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We object to the intrusion of the United States Coast Guard into the affairs of the merchant marine, a civil activity. We fear the effect of such an intrusion, and encroachment upon the rights and gains that we have won over the course of many years. We fear that such control can and may be exercised in such a way as to injure and emasculate the labor organizations which have thus far been responsible for the great improvement in the lot of the American merchant sealinan.
The experience of the unlicensed personnel, since the creation of these laws, with the Department of Commerce, has been satisfactory and we can see no sound reason for the removal of the functions of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation from the control of the Department of Commerce. We know of no objections that have been raised by the shipowning interests to the general operation of these laws, prior to the entrance of this country into the Second World War.
This subject is of the greatest importance to our organization. We feel that we have been deprived of the opportunity to urge our views on the legislative bodies of our Government prior to the passage of the Reorganization Act, in the deliberate and careful manner which is provided for by our legislative procedure. However, we have complete confidence in our President and believe that he will restore that right by according us the fullest opportunity to state our views in detail.
We respectfully suggest that the President arrange for a public hearing, so that the views of all parties concerned may be presented and in that manner aid him in his final judgment.
Very truly yours,
MARCH 27, 1946. Mr. John HAWK, Vice President, Seafarers International Union of North America, Atlantic and Gulf District, New York 4, N. Y.
DEAR MR. HAwk: I appreciated receiving your letter of March 8 in which you present additional information regarding the permanent allocation of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. The points which you raise will receive attention, and we are glad to have your views.
You are correct in assuming that the Reorganization Act of 1945 (Public Law 263 of the 79th Cong.) confers upon the President general reorganization powers which encompass the Hureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. No doubt you have also noted that after the President shall have determined that reorganization plan is administratively desirable and in harmony with the purposes of the act. He must present it to the Congress where it must remain for 60 days before becoming effective. Provision has thus been made for due legislative consideration.
If you have any further views which you wish to present we shall be glad to receive them. * .
Very truly yours,
- MAY 28, 1946. To the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, - White House, Washington, D. C.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: We wrote a letter to you under date of January 11, 1946, expressing our position on the subject of the transfer of the functions of the United States Shipping Commissioner and of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the United States Coast Guard. For your convenience, we attach a copy of this letter, identifying same as “Exhibit 1.”
This letter apparently never came to your personal attention and was referred to the Bureau of the Budget division of the Executive Office of the President, because we received an answer to this letter under date of January 25, from this Department, signed by Mr. F. J. Lawton, Administrative Assistant. A copy of this letter is attached and identified as “Exhibit 2.”
Not being familiar with the routine of your office, we wrote our letter of March 8, 1946, to the Bureau of the Budget, attention of Mr. F. J. Lawton. Copy of this letter is attached and marked “Exhibit 3.” In this letter we expanded upon our position and requested that you, the President, arrange for a public hearing, so that the views of all parties concerned could be presented and in that manner aid you in forming a final judgment. In response to this last-mentioned letter of March 8, 1946, we received a letter dated March 27, from the Bureau of the Budget, signed by Mr. F. J. Lawton. This letter is attached hereto and marked “Exhibit 4.” Although none of the letters received from the Bureau of the Budget promised a public hearing, we were not advised that such a hearing would not be held and we deemed it almost incredible that summary action would be taken by the Office of the President without consulting further the views of the maritime unions representing the great number of men who have rendered such valiant service to the Government during the war. Accordingly, we were somewhat shocked, to put it mildly, when we were advised that part I of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946 had, in fact, been submitted to the Congress on May 16, 1946. We were not advised in advance of the intention of the Bureau of the Budget to submit such a plan, nor were we officially informed that the plan had been submitted. The law permitting the President to submit plans of reorganization is somewhat unusual in that it limits the powers of Congress in passing upon the proposed plans of reorganization. A time limit of 60 days is imposed. The law imposes the onerous task upon any group objecting to the proposals of originating a resolution, having same brought to the attention of both Houses of Congress, and then having a joint resolution passed, negativing the President's proposals, all within the period of 60 days from the date of the submission of the proposals to the Congress. It should also be noted that the terms of the law tend to deprive the people of the United States of the time-honored protection of public hearings which are the usual incident to the proposal of new