The Industrial Dilemma
THE RAILROADS AND PUBLICITY
A SHORT time ago, in a speech made to a class in Economics at Harvard University, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made the following statement: —
“ A great remedy — possibly the remedy — for strikes and troubles between capital and labor, is publicity. Is it not a great comfort, after all, that publicity is the great remedy for public wrong, or private wrong, for that matter ? Why is it ? Because the majority of people in this world, despite all ancient theological teachings, want to do what is right.”
Here we have a solution of industrial problems theoretically enunciated, The application of this theory to the situation on the railroads, and to the policy and work of managers and labor organization, brings to the surface a most interesting story.
In its best educational meaning, publicity stands for knowledge, enlightenment, efficiency, the best possible type of manhood and womanhood, and for social betterment in every direction. On the railroads, for example, it is an easy matter to demonstrate to what a wonderful degree publicity means prevention as well as cure. The success of any campaign to secure greater efficiency of service and to improve the standards and ideals of the workers is now to be fought out and secured by means of this powerful agency. There was a time when it did not make so much difference what was known or what was concealed, for the reason that the public conscience was to a great extent indifferent; but to-day society is keenly alive to the situation, and recognizes the fact that publicity is the most powerful and wholesome educator in the laboratory of social science.
While then, generally speaking, the publicity method will be found to result in a useful knowledge of conditions, of methods, and of men, there is also concealed in it an art of a very practical description. In everyday life and work this may be termed the art of social persuasion and uplift. In municipal, as well as in industrial affairs, the best possible conditions are always fostered and encouraged by absolute publicity; the worst imaginable by political and industrial secrecy. To convert the latter into the former, with or without legislation, is the mission of social persuasion. This social betterment instinct, in this country at any rate, always has the majority at its back. It is always reaching out into the future where majority interests are centred. From barbarism to the projected efficiency of the highest civilization is almost an infinite span. Publicity, as I am about to explain it, is the highest point in the climbing process that has yet been reached by human effort and the human conscience. For centuries, with very little force or method behind it, publicity has been knocking at the gate of human progress, but not until lately has its widespread significance been understood. In the industrial world, for example, we are now beginning to understand that publicity, or social persuasion, is actually the art of bringing labor and capital, men and managers, together in the interests of the people. Its present and prospective value as the most useful agency in betterment work can be emphasized by a glance at the industrial situation.
Turn where we will at the present day, we find the distinguishing feature of the industrial world to be specialization for material ends and purposes. The struggle of authority to hold its ground, of capital to retain its supremacy and to reap its harvest, of labor to assert itself and to secure its due proportion of profits, has brought into active service an army of specialists, whose life-work seems to consist in upsetting the plans and defeating the specialties of their competitors. Under the direction of these trained specialists, the different interests have formed themselves into isolated group-centres. In order to safeguard their possessions, and to ward off interference, these groupcentres have surrounded themselves with all kinds of financial, legal, and legislative barricades.
The railroad world in particular is completely roped off and specialized in this manner. These groups of capitalists, workers, and managers can neither be broken up nor scattered by legal or legislative action. With their group-interests and group-ideals, these people are narrowing the horizon of national life. The specialists who manage their affairs and preside over their councils are seldom permitted to extend their vision, or exercise their sympathies, an inch beyond their own premises and interests. With their limited vision, these groups are socially incomplete. They lack the salt of a wide social brotherhood. The social conscience must now take them in hand, and inoculate them with the leaven of a wider philanthropy. The original soulless corporation has already been purged of its most flagrant abuses. It has now joined the brotherhood of groups, and is no better and no worse than the rest of them. In this way, the problem has widened and become more intense. Its economic importance has been dwarfed by a paramount human issue. It is, first of all, a question of American manhood and womanhood. In the interests of social betterment it thus becomes the business of publicity, or the art of social persuasion, to see what can be done with the group situation in American industrial life.
