Railway Labor Disputes Legislation

March 8, 1926

Report Outline
The Watson-Parker and Howell-Barkley Bills
Analysis of Watson-Parker Bill
Past Legislation for Adjustment of Disputes
Protection of the Public Interest

The Watson-Parker bill, recently passed by the House and now pending before the Senate, represents an abandonment of the principles laid down in the Transportation Act of 1920 for the settlement of railway labor disputes, and a return to the principles which governed the adjustment of such disputes prior to the war.

The machinery of the Transportation Act was based upon wartime experience in the adjustment of labor controversies while the railroads were in Government operation. It rested, in the last analysis, upon the principle of compulsory arbitration. While submission of unsettled disputes to the Railroad Labor Board was made compulsory, it soon appeared that the Board was without power to enforce its awards. This lack of any power of enforcement was the most important of all the factors contributing to the failure of the Railroad Labor Board experiment.

Principles of the Watson-Parker Bill

The Watson-Parker bill completely abandons the principle of compulsory arbitration, and provides for the settlement of disputes through (1) conferences between representatives of the parties directly involved, (2) meditation and conciliation by a Government agency, and (3) voluntary arbitration. The decision of the arbitral board upon a dispute voluntarily submitted to arbitration is binding upon the parties and is enforceable by judicial process, but there is no provision for compulsion in the absence of an agreement to arbitrate.

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