N.P. Ry.

The Hardest Years

Part II

July 30, 1931
Saint Paul, Minn.

Local Chairmen and Recording Secretaries
All Lodges, B. of L.F. and E.
Northern Pacific Railway Company

Dear Sirs and Brothers:

Referring to the question of the continuance of reduced mileage regulations for firemen during this business depression in accordance with the agreement between the General Grievance Committee [GGC] of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen and the Northern Pacific Railway Company effective April 1, 1931 and expiring June 30, 1931.
In accordance with the action of the GGC, the question of continuing this agreement after June 30, 1931 was referred to the lodges on the various seniority districts to determine whether or not these temporary mileage limitations would remain in effect on such seniority districts and it was recommended that when this question was under consideration, a referendum vote of members entitled to vote on this question should be taken. In accordance with the recommendation of the GGC, a number of lodges have taken a referendum vote of the membership and this vote has indicated that a large majority of the members of these lodges are in favor of continuing the temporary agreement of April 1, 1931, governing mileage regulation for firemen, the compulsory registration rule and the operation of the rotary extra list.
The request on the part of these lodges for the continuation of the provisions of the temporary agreement of April 1, 1931 was referred to the Local Committees, who have declined to continue same in effect, and this question has been appealed to the General Officers of the Company, who have taken the position that they cannot subscribe to placing in effect reduced mileage regulations for firemen on certain parts of the railroad and at the same time regulate the mileage for firemen in accordance with schedule rules and regulations on other portions of the system. However, these Officers have indicated that they are willing to continue in effect the provisions of the temporary agreement of April 1, 1931 as applying to all divisions.
Some of the lodges have advised that in accordance with the action taken at a certain lodge meeting, the lodge voted to continue the temporary mileage regulations, while other lodges have advised that at certain lodge meetings the lodge voted to discontinue the temporary mileage regulation.
On account of the serious unemployment situation among firemen with many years of service, I believe our lodges should give careful consideration to the question of continuing this temporary agreement in effect and that the membership should be given an opportunity to express their desire in this regard through a referendum vote in accordance with the recommendation of our GGC. In accordance with our laws, this vote should include members paying GGC assessments and members who are suspended on account of force reduction. This will give every member who has a right to vote an opportunity to express his wishes in the matter, instead of having a few members at a lodge meeting decide this important question for all members under the jurisdiction of the lodge. The handling of this question by seniority districts is in accord with the action taken at our recent Convention on the subject of reduced mileage regulations during periods of business depression, which is as follows:
''That during periods of business depression temporary mileage reductions will be determined by general grievance committees on individual railroads, or by a majority of the lodges on a seniority district, when approved by the General Chairman or GGC, in accordance with the laws and policies of this organization.''
I trust that lodges that have not already taken a referendum vote on this question will arrange to do so without delay, in order that this matter may be handled further with the representatives of the Management and thereby afford some measure of relief for our unemployed members.

Fraternally yours,
T.P. Gorman
General Chairman, B. of L.F. and E.
Northern Pacific Railway

November 27, 1931
Saint Paul, Minn.

To all Local Chairmen and Secretaries,
B. of L.E., B. of L.F. and E., O.R.C., and B. of R.T.,
Northern Pacific Railway

Sirs and Brothers:

For your information we are quoting herein a letter we received from Mr. H[oward] E. Stevens, Vice President of the Northern Pacific Railway, and our reply thereto of even date:
''You have doubtless watched with interest and concern the financial results to date of the Northern Pacific operation for the current year. Although we have endeavored throughout the year to discount conditions on a conservative basis, in drop in our earnings has been far in excess of anything we anticipated. With the end of the year close at hand, it is possible to approximate quite closely the probably results of our operation in comparison with the last three years.''
''In 1928 the Company had a total operating revenue of $101,272,000, operating expenses of $70,802,000, leaving a net operating revenue of $30,470,000, or, after taxes, and equipment and joint facility rents, a net railway operating income of $25,088,571.'' ''In 1929 our operating revenue dropped to approximately $96,522,000, with but little change in the operating expenses which totaled $70,522,000, leaving a net operating revenue of $25,970,000, or, after taxes and equipment, and joint facility rents, a net railway operating income of $21,410,344.''
''In 1930 our operating revenue dropped to $80,642,000, but making heavy cuts in a number of operating expense items, as well as eliminating much of our usual improvement work budget, we were able to reduce our operating expenses to $62,734,000, leaving a net operating revenue of $17,908,000, or, after taxes, and equipment and joint facility rents, a net railway operating income of $14,293,213.''
''In 1931 we estimate our operating revenues will be approximately $62,862,000, and our operating expenses $52,276,000, leaving a net operating revenue of $10,585,000, or, after taxes, equipment and joint facility rents, a net railway income of $6,894,000, this being less than one percent return on the railway property investment.''
''Even this unsatisfactory showing would not have been possible without drastic cuts in maintenance of way and maintenance of equipment expenditures. These items for the year 1931 will total approximately $18,000,000, as compared with an average of approximately $30,700,000, for the years 1927, 1928, and 1929.''
''Those of you who are familiar with the physical condition of the property will, I think, agree with me that it has been well maintained and it is of course true the enormous decreases in volume of business has made possible maintenance economies that could not be effected in a normal business year. The practical elimination of improvement items, most of which are more or less charge to operation, has also been a large factor in making possible reductions in maintenance expenses.''
''However, we have practically reached the limit in economies of this character and something more will have to be done if the Company is to continue to sustain its enviable reputation in the railroad world.''
''Through the entire period of the most intense depression the country has known in this century, the wages of your organization have been maintained at the high peak level of more prosperous times. During this period there has been substantial drops in the prices of both the necessities and luxuries of life so that in effect from the standpoint of value your compensation has been increased, that is, your dollar will purchase more today than it would have purchased at any time since the post-war period''
''Using 1922 as a fair average base for the post-war period, we find the average hourly wage of all classes of employ[e]s to date has been increased 12.3 percent, while the average cost of living as compiled from statistics of the Bureau of Labor, has dropped to 90.3 percent, or a spread in the two items of 22 percent.''
''Only as a last resort do we appeal to your organization to voluntarily accept an average ten percent cut in the rates of pay now in effect under your existing contract and agreements.''
''We know you appreciate fully that your own prosperity and earning power depends upon the ability of management to operate this Company on a basis which will show an adequate return. If we cannot do that, the ultimate result is plain, and instead of a ten percent cut, many of us will take a one hundred percent cut in our earnings.''
''Our total payroll last year was about $40,700,000. This year we estimate our total payroll as $33,722,000, and a ten percent reduction in payroll would amount to approximately $3,372,000. However, a part of this cut has already been realized as the officers have taken a cut of from ten to twenty percent in their salaries.''
''We will appreciate the cooperation of your organization in assisting the Company out of the serious situation in which it finds itself, and I hope you will, in common with all other organizations, agree to accept a ten percent reduction in present rates of pay.''
''I would appreciate an early reply, but do not wish this letter to be construed in any way opening formal negotiations for a revision of the agreements we now hold with your organization.''