To begin with, what is it like, and how does it work on the railroad ? In making the best of a rather uncomfortable predicament, the manager has become attached to the group situation. It is now the only peg on which he can hang the hat of his authority. In fact, the principle of management has now been reduced to these forms and to these terms. As the manager looks at it, the greater the number of groups, the less chance for unanimity among them, for the groups are self-centred and selfish. On a given railroad they have no common base; the engineer, to a sufficient degree for the manager’s purpose, looks askance at the fireman, the trainman at the conductor ; and the towerman, as a rule, cannot be persuaded to cast in his lot with the telegraph operator. Amid these varied interests and little storm-centres the manager plays his part, and the harmonious relations that exist are the result of his manipulation, and a tribute to his skill. But in this industrial shuffle the individual is passing through a humiliating experience. My own position on the railroad will serve as an illustration.
My term of service on the Boston and Maine Railroad extends over a period of twenty-eight years. So far as I am aware, there are no marks of any kind on my record. Consequently I think I am justified in contending that, in my own interest, and that of the service, if there are any avenues of promotion in the tower service they should be kept open so that I and others may have them in mind as an ever-present incentive for exertion and faithful service. Nevertheless, since management by group and schedule has been inaugurated, I and others in similar positions have been like so much dead-sea fruit. By reason of pressure from other groups, the field of promotion is confined to my own group. The avenue along which I should be able to press upwards and forwards in the tower service has been blocked by rigid agreements between the management and the different group-interests.
I work on the Fitchburg Division. On other divisions of the road there are situations that for a long time have paid a dollar a day more than that which I hold. Of course, if these divisions were separate railroads, nothing more could be said; but they are all under the same management, and a towerman can qualify for a new job on another division nearly as quickly as he can for one on his own. But if I desire one of these higher positions on another division, it is open to me only in one way — I must throw up my record of service and my seniority and ability privileges on my own division, and begin life over again on the other, at the bottom of the ladder; which, of course, is practically out of the question. A telegraph operator in a tower in the terminal division, with a few months’ service to his credit, has the call on the tower work on that division ahead of a man who has been working for the same corporation for over a quarter of a century. Neither seniority, merit, nor ability is permitted to interfere with the interests which each group formulates for itself, and which are at present impervious to publicity. It is hardly to be supposed that the manager is alone responsible for this state of affairs, for it must be evident that his ability to place his men to the best advantage is circumscribed, while the liberty and individuality of the worker receive no recognition.
But publicity, or social persuasion, in the United States, has the biggest kind of a mission. Its main business is to explain and to illuminate the industrial dilemma, so that the people as a whole can be brought to understand the situation. The collective good sense of the community, without much fuss, will then take care of its own interests. But, unfortunately, publicity is no part of the programme of organized labor. Many of its principles will not stand the test of social scrutiny. In the interests of the labor body as a whole, its inefficient members are only too often protected and retained in the service. Our unions discourage criticism and discussion, and insist upon discipline in the dark.
Bishop Keane, in an address at Denver, Colorado, some time ago, made the following statement: —
“Labor unions should not therefore destroy competition, even in labor, by denying efficiency extraordinary compensation.” But the seniority rule, as in actual practice on the railroads, denies to efficiency this extraordinary compensation, contrary to the manifest interests and requirements of the public service.
A short time ago I read in a Boston newspaper an account of fifty or more teamsters who had been fined for disobeying certain traffic rules, which had been laid down by the city authorities for the safety and convenience of travel. Since the new traffic law went into effect, January first, there have been 1061 teamsters in court. Of this number 944 paid fines of five dollars each. Both fines and the names of the offenders were published in the daily papers. The city of Boston, it would seem, does not believe in the Brown system of discipline in relation to street traffic. Presumably the city would long ago have adopted secret and psychological methods of discipline if they could anticipate better results. So the question arises — If publicity is good for the teamster, why is it not equally so for the railroad man ? On the railroad, when an employee disobeys a traffic regulation he is treated psychologically in the dark. So far as his fellows are concerned, there is no lesson or warning attached to it, as in the case of the teamsters.
In passing, the psychological problem on the railroad deserves a word or two in its relation to publicity. Some of the managers have taken hold of this matter in practical fashion. They give as one reason the fact that nowadays juries and arbitrators must be addressed and worked upon psychologically, or very little impression can be made on them.