legislation to the Congress. We respectfully point out to the President that our position in this matter has been adopted and affirmed by all other maritime unions in the industry, representing both licensed and unlicensed personnel, including the following organizations: Seafarers International Union of North America; Sailors Union of the Pacific; National Maritime Union; Pacific Coast Marine Firemen, Oilers, Watertenders, and Wipers Association; Marine Cooks and Stewards; Marine Engineers Beneficial Association; Masters, Mates, and Pilots Organization; American Communications Association; the Radio Officers Union; and the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific. The letters from the Bureau of the Budget did not advise us that the presentation of our views would be limited to cursory correspondence with it. Accordingly, we were never given an opportunity to be head on a subject of vital importance to the hundreds of men employed in the maritime industry. As a result of the Submission of this proposal to the Congress in the manner indi. cated, we are now presented with a task which is difficult and burdensome, and therefore obviously unfair. In View of the situation as above described, we are convinced that this entire matter has never been properly brought to your attention and considered with the care appropriate to the importance of the subject. We therefore are addressing this letter to you in the hope and expectation that you will withdraw part I of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946 from the Congress until such time as you have had an opportunity to carefully consider the proposed change after a public hearing on the entire subject. Assuring you of our keen interest in this matter, which we deem to be vital to the welfare of the merchant marine, and trusting to be favored with your response at the earliest convenient opportunity, we are, with kindest regards, Sincerely yours, SEAFARERS INTERNATIONAL UNION of North AMERICA, ATLANTIC AND GULF District, JOHN HAWK, Vice President.
Mr. HAWK. The next thing I knew, the President's Reorganization Plan No. 3 had been submitted to Congress. Part 1 hit me in the face when I picked it up.
The main argument for continuing the Bureau under the Coast Guard seems to me that it will more efficiently handle the matter of inspection of vessels and their equipment, since it is responsible, in a measure, for their safety at sea. No argument could be more falla
cious. The inspectors under the Department of Commerce always were former merchant captains or engineers. They understood the problems of a merchant ship much more fully than a man without merchant experience ever could.
It is our experience that the inspectors under the Commerce Department always investigated our complaints regarding items of safety aboard ship quickly and completely. The same cannot be said for the Bureau since the Coast Guard took it over. Coast Guard officers always seem to regard any complaints of unlicensed seamen with a jaundiced eye. They take the attitude that we have something up our sleeves.
I see no reason to believe that our complaints would be entertained with any more respect if the inspections are under their permanent jurisdiction.
Here, however, is our biggest beef against the permanent transfer:
The Office of the Shipping Commissioners. Some 51 years agoback in June 1884, to be exact-the Congress created the Office of United States Shipping Commissioners under the Department of Commerce. Congress acted wisely in doing so. There was a crying need for such officials. One of their major functions was the protection of merchant seamen against exploitation by merchant Officers or shipping companies. They were to superintend the engagement and discharge of seamen, to act as impartial arbiters between the seamen and the officers, and the seamen and the companies.
That was a new deal for the seamen. It was the first deal he ever got that was not a raw one. By and large the Shipping Commissioners under the Department of Commerce acted impartially. Neither the seamen nor the shipping companies had any major fault to find with their decisions.
Since Coast Guard control and "hearing units” came into being, the seaman has been relegated to his old position. The "courts” set up by the Coast Guard have not been impartial, and they have gone beyond the realm of their authority in cases too numerous to mention. I shall mention one example, however. That is the matter of insubordination.” Scores of seamen have had their certificates revoked or suspended because they talked back to Coast Guard officers. This had nothing to do with their shipboard activities or their own, officers. They merely ran afoul of the Coast Guard and were "insubordinate.” This practice has continued since the end of the war.
Mr. Rich. Let me ask you a question right there. Do the Coast Guard officers have charge of the conduct of affairs of the seamen! They issued the orders to them to do certain things, did they?
Mr. Hawk. No. Here is what they did : Under the Department of Commerce, the Commissioners would go aboard a ship when a ship was ready to sign articles, that is seamen sign their contract. The Commissioner would be a witness to the contract or the article signed between the seamen and the master of the vessel as an agent of the company. He would O. K. it, put the United States Commissioner's stamp on it. Then, when the vessel would come in after a voyage, the same Shipping Commissioner would come down and sign the crew off, release them from their contract. So, a master of every ship has a log book. He keeps a record in the log if there is any infraction
of the law, such as a seaman taking a day off. The law provides that he will be fined 2 days' pay in that event. That will be entered in the master's ship logbook, or any infractions that went on aboard a ship would be recorded.
