FEBRUARY 3, 1959
PHILADELPHIA—Many of my readers will remember that at the time Teamster President James E. Hoffa's representatives in New York City revealed that they aimed to organize the Police Department of the city under Teamster Union jurisdiction, I wrote saying that it seemed to me that people who were involved in occupations which were vital to a great many people in a large city could not join the ordinary union and be represented in the usual way for the protection of their rights.
I do feel strongly, however, that among themselves the police should have group representation and be protected under the law so that their grievances must be heard. When people take this kind of employment they know that they give up some freedom of action but the public should take a real interest since it is on their account that this freedom is given up. We should see that such employees' rights are safeguarded.
I was shocked when Police Commissioner Stephen P. Kennedy refused to hear the grievance committee for the policemen. I imagine that he had a special reason in this case, but I wish he had stated it. It left me with a most uncomfortable feeling which I must register with the commissioner and with Mayor Robert F. Wagner. If these men are not permitted to join a regular union, they must, through their own representatives, be heard first by the heads of their departments and, if there is not a possibility of agreement among them, then by the representatives of government—in this case the mayor.
There is another group of employees who are having great difficulties at the present time. These are the employees in voluntary hospitals.
At Montefiore Hospital in New York management finally agreed to meet with the representatives of their employees, and I gather that the employees have decided to form a union. This may be perfectly permissible, but it does require a great sense of responsibility among the employees because the patients in a hospital cannot be left to suffer without attendants and the work of the hospital must go on or the members of the union might find themselves responsible for murder.
Here, therefore, is another group in which the public must also take an interest as to how their rights can be considered. In this particular situation the management of the voluntary hospitals (and all of them are in agreement) state that part of their troubles comes from the fact that they accept city patients but the city pays only a small part of the expense the hospital has to extend on each patient. This puts the whole budget out of balance and means that employees in the voluntary hospitals receive less even than the employees in the city hospitals.
I am told that in New York City there are empty beds in the city hospitals and I do not quite understand why this should be the case when other hospitals are overcrowded and the city does not pay enough to cover the costs of patients it places in these hospitals. Is it that the city hospitals are not quite as good? Must the employees of the voluntary hospitals be kept at starvation wages?
The cost of medical care to the man and woman of moderate means is almost prohibitive.
Somewhere there must be an answer to this problem, for people cannot be expected to be faithful in a job where they are underpaid. I think this whole question of city hospitals and of voluntary hospitals requires investigation and careful planning. It is the people who pay the bills and who suffer if the plans are poorly made, as they evidently are at present.