The railroad manager meets the psychological problem at every turn. In a sort of despairing effort to compel employees to read attentively and correctly in sending and repeating train-orders, for example, he will change the names of a dozen railroad stations to meet certain psychological possibilities. Another bugbear of this description relates to divided responsibility. Until quite recently, this poor old world has been run on the supposition that two hurdles in your path are more likely to arrest your career than one, and that double protection is more reliable than a single safeguard. Under stress of psychological promptings, which whisper to the easy-going twentieth century that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business, the props are being knocked from under this common-sense logic. The situation is becoming most peculiar in its practical aspect, more especially on the railroads, where the interests and safety of the public are now threatened from so many directions.
Not long ago extensive tests were instituted on a well-known railroad. The manager of the road told me a curious incident in connection with these tests. The record was almost perfect. The only out about it related to one particular signal. Nearly every engineman on the division disregarded this signal, for some unknown reason. The manager, an acute judge of human nature, as it lived, moved, and received encouragement on his railroad, at once detected a cause. Personally he investigated the matter; as he approached the signal in question, the reason for its neglect was very evident: a second signal, some distance ahead of the signal which had purposely been set at danger was plainly seen to be in the safety position. What, then, was the use of bothering about signal No. 1 when the track was certainly clear up to and beyond signal No. 2 ? Here we have the usual psychological excuse for disobedience.
But, regardless of their own indiscretions here and there, I think the managers of railroads are beginning to perceive that they are likely to gain more than they lose by encouraging publicity methods. One western railroad goes so far as to publish instructions, and all sorts of warnings to employees, in the daily papers. Take, for example, the following from a newspaper published in Bloomington, Illinois:—
“It has developed of late that some train baggagemen delivered milk and cream to the wrong persons, causing heavy loss to the company in settling damage claims. Hereafter every case of such carelessness, where claims must be paid, will be charged to the baggagemen at fault.”
“ Towermen, agents, yardmen, and crossing-tenders, are asked to do what they can to avoid delay of passenger trains. The performance sheets of late show considerable delay due to the carelessness, laziness, and negligence of certain employees who are not alert in the effort to prevent delay. All concerned are again urged to do better in the way of accelerating the movement of such trains.”
“ Crew’s are asked to respect the orders about not running too fast down-hill and around curves, Plain view being a notable example. Speed there should not exceed fifty miles an hour.”
By the way, fifty miles an hour round curves is n’t at all bad as a reduction in speed.
To secure the attention of the employee, and to enlist his interest in the cause of efficient service, the modern manager is now willing to go to any extreme. He is even prepared to surrender his prerogative and to share his duties with the employee.
On a western railroad it has been decided to appoint engineers and conductors to examine and instruct employees in regard to rules and duties. These men are to be placed on regular pay, and called in to coöperate with the officials. The idea of appointing employees for this purpose is a novel one, and its success will be watched with considerable interest.
But there are all sorts of strings to the publicity kite, which fact is a reminder of another phase of the topic that also seems to call for a little attention. I allude to the personnel and the work of the Interstate Commerce Commission in relation to organized labor and the public interests.
The Interstate Commerce Commission employs something like twenty-one inspectors. All but three of these men are members of the four big railroad orders, in good standing; and, indeed, service for the Interstate Commerce Commission is used as a stepping-stone of promotion in these orders. In connection with the promotions recently made, due to the resignation of Chief Hanrahan of the Firemen, and of Chief Morrisey of the Trainmen, three different Interstate Commerce Commission Inspectors have been promoted to positions as officers of the orders.
Another point, which is certainly of interest to the public, is that representation on this government board of inspectors is in proportion to the membership of each of the large orders. Now, not for a minute do I presume to say that these men are not good men, that they are not competent, and that they cannot serve their country well. What I do say is that, under their oaths to their organizations they owe allegiance to them; and that this is not in line with the best ideals of public service.
The comfortable, matter-of-fact way in which the organization of Railroad Trainmen looks upon the merging of labor interests and those of the people under one head, is particularly noticeable. The following information on the subject is from the Railroad Trainmen : —
“ On January 1, 1909, the lately appointed Vice Grand-Master, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, will assume his duties. He has been careful and painstaking in all his work, and in everything pertaining to his business connection with the organization has proven himself to be a thorough-going capable officer, whose record as such is the reason for his appointment.
