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I want to say personally that if the law is enacted, it would be the effect of the legislation, as I understand it, because of the very wage agreements in the bill, that there would naturally be some increase in wages.
At this time I want to say that personally I believe there should be an increase in wages, and I speak now as a Member of Congress who has in his district, which is composed of 15 counties, 8 coal-producing counties, namely, my own home county of Randolph; the county of Monongalia, in which is located the great Scott's Run mining region; Mineral County; Preston County; Grant County; Barbour County; Webster County, and Pocahontas County.
I appeared before the Senate committee hearing on this proposed legislation and I gave a detailed statement at that time.
I have other appointments now which will call me away, but before I leave the stand I want to say that personally I believe that in this country we have had by and the large over a long period of years, except in very few instances, the crucifixion of the coal miner on the cross of long hours, short pay, and unfavorable working and living conditions for himself and his family.
In West Virginia under the National Recovery Act I believe it is safe to say there were some 25,000 additional miners added to the pay rolls. The collapse of that legislation leaves us, in West Virginia, and particularly I speak now personally from experience in my own district, in a state of chaos and uncertainty, and a bad economic and social picture.
I believe, and I say this with all the power that I have in me, that after the National Industrial Recovery Act became a law, at no time in the coal industry of West Virginia except at the very peak of prices have we ever had a more flourishing industry in that State.
I want to add also that today I believe we are face to face with the fact that this uncertainty can be cured not only for the benefit of the worker but the producer as well.
Under the N. R. A. there was the salvation of the coal industry in my district and State from the standpoint not only of the employee but of the employer.
I believe perhaps when this legislation is finally written and comes upon the floor there may be amendments which personally I would like to present; but I want to say that by and the large I believe that the stabilization legislation which is now pending before this committee and before this Congress will bring order out of chaos and help the coal industry.
Mr. Treadway. Congressman, you referred to the two innocent parties, the producer and the miner. Is the consumer of coal a factor in the picture?
Mr. RANDOLPH. Yes. I am sorry that I did not mention the consumer, because he is always a factor. However, I do believe, in this country, that the consumer is interested, above all other things, not so much in the price he pays for any commodity, whether it be coal or whatnot, but he is considering also back of the coal or the product which he buys the humanity which went into its production.
We want not only a fair profit for the producer, but we want also a living wage for the worker.
Mr. TREADWAY. At a fair price to the consumer?
In Detroit they have purchased another order of coal after we had the collapse of the National Recovery Act.
We found they purchased it in Detroit at the price of $3.57 a ton. Now they are purchasing it for $3.22 a ton, a difference of 35 cents a ton.
Of course, that difference goes not only into the producer but it goes into the worker as well.
Mr. TREADWAY. You speak of stabilization. Have you looked into the legal provisions of this act, the constitutional questions?
Mr. RANDOLPH. I shall have to be very honest, Mr. Treadway, and say that I cannot speak as a constitutional Member of Congress because, first of all, I am not a constitutional lawyer. I am not even a lawyer.
Mr. TREADWAY. I sympathize with you very much, because I am in the same position. But nevertheless
Mr. RANDOLPH. I have tried to; yes.
Mr. TREADWAY. You have probably heard some of the references to the constitutional features of this bill.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Yes; I have.
Mr. TREADWAY. In that there seems to be some conflict, or an effort to overcome the conflict through very well-drawn language in trying to create a voluntary association brought about through compulsion. There is a little break there from consistency, is there not? It is not very consistent that a voluntary association-well, I will not press that.
Mr. RANDOLPH. That is all right. I can understand the gentleman's viewpoint in connection with the pending legislation.
Mr. TREADWAY. I also would like to ask in all seriousness your opinion as to whether or not it is a fair method of procedure that if someone does not see fit to join this voluntary association under compulsion he should be deprived of the use of the mails or other means of communication.
Mr. RANDOLPH. I want to say personally I am not in agreement with that feature altogether.
Mr. TREADWAY. I am glad to hear it.
