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The Lehigh Valley Strike.
Railway Engineering and Mechanics—February, 1894

 

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.
FRANK PHELPS.
Deming, New Mexico.


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