“He has been employed by the Interstate Commerce Commission for a number of years as inspector of safety appliances, and while in this employ has been the means, in a large number of instances, of bringing suit against railway companies for violation of the law; and very many decisions in favor of the act are to be credited to his efforts in seeking its enforcement.”
This is a very satisfactory arrangement for the labor organization. The public service, however, should be free from such entangling alliances. How would it look if the railroad officials of the country, through the American Railway Association, for example, should get together and select from their number a man whom they should nominate to act as Secretary of the Interstate Commerce Commission; and if, having obtained that position, should then proceed to nominate men for inspectors ? How would the country at large look upon such a situation ? It is simply unthinkable. In the case as I have stated it there seems to be plenty of room for a little “ social persuasion ” of a very healthy description.
But the deeper we study publicity and its history, the more interesting are the developments. For a start, then, publicity must breathe and work in an honest, unprejudiced atmosphere. In other words, public opinion and public ideals must approach the industrial future with a clean record. Its methods cannot be confined to a process of showing up the intrigues of railroad managers. As a matter of fact, at the present day the railroads are more sinned against than sinning.
Up to the present time the American people have desired publicity in regard to corporations, but they have fought shy of it any nearer home. Consequently, publicity as a clarifier and rectifier of industrial conditions is sadly handicapped. The good sense of the people is beginning to appreciate the situation, and is now calling for a wider application of the publicity methods. In no line of work can these facts be so fruitfully studied as in the railroad business, particularly in relation to efficiency of service and the safety of travel.
Just at present an interesting comparison can be drawn between the American and the Canadian ideas and methods of publicity. In this country, when conditions in the railroad business attract attention and adverse criticism, a commission looks into the trouble and publishes a report containing a few interesting generalities. If politics or labor questions are involved, the commissioners know better than to express themselves on these topics. In regard to accident reports and methods of investigation, the American newspapers, for example, invariably neglect to describe the nature of the trouble, the mistakes that are made, and the lessons to be derived from them for public information and criticism. They give much more attention to publicity in Canada. The following is an extract from a Canadian newspaper of recent date: —
“ At nine o’clock this morning his Lordship, Justice Riddell, imposed sentence upon the three trainmen found guilty, at the recent spring assizes, of criminal negligence in connection with the wreck on the G. T. R. some time ago near Harriston.” In the course of his judgment, Justice Riddell said: —
“ It is a terrible thought that if any one of you men had done his plain duty, no accident would have happened. Five men were found who all neglected their plain duty at the same time, and as a consequence two men were hurled into eternity and a third was maimed for life. Had any one said in advance that this concurrent negligence of five men might happen, it would have been thought incredible. But such is the fact.”
The sentences imposed by the judge were particularly impressive, and, so far as I have been able to discover, nothing so solemn and significant has ever been administered in American railroad life.
“ You, Engineer-, must suffer immediate imprisonment. In view of your past good character and of the recommendations to mercy of the jury, and of the strong representations of others in your favor, and also your apparent penitence, I think I may reduce the term of your imprisonment to eight months. You will therefore be imprisoned in the common jail at Guelph, without hard labor, for that term.
“ You, Conductor-, and you, Fireman -, I shall not sentence at the
present time. You did wrong, and will have for life the consciousness that you have killed two innocent men, and that two, dead by your act, are awaiting you on the other shore. But I think that while you are justly convicted, I may, for the time being, at least, refrain from sending you to the convict’s cell. You will have the opportunity to go back to the world and regain the places you have lost.”
In referring to a petition for clemency, the judge remarked that he could n’t believe that a Canadian had drafted it. It is evident that in Canada verdicts and opinions are published with startling impartiality.
As President Eliot informs us, the Canadian law and methods have been in sight of American employers and employees for nearly two years, and no employer or employee in the United States likes the looks of them. Let us see how the Canadian law and methods are put in force in regard to railroad accidents.
