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Telegram to Management and Labor Leaders Concerned in the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Strike.

September 17, 1962

I AM ISSUING immediately the following statement:

The Chicago and Northwestern Railway System has been shut down now for 19 days as a result of the strike against it by the order of Railroad Telegraphers.

This shutdown has caused serious inconvenience and economic hardship to the people of 9 Midwestern States. This damage is mounting as each additional day of the shutdown passes without a settlement being reached.

Because of the seriousness of this situation, and because there is in my judgment no justification whatsoever now for its continuation, I want to review the record of this case briefly and then make a proposal for bringing it to an immediate conclusion.

This controversy started 5 years ago, when the Telegraphers organization served notice on the Northwestern Railroad requesting that the agreement between the organization and the carrier be amended to provide that the carrier could not abolish or discontinue any Telegrapher position except by agreement between the carrier and the organization.

The Railroad's refusal to bargain about this proposal resulted in extensive litigation and in an eventual decision by the Supreme Court that the Carrier was obligated to bargain about the proposed contract amendment.

The negotiations which followed produced no agreement.

On April 23, 1962, the case was referred, under the Railway Labor Act, to a special Presidential Emergency Board. This Board was composed of Professor Arthur Ross, of the University of California, Professor Charles Killingsworth, of Michigan State University, and Mr. Paul Hanlon, of Portland, Oregon. These are highly respected labor arbitrators.

The Board issued its report and recommendations on June 14, 1962- These recommendations were (I) that the organization's proposal that no Telegrapher positions be abolished or discontinued except by agreement between the carrier and the organization be withdrawn; but (II) that a comprehensive program of employee protection should be negotiated. The Board identified the elements in such a program, including provision for notices and conferences prior to position changes, a forty hour work-week guarantee for extra Board employees, and various money allowances for employees adversely affected by position changes.

These recommendations were fair to both sides and consistent with the public interest.

The carrier announced its acceptance of the Board's recommendations in their entirety.

The organization reserved its overall position pending negotiation on some of the issues involved in these recommendations.

There were negotiations then during the 30-day period provided for in the Railway Labor Act and during a short extension period agreed upon by the parties at my request. These negotiations were also ineffective, and the organization called its strike against the Railroad on August 30th.

Negotiations have continued since that time, with the assistance of the National Mediation Board. There has been substantial progress in these recent negotiations. By the middle of last week, tentative agreement had been reached, or an area of agreement clearly established, with respect to most of the issues in dispute. This agreement was consistent with the Board's recommendations.

In this situation, with substantial agreement on most issues and only three or four disputed points remaining, I urged publicly last Wednesday that these negotiations be brought to a speedy conclusion.

Instead, these few remaining points have defied the parties' and the mediators' efforts at settlement.

Over the weekend the carrier announced its withdrawal from further negotiations, basing its action on what it considers the organization's continuing refusal to accept the Emergency Board's report "in its entirety."

I am advised by the Order of Railroad Telegraphers that it considers its position on the remaining disputed items to be entirely consistent with the Emergency Board's recommendations.

In this situation there is plainly no excuse for a continued stalemate. Agreement has been reached on most of the issues involved. So far as the three or four remaining issues are concerned, the disagreement about them is asserted in terms of conflicting views as to the proper application of the Emergency Board's recommendations.

It is plain that differences limited to the interpretation and application of the Emergency Board's report cannot justify the continuing high price the people of the Midwest are being required to pay for this dispute.

I accordingly propose and request, relying on the good faith of both parties in their stated positions regarding the Emergency Board's recommendations, that they agree to submit to the determination of an independent panel of qualified persons the question of the proper application of the Board's recommendations to the remaining disputed issues, and that it be agreed that this determination will be accepted as a final and binding settlement of these issues. I suggest that this panel include one member to be selected by the carrier, one selected by the organization, and a third member whom I will appoint if the parties cannot agree upon his selection. The panel should be expected to make its determination within not more than ten days.

Since the acceptance of this procedure will insure a definitive resolution of all issues in this dispute, such acceptance should include agreement to proceed immediately to restore full operations on this Railroad.

I urge your acceptance of this proposed procedure, and request that you advise me of your position by 12:00 noon, (EDT), tomorrow, September 18, 1962.


[Ben W. Heineman, Chairman of the Board, C & NW Railway Company, 400 West Madison, Chicago, Illinois; G. E. Leighty, President, Order of Railroad Telegraphers, Hamilton Hotel, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The telegram was released at Newport, R.I.

On September 28 the President announced that agreement had been reached in the dispute, that the strike was ended, and that service on the railroad would resume as speedily as possible.

John F. Kennedy, Telegram to Management and Labor Leaders Concerned in the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Strike. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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