Kansas City Southern Railways Company 1933 Strike Miscellany

Collection Number: 5601

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).

Kansas City Southern Railways Company 1933 Strike Miscellany, 1921-1934
Collection Number:
Kansas City Southern Railways (KCS)
0.5 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Records (documents).
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Scrapbook titled: "Kansas City Southern Plans for Conductors, Firemen, Yardmen." Contains documentation of the Kansas City Southern Railways Strike of 1933.
Collection material in English


The Kansas City Southern Railway [KCS] is a Class 1 railroad operating in the United States and Mexico. The KCS was founded in 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri by Arthur E. Stilwell. The KCS expanded their holdings in the following decade through the acquisition of the Arkansas Western Railway Company and the Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway Company. The KCS successfully linked Kansas City with the Gulf of Mexico at its terminus in Port Arthur, Texas, which was named after Arthur Stilwell.
KCS and its employees had been operating under series of contracts between the carrier and the various crafts and classes that had been in effect since 1924-1925. On January 1, 1932, both the carrier and the unions had entered, with 130 other American railroads and the unions, into what was called the "Chicago Agreement." The Chicago Agreement was a measure designed by President Roosevelt and his administration to help lift America out of the Great Depression in which the wage rates of employees would remain unchanged, but the railroads could deduct ten percent from each employee's pay check for a period of one year, provided the railroads did all in their power to maintain or even increase their number of employees. This wage reduction was part of a broader trend of wage reductions, in order to try and kickstart the American economy. At the end of this year, a wage dispute arrose between KCS and its employees.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "An emergency board to investigate the wage dispute between the Kansas City Southern Railway and its engineers, firemen, conductors, and trainmen, was appointed on June 12, 1933. The carrier and these employees were parties to the so-called "Chicago agreement" of January 31, 1932, which provided for a 10-percent deduction from the wages of the employees during the year beginning February 1, 1932. On December 31, 1932, the agreement was extended to October 31, 1933, on most of the railroads. The Kansas City Southern Railway Co. was not a party to the extension agreement, but continued to make the 10 percent deduction under the terms of a mediation agreement entered into February 23, 1933. On April 5, 1933, the carrier served notice of cancelation, on May 15, 1933, of all contracts covering rates of pay, rules, and working conditions. On April 6, 1933, it declared its intention of placing in effect on May 16, 1933, new rates of pay, rules, and working conditions. Conferences and mediation were unsuccessful, and on June 6, 1933, the employees voted overwhelmingly to strike.
On July 12, 1933, the emergency board reported its findings, pointing out the employees' belief that acceptance of the company's demands would mean 'a complete breakdown of the many years of efforts of organized railroad labor and would be and become an opening wedge toward the ultimate breakdown of these conditions upon all the other railroads in this country.' In deference to the wish of President [Roosevelt] 'for peace between labor and employer while the country is trying to regain prosperity,' expressed in a letter to [the KCS] president, the carrier postponed putting into effect the proposed new schedule until early in 1934, continuing in the meantime under the existing rates of pay, rules, and working conditions" (Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1936 Edition, Issue 616, pp. 22-23).
In 1934, the same issues arose between KCS and their employees. President Roosevelt dispatch Joseph B. Eastman, Federal Coordinator of Transportation, to mediate between the parties. The strike was once again postponed while the parties submitted themselves to mediation.


Inclusive date range: 1921-1932
Bulk dates: 1932-1934
This collection contains documentation of a wage dispute between the Kansas City Southern Railways [KCS] and their employees represented by the "Big Four" railroad brotherhoods: the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers [BLE]; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen [BLF&E]; the Order of Railway Conductors [ORC]; and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen [BRT].
The records in this collection document the wages of employees who were members of one of the Big Four as well as how those wages would be affected by a proposed change to wage schedules by KCS management. Reactions to these changes from the union representatives, employees, and various managers are found in both correspondence and in pamphlets printed by both sides of the dispute to try to influence public opinion. The wage schedules are heavily annotated to show how the wages for the employees would fall should the KCS plan be put in place. Newspaper clippings documenting the negotiations are found in this collection. Of interest are the minutes of the meetings of the unions where the vast majority of the employees voted in favor of a strike and the correspondence between the grand chairmen of the Big Four, wherein they establish a series of code words to be used to verify the authenticity of any correspondence regarding a strike. Telegrams calling off the strike because of the intervention of the federal government are also found in the collection.

This collection was bound together in a single scrapbook. The front cover has a table of contents, and the scrapbook has been unbound and foldered in its original order using the titles from the table of contents. The newspaper clippings in folder 25 are fragile and should be handled carefully.

Kansas City Southern Railway.

Eastman, Joseph Bartlett
Deramus, William Neal
Railroads--Kansas--Kansas City.
Strikes and lockouts--Railroads--Kansas--Kansas City.
Order of Railway Conductors of America.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen.
Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.
Arkansas Western Railway Company.
Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway Company.
Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company.
Railway Labor Act.
Wages--Mediation and conciliation, Industrial--United States.

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:
Kansas City Southern Railways Company 1933 Strike Miscellany #5601. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Box 1 Folder 1 1921-1934
Table of contents on front cover, back cover annotated
Box 1 Folder 2 1921
June 15, 1921
Box 1 Folder 3 1932
November 17, 1932
Box 1 Folder 4 1932
November 17, 1932
Box 1 Folder 5 1932
November 17, 1932
Box 1 Folder 6 1932
November 17, 1932
Box 1 Folder 7 1932
August 1, 1932; letters attached
Box 1 Folder 8 1932
Regarding the Schedules for Brakemen and Yardmen (folders 3 and 4)
Box 1 Folder 9 1932-1933
(In index, called "Questions TBL 2 and 3 above")
Box 1 Folder 10 1932-1933
By Railway Company and by T. B. Leach
Box 1 Folder 11 1932
Box 1 Folder 12 1933
Box 1 Folder 13 1933
January-February-March 1933 issue
Box 1 Folder 14 1932-1933
On index "Misc correspondence self and others, KCS plan"
Box 1 Folder 15 1929-1930
Box 1 Folder 16 1933
Box 1 Folder 17 1933
June 13, 1933
Box 1 Folder 18 1933
June 13, 1933
Box 1 Folder 19
Box 1 Folder 20 1934
Box 1 Folder 21 1934
Box 1 Folder 22 1934
"Quit if don't advise will work after March 1, 1934"
Box 1 Folder 23 1934
Published and paid for, by popular subscription, by members of the KCS 83% Club, a group representing 83% of Kansas City Southern employees."
Box 1 Folder 24 1934
Box 1 Folder 25 1933-1934
Box 1 Folder 26 1934