Under the Canadian Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, 1907, the following is an account of the settlement of a dispute between the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers. The number of employees affected, or likely to be affected, was estimated at two thousand directly and five thousand indirectly. The differences in question were set forth as follows: —
“ (1) The dismissal of Engineer William McGonegal, of Sault Ste. Marie, for alleged violation of rule 89 (a) of the Company’s Rule Book on November 12, 1907. ‘ Claims wrongful dismissal: requests reinstatement and pay for time lost.’
“ (2) The dismissal of Engineer Thomas W. McAuley, of North Bay, for alleged recklessness in or about the month of November, 1907. ‘Claims wrongful dismissal: requests reinstatement and pay for time lost.’ ”
The Canadian Pacific Railway Company, in its statement in reply to the application, expressed its unwillingness to reinstate either of the two dismissed employees, holding that both had been dismissed with good cause, and insisting that the provisions of the act could not properly be invoked in respect to cases such as those indicated. In other words, the company insisted upon its inherent right and duty, in the interest of public safety, to administer discipline without interference of any kind.
However, the Minister, having duly considered the circumstances, established a Board, and appointed thereto Mr. Wallace Nesbitt on the recommendation of the company, and Mr. J. G. O’Donoghue on the recommendation of the employees. These gentlemen being unable to agree upon the third member of the board, the Minister appointed Mr. Justice Fortin, of Montreal.
In the case of McGonegal, the collision, which resulted in injuries to persons and damages to property was, according to the evidence, the direct result of said McGonegal’s attempting to take the switch at Blind River at the east end instead of at the west end, in disregard and violation, by McGonegal, of the company’s rules and regulations.
In the second case, the position of the company in regard to McAuley was as follows: —
“ The said McAuley was dismissed from the company’s service for recklessness in the operation of his train under the following circumstances: The said McAuley was in charge of Engine 1626 on November 21, 1907, and becoming stalled at or near mileage 82, had to take the front of his train to Azilda. On returning to pick up his train he approached it too fast, resulting in collision and damage to the company’s property.”
The finding of the Board in these cases was as follows : —
“ In the matter of William McGonegal. The majority of the Board came to the conclusion that the contention of Engineer McGonegal, as to the construction of rule 89 (a), was incorrect, and that he should have backed his train and pulled into the siding. The contention of the company was therefore sustained.
“ In the matter of Thomas W. McAuley. The Board, having heard the parties, was of opinion that the officers of the company were justified, on McAuley’s signed statement the day following the accident, in dismissing him. Furthermore, in both these matters the Board was unanimously of opinion that it should be clearly recognized by the employers and the employed, in the interest of the public, that the employer must have the inherent right of regulating, subject to the contract between the parties and the law of the land, the discipline and organization of the company.”
This report, which is published in the Labor Gazette, bears the date January 15, 1909.
The significance and value of this report lies in its direct appeal to the intelligence and moral support of the people. This appeal direct to the people by means of publicity is the point at which I have been aiming in the preceding articles in this magazine. It may be looked upon as the “ farthest north ” of all the attempts that have yet been made to work out some kind of practical solution of the industrial dilemma. The manner in which it can be applied to the accident and efficiency problems on American railroads is the most important and the practical feature to be considered,
Let us now apply our publicity method to the railroad crossings, and to the fatalities that are daily taking place at these points. Doubtless many of us think we understand all about these crossings — just how they are managed, and what the equipment of the crossingtender should be in order to run a crossing with satisfaction to the railroad and the public. And yet I have little hesitation in stating that there are not a dozen men in the country who have actually studied the matter and are capable of giving the story in truthful detail. In relation to loss of life and personal injury, the crossing problem is one of the most important with which the public to-day is concerned. In order to make its importance clear to all, I call attention to a report which was prepared on a wellknown railroad for the information of its president: —
“ Double the outgo for injuries to passengers was that for 380 killed and injured who were neither passengers, employees, nor trespassers. Of the number 33 were killed; 195 persons were struck on public streets or crossings; 16 of these cases, settled through suits, averaged $1,365.67 each, and 82 other cases settled by claim agent averaged $137.27 each. Through crossings acknowledged to be defective there were 25 additional cases of injury, the four court cases averaging $1,205.76 each and the others $66.00. Eight cases under the general head miscellaneous, settled by suit, averaged $1,976 each, 32 others cost $97.14 each. Colliding with trolley car at crossing caused injuries to 18 persons, settlement in two cases averaging $803.18, seven others averaging $154.88 each. Nineteen out of twenty-eight cases of injury occasioned by moving engines or cars without warning to men and teams working about them were settled at an average of $376.25 for four court cases, and $48 for the other fifteen. Negligence in crossing-men handling gates led to 25 instances of injury to persons; five of them, settled through suits, averaged $615 each, and eleven others, through claim agent, $5. The enumerated and other analogous causes brought the outgo for the year to approximately $75,000, and almost as many claims left pending as were closed during the twelve months.”
