NWLB Records

Collection Number: 5316

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


NWLB Records, 1942-1946
Collection Number:
U.S. National War Labor Board (NWLB)
1 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Records (documents).
Kheel Center for Labor- Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Documents generated by the NWLB pertaining to Western Union Telegraph Company vs. American Communications Association on the issues of wages, wage adjustment, shift differentials, vacation, holiday pay, military leave, and workers' rights.
Collection material in English


The Western Union Telegraph Company was one of the forerunners in company unions. In 1918 or so, the company started the ssociation of Western Union Employees. In 1938, the American Communications Association ClO, who were trying to organize the Western
Union employees, challenged the Company Union. The ACA (American Communications Association) filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, September 1938, seeking the dis stablishment of the company union. The NLRB investigated the matter and on November 1, 1939, declared the Association of Western Union Employees was a company union and ordered the company to cease and desist its unfair labor practices. Western Union Telegraph Company did not disband the Association of Western Union Employees until after it received the Circuit Court of Appeals decision August 9, 1940 upholding the order of the NLRB.
The American Communications Association in May 1941 petitioned the NLRB for a representation election for that portion of Western Union employees involved in this case (New York Metropolitan Division which employed approximately 5,500 persons.) On April l6, 1942, ACA, Local 40, CIO was certified by the NLRB as the exclusive collective bargaining agency and they commenced negotiations with the Company on May 15. Unable to reach agreement, they called in the Conciliation Service of the United States Department of Labor. The
parties with the assistance of the conciliator were still unable to solve their important differences and the controversy was certified to the National War Labor Board on August 20, 1942.
A Mediation Panel, consisting of Mr. Arthur S. Meyer representing the public, Mr. W. Lipscomb Davis representing industry, and Mr. John Brophy representing labor, was designated by the Board to hear the case. Hearings were conducted in Washington, D.C. on September 9, 10, and 11, and in New York City on September 15 16 and 17.
The main issue was wages. The union was desirous of changing the wage structure so that there would not be striking wage inequalities
among workers in the same classification with the same work experience.
The Union also was of the viewpoint that if wages were not increased, the rising trend of turnover would skyrocket. The turnover rate in this critical war industry was very important because the men were highly skilled and it took a number of years on the job to become proficient at the work. The Union's solution to these problems were presented in a three prong wage demand.
First, the adoption by the Company of a stated hiring ratio for each job classification. Second, introduction of an automatic wage progression schedule based on class A work seniority. Third, cost of living wage adjust ment in line with the Little Steel Formula.
The Company argued against wage increases on the basis that it was a public utility whose prices were regulated and that it could not raise its prices to absorb wage increases. The Company protested that if it gave these wage increases it would be forced by its other employees to give them the same wage increases on^system-wide basis which the company deemed a financial impossibility. The company also maintained that it was improper for the Union to compare its wages with other industries and that the only legitimate comparison was with Postal Telegraph Company (deep in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy for a number of years) whose rates of pay were substantially lower than Western Union's. Furthermore, Western Union was soon to merge with the Postal Telegraph Company and it was going to financially strap the Company to bring Postal Telegraph Company employees up to present level of wages enjoyed by Western Union employees let alone the proposed increased wages.
The subsidiary issues before the panel on which it made recommendations were: night differential, vacations, holiday pay, military bonus, messanger benefits, pension and benefit plan, promotions, mechanization, continuance of existing rights and privileges, effect of authorized absences on an employee's company service record, and Commercial Department tours of duty.


Materials include transcripts of hearings; reports and recommendations of the Mediation Panel; answers, briefs, and statements on behalf of the parties; Collective agreements; memoranda and notes concerning history of the dispute and wage parity; and correspondence, chiefly of Arthur S. Meyer (member, Mediation Panel) with executives of the company and representatives of the union regarding hearings conduct and collective negotiations.
Also, documents of the National War Labor Board and the Federal Communications Commission pertaining to the merger of the Postal Cable Company and Western Union Telegraph Company (1943); also arbitration awards, decisions and documents for cases arbitrated by Meyer, concerning Postal Telegraph Cable Company vs. American Communications Association on issues of union shop, grievance and arbitration procedure, technological change, and collective agreement (1943).

Meyer, Arthur S. (Arthur Simon), 1880-1955
Western Union Telegraph Company.
United States. National War Labor Board.
American Communication Association.

Arbitration, Industrial -- United States.
Telegraph workers

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:
NWLB Records #5316. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Box 1 Folder 1 1943
Box 1 Folder 2 1946
Case No. 543
Box 1 Folder 3 1944
Case No. 1118494-D
Box 1 Folder 4 1942-1944
Case No. 111-5674-D
Box 1 Folder 5 1942-1944
Case No. 388