Well, the men were also issued, under the law, a log slip before the ship came in. If the seaman did not protest being fined or logged, everything
would pay off normally, but, if the seaman protested, the Shipping Commissioner would settle the dispute. He would either rule that it was legal or illegal. The man was already punished under a set-up, under arrangement that the law has already set up.
Mr. Rich. Was that agreeable to the ship master?
Mr. Hawk. The ship master, he imposed a fine for the offense and entered it in the logbook. When the Coast Guard came into the picture, these young attorneys, most of them were attorneys, they went down aboard the ship to investigate. If they got no complaints, then they would look at the logbook and then they would decide that he should be brought up on charges, although the man was already fined. They decided that he should be punished further. Well, we will set this guy down, we will take a notch out of him. We will suspend his papers for 30 days or 60 days. Now, the master had made no special complaint against that seaman. He was satisfied to carry out what the law had already provided. But, these ambitious Coast Guard investigating officers wanted to build the record, to make a record, and they held these courts.
Every charge that was preferred against the seaman they held a court, and the seaman was tried.
Mr. Rich. Now, they did that without any request from the master of the ship?
Mr. Hawk. From the ship master or from the engineer.
Mr. Hawk. That was on every ship that came in. The Coast Guard officers were pulling this stuff. Under the old Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, under the Department of Commerce, it would not go any further unless the master of the vessel thought that the man was not punished enough and that he could say that he had committed a crime that he should be punished further for, then the old Steamboat Inspection Service had the same authority, but they looked at it in a more practical light.
Mr. Rich. In other words, the Department of Commerce said if they wanted to disobey the laws, and the ship master did not want to make any complaints, well let them go ahead and disobey the rules and regulations that were laid down by the master of the ship?
Mr. HAWK. That is right. If the master thought the man should be punished further, then he would report it to the steamboat inspectors, and then they would hold a hearing.
Mr. Rich. In other words, it is easier to disobey the rules and regulations under the Commerce Department than under the Coast Guard?
Mr. HAWK. No.
Mr. Hawk. Definitely not. If a master has a complaint, I mean if he thinks that the man has not been punished enough according to the law, I think we should leave it to the master. After all, the master is sailing with this man. Although he may have made some mistake, it
should be left with him to see whether he should be reported, and that the man should be punished further and be given a trial.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. You said they had the authority to do that but it had not been invoked very often
Mr. Hawk. That is right. They were not trying to build any record.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. With all due deference to you, you have made such a different statement from all the other people that have appeared here, it is rather astounding to me. There were no such charges as you have made made by the other witnesses. They said for the duration of the war they thought it was all right, and there had been no trouble but they wanted to go back in time of peace.
Mr. Hawk. On that point, I would like to say that I have spoken to representatives of all maritime unions and spoken to members of those organizations and they are definitely opposed to the Coast Guard con: tinuing
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I am talking about the people who appeared before the committee. You may proceed.
Mr. Hawk. Under Coast Guard control a seaman's papers—the means of his livelihood-have stood in constant jeopardy. I know of more cases of seamen's papers being revoked during the period since the war ended than I ever heard of during all the years I was shipping before the war. I will venture to say that more have been revoked in that period than ever were under Commerce from 1884 to the beginning of the war. The Coast Guard has instituted a legal system to blackball seamen throughout the country or industry.
You gentlemen may say that this calls for an investigation of the Coast Guard. I say that the inherent evil will continue to exist no matter how many investigations are carried out. I say that the only answer is to return the Bureau to the Department of Commerce.
The unions for which I speak and other maritime unions have been fighting Coast Guard control ever since the end of the war. I have received communications from most of the maritime unions. I have talked with seamen of all maritime unions. I cannot recall a single instance of a seaman or union which did not concur in our position.
I am empowered to speak for the Sailors' Union of the Pacific, the
Mr. WHIITINGTON. Is that the one Mr. Rich asked you about?
Mr. WHITTINGTON. You do not speak for anybody on the west coast?
Mr. Hawk. I speak for the AFL seamen.
Mr. Hawk. No. The AFL longshoremen on the west coast, I am speaking for. The International Longshoremen's Association has longshoremen up in Tacoma, Seattle, and a few other ports on the Pacific coast.
Mr. Rich. Is Harry Bridges affiliated with any of the organizations that you are speaking for?
Mr. HAWK. No, sir.
Mr. Rich. You have no connection with anything that Harry Bridges is interested in ?