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prevent another strike. The bituminous industry continued uninterrupted operations by renewing the wage agreement in 1923 and again renewing the wage pact in February, 1924, known as the Jacksonville wage agreement, which was made for a period of three years. The Jacksonville wage pact had the active support of Government agencies anxious to promote peace within the industry and eliminate excess mines and man power.
When the Jacksonville wage agreement was negotiated the coal fields of western Kentucky, southern West Virginia (known as the Kanawha region), and northern West Virginia (embracing the Fairmont and Morgantown fields) were operated on a union basis
. To the surprise and astonishment of the Government agencies, as well as the communities affected and miners employed, the Kanawha and western Kentucky operators refused to become parties to the Government-sponsored wage agreement and closed down their mines. Severing their union relationship, operators in these fields began pirating coal production on an un-American wage basis.
The membership of the United Mine Workers of America in the Kanawha and western Kentucky coal fields determined to maintain their earnings, which they knew by experience were barely adequate to make both ends meet. The miners in these fields fought with all their force the reduced-wage program of the operators. They endured evictions, slim rations, intimidations, and all the well-known un-American tactics that go hand in hand with union busting and the promotion of serf-labor conditions. After many months the miners of these fields were finally starved into submission.
On June 1, 1925, the Consolidation Coal Co., of which John D. Rockefeller, jr., is a controlling factor, abrogated its contract with the United Mine Workers of America in the Fairmont field of West Virginia. Notwithstanding this agreement did not expire until March 31, 1927, the Consolidation Coal Co. posted notices of wage reductions, began the importation of strikebreakers, the customary eviction of their union employees and the employment of mine guards to intimidate former union employees. The abrogation of the contract by the Consolidation Coal Co., the largest producing company in the Fairmont field, caused other operators in that region, as well as in the adjoining Morgantown fields, to abrogate like contracts.
The Bethlehem Mines Corporation, a subsidiary of the Bethlehem Steel Co., operating mines in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, repudiated its signed agreement.
The Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Co., a subsidiary of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad, followed the lead of the contract-breakers, abrogated the union agreement, and inaugurated low wages and open-shop working conditions.
The CHAIRMAN. What justification did they allege for the repudiation of the contract !
Mr. LEWIS. They alleged no justification whatever, Senator Watson, except that of expediency. They alleged that it was not expedient for them to continue paying the wage scale set forth in the contract while other companies elsewhere were producing coal at a lower cost. Every operating company which has broken its contract has alleged that someone else broke their contract before them and thereby forced them into taking that position.
Senator COUZENS. Did the contract provide for the employment of union men exclusively?
Mr. LEWIS. In every case it was made by and between the United Mine Workers of America, and its membership, and the coal company affected. It was predicated upon the clear assupmtion that no person would be employed except members of the United Mine Workers of America, with the exception of certain designated classifications, such as management or technical direction, confidential employees, etc., which were exempted by the contract from membership in the union.
Senator COUZENS. In other words, it was only by implication and not by specific terms?
Mr. LEWIS. How is that?
Senator Couzens. I say, in other words, it was only by implication and not by specific terms; is that correct?
Mr. Lewis. That is correct so far as the exact language of it is concerned, but it is not correct that it is by implication only that the United Mine Workers of America were contracting for their own members—they only contracted with the United Mine Workers of America.
The CHAIRMAN. Pardon me, Mr. Lewis, but let me ask right there. Have you a copy
of those contracts available here? Mr. Lewis. I have a copy of the Jacksonville agreement.
The CHAIRMAN. Signed by the various coal companies which you say afterwards repudiated their agreements? Mr. LEWIS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Was there a defeasible clause in them, that is to say, any clause in those contracts that if competition became too great, or the price of coal became too low for them to continue paying that wage scale, that they had the privilege of abandoning it ? Mr. LEWIS. No, sir; there was nothing of that sort. The CHAIRMAN. There was nothing of that kind in the contracts? Mr. LEWIS. No clause of that character whatever.
The CHAIRMAN. And your interpretation of the contract is that it was considered a square, straight-forward, clear and binding contract?
Mr. LEWIS. Absolutely so, and that is borne out by 35 years' joint relationship in the industry.
Senator Fess. I think it would be proper to make that contract a part of the record.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee would be very glad to have you furnish a copy of the contract.
Mr. LEWIS. All right.
