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of the Interstate Commerce Law, entitled the “Act to Regulate Commerce" as amended by the acts of June 29, 1906, and June 18, 1910.
No carrier, unless otherwise provided by this act, shall engage or participate in the transportation of passengers or property as defined in this act, unless the rates, fares and charges upon which the same are transported by said carrier have been filed and published in accordance with the provisions of this act; nor shall any carrier charge or demand or collect or receive a greater or less or different compensation for such transportation of passengers or property, or for any service in connection therewith, between the points named in such tariffs than the rates, fares and charges, which are specified in the tariff filed and in effect at the time; nor shall any carrier refund or remit in any manner or by any device any portion of the rates, fares and charges so specified, nor extend to any shipper or person any privileges or facilities in the transportation of passengers or property except such as are specified in such tariffs. The Commission has jurisdiction
to require carriers to cease and desist from unjust discrimination and unreasonable preference.
Prohibits preferential rates for transportation service performed under like circumstances and conditions.
In compliance with this law the rates of fare and charges are published,” but in violation of it "unjust discrimination ” has not“ ceased,” nor has the Trunk Line Association, whose attention has been called to the matter, corrected the “unjust discrimination " practiced by the agents of many railroads within its jurisdiction.
It cannot be disputed that “preferential rates” are given to all others than aliens having railroad orders prepaid in Europe “ for transportation service performed under like circumstances and conditions. The cases cited in addition to others on file prove the facts conclusively, for when a third class railway order is exchanged for a first class railway ticket and the difference in the rate of fare between third class and first class has been paid, such ticket becomes a first class fare. Therefore, if the sum charged for the exchange plus the original cost of the transportation order is greater than the first class rate published in accordance with law, the person who is required to pay such excess is subjected to discrimination. The overcharge is a violation of the following provision of chapter 565 of the Laws of 1890 entitled “An Act in Relation to Railroads,” constituting section 39 of chapter 39 of the general laws, known as the Railroad Law:
Penalty for excessive rate: Any railroad corporation, which shall ask or receive more than the lawful rate of fare unless such overcharge was made through inadvertence or mistake, not amounting to gross negligence, shall forfeit fifty dollars, to be recovered with the excess so received by the party paying the same; but no action can be maintained therefor, unless commenced within one year after the cause of action accrued.
Complaints and affidavits setting forth numerous violations of these statutes are on file at this office. The matter was called to the attention of the Trunk Line Association on July 11, 1914, when the writer personally remonstrated about the situation in the matter of a complaint supported by corroborative evidence, submitted to this Bureau. At that interview an order issued by the Trunk Line Association to its agents, prohibiting the collection of commissions on “ exchange of third class or mixed tickets," waz exhibited by the association's representative. It would appear that the issuance of this order was intended to meet technical legal obligations. In the event of complications the production of such an order might be considered as evidence that the railroad had forbidden the practice and could not therefore be held responsible. In that case the violation by the employee would appear to be an individual responsibility. However, the Trunk Line Association can plead no such ignorance, as the correspondence covering the entire subject under discussion, between that body and this Bureau, has been unsatisfactory and unproductive of corrective results or any attempt to eliminate the violations.
Remonstrance with the Trunk Line Association appears to be of no avail. The railroads are at present protected by their unenforced“ order” and the only course left open to this Bureau, in order to destroy this practice of extortion, whereby thousands of dollars are unlawfully taken from immigrants and aliens, is to refer the case to the proper authorities for prosecution.
It is natural to assume that misrepresentation is made by the agent abroad whenever he sells a so-called “third class ” railroad order to any but a steerage passenger; as practically no aliens arriving second class wish to extend their journey: to Ellis Island in order to board an immigrant way train, and consequently on discovering their plight, no alternative is presented other than a repetition of the experiences already cited.
MONEY EXCHANGE Railroad ticket agents, baggage agents, hotel runners, steamship company agents, and immigrant hotels, exchange money for alien passengers on all docks, and never give the legal rate of exchange. During the past year affidavits and investigators' reports show overcharges of from 2 per cent to 25 per cent on money exchange. A certain steamship company authorizes its dock agent to use the company's funds to exchange money for the accommodation of its passengers. He never pays the prevailing rates, and it is doubtful if that company is aware that he is becoming rich on the use of their capital. This case has not yet been reported to the steamship company, as it is desirable to obtain further evidence.
