Railway Labor Executives' Association Miscellany

Collection Number: 5300

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library

This collection was processed with the help of generous funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Railway Labor Executives' Association Miscellany, 1909-1969
Collection Number:
Railway Labor Executives' Association (RLEA)
1.5 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Records (documents).
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
This collection contains select records of the Railway Labor Executives' Association.
Collection material in English


The RLEA was founded in 1926 in response to the passage of the Railway Labor Act. Prior to 1926, there had been an informal association between the railroad labor organizations so that the various chief executives of the different unions could work together to form a unified course of action that would benefit all of their members. This group became more formalized immediately after the end of World War I. The U.S. railroads had been nationalized as part of the war effort, and the railroad labor organizations wanted them to remain under federal management, both because of increased productivity and because of better labor relations with the industry. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and the railroads returned to private industry; however, the railroad labor organizations had realized the need to have a united front to counter the carriers and industry groups and lobbyists.
On May 18, 1926, the chief executives of the railroad labor organization met in Washington D.C., formalized their association with By-Laws, and elected officers to serve the newly created RLEA. The original purpose, codified in the original preamble, was co-operative action to obtain and develop consistent interpretations and utilization of the Railway Labor Act. The RLEA was comprised of the chief executives of the 21 railroad labor unions, including the president of the Railway Employees' Department of the AFL, and each member got one vote, regardless of the size of their union. The organization was voluntary, so no member organization was bound by its decisions. Over the course of its existence, various member organizations withdrew and then re-affiliated with the RLEA.
From 1926 to 1938, the RLEA did not maintain an office, but the amount of work and its importance led the RLEA to open an office in Washington DC and employ a full-time Executive Secretary-Treasurer to run it. The RLEA did not engage in collective bargaining itself, but rather lobbied on behalf of its member organizations, securing such achievements as the Railroad Retirement Act and limiting unemployment for its members during the Great Depression. The RLEA's various areas of interest, such as retirement, safety, legal matters, were broken down into committees, each of which reported back to the executive board on the steps being taken in those areas.
Post World War II, the RLEA played a central role in the Marshall Plan, working with non-Communist labor organizations in Western Europe to establish labor policy and also assist in the work of rebuilding the European railroads. The RLEA was also a major factor in international labor union federations, and its decision to affiliate with the International Transport Workers' Federation [ITWF] and to encourage the ITWF not to join with the Soviet affiliated World Federation of Trade Unions was seen as a major victory for the west.
The RLEA, like its member organizations, did not allow African-American members. As such, it was only representing the interests of white railroad employees; black railroad employees were forced, for the most part, to work without recognized union protection. The exception to this was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters [BSCP], who in 1948 began a series of successful legal challenges to the jurisdictions over various classes of work. As BSCP's successes in the courts mounted up, and the RLEA's member unions and the RLEA itself were being sued for discriminatory practices, the RLEA finally capitulated in 1950, and accepted the BSCP as a member organization.
In 1950, the RLEA joined with the AFL, CIO, and International Association of Machinists to form the United Labor Policy Committee. This committee oversaw the labor representatives of the Wage Stabilization Board.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the importance of the RLEA declined alongside the decline in the railroad industry itself. As its member unions either merged into single entities or disaffiliated from the RLEA its influence waned, as did the number of its members. The RLEA attempted to counter this decline with the purchase of a railroad at least three different times in the 1970s and 1980s, though they were ultimately unsuccessful in this venture. Ongoing internal battles between the remaining chief executives of the railroad unions further weakened the RLEA until in 1997 it disbanded, handing over its responsibilities to the newly formed AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department.


Inclusive date range: 1909-1969
Bulk dates: 1945-1966
This collection consists of miscellaneous records from the Railway Labor Executives' Association. The majority of the records found in this collection deal with the issues faced by railroad labor in the 1950s and 1960s when the major carriers began to merge and to abandon lines. The applications of the carriers to the Interstate Commerce Committee [ICC] are documented in the Finance Docket filings. Also of note are the speeches by various railroad labor chief executives in which they speak out against the mergers because of the effect they would have on the nation's economy and on local communities whose tax bases depended on the railroad industry. This collection also contains drafts of a study commissioned by the RLEA about railroad mergers. Also found are public relations materials from the RLEA addressing the mergers as well as pushing back against accusations of featherbedding by the carriers. Finally, the correspondence files contain bulletins and circulars issued by the RLEA about various cases that effect the employees represented by their member unions.

