© 2005 Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and
Archives, Cornell University Library
Switchmen's Union of North America. Arbitration
Switchmen's Union of North America.
Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad Company.
3 microfilm reels
Forms of Material:
Kheel Center for Labor-Management
Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.
Arbitration proceedings in the matter of the
Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (Chicago Switching District); Chicago
Great Western Railroad (System, except Twin Cities), Chicago, Rock Island and
Pacific Railway (System, except Inver Grove); Chicago Terminal Transfer
Railroad (System); Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway (Specified Yards);
Michigan Central Railroad (West of Detroit River); Pere Marquette Railroad
(System); Wisconsin Central Railway (Chicago Switching District); and
Switchmen's Union of North America, representing the Yardmen. March 4, 1910.
Collection material in English
In 1898, Congress passed the Erdman Act, which provided for the
mediation and arbitration of disputes in the railroad industry which involved
the operating brotherhoods, telegraphers and switchmen. Within a year after its
adoption the switchmen, represented by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen,
invoked the law, which failed when its principles were repudiated by the
leading railroad companies involved.
The Act provided that when a controversy which could not be solved at
the local level arose over rates of pay, working conditions, or grievances, a
grand officer of the national organization would take the matter up with the
railroads involved. If he failed to secure a settlement the matter was to be
referred to the employees for a strike vote. If they voted to strike, a further
effort was to be made by the national officer and the road to negotiate a
settlement. If this failed either party could apply to the mediators designated
in the Erdman Act for the use of their good offices to avert the strike. If the
mediator was unable to get the parties to agree, he was authorized to try to
get an agreement to submit the dispute to arbitration.
The next attempt to use the Erdman Act's procedures did not come until
1906, but by the end of 1909 24 controversies had been submitted to the
mediators. These were settled by the mediators without resort to arbitration in
all but four cases. It was in 1906 that the railroad unions began what has been
called the "concerted movement" as a method of handling negotiations. Under
this plan the railroads in a given territory were served with a notice that the
union desired to revise the agreements, and a committee of managers and a
committee representing the employees met for this purpose. The firemen have
been given credit for starting the second "concerted movement" to raise wages
and improve working conditions in 1910, undoubtedly because 26,000 men and
110,000 miles of railroad were involved, but the Switchmen's agreement to
submit the issues to arbitration was signed on January 19, 1910 while that of
the firemen was not signed until March 25, 1910.
The agreement listed several issues which were to be decided by the
arbitration board. It was also agreed that the award would be binding on both
parties, the men would not resign, nor the employer discharge anyone for a
period of three months after the award was made because they were not satisfied
with the conditions of the award.
The Board was composed of Carl R. Gray of St. Louis, Missouri, who
represented the employers, S. E. Heberling of Moriority, New Mexico,
represented the employees and S. S. Gregory was selected as the neutral
chairman. Hearings were held in Chicago beginning on March 4, 1910. The first
issue was a six cent raise for the switchmen. The following rates of pay were
requested for all men on Chicago lines:
Day foremen: $.41 per hour
Night foremen: $.43 per hour
Day helpers: $.38 per hour
Night helpers: $.40 per hour
In addition, all the switch tenders, tower men and assistant
yardmasters who were receiving less than this should be raised to the same
scale as that of the helpers, anyone receiving more than this should have his
rate increased accordingly. The switchmen based their request upon the increase
in the cost of living, which they estimated to be 50%; the companies maintained
that the cost of living was not a standard to be used in seating wage rates.
The switchmen insisted that they were entitled to a wage increase
because their efficiency had risen as a result of the improved equipment, such
as the larger engines and modern cars which had been introduced. They also
maintained that the heavier engines and improved equipment increased the risk
in an occupation already very hazardous.
The companies countered this by insisting the new equipment was not as
hazardous, and accidents were not as frequent. If the switchmen's wages were
raised, other employees would also demand increases, which the companies could
not afford to pay, unless railroad rates were increased, which they could not
do without permission. In addition, many roads were in the hands of receivers
and wage increases would result in more receiverships.
In its report issued on March 22, 1910 the Board discussed each of
these issues and awarded a three cent increase, retroactive to February 10,
1910. The transcript contains many references to questions of what proper
procedures for a board of this type should be, and mentions that this was the
first arbitration of its kind. Just why they considered this a precedent is not
clear. The four arbitrations preceding this had involved fewer employees and
with a single exception, only one railroad, while this one involved eight
railroads and 3,100 employees covering 14,450 miles of track.