« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
In addition to being logged by the master for an infraction of the rule, he is also tried for the same offense before the Coast Guard and this places him in double jeopardy. The argument that the Coast Guard uses is that the master confines his punishment to a fine or in some cases to imprisonment on board ship whereas the Coast Guard proceeding is not against the person nor against his money, but against his papers. This is the grossest fiction that can be imagined because if a seaman's papers are either suspended or revoked, he is certainly hit in the pocket because he cannot pursue his livelihood to which every free American is entitled.
In addition to action by the master and the Coast Guard, the seaman may also be prosecuted by the criminal authorities of the United States. In the cases in which we represented the seamen, we have learned that the proceedings are a mockery and have resulted in nothing but contempt by the seaman for the Coast Guard.
The hearings are conducted in the fashion of a "kangaroo" court and the man is actually railroaded. The punishment depends upon the whim of the hearing officer and for the same identical offense two hearing officers would differ greatly in the punishment which they mete out.
The hearings that are conducted in foreign countries usually result in a severe suspension or actual revocation of the seaman's papers. He is advised that he has the opportunity of procuring his own counsel but where, for instance, in Korea, can you get a lawyer who is familiar with the laws, both civil and maritime, of the United States? He is, therefore, by force of circumstances deprived of adequate representation,
At the conclusion of the hearing the accused is permitted an appeal but to whom is the appeal made but the local appeals board, which is comprised of Coast Guard officers, and in the many cases that we have appealed there have been an infinitesimal number reversed. If the accused still wants to appeal further, he can go to the Commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington. We know of very few instances where the Commandant has reversed both the local appeal board and the hearing officer. It appears that the Coast Guard likes to take care of its own and in reversing one of its officers, it feels that it suffers a smirch on its reputation.
Instead of bettering conditions on board ships, the hearing units have resulted in a great lack of discipline and resentment not only among the unlicensed personnel, but also among the officers.
The merchant marine has always been self-sufficient and has always done a good job in maintaining order and discipline aboard merchant ships. The officers are familiar with the problems of their crews, having come up from the ranks themselves. Seamen, while on board ship, are under the direct supervision and control of their officers who, in our opinion, are adequate to mete out punishment for infractions of the rules. This has worked fairly well from time immemorial and there is no reason why this practice should be changed to satisfy the greed of the Coast Guard.
We therefore, respectfully, for the reasons outlined above, ask this committee to disapprove this proposed bill.
I would like to add a few further words on behalf of my union.
We do not agree with the previous witness that some sort of a court should be set up. It is our impression that seamen have to go through too many courts as now constituted, for the same offense.
For instance, the captain may log a man; he may fine him money; he may put him on bread and water; and when a man comes ashore he is also subject to trial by his union. Very often a shipowner himself has means of correcting those things, and if the case happens to be one of seriousness, then we have criminal courts that those things can be taken up in, and they are taken up.
We think that seamen are getting too much of that sort of justice now, much more than any other sort of civilian worker. I would like to say that I think a very dangerous precedent is being set here. I believe that the nub of the whole thing is they want to have ships moving on time and they want things moving in an orderly manner. That is the reason we are all here. They want to bring seamen up on charges before these Coast Guard hearing units and try them as to whether or not they have the right to continue to work in this industry. By the same line of reasoning, a truck driver could delay the sailing of a ship by not bringing the cargo down to the docks on time, or a freight train might delay the sailing by not getting the cargo there on time.
Are you going to try these people, too? I do not see that the military branch of the Government has anything to do with that. If a ship is delayed—this is not wartime—the time they set up this particular committee was during the war. It was a necessary measure in order to get supplies overseas to the armed services. That time is over. I want to strongly disagree with these people who say things are
that there is more misconduct now than there ever has been. Instead of being more, I would venture to say that there is less than 10 percent of the misconduct compared to what we had during the war, and I think you can understand it when I say that during the war our men were suffering with war neurosis and they were not behaving normally.