December 16, 1931
Saint Paul, Minn.

To all Local Chairmen and Secretaries
B. of L.F. and E.
Northern Pacific Railway Company

Sirs and Brothers:

The following letter has been received from General Manager Sloan giving division changes effective January 1, 1932.
''As I have already written Mr. Newman of the Dispatchers and advised Messrs. Shelver, Deering, Gorman and Barlow in confidence, we will on January 1, abolish the Dakota, Montana and Seattle Divisions.''
''All of the main line and branches of the present Fargo Division east of Bridge 0 located just east of Dilworth yard will be made part of the St. Paul Division.''
''All of the present Dakota Division will be made part of the Fargo Division.''
''All of the main line and branches of the Montana Division east of Mission, not including the Wilsall Branch, will be made a part of the Yellowstone Division.''
''All of the main line and branches, including the Wilsall Branch, of the Montana Division west of Mission, Montana, will be made a part of the Rocky Mountain Division.''
''All of the Seattle Division will be made a part of the Tacoma Division.''
''I am giving you this advance information so that you may, if necessary, advise the men whom you represent, and there will be ample time to work out the details of any changes that are necessary in the seniority lists.''
''Mr. [S.A.] Wilder, Mr. Strachan or I will be glad to discuss these changes or the proposed method of operating these divisions with you.''
In conference with Mr. Sloan yesterday, it was agreed that the present seniority rights of the men in engine and train service would not be affected by this change in operation providing the proposed arrangement for handling passenger service between Seattle and points beyond Tacoma is made effective and with the further understanding that Rule 131 of the Engineer's and Firemen's Schedules covering the conduct of investigations be modified on certain districts so as to permit an investigation to be held by other than the Master Mechanic or the Superintendent. This modification of Rule 131 is requested on account of the large territory under the jurisdiction of certain Superintendents and Master Mechanics which would cause either the men involved or the Officers of the Company to travel a considerable distance in order to attend or conduct an investigation.
Mr. Sloan has been advised that under the laws of the Engineers' Organization, a consolidation of seniority lists cannot be made effective except by a two thirds vote of the members on each seniority district and that under the laws of the Firemens' Organization, a consolidation of seniority lists cannot be made except by a majority vote of the men on each seniority district affected.
It is my understanding that it is satisfactory to our men to retain their present seniority rights on the various divisions affected and that there is no desire on the part of a majority of the men on any two seniority districts involved to merge their seniority rights.
Therefore, unless otherwise instructed, it will be understood that there will be no change in the seniority rights of our men as a result of the change in operating conditions to be made effective by the Company on January 1.

Fraternally yours,
T.P. Gorman

Howard Eveleth Stevens
Vice President, Maintenance and Operation, Northern Pacific Railway Company.
176 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, Minn.
Born: Bluehill, Me., March 8, 1874.
Education: University of Maine (CE 1897).
Career: Engaged in survey and bridge work and in 1900 was associated with Ralph Modjeski, Construction Engineer, Chicago, on bridge design, fabrication and construction, which included, among other structures, the bridge over the Mississippi River at Thebes, Ill.
Entered railway service: 1904 as a draftsman in the Bridge Department of the NP and was later Assistant Engineer, specializing on steel bridge design and erection; 1906-16, Bridge Engineer; 1916-28, Chief Engineer; 1928--, Vice President in charge of Maintenance and Operation.

Biography: ''Who's Who In Railroading'' Ninth Edition Chicago: Simmons-Boardman, 1930 p. 492.

Correspondence: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen Green River Lodge No. 895 Collection, White River Valley Museum, Auburn, Washington.

Author: John A. Phillips, III. Title: The Hardest Years, Part II. URL: www.employees.org/~davison/nprha/blfetwo.html.

© August 21, 2000