In this report there are probably as many as twenty different kinds of dangers and difficulties that crossing-men have to encounter, and in regard to which one would naturally suppose a green crossing-man would receive some kind of instructions.
The importance of the crossing being conceded, let us now turn to the efficiency of the service connected with it. To begin with, the rules and regulations issued by the managements of railroads for the guidance of employees cannot be said to contain any specific instructions as to what to do, or how to behave, in relation to the dangers to which I have called attention. There are certain dangers peculiar to each individual crossing, which have to be carefully guarded against, and from which accidents are almost daily taking place. But we find that when a new man is hired and put to work on a crossing he is, for the most part, left to learn about the dangers from objectlessons and narrow escapes. I have asked a score of crossing-men if they had received any instructions from any quarter, and they all answered in the negative. One and all will tell you that they were called upon to sign the usual application-for-employment blank, and were then examined for eyesight and hearing, but that they heard not a word about their duties, either specifically or generally. Some time ago I inquired of an old and faithful crossing-man, if in all his thirty-five years of service he had ever known or heard of any systematic supervision or instruction for crossingmen, and his reply was, “ You must be dreaming.”
In plain English, then, the distressing accidents, of which we receive reports almost daily, are only too frequently the price paid for experience of new men learning their jobs.
I believe that I am describing a situation that is more or less similar on all American railroads. The public interests in this business receive about as much recognition as the crossing-man himself. Judging from our accident reports, his position is at least twice as important as that of a passenger brakeman. All told, everything connected with the crossing is an object lesson in efficiency or inefficiency well worth public consideration.
The lesson derived from this story of the railroad crossing can be applied to nearly every branch of the operating departments on American railroads. Over all there is a lamentable lack of supervision, and no method by means of which the public can be kept informed of what is going on. Into the scheme of management everywhere a system of publicity must be introduced. But the success of publicity methods of betterment is absolutely dependent, under present conditions, upon the elimination of the brotherhood man as a factor in the supervision of his fellow employees. The organizations have repeatedly put themselves on record against the simplest and sanest methods of improving the service along these lines.
Very recently one of the largest railroad systems in the country organized an association of employees for the purpose of studying the safety problem, and the improvement of the service in relation thereto. So far, the men in the different branches of the service have been brought together to discuss the prevention of accidents arising out of the application of the rules. But the formation of this society has already attracted the attention of the unions among the men, and some of them have gone to the extent of proposing that any man who joins the safety association shall forfeit his membership in the union.
It is well thoroughly to understand this phase of the situation, for the reason that if inquiries were made, the railroad manager would probably assert that the supervision of his system is of a substantial and adequate character. He might call your attention to the work and services of his railroad detectives, and of his traveling engineers and conductors, But when you look into the matter and ask for illustrations and proof to show that these men actually report their fellows for carelessness and disregard of rules, the evidence will not be forthcoming.
As a matter of fact, the duties of the traveling engineman are mechanical, or relate to the care of the equipment, while the conductor is kept busy with problems relating to the freight business and the overtime of the men. These supervisors and traveling overseers in the operating department are brotherhood men. No sane railroad manager expects to secure adequate and reliable statistics from this source. In fact, the men should not be called upon to do this work, and yet the information must be secured in some way. The interest in his business, on the part of one of these men, can be placed alongside the interest of the inspectors employed by the Interstate Commerce Commission. In the latter case the inspector will do anything to hunt up his evidence and secure a conviction, in the former he will do anything to avoid the necessity for so doing.