Now that things are normal and settled, we have very little of that sort of misconduct.
I read Congressman Latham's testimony. He submitted an editorial from the New York Herald Tribune saying there were 30,000 cases of misconduct and a terrible situation is going
on in the merchant marine. The mere fact that the Herald Tribune printed the thing does not make it true by any means. I am sure they did not get the story from us. The only people they could have possibly got the story from is the Coast Guard. I want to disagree with practically everything in that editorial.
They say there were 30,000 cases of misconduct against the merchant marine. I am surprised that there were not 60,000 or 90,000. The type of charges that the Coast Guard brings against seamen are of such trivial nature they could just go on making charges on and on. It does not necessarily mean that the merchant marine has gone to the dogs, or the ships are not sailing, or any condition of anarchy exists out there.
I want to say also that I believe about 99 percent of the cases of misconduct are committed in ports. They are not committed at sea. At sea men are sober; they do their work. There are no disagreements
in any way. Everything is taken care of in a normal, usual manner. But, when ships are in ports, seamen get drunk. We do not deny that. They get drunk just the same as all workers get drunk, just the same as the forty-niners got drunk, or the Klondike crew got drunk. Wherever men do not have normal recreational facilities, of course they are going to step out and have a few drinks.
Now, the Coast Guard is a different sort of service than the merchant marine. The Coast Guard is a nice, orderly affair. They have clean ships. They are all shined up very nicely. They do not have to carry cargoes of hides or bauxite where dust from the bauxite gets in the men's noses and throats and parches them. There is a couple of inches of that dust all over their quarters. It is on the messroom table. Those men want to get away from that dust and they go ashore and have a few drinks.
There are ships that carry copra. Just as soon as you bring copra aboard, the bugs are there with it. There are bugs in their bunks; there are bugs on the table; and there are bugs all over the ceiling, and down their necks.
It is perfectly understandable that the men do not want to stay aboard under those conditions. So, they go ashore and have a few drinks. I think it is understandable that men who do not have shore leave, who do not live under normal conditions, are likely to do that sort of thing. Even the Navy does it. It is a fine old tradition in the Navy that when the boys come ashore they have a good time. I do not think we want to change that. I do not think we want to set up a group of judges who are not familiar with what the situations are on the ship.
Mr. KEATING. The Coast Guard members are not all dry, are they?
Mr. VOLPIAN. No. They step out themselves. In fact, you can find them bending an elbow after the day's work the same as the other sailors. Nevertheless, it is a charge. The charge is that the man comes aboard the ship intoxicated. Where else would he come to? That is the place for him to go to. That is his home.
Now, in previous testimony of the Coast Guard, I have noticed they exaggerated things pretty badly. They have told this committee that if a man got drunk and stayed away å day he could cause the delay of a vessel. In other words, ten men could miss the ship and the ship would sail. In fact, there have been occasions when the officers were absent and the ship still sailed.
These men paint a picture of a whole lot of misconduct. They would have you believe that there is a state of anarchy aboard these ships. Actually, these shippers are sailing on time. I can say that to the committee. I challenge the Coast Guard to come forward and give us their list of delayed sailings in the last few months.
I want to say that the union, too, has a very definite interest in this. I would like to read a little excerpt from the New York agent's report to a membership meeting.
Several ships came in reporting successful disciplinary measure for curing irresponsible members of the crew, but last week the "lulu” of them all came in. The ship was bound for Mobile, Ala., but a change of orders brought her here. Immediately after the patrolman boarded the vessel, he received reports that a good percentage of the crew was gassed up. Others were reported fould up completely. The crew came to its senses when the union officials went around picking up books and permit cards. They were told to appear at the union hall to explain their action. It did not take much questioning the following morning to find out what was going on. The entire crew, somewhat shamefaced, admitted what had taken place and pleaded guilty. The worst of the lot, four book men and three permit card men, were placed on charges and will face a rank and file committee. The permit man had their cards revoked. The rest of the crew realized that they were at fault in not curbing the irresponsible actions of the others. The action of the crew jeopardized the conditions and contracts enjoyed by every member of this union, besides giving our union a reputation for harboring "wine-nose.”