Keyserling, Leon H. (Leon Hirsch), 1908-1987
Lyon, Arthur E.
Leighty, George E. (George Earle)
Beattie, Donald, S.
Harrison, George M. (George McGregor)
Kennedy, W. P.
Railway Labor Executives Association

Railroads--United States--Employees
Railroads--Employees--Labor unions--United States
Railroads--Mergers--United States
Railroads--Legislation--United States
Collective bargaining--Railroads--United States
United States. Railway Labor Act.
United States. Interstate Commerce Commission
United States. Railroad Retirement Board

Form and Genre Terms:
Records (documents)


Access Restrictions:
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Restrictions on Use:
This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.
Cite As:
Railway Labor Executives' Association Miscellany #5300. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
/3007: Maurice Neufeld Papers
/4055: James O. Morris Office Files
/4212: Kheel Center Current Documents Correspondence
5001: American Association for Labor Legislation Records
5001 mf: American Association for Labor Legislation Records on Microfilm
5034: Switchmen's Union of North America Records
5034 MB: Switchmen's Union of North America Memorabilia
5034 P: Switchmen's Union of North America Photographs
5060: U.S. Emergency Board No. 145 Records
5084: Switchmen's Union of North America Additional Records
5139: UTU Records
5141: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen Records
5149: Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Records
5182: William J. Doble Papers
5204 mf: Southern Tenant Farmers Union Records on Microfilm
5300: Railway Labor Executives' Association Miscellany
5347: Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, ICC, and Erie Lackawanna Briefs Regarding the Railroad Merger
5351: International Association of Machinists vs. S. B. Street Records
5405 mf: Switchmen's Union of North America Constitutions on Microfilm
5478: AFL-CIO Railway Employees' Department Records
5478 mf: AFL-CIO Railway Employees' Department Records on Microfilm
5484: Railway Labor Executives' Association Records
5484 AV: Railway Labor Executives' Association Audio-Visual Material
5487: Vernon H. Jensen Collection of International Longshoremen's Association's and Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Materials
5488 A: BRAC Chicago Files
5488 B: BRAC Records
5488 C: BRAC Additional Records
5541: Philip Taft Papers
5552: Railway Labor Executives' Association Additional Records
5583/5: Archives Organization File (AOF) Part 5
5622: UTU New York State Legislative Board Selected Files
5663 mf: Collective Bargaining Agreements on Microfilm
5728: Railway Labor Executives' Association Additional Records
5735: BRAC Additional Records
5833: James A. Paddock Additional Papers
5976 mf: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Records on Microfilm
5989 mf: Blacks in the Railroad Industry on Microfilm
6030: Archival Collective Bargaining Agreements File
6040 P: Railroad Collection Photographs
6046: Archives Union File (AUF)
6047: Archives Information File
6118 AV: Kheel Center AV Collection


Box 1 Folder 1 1951-1952
Box 1 Folder 2 1959-1961
W. P. Kennedy, BRT; George M. Harrison, BRC; G. E. Leighty, RLEA Chairman
Box 1 Folder 3 1937
circa 1937
Box 1 Folder 4 1940-1943
Box 1 Folder 5 1944
Amendments to Railroad Retirement Act
Box 1 Folder 6 1950-1963
Box 1 Folder 7 1946
ICC Finance Docket No. 12792
Box 1 Folder 8 1965
ICC Finance Docket No. 21755
Box 1 Folder 9a 1963
ICC Finance Docket No. 21160
Box 1 Folder 9b 1962-1963
ICC Finance Docket No. 21870
Box 1 Folder 10a 1962-1964
ICC Finance Docket No. 21215
Box 1 Folder 10b 1962-1964
ICC finance Docket No. 21215
Box 1 Folder 11 1966
Box 2 Folder 1 1945-1963
Box 2 Folder 2 1939-1940
Dispute re assignment of conductors in Escanaba Yards, Michigan
Box 2 Folder 3a 1962
A background manual concerning railroad consolidation and the public interest, from the Railroad Labor Executives' Board.
Box 2 Folder 3b 1962
A background manual concerning railroad consolidation and the public interest, from the Railroad Labor Executives' Board.
Box 2 Folder 4 1932-1945
Box 2 Folder 5 1934-1937
ICC Finance Docket No. 10947
Box 2 Folder 6 1935
Railway Labor Act Docket No. 15
Box 2 Folder 7 1936-1944
Box 2 Folder 8 1947-1952
Box 2 Folder 9 1954-1956
Box 2 Folder 10 1959-1961
Box 3 Folder 1 1962
Box 3 Folder 2 1963
Box 3 Folder 3 1966-1969
Box 3 Folder 4a 1962-1966
Box 3 Folder 4b 1962-1966
Box 3 Folder 4c 1962-1966
Box 3 Folder 4d 1962-1966
Box 3 Folder 5 1909
Box 3 Folder 6 1945-1967