SEPTEMBER 6, 1951
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—Some little time ago I put forth questions that many people had expressed to me on the advisability and even the possibility of men who are in civil service—for instance, as firemen or policemen or postmen—belonging to a union that was affiliated with such great organizations as the CIO or the AFL.
It is well known that firemen will have a no-strike clause in their contracts but I was not at all sure how under these circumstances they could protect their rights as those do who are in a union and who, as a last resort, strike. Also, could these union members get redress?
One very interesting and thoughtful letter was written me and I would like to pass a part of it on to you. It reads:
"The International Association of Fire Fighters has for its membership approximately 75,000 professional fire fighters in over 1,000 locals and all affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Each local is chartered by the International with a nonstrike charter, which provides that if such a chartered local should vote to strike its affiliation and charter is revoked by the International and the A.F.L. and such members are outside of the organized labor movement and will not be supported by such labor movement.
"To the best of my knowledge, all public employed firemen and police officers take identical oaths of office, namely, we swear to uphold the constitutions of our Federal and state governments and abide by the laws of our respective municipalities and to protect life and property in our respective communities. There is nothing in the obligation for membership in our union organizations that is possibly contrary to this oath. I can see no possibility for a union member of a fire department, or police department being confronted with a problem of conflicting allegiance in performing his duties towards his public employer.
"We public employees look to the citizens of our communities, through the duly elected officials, for our just working conditions. What would be more logical than to join the one large economic organization, containing many of our employing citizens, that sympathetically understands and attempts to alleviate the economic problems of the public employees? Surely, you do not expect us to seek affiliation with the National Association of Manufacturers or the various Chambers of Commerce, whose prime purpose seems to be to enlarge individual profits at all costs.
"In my mind there are other affiliations that stir the seeds of doubt in this country to which pertinent and public questions could be directed and information gathered. They do not masquerade under the honored title of union, but are just as surely unions as any organization is a union. I refer to such closed-shop unions as the American Bar Association, American Medical Association, National Realty Board, etc. These associations are even given semi-official recognition by name under the law and its members only allowed to practice in our public institutions and courts."
This letter shows that in spite of a labor affiliatation, civil service employees who have a no-strike clause do need some particular kind of protection from the public. The public must take a greater interest in the conditions under which these people work and in seeing that they have adequate pay. Otherwise, the public is accepting a good deal more than it is giving.