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Page:Hine (1912) Letters from an old railway official.djvu/139

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Labor and the Manager.

the strength of the particular union than the relative justice of its demands.

Our predecessors of two generations ago did many fine things, but they overlooked some basic propositions. Suppose that fifty or sixty years ago when a brakeman expected to be promoted to a conductor they had said: “Fine, my boy. You have the ear-marks of a conductor. You understand, of course, that we have no conductors who cannot run an engine. We will arrange, without money loss to you, for you to fire two or three years. When you assure us of your ability to run an engine we will begin to commence to talk about making you a conductor.” Later on a man with this splendid all-around training could have specialized along the line of his greatest aptitude. We would not see freight tied up in terminals waiting for firemen, with a board full of extra brakemen. There would be an elasticity of assignment that would work out for the good of all concerned. We would not have the fireman straining his back to shovel fifteen or twenty tons of coal while a different breed of cat, a brakeman, rides on the fireman’s seat and forgets to ring the bell when the train starts.