The Lehigh Valley Strike.
Railway Engineering and MechanicsFebruary,
To the Editor of Railway Engineering and Mechanics:
In looking over a prominent railway journal I found the following
in regard to the Lehigh Valley strike: "The Lehigh Valley
strike has been settled. Both sides lost. The company has lost
hundreds of thousands of dollars in machinery destroyed and business
driven away from the road, has many incompetent men on its trains
and engines and the public is afraid to ride over the road. The
most of the men are out in the cold without employment and some
of them without suppers. Several lessons have been learned, however,
and these may in the end be worth the price paid. One of them
shows to what ends an overbearing official may carry things. Another
shows how useless and expensive a strike is and forces home the
question, Isn't there some other way? Another lesson well learned
in this strike has been how useless was the combination known
as 'system federation.' The lessons will be bitter ones to many
of the men, and the Lehigh Valley Railroad is not anxious for
another fight. The whole thing is to be deplored, take it from
any standpoint you may."
Were truer words ever penned, "The whole thing is to be
deplored." Why? Not alone on account of the hundreds of thousands
of dollars that the company lost in machinery destroyed and business
driven away from the road, (the machinery can be replaced and
the business will return). The Lehigh Valley strike is to be deplored
on account of the thousands of dollars that have been lost the
men that were engaged in it; on account of the hundreds of men
left out in the cold without employment, and some of them without
suppers; it is to be deplored on account of the suffering that
hundreds of innocent and helpless ones will be forced to endure.
It is deplorable to think that men as intelligent and competent
as the engineers and trainmen of the Lehigh would be led (at the
beck and call of a few hot heads) into a strike as they were.
Led on by a few that wanted to push themselves into prominence
as leaders they did not take time to weigh the chances against
them or think of the consequences if they lost. The old saying
is "Experience is a hard school to learn in, but some will
not learn in any other," and it seems to me that the different
organizations of railroad employees will not learn even in the
school of experience. The same lessons taught by the Lehigh strike
have been very forcibly taught them before.
And what are the lessons taught by the strikes of the last
20 years? They are that strikes are useless and expensive frolics
to indulge in, expensive to the companies, but more expensive
to the men; that a strike is a good place to lose a good position,
and cause yourself lots of worry and trouble, and bitter indeed
must the lesson be to some of the Lehigh men, out of employment
in the dead of winter, with wives and little ones dependent upon
them. Let us hope that they will not be called on to learn this
lesson again. And the question is asked "Isn't there some
other way". I think that there is and that it is by arbitration.
Some may feel inclined to cry "chestnuts" when I mention
arbitration, but the Lehigh strike was virtually settled by arbitration
in the end, the members of the state boards of arbitration of
New York and New Jersey being the arbitrators, and it would have
been far better for all concerned if this means had been tried
in the first place.
President Wilbur announced his policy and took his stand, when
he issued his bulletin on Tuesday, Nov. 21st in which he said:
"If dissatisfied with the conclusions reached by the division
superintendents or general superintendent, the president will
hear their cases and decide. But we decline to confer with organized
committees composed of the several branches of the service, for
the reason that we cannot know that such committee fairly represents
its employees. The engineers cannot, of course, fairly represent
the grievances of telegraphers, nor can firemen properly represent
trainmen. The company maintains the right to employ men upon such
terms as may be agreed upon, and settle all complaints only with
its employees, and to discharge for cause, with the right of appeal,
but without reference to the judgment or action of any organization."
Now, Mr. Editor, I fail to find any evidence that Mr. Wilbur
has backed down from this platform, and I think that he would
have fought it out on this line if it had taken all summer. But
let us hope that the lessons taught by the Lehigh Valley strike
may be taken home by both parties, and that in the future we shall
not be called on to witness any such unequal contests.
Deming, New Mexico.
| Contents Page