that have been finished so far.
Senator THOMAS. In the main, you said, you are in agreement with the testimony given by Chairman Madden, but in the course of your statement you mentioned the fact that anything in the direction of mediation would be looked upon as a coercive measure.
Mr. CURRAN. That is correct.
Senator Thomas. Has the history of railway mediation proved itself to be coercive?
Mr. CURRAN. We do not want to imply by any word or any statement that the Railway Labor Act is not a good act insofar as it covers railroads; but we wish to point out to you very clearly that the maritime industry today is not in the same position as the railroads. In fact, we are now conducting elections. We are attempting to negotiate agreements. The fact that this mediation clause in the bill is even pending is because many of the shipowners are saying, "Well, we will wait in these negotiations until we see what comes from Congress.
They know that this completely takes our weapon away from usany weapon we may have to defend the union. They know that we would be powerless to bring any pressure on them, and they could deny any change in conditions. They would just tell us we could not get them and that we know we cannot strike. They would get it up to the Mediation Board and would be able to hold it there indefinitely, and we just would not get anything
Senator THOMAS. Has your organization proceeded as far as railroad organization had when the mediation went into effect?
Mr. CURRAN. The railroad industry at that time was on an entirely different plan. Today we have a different way of going about organizing. We have to wait now until the National Labor Relations Board certifies us before we can even negotiate. On the basis of that, you can't even make a comparison. They did not have the National Labor Relations Board in those days, and they were pretty well organized at that.
Senator THOMAS. You are not against the principle of mediation entirely; you are against the probable use to which this particular act might be put at this time?
Mr. CURRAN. I am opposed to mediation being written into law at this time.' Our organizations are also opposed to it. We asked for the opportunity to organzie our industry before we discussed mediation. We have not proved conclusively to anybody, in spite of
what the press and other agencies might contend, that we cannot settle this industry and keep it peaceful and bring about harmonious relations with the shipowners. We have not been given a chance to prove that. If we are proved wrong, then it would be time to discuss it.
Senator Thomas. Then we should underscore your words “at this particular time?
Mr. CURRAN. Well, I want it made very definitely clear that insofar as mediation of any description is concerned, written into law, we are opposed to it. The organizations I represent are opposed to it.
Senator VANDENBERG. Even if it were to follow the general theory of your voluntary contracts?
Mr. CURRAN. At this time. We believe that the clause written into the contracts at this time, unless we are proved wrong, will take care of this. Then, if we are proved wrong, we can discuss mediation. Our organization is in its infancy. If it is going to be given a chance to prove whether it can do something or not, it may be able to do it; but if it is going to be strangled before it has grown up, then we do not know-none of us know-what it could have done if it had been allowed to go on.
Senator VANDENBERG. One of our troubles is while your organization is in its infancy the industry with which you deal is on its death bed.
Mr. CURRAN. I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, that you can place the blame for that on labor.
Senator VANDENBERG. I am not assessing blames; I am saying that we are confronted with a crisis, apparently, according to the testimony of Mr. Kennedy, and that something has to be done about it.
Mr. CURRAN. I want to say conclusively that we are wholeheartedly in support of the program to build the merchant marine. Naturally, we would be, as our livelihood depends on it. Also, although people would differ with us in this opinion, we are patriotic, and we would like to see a strong merchant marine in this country.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you disagree with the statement of the United States Maritime Commission to this effect?
Labor conditions in the American Merchant Marine are deplorable. Unless something is done to reduce interunion friction, to increase the efficiency of our crews, and to restore order and discipline upon our ships, all Government efforts to develop a strong American fleet will be futile. A merchant marine built upon inadequate and unsatisfactory personnel is little better than no merchant marine at all.
Mr. CURRAN. I disagree with it in many respects. I believe that the time that is referred to in this report is not the present. I believe it refers to the time when we did have interunion friction, which we have not got at the present time. This union, I will say, without any fear of contradiction, is the only union in the field, with the possible exception of a remannt here and there.
As I said before, we have come through a transition period. You will find conditions more stable today than they ever before were on the ships. There is no doubt in my mind that they are going to become very much more stable as we go along.
The report, I think, should have dealt a little more closely with the reasons why this deplorable condition existed. The report would give you as the reason why conditions were deplorable the fact that there was undisciplined personnel on the ships. We differ on that completely. We believe that the unlicensed personnel on the ships were