Senator WAGNER. Let me ask right there. Until this abrogation took place, did not both parties live up to the contract !
Mr. LEWIS. Quite true.
Senator WAGNER. And considered it as being a binding contract upon both sides?
Mr. LEWIS. Quite true. It has been one of the proudest boasts of the mining industry, both on the part of miners and operators, for the last 35 years, that both sides, both miners and operators, adhered punctiliously to their contract obligations.
Senator WAGNER. I believe you stated a moment ago that the contract was entered into under governmental influence, I think that was the term that you used in the course of your talk.
Mr. LEWIS. Yes, sir. Senator WAGNER. Would I interrupt you right there, the trend of your thoughts, if I asked you what you meant by that?
I År. LEWIS. Not at all. I shall be glad to answer that or any other questions that may occur to you as I go along with my statement. "I believe that I can best answer that question by reading the record, and with your permission at this time, Mr. Chairman, I will read for the record of your committee a copy of a letter which I addressed to the President of the United States on November 21, 1925, and bearing directly on Senator Wagner's question:
PHILADELPHIA, PA., November 21, 1925. THE PRESIDENT,
White House. Sir: In February, 1924, tiie operators and miners of the central competitive bituminous coal fields consummated a wage agreement designed to expire by limitation on March 31, 1927. With this instrument as a base, supplemental agreements of similar nature were executed between operators and miners in contiguous and outlying coal districts.
I might say that the central competitive field is western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
The accomplishment met with general public approval, as the agreement gave promise of security and advantage to the public with respect to the factors of continuous supply and price. Agencies of the Federal Government cooperated in making possible the agreement, the Departments of Justice, Commerce, and Labor participating. The twelfth annual report of the Secretary of Commerce, for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1924, at pages 13 and 14, states as follows:
“ Through cooperation by the department with the unionized opeartors and with the leaders of the United Mine Workers, a long-term agreement has been entered upon, which insures industrial peace in the industry.
The industry is now on the road to stabilization. * * No better example of cooperation to secure the elimination of national waste can be presented. The past year, as compared to the year 1920, shows a saving to the consumer of about $1.000.000.000, which must be reflected in decreasing costs of production in every avenue of industry and commerce.”
Without question, the foregoing declaration of accomplishment by the Federal Government in the public interest was heartily approved by every thoughtful citizen.
Notwithstanding the acknowledged virtue of the before-mentioned contract, I am compelled to authoritatively advise you that substantial coal-producing interests, signatories to the arrangement, have violated and repudiated their written word of honor and in so doing have impaired the integrity of the wage structure throughout the entire bituminous industry. Among the coal companies thus trampling upon and dishonoring their wage agreements with the mine workers are four of the largest coal-producing groups in the Nation, viz: The Pittsburgh Coal Co., the Consolidation Coal Co., the Bethlehem Mines Corporation, and the coal interests of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad, their several operations being located in northern West Virginia, Ohio, and the central and western Pennsylvania coal fields.
To attain their unmoral objective these companies, and certain others of lesser consequence, have utilized coercive and oppressive methods. The actions have been destructive of all confidence between employer and employee and constitute an unwarranted, indefensible blow at the universally recognized principle of collective bargaining. The savage and dishonest acts of the before mentioned group have added to the burden of those honest coal operators who desire in every particular to operate in accordance with their wage agreements, The most full information as affecting the representations which I make is available in the Departments of Commerce and of Labor.
The Federal Government upon occasion, and from time to time, has intervened in the coal industry. Not alone the operators but the miners have felt the weight of its influence and regulated their policies accordingly. In all respect, the mine workers now inquire whether the Feeral Government desires to intervene to maintain the morality and integrity of the existing agreement in the bituminous coal industry.
The CHAIRMAN. Can you tell us when they intervened, and in what manner?
Mr. LEWIS. May I read just one more paragraph and then answer your question ?
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Mr. LEWIS. The letter concluded as follows: If it should occur that the Federal Government is disposed not to intervene for the protection of a meritorious wage agreement, might the mine workers believe that their own efforts in that direction may be considered as being justified? Respectfully,
John L. LEWIS, President. Senator GOODING. That is signed by whom?
Mr. LEWIS. By John L. Lewis. It is a letter addressed by me to the President of November 21, 1925. I read it as a means of replying to Senator Wagner's question, wherein he asked what part the Government played in the making of the agreement. I pointed out that the Government did cooperate in making possible the meeting which negotiated the Jacksonville agreement, and that the records of the Department of Commerce, as shown by their report for 1924. so indicates, which I have quoted in this letter.
