The New International Encyclopædia/Railway Brotherhoods

RAILWAY BROTHERHOODS. Organizations of railway employees for the protection of their interests and the advancement of their condition in so far as dependent on themselves. The first five organizations described below are commonly referred to in the trade-union world as ‘the great railroad brotherhoods;’ and they are clearly distinguished from the other trades-unions of the country by unusual conservatism, a highly perfected form of government, and the great emphasis which they place upon the character of their members. While the railway brotherhoods are on an exceptionally friendly footing with the railway managers and have secured written contracts with most of the railroads fixing wages and other conditions of employment, they regard themselves as preëminently protective associations, and each maintains a large protective or strike fund. They also differ from the ordinary American union in the importance which they attach to the feature of mutual insurance. Affiliated with each of the brotherhoods is a Ladies' Auxiliary Society, who together maintain, with assistance from the brotherhoods themselves, a joint home for aged and disabled railroad employees at Highland, Illinois.

The railway brotherhoods are very similar in organization and government. The supreme powers are vested in a biennial national convention. The most striking feature which these brotherhoods have in common, however, is their system of legislative and adjustment boards. (1) The legislative board constitutes the lobby of the railway laborers. Whenever a majority of the divisons of any State or Province so desire, their representatives assemble at the State or Provincial capital and effect a general organization, usually selecting one or two delegates—the chairman and secretary-treasurer—as a permanent legislative committee. A plan has now been devised by which the chairmen of the legislative boards of the several organizations may combine in a Railroad Brotherhoods' Legislative Board, and such boards now exist in several States. (2) The boards of adjustment, also known as protective boards, are charged with the investigation of grievances and the collective bargaining concerning wages and other conditions of employment. In general, each division or local union elects a local grievance committee or board of adjustment; and the chairmen of the local boards on each system of railways constitute a general board of adjustment for that system. Where two or more separate systems are controlled by a single syndicate, the Locomotive Engineers provide for a still higher board or executive committee of adjustment, covering all the roads included in the syndicate. The adjustment system makes it extremely difficult to declare a strike. The local grievance committee, the general board of adjustment, and the chief executive officer must all attempt to settle the grievance by peaceable negotiations with the railroad officials before a proposal to strike may be considered, and then, in most of the brotherhoods, it must be indorsed by the chief executive, the board of adjustment, and two-thirds of the members who will be involved.

With the exception of the Telegraphers and the International Association of Car Workers, the railroad organizations are not affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, and, notwithstanding the essential similarity of their interests, the frequent attempts to create a general federation of railway employees have signally failed. The United Order of Railway Employees was formed in 1889, but was dissolved in 1891. In 1893 the American Railway Union was organized with the object of bringing all railway employees under a single jurisdiction, but it received its death blow in the Chicago strike of 1894. In 1895 another alliance was formed, in accordance with what is known as the Cedar Rapids plan, between the five railway brotherhoods. This loose alliance was superseded in April, 1898, by a more centralized Federation of American Railway Employees, which in turn was dissolved February 1, 1900, leaving the Cedar Rapids agreement still in force. This agreement provides for united action among the five brotherhoods in settling grievances and conducting strikes.

(1) The Grand International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the oldest and most powerful of the railway unions, was organized August 17, 1863, as the Brotherhood of the Footboard, and reorganized under the present name one year later. Between the biennial national conventions the supreme powers are centred largely in the grand chief engineer, who is elected by the convention for a term of four years, and receives a salary of $5000 a year. The brotherhood lays unusual emphasis upon charity and mutual insurance. The local subdivisions in almost every case pay sick and out-of-work benefits; while the international division maintains a charity fund for the payment of pensions to the needy widows and children of deceased members, the expenditures for which average about $42,000 a year. The insurance system of the brotherhood is conducted by an auxiliary company—The Locomotive Engineers' Mutual Life and Accident Insurance Association—which was incorporated under the laws of Ohio, March 3, 1894. From its first organization in 1867 to January, 1903, the insurance department paid out $12,000,000 at an average cost of about $16.55 a year per $1000 of insurance. The mortuary fimd at that time contained $109,309 and the contingent or strike fund more than $100,000. There were 596 subdivisions in the brotherhood with 42,000 members, of whom about 33,000 belonged to the insurance association. The official journal is the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers' Journal, published monthly at the headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.

(2) The Order of Railway Conductors of America was organized July 6, 1868, as the Conductors' Brotherhood, adopted the present title in 1878, and in 1890 abandoned the non-protective policy which it had followed for a number of years and under which members were pledged not to participate in any strike. Between the biennial conventions the principal powers are exercised by a salaried grand chief conductor and a board of three trustees. The mutual benefit department is separately conducted and is controlled largely by three insurance commissioners, from whose decisions an appeal lies to a board of directors. Policies of from $1000 to $3000 are issued at an average cost per year of about $16 per $1000 of insurance. The order is noted for its conservative methods and its elaborate machinery for conciliation and collective bargaining. It maintains, however, a protective fund of $100,000, and striking members are paid $50 a month for a period not exceeding three months. Reports covering the biennial period ending December 31, 1902, show 424 divisons, 27,899 members, 24,488 members of the insurance department, and the payment during this period of 604 insurance claims amounting to $1,206,000. The official journal is The Railway Conductor, published monthly at the headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