The conclusion we are compelled to arrive at is obvious. The public, that is to say, society itself, must take a hand in the actual management or supervision of the railroad. In plain English, the railroads should be called upon to appoint supervisors who are not union men. They should be paid by the railroad manager, and work exclusively under his direction. But these men should also be in the service of the public. Their reports, monthly or otherwise, should be sent, word for word, both to the manager and to the railroad commissioners. Between the watchfulness and anxiety of the management and the duty and responsibility of the commissioners in relation to these reports, the public interests would be amply taken care of. Methods of watchfulness and security, with prevention as the principal object in view, would immediately result from this publicity plan. The traveling crossing-man, engineman, conductor, and trainman, would constitute the safety department on the railroad at very little added expense. Under the public eye, the publicity system of betterment work would be placed on a practical and businesslike basis, and the responsibilities of these public inspectors would be clearly defined, and it would become practically impossible for the employee, management, or railroad commissioners to neglect their duties.
It is impossible in an article of this description to go into the details of this publicity plan in its practical application to the efficiency and safety problems on our railroads. It must suffice, at present, to describe the conditions, and the necessity for betterment which can actually be secured by the publicity route. In the situation as we find it to-day, the most inexcusable injustice is being inflicted on the rising generation of workers by means of some of the principles of our labor organizations, which, as it seems to me, the American people can by no means continue to countenance. This conclusion applies not only to the railroad business, but to the industrial life of the nation.
A young man enters the service of a wholesale manufacturing concern. The superintendent informs him that if he takes an interest in the business the business will take an interest in him. After the boy has become acquainted with the routine of his office-work he begins to look round him a little. During the busy hours he steps into the shippingroom or the salesroom and gives a little assistance here and there. He is permitted to do this for a day or two, but before long a man steps up to him and says, “ What are you doing here? If the boss wants to hire any more help, let him do so. Don’t you understand that you are probably taking the bread and butter away from some hard-up fellow, who is out of employment and who would be likely to get a job if you would stay where you belong ? Go back to the office and attend to your own business, or the union will get after you.” The boy suddenly awakes to the situation. He has to choose between the slurs of his fellows and what he considers to be his duty to his employers. He is a good-natured young fellow, and his companions soon carry him off his feet. Later, when the boss asks him why he does not take more interest in the business, he tells his story, and only too often the superintendent is compelled to leave him to his fate, for the business is found to be permeated with this spirit from cellar to garret.
Some day, perhaps, a shipment worth $1000 to the firm is being loaded on teams when the clock strikes twelve. Immediately every man on the job quits work. From 12 to 1 P. M. is the dinner hour; it is so stipulated in the schedule. The foreman explains to the men that the shipment will miss its train-connection and the sale be canceled if there is a minute’s delay. But it is useless to discuss the matter. There is no flexibility to a schedule. The men explain that if they work during the noon hour they will lose their union cards. That ends the discussion. The goods are replaced in the store.
It requires no prophet to predict some kind of a halt to this kind of industrial progress. The people will be neither slow nor careful in answering those who persistently dwarf the energies and misdirect the social principles of the young workers on whom the nation depends for its industrial future. In railroad life the situation is even more unaccountable and indefensible than in other industries. There are absolutely no social ethics or principles whatever in the present method of management by group-interests and by the law of the schedule.
For efficiency of service and safety of travel the public continues to appeal to the managing department, and yet, by this time, we must all be Well aware of the fact that this manager, from whom so much is expected, has been legislated and unionized out of existence. The old-time manager was an autocratic, irresponsible individual. But he has been called to account. The history of the limitations that have been imposed upon him during the past ten years is descriptive of a continuous slide dowmhill. To-day there is no one small enough to do him reverence. He now remains silent and contemplative. He has no explanation to offer; he has made all the signs he is going to. If the public is dissatisfied, let the authorities tackle the problem. Meanwhile liberty, variety. and individuality in the railroad business are adrift.