Mr. KEATING. What is that?
Mr. VOLPIAN. That is what the water front calls people who drink wine. The “wine-nose” are a pretty bad lot. They seem to stay drunk. We take disciplinary action against these men ourselves, and the Coast Guard comes in with a whole lot of trivial things, that a man took a couple of hours off, or he took a day off; he came back to the ship intoxicated; and I venture to say that 95 percent of those charges, out of that 30,000 they claim, are just those kinds of charges.
Mr. KEATING. What is the nature of the disciplinary action which the union takes?
Mr. VOLPIAN. In the first place, they face a rank and file trial committee. Those are men who have sailed under the same conditions and they know what the men were up against. They are sympathetic with them when the men are right and they will condemn them when they are wrong.
Nr. KEATING. Have they condemned them when they are wrong? Mr. VOLPIAN. That is one of the things we are afraid of. We are afraid we are a little too rough. We have quite a number of them that we have suspended from the union for 99 years. We have supended for a shorter period of time.
Mr. KEATING. In the last year, how many cases have been brought before the union and what disciplinary action has been taken?
Mr. VOLPIAN. I do not have any statistics on it. I could not give you the number offhand. I could say this: That there was probably 300 percent more charges brought in the last year than we ever brought before. The reason for it was that we realized that the men were under a terrific nervous strain and were not altogether responsible for their behavior. Now, the war is over and there is no excuse for it, and we are weeding them out left and right.
Mr. KEATING. The nature of the penalty is expulsion or suspension for a period of time; is that right?
Mr. VOLPIAX. That is right.
Mr. KEATING. During that period of time they are not able to work as seamen?
Mr. VOLPIAN. That is right. Sometimes they are put on probation for a period of a year and a fine attached.
Mr. KEATING. If you suspend, the other union does not take them on, or vice versa?
Mr. VOLPIAN. No. We have an awful lot of men. We have more men than we have jobs. Most unions cannot provide work for their
Mr. Hobbs. You do not justify the conduct of furnishing Old Golds instead of Lucky Strikes, do you?
Mr. VOLPIAN. I cannot speak for previous witnesses. We have had those cases, but we have regarded them as trivial and not worthy of anything
Mr. HOBBs. You do not look for us to justify that discrimination?
Mr. VOLPIAN. We do not even consider those things. I will say this: That there are certain people nowadays in the merchant marine who have been guilty of some serious offenses. There are such things as smuggling. You gentlemen all understand there are a lot of blackmarket operations going on on the other side. Some of the men of the merchant marine have been caught engaging in black-market activities, and, in some cases, narcotics have been sold. The union, whenever we hear of such a case, we immediately take action against that man to have him completely expelled from the union. We do not want that kind of people. We want workingmen and we want them to get good wages. That is our interest in the thing.
I want to say that the men of the merchant marine despise the Coast Guard so badly that it is not good for the health of the country, I do not think it has been brought up in the testimony previously, but the Coast Guard—I mean the merchant marine was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, and when the war was over the Department of Commerce should have gotten the merchant marine kack—there was a gentleman by the name of Henry Wallace who was Secretary of Commerce at that time, and he relinquished it to these people. "I do not know anything about Henry Wallace. Any kind of government organization that can generate as much hatred toward themselves as the Coast Guard has--the best thing that ever happened to the Communist Party, from our standpoint, is what happened.
Mr. KEATING. What do you do to Communists in your union?
Mr. VOLPIAN. We do not allow them. We do not have one. We do not get close to them.
Mr. KEATING. In your judgment, in your union there are no Communists?
Mr. VOLPIAN. That is correct; there are no Communists in our union.
(Whereupon, at 12:30 p. m., the subcommittee adjourned, to reconvene at 10 a. m., Monday, March 15, 1948.)