(3) The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen was organized December 1, 1873, and operated as a fraternal organization until 1877, when it adopted trade-union tactics, absorbed the existing lodges of the aggressive International Firemen's Union and Protective Association, became involved in the railroad strikes of 1877, lost its funds and a large part of its membership, and by 1878 seemed bankrupt and in a hopeless condition. In 1880, however, the strike policy was abandoned and the national officers were changed, with the result that since that year the brotherhood has grown from about 3000 members to 45,112 at the beginning of 1903. The government of the Brotherhood of Firemen does not differ materially from that of the engineers and conductors. Each member is assessed 50 cents quarterly for a protective fund, assessments ceasing when $250,000 have been accumulated. Members on strike are paid $25 a month for a period not to exceed three months. The brotherhood maintains a useful and successful employment bureau. The official organ is the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine, published monthly at Peoria, Illinois.

(4) The Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen was organized September 23, 1883, as the Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen, and adopted its present name in 1890. It admits conductors, baggagemen, brakemen, flagmen, yard-masters, assistant yard-masters, yard conductors, foremen, and switchmen. In structure and government the brotherhood is about identical with that of the Locomotive Firemen. Active members are assessed $1 a year for the protective fund until it reaches $300,000. Members participating in an authorized strike receive $35 a month during its continuance. Reports covering the biennial period ending December 31, 1902, show 646 subordinate lodges, 54,963 members, 52,591 members of the beneficiary department, and the payment during the two years of 1556 insurance claims amounting to $1,670,790. The official organ is the Railroad Trainmen's Journal, published monthly at the headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.

(5) The Order of Railroad Telegraphers was organized June 9, 1886, and admits telegraphers, linemen, levermen, in connection with the telegraph department and electro-pneumatic or mechanical interlockers. The telegraphers elect no legislative boards; the representation of the local divisions in the biennial convention varies in accordance with their membership, and the power of the chief executive is somewhat more curtailed than in the other brotherhoods. The mutual benefit department, which was not established until 1898, is governed by an insurance committee as in the Order of Railway Conductors. The protective fund is fixed at $50,000, for the establishment of which members are taxed $1 a year. No fixed amount of strike pay is guaranteed. Up to 1902 the order was regarded as the weakest of the large brotherhoods, but from January, 1902, to April, 1903, over 18,000 new members were initiated, making the total membership about 30,000. The official journal is The Railroad Telegrapher, published monthly at the headquarters in Saint Louis, Mo.

Among the minor railroad labor organizations the three immediately following closely resemble the great brotherhoods in their conservative policy, emphasis upon mutual insurance, and general form of government.

(6) The International Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees was organized as the Brotherhood of Railway Trackmen of America August 15, 1887. operated as a fraternal society until 1898, and adopted its present name in January, 1903. At the latter date the brotherhood comprehended 294 divisions with about 10,000 members. Its official journal is The Advance Advocate, published monthly at the headquarters in Saint Louis, Mo.

(7) The Switchmen's Union of North America, the successor of the once powerful Switchmen's Mutual Aid Association founded in 1881, was organized in 1897. Its growth and power have been seriously hampered by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, which also admits switchmen, but at present it seems thriving. In January, 1903, the membership was 14,000. The official journal is the Journal of the Switchmen's Union. published monthly at Buffalo, N. Y.

(8) The Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America was organized in December, 1900, and includes all men engaged in building, inspecting, repairing, oiling, and cleaning railway cars in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This organization has always been weak, and in the last few years has barely maintained an existence.

(9) The National Railway Clerks' Association of North America was organized in 1901, and in April, 1903, had 4000 members, organized into 35 local divisions. The Official Journal of the N. R. C. A. is issued monthly from the headquarters in Akron, Ohio.

The two organizations immediately following are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and bear no peculiar resemblance to the other railway brotherhoods.

(10) The Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees was organized September 15, 1892, and admits any competent street railway employee of good moral character, except managers, superintendents, and foremen. No protective fund is maintained, but a benefit of $75 is paid upon death or total disability. The official journal is the Motorman and Conductor, published monthly at Detroit, Mich.

(11) The International Association of Car Workers was organized May 22, 1901, from local lodges affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, and admits all men employed in the construction and maintenance of passenger, freight, and electric cars. In May, 1903, there were 135 local lodges with a membership of 20,000. The official journal is The Car Worker, published monthly at Buffalo, N. Y.

(12) The United Brotherhood of Railway Employees was organized in January, 1901, and its membership, which is growing rapidly, is practically confined to Canada and the States west of the Mississippi River. The constitution of the brotherhood is exceedingly complex, and makes provision for local and general benefit departments and boards of adjustment similar to those in the older brotherhoods; but it is strongly opposed to the narrow trade or class organization of the older brotherhoods, and aims to unite in a single industrial organization all classes of railway employees, particularly the lower grades. The brotherhood is affiliated with the American Labor Union, the most prominent exponent in America of the alliance between organized labor and socialism.