You speak about bringing stability out of chaos. If this bill should be passed and contain these questions of constitutionality, and eventually should reach the courts for consideration, and then, if the result was, as in the celebrated Chicken case, that it was declared unconstitutional, would not then your people be in an even worse chaotic condition by having gotten started under this kind of legislation and later on being obliged to give it up entirely?
Would not that bring about a chaos that would be very unfortunate?
Mr. RANDOLPH. If there came a chaos for that reason it would be unfortunate. I do want to say, though, and I agree with the gentleman that we should be doubly careful now in the consideration of legislation because of the unconstitutionality of the N. R. A., but I do not believe that that need stand in the way of our trying actually to arrive at legislation which I believe tends toward stabilization of a great industry.
Mr. VINSON. You live in a coal field?
1. Mr. VINSON. You have had first-hand observation of living conditions in a coal field?
Mr. RANDOLPH. I have; yes, sir.
Mr. Vinson. How long have you lived in that section, Congressman?
Mr. RANDOLPH. I have lived my entire life either in the coalmining regions or adjacent to them.
Mr. Vinson. Were you acquainted personally with the living conditions in the mine region at your home prior to the code set up under N. R. A.?
Mr. RANDOLPH. Yes.
Mr. Vinson. And are you acquainted personally with the living conditions that obtained there under the code set up by N. R. A.?
Mr. RANDOLPH. Yes. Thank you, Mr. Vinson, for asking me to give an observation upon that factor.
I have been personally acquainted with conditions both before and during the N. R. A., and I want to say that I have no hesitancy in saying here that the conditions were immeasurably better under the National Recovery Act.
Mr. Vinson. When you say that you take in every phase of the life of a coal miner or an employee of a coal mine?
Mr. RANDOLPH. I do.
Mr. VINSON. Clear down through from the wage earner to his family and his helpless children?
Mr. RANDOLPH. I do. I want to say I have gone up the Scott's Run mining region many, many times. I have seen the little children of the miners going along the side of the road not with shoes upon their feet, when cold weather came, but burlap wrapped about them. That is a picture I have actually seen with my own eyes.
Mr. Hill. Thank you very much, Mr. Randolph.
(Thereupon, at 11:35 a. m., a recess was taken until 2 p. m. of the same day.)
The subcommittee reassembled, pursuant to the taking of recess, at 2 p. m., Hon. Samuel B. Hill (chairman) presiding.
Mr. Hill. The committee will come to order. The first witness this afternoon is Mr. Berwind.
Will you state your name, your residence, and whom you represent? STATEMENT OF CHARLES G. BERWIND, PHILADELPHIA, PA.;
VICE PRESIDENT, THE BERWIND-WHITE COAL MINING CO.; VICE PRESIDENT OCEAN COAL 0.; VICE PRESIDENT, NEW RIVER AND POCAHONTAS CONSOLIDATED COAL CO.; AND VICE PRESIDENT KENTLAND COAL & COKE CO. OF KENTUCKY
Mr. BERWIND. Mr. Chairman, my name is Charles G. Berwind. My residence is Philadelphia, Pa.' Iam vice president of the BerwindWhite Coal Mining Co., one of the oldest operating companies in central Pennsylvania. I am also vice president of Ocean Coal Co., operating in Westmoreland County, Pa., vice president of the New
River & Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Co., operating in the New River, Pocahontas, and Greenbrier fields of southern West Virginia, and of the Kentland Coal & Coke Co. of Kentucky, owning lands in eastern Kentucky.
I am not opposing the Guffey-Snyder bill through fear of its affecting the companies which I represent more adversely than those of the proponents. I believe we can survive if any operators can live under such regulation. We have always maintained a policy of fair dealing in our labor relations and have paid to our employees the highest scale of wages prevailing in the various districts in which we operate. We feel quite certain we can hold the respect and confidence of our own employees as well as the mine workers' organization.
I have given a great deal of thought to the bill now under consideration and have reached the definite conclusion that it is objectionable for a number of reasons. It is my opinion the bill will work an injustice to the operator, to labor, and to the consumer, and while it may for a brief period give a kind of false stability to prices which will be reflected in a stabilized wage, I believe its ultimate influence will prove to be disastrous to all of the foregoing parties in interest and to the coal-producing States as well.