BAGGAGE All passengers both alien and citizen are overcharged on each piece of baggage on docks. The legal rate (within a five mile radius) for express charges, is 40 cents for each piece of baggage. Affidavits on file disclose the fact that a systematic overcharge of ten cents and upwards is made by baggage “ checkers” on every piece for the above distance.
A special investigation of the methods of employees of the different express companies having the privilege of baggage transfer on the various trans-atlantic steamship docks, was conducted as follows: A number of cabin passengers arriving on steamers on the
lines, were selected quite at random and interviewed. It was found that each and every passenger, who checked baggage for transfer to the various railroad terminals or ferries, was uniformly overcharged from 10 cents up on each piece of baggage.
Whenever possible, without inconvenience to the travelers, affidavits were obtained and are on file. In every instance the distance for delivery was within a radius of five miles. Express companies who have the privilege of baggage transfer on the docks have a special agreement with the steamship companies, whereby a concession from the legal rate on hand-baggage is supposed to be allowed within the five mile limit, but instead an overcharge on the highest rate is made.
The customary rule is, that when a steamer arrives the express company having the baggage transfer privilege assigns a number of so-called “checkers ” to solicit and check baggage within and without the custom lines. Each “checker” checks the baggage and collects charges from the passenger, giving a numbered receipt, without, however, having the amount collected noted thereon. Half of this receipt or check is retained to be attached to the baggage, and an entry is then made on the tally sheet, on which he is supposed to enter the charge collected, but the amount noted on the tally sheet never shows any charge above the legal rate. This is amply substantiated by comparing the charges cited in affidavits with the figures on tally sheets as reported by checkers to their respective employers.
The above facts are corroborated by a case against a certain transfer company, tried before the commissioner of licenses, when the manager of the said company set up a defense that his tally sheet showed no overcharges, and that if any overcharge had been made, it was without the knowledge and consent of the express owner, such overcharges being retained by the “checkers.” In this instance the manager claimed that he had since discharged the “ checkers ” against whom complaints had been lodged and investigated by the custom authorities. He made restitution of the overcharge.
The “checkers” as a rule receive no salary, but are paid 25 cents per hour, when actually employed on the docks. At this rate of compensation these men would be unable to make a living wage, inasmuch as they are unable to work more than three or four hours on the arrival of a steamer, and on not more than two steamers a day. These conditions tempt them to extort excessive charges, which no doubt often amount to a considerable income. It must appear that express owners are aware of these illegal practices, but they apparently acquiesce, as otherwise they would be unable to obtain competent help to handle baggage at the prevailing rate of compensation. The “checkers" do not appear to be conscious that they are violating any ordinance or agreement, as this extortion has been carried on for years without interference.
An illustration of an excessive overcharge is shown in the case of a passenger for whom a certain expressman checked thirteen pieces of baggage; ten pieces of which were to be delivered from foot of
street, where the steamer docked to the railroad at foot of
street, a distance of only two blocks, for which the amount collected was $8.50, or $4.50 in excess of the legal rate. The other three pieces were to be delivered to an address in
street, which is also within the five mile limit, for which the charges were to be collected on delivery. Another instance was the case of a passenger on the
Line docking at foot of
street. Nine trunks and two valises were checkcd, through a certain express company to
street ferry, which is within the five mile limit. The charges under the special arrangement between the express and steamship companies should have been 40 cents per trunk and 25 cents per valise, or a total of $4.10. The checker collected $5.35, overcharging the passenger $1.25.
In interviewing passengers, care was taken to ascertain that the apparent overcharge was not given to the checker as a gratuity.
The men employed as checkers could not undergo a rigid character investigation. They do not work exclusively for one express company, but go from dock to dock and hire out their services, as occasion demands, with the result that the system of overcharging is about uniform without distinction as to employer.
It is proposed to request that a conference be called by the Commissioner of Licenses, in order that through his co-operation this Bureau may develop some plan by which the employment of socalled “checkers" may be regulated, and that they may be properly paid by their employers.
Some idea of the enormous revenue realized on commissions and overcharges on tickets, baggage, telegrams, and money exchange may be obtained from the report of the landing agent at Ellis Island for the year 1914, which announces that 735,741 persons were landed at this port by transatlantic steamers during the past year. Of these, 288,592 were cabin passengers, and it may be authoritatively stated that each of these was overcharged from ten