Wartime Problems of the Federal Conciliation Service

AuthorJohn R. Steelman
Published date01 November 1942
Date01 November 1942
Subject MatterArticles
Wartime Problems of the Federal Conciliation Service
HE war situation presents many into which it is called. It has not been
new problems to the United States
party to the disputes or the economic
Conciliation Service, but the job of
conflicts to which it is summoned and
settling labor-management disputes by
has nothing to gain from particular pro-
voluntary methods of conciliation and
visions of settlements. This, however,
arbitration is not new to it. The Con-
is not always fairly considered. At
ciliation Service has been in existence
times, management which has something
ever since the formation of the De-
to give in terms of wages and working
partment of Labor through an act of
conditions, is inclined to view any settle-
Congress in 1913. During all these
ment as a loss and anyone connected
years the work has been carried on
with the settlement as an agent of the
quietly and with no attempt to pub-
forces causing the loss. It is not like
licize its activities. The work has been
this, and the Service must always be
allowed to speak for itself and the
reminding both management and labor
amount of work to be done has al-
that it is not in the business of taking
ways exceeded the number of men to
something from one group and giving
do the job. As a result, there are
it to another. The business of the two
many industrial establishments in the
hundred Commissioners of Conciliation
country which are not fully informed
stationed in the important industrial
of the methods of its operation. Heads
and commercial centers is to harmonize
of great industrial establishments fre-
differences, prevent work stoppages, and
quently express surprise when they learn
promote production.
Experience has
through actual observation the satis-
shown that if conciliation is successful,
factory results of Government concilia-
the gain to both labor and management
tion methods.
is incomparably greater than any loss
This is illustrated in the instance of
management may feel that it has tempo-
a deadlock which occurred in a recent
rarily sustained.
Although the appointed repre-
sentatives of
management were clothed
with authority to negotiate a settlement,
In this same connection, it should be
no headway could be made. As a final
said that at times both labor and man-
resort, the president and general man-
agement, intent upon their points of
ager of the firm was invited in. Never
view, become arbitrary. Instances can
before had he witnessed conference table
be cited where Commissioners have been
methods in action. He became so inter-
told by both labor and management rep-
ested in the procedure that he actively
resentatives that their demands must be
entered the negotiations. Then, to the
met &dquo;or else.&dquo;
Commissioners are com-
surprise of his own representatives as
pelled to remind the parties that the
well as the union, he offered to give
Service has no law to enforce and that
more than had his representatives. On
its only desire is to restore harmony be-
this basis it was possible to reach an im-
tween the parties in order that men
mediate settlement satisfactory to all
may work and the company produce.
Arbitrary demands from either side re-
The Service naturally is not re-
quire firm treatment and Commissioners
sponsible for the industrial situations
are instructed to stand by their guns of

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fair play and the fundamental principles
officials and then the union leaders. He
of conciliation to which the Service is
found that the stumbling block was the
matter of union security.
Quite a while ago, when guns were
many conferences had previously been
carried freely in certain sections of the
held during which management and la-
country, the Washington office assigned
bor had agreed upon other points, and
a Commissioner to a case which was in
the machinery was well set for a joint
an area noted for rioting. As the Com-
conference, the Commissioner scheduled
missioner entered the conference room,
one for the following morning.
six labor representatives sat down on
After dinner in this small community,
one side of the table and six manage-

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