Any thinking man will freely admit that coal serves a large proportion of the fuel requirements of the country and to that extent the public is interested, but from the angle of man's need and comforts many other industries are affected more universally, with a public interest.
The composition of the industry is unfortunate for its own good as it is formed of innumerable units, mostly small ones, having limited resources. On the labor side, it is for the most part organized into a vertical union under the guidance of a strong and intelligent leadership. However, because there is an obvious labor problem in the coal industry, which problem is reflected in periodic suspensions and in a vain endeavor to find employment for a far greater number of miners than there is any need for and to provide them with an adequate income, is certainly no reason to place the industry under Government regulation. The plain truth is there are too many mines and too many miners and this is a problem of industry and not properly within the province of Government, beyond proper relief measures for those who cannot be employed elsewhere.
There is plenty of cool in the ground, enough it has been estimated to last several thousand years at the present rate of consumption. With the continuation of the inroads of oil and gas due to the movement upward in the price of coal, with the increase in water power development, the improvement in high voltage transmission, the increased efficiency in power generation, this period may easily be doubled. If it is true there is sufficient coal in the ground to last into a future period of time equal to the duration from ancient Egypt to the present day, we are, to say the very least, unduly solicitous of those following along after us.
To declare an industry impressed with a sufficient public interest to regulate it merely because it has labor troubles and its units are too small and too numerous for coordinated and efficient management is stretching the idea a long way. Under the bill no provision is made to eliminate strikes, in fact it directly states in part III, Labor Relations, that the employee has the right to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." Under such a provision the public would have no greater security, as related to its coal requirements, that it has had in the past.
Since the war and up to the present time, on an average, the coal industry has sold its product to the public at a price which is actually less than cost when taking into consideration all proper accounting charges.
Under the proposed bill it is difficult to picture how the consumers of coal can expect anything but an increase in the cost thereof on account of the administration expense, the taxes which will be imposed for the purchase of marginal lands, the rehabilitation of miners, as well as the increase in State taxes which must be added in order that the States may replace the loss of revenue occasioned by the withdrawal of taxable lands, which will be included in the nontaxable Federal reserves.
You are undoubtedly aware that a corporation holding mineral reserves is taxed at approximately double the rate of an individual landowner or farmer where coal underlies the surface holding. It may be that the farmer landowner will be compelled to absorb much of the burden of increased taxation on the remaining taxable property.
As a result of their own individual difficulties there has been engendered a very strong defeatist attitude among many of the operators, and so in order to get some degree of temporary security they are willing, in many cases, to accept theories as exemplified in the bill under consideration, which when applied to their own industry and to all industry may prove disastrous to our American institutions.
The theory upon which the draw-back tax is predicated is one which, if adopted by Congress and judged constitutional by the Supreme Court, can be applied to any instrumentality created or sanctioned by State or Federal authority. In fact, it creates a nonexclusive club, called a code, in which an individual is taxed for not becoming a member although in all other respects he may be an industrious, conscientious, and honest citizen of the United States. In fact such a tax is not imposed basically for revenue but as a means of coercion. In itself it is manifestly confiscatory, and will place such a burden upon corporations not subscribing to the code that they will be economically extinguished.
If Congress has the right to pass legislation regulating an industry, the laws so promulgated apply to all individuals and corporations doing business and there is no need to inflict a coercive tax. The courts of the United States are created to uphold the laws and anyone transgressing the law can be readily punished. This is an extremely dangerous precedent and is an unwarranted extension of the right to tax, and in this instance to destroy.
If the right of Congress to tax in this manner is upheld there is no limit to what can be accomplished, irrespective of the laws of the country and the courts, through the imposition of so-called “voluntary” agreements or code.
The next question which appears of material importance is the composition of the Commission and Labor Board. These boards are created to act in the capacity of industrial supreme courts. A court is presumably composed of men of broad experience having knowledge of law and equity, and who have that quality of mind which sifts