Now, Mr. Chairman, in reply to your question, let me say: The Federal Government, through its executive departments, has frequently intervened in the coal industry. In 1919 it intervened in the strike in the bituminous-coal industry, and in that same year by presidential order the Department of Justice sought and secured a mandatory writ of injunction against the United Mine Workers of America in the Federal Court for the District of Indiana, Judge Anderson presiding, which compelled me as president to issue an order to the membership calling off the strike then in existence. In 1920 the President of the United States used his influence to bring about an arbitration arrangement in the bituminous industry and also in the anthracite industry. And a governmental commission rendered judgment upon the issues of that order in the bituminouscoal industry, and likewise in the anthracite-coal industry, the arbitration commissioners having been selected by the President of the United States. In October, 1921
The CHAIRMAN (interposing). Were the terms of that arbitration agreement accepted by both sides!
Mr. LEWIS. Accepted and punctiliously carried out by both sides. And may I say right here that their awards became the basis for the Jacksonville agreement, and that the Jacksonville agreement was nothing more nor less than an extension of the wages promulgated by the Government commission of 1920.
In October, 1921, the White House again intervened in the bituminous-coal industry in advance of the expiration of the agreement in April, 1922, and sought to have the United Mine Workers of
America agree to arbitrate in advance any question of dispute that might take place in 1922.
In 1922 upon several occasions the President of the United States intervened, and through his departments exercised a governmental influence in the strike situation of that year. The history of the mining industry in the last 10-year period is replete with incidents demonstrating the fact that the Government has from time to time deigned to exercise its influence upon one party or the other in the coal industry.
May I read for the record, Mr. Chairman, to complete this correspondence, the reply of the President of the United States to my letter of December 21, 1925, which has never been made public. It is as follows:
THE WHITE HOUSE,
Washington, December 5, 1925. MY DEAR MR. LEWIS: I am in receipt of your communication of November 21, 1925, in relation to the difficulties that have arisen under the Jacksonville bituminous wage agreement.
You will recollect that the disastrous strike of 1922 started with the failure to secure a meeting of the operators and miners for the negotiation of the renewal of the expiring agreement.
As you state, the officials of the Federal Government about two years ago helped to bring about a meeting of the representatives of the coal operators of the central competitive field and of the United Mine Workers at the time of the expiration of their then existing agreement. It was naturally the hope of these officials that if this meeting, which some group of operators opposed attending, could be brought about, then a basis of an agreement might be found and thereby peace could be preserved in the industry, great suffering to the workers prevented, and great waste to the country. In making the meeting possible the Government performed a service for your organization as well as for the industry in the union fields. At that meeting the terms of a contract were exhaustively debated and finally entered into between the operators and miners. The Government took no part in the discussion at Jacksonville and can in no sense be considered a party to the contract, or any other of the many hundreds of labor agreements where its friendly offices are called in for conciliation of the parties.
Some few months ago certain employers, parties to the contract, represented that due to the agreement their mines were operating at a loss and requested that the Government undertake to secure a revision of the contract downward. This, as you are aware, the Government officials refused to do, as they rightly decided that any alteration must be mutually agreed by the parties to it and that it would be wrong for them to intervene to alter established contracts.
I profoundly deplore the breaking of any contract, whenever this is the case, especially as the faithful compliance with agreements between employers and employees is the sole hope of collective bargaining-a principle now accepted in American life. On the other hand, as you are aware, that arm of the Gosernment provided for the enforcement of contracts is the courts, and if such contracts have been violated, it is the duty of the injured party to appeal to the courts.
The Government, not being a party to contracts, has no status in enforcement. If no enforcement is found by appeal to the courts in labor contracts when properly formulated, then the law-making powers should enact the legislative measures necessary to enable the courts to give such relief in the future.
I am not unmindful of the fact that the courts have had few, if any, opportunities to pass upon the legal right of the enforcement of industrial joint wage agreements, because they are generally performed as a joint obligation without violation. However, you would perform a distinct public service by getting an authoritative court decision on this subject.
Apart from the rights or wrongs under which the dispute you mention has arisen, it is my understanding that the great majority of the mines located in the district subject to the Jacksonville agreement have maintained the terms of that contract, although it is stated that a majority of these mines