THE REËMPLOYMENT PROBLEM
We are now coming to the consideration of a subject that was nearer to the heart of every delegate than any other. That is the reëmployment of one-time service men. This matter is of the most intimate and direct concern to the Legion and its leaders and because of its importance I believe the details of the discussion are sufficiently interesting to permit me to quote them verbatim from the minutes.
The Chairman: "The secretary will read the next resolution."
Secretary Wood: "Reëmployment of ex-service men."
"Whereas, one of the most important questions of readjustment and reconstruction is the question of employment of the returning and returned soldiers, and
"Whereas, no principle is more sound than that growing out of the general patriotic attitude toward the returning soldier, vouchsafing to him [Pg 149]return to his former employment or to a better job, therefore, be it
"Resolved: That the American Legion in its first national caucus assembled, declares to the people of the United States that no act can be more unpatriotic in these most serious days of readjustment and reconstruction than the violation of this principle announced which pledges immediate reemployment to the returned soldiers, and be it further
"Resolved: That the American Legion in its national caucus assembled does hereby declare itself as supporting in every proper way the efforts of the ex-service men to secure reemployment, and recommends that simple patriotism requires that ex-soldiers or ex-sailors and ex-marines be given preference whenever additional men are to be employed in any private or public enterprise, and be it further
"Resolved: That the American Legion recommends to Congress the prompt enactment of a program for internal improvement, having in view the necessity therefor and as an incident the absorption of the surplus labor of the country, giving preference to discharged ex-service men."
Mr. Walsh (Pittsburgh): "I move, Mr. Chairman, that we adopt the resolution."
The motion was seconded by Colonel Jones, of Washington, D.C.
Mr. Leveree: "Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen [Pg 150]of the Convention, I desire to present to you a substitute for this resolution. As one who has been endeavoring to give a post-war service to these men who are coming back here and need to be replaced in the industries of this country, as a volunteer dollar-a-year man in the United States Employment Service and one who has accomplished results in the work to the extent that the bulletin of the National Chamber of Commerce has commented on the work, I desire to call your attention to the fact that the resolution as presented is not concrete. It says nothing. It talks in generalities, and I want to present to you a concrete proposition based on the experience of the Bureau in New Orleans."
"Whereas, it is desirable both for the welfare of the soldiers, sailors, and marines, now rapidly being discharged from the service of the United States of America, and for the industrial readjustment of the country that the process of returning these men to productive occupations in civil life be speeded up as much as possible;
"And Whereas, by reason of the failure of the Congress of the United States to appropriate funds for the purpose the said process has been retarded and left to private initiative; now, therefore, be it
"Resolved: That the American Legion in caucus assembled calls upon the Congress of the United States to promptly appropriate funds to [Pg 151]be administered for the benefit of existing coordinated Bureaus for the Employment of Returning Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, to the end that there may be no interruption in the service now being rendered and that it may be broadened and speeded up, be it further
"Resolved: That each local post or organization of the American Legion is urged during the period of demobilization to constitute itself a committee of the whole, which shall cooperate with the local Employment Bureau and shall establish and maintain a liaison between such Bureau and every employer in the community through members of the local post or organization who are already employed in such establishment to the end that it may be made easy for the employer to avail himself of the service of the Bureau by communicating with someone in his own establishment, and that every soldier, sailor, and marine already replaced in industry may have an opportunity to assist his comrades to become likewise."
"Gentlemen, this is the crux of that whole business—getting somebody close to the employer where you can bring about that liaison which is suggested in this substitute motion."
The motion to adopt the substitute resolution was made by Mr. Leveree and seconded by Mr. Luss.
Mr. Desmond (of Pennsylvania): "What has [Pg 152]been said, in my estimation, is not comprehensive enough. In the city of Philadelphia which is known as the Cradle of Liberty, when the men who had given up positions in the educational system—I mean teachers—returned from the service of their country they were not, as promised, given the exact positions which they left. Neither were they given positions of parallel importance. They were actually demoted in grade so that these motions do not cover such circumstances. In many cases, in municipalities, men have returned from the service and have been forced to take positions not of a parallel grade but positions of a lower grade.
"Men, Americanism depends on America's school systems, and if the ones who are directing our school systems are so unpatriotic as to demote those who go forth to serve their country, what is going to become of America and Americanism? And I wish to make an amendment to the effect that municipalities and boards of education in those municipalities be forced to give men their parallel positions if not positions of better grade and that in no instance will they be allowed to demote a man because he has gone forth to serve his country. I put that forward as an amendment, that the municipal governments and boards of education in our municipalities be forced to give [Pg 153]men positions of equal grade if they cannot give better grade."
Mr. Simington (of Washington): "I speak in opposition to that amended resolution. In my State I represent ten thousand organized men. In my State the present system has proven a failure. The organization that I represent handles an employment bureau that places 350 service men a week in permanent positions and 150 in temporary employment, and I say to you that that record is far and above the record of the U.S. Replacement Bureau. It is a proven failure. Gentlemen, I believe that it is 'For George to do'—and we are George.
"The service man wishes to take care of himself and his own. It is for the service man to handle his own problems and I suggest as an amendment—I am not sure of my being in order in offering an amendment to an amended amendment, but I suggest that it be the sense of this meeting that Congress assist the American Legion in taking care of its own in the matter of employment and that it do not use civilians to do the work." (Applause.)
The motion was seconded.
Mr. Hill (of Pennsylvania): "The original resolution that is before the convention, I am frank to say, has been forwarded to me by a soldier [Pg 154]from Allegheny County, who walked the streets of Pittsburgh for eight or nine weeks pleading this principle. A resolution adopted by the Mothers of Democracy was sufficient for him to get back his job, because he held a position as a county employee of Allegheny County and he invoked this principle and vitalized every military organization in Allegheny County, and by means of that he got back his job and his back salary and his mother's allowance which was cut off since January 1, 1918. This resolution was originally presented by me as a member of the National Resolutions Committee from the State of Pennsylvania. The National Resolutions Committee appointed a subcommittee of which I was a member, a committee of three, to consider this and refer it back to the National Resolutions Committee. That committee passed favorably upon it and the National Resolutions Committee passed it.
"Now, if that resolution, as it stands before the house, was sufficient to get a job back for him, playing almost a lone hand, surely it is sufficient for any man here or for, this American Legion, for all it provides for, and all that is necessary to be done is the simple patriotism with the American Legion in back of it which can place its hands on the shoulder of any substantial employer and say, 'Do you wish to rectify yourself on this thing [Pg 155]called "patriotism?"' Do you wish to give the soldier back his job who presents to you a meritorious case? We give you a chance. If you do not take it we will publish this thing and you will go down to contumely and stultification."
Mr. Knox: "Gentlemen, I am speaking on behalf of the Resolutions Committee. We spent all day yesterday listening to such requests as this. Our final calculated judgment is represented in the resolutions as presented. We found in the discussion that there was opposition to an endorsement of the United States Federal replacement division. (Applause.) And so we determined that the language as adopted covered the cast. We proposed to create in this organization a reemployment bureau of our own, and the resolution as presented is all the support that bureau needs.
"I move you, sir, that all the substitutes for the original resolution be laid on the table."
The motion was seconded.
Mr. Bennett Clark: "I simply want to call attention to the fact that under the rules of the House of Representatives that if you lay all amendments on the table it carries the entire proposition to the table and I don't believe this convention wants to do that."
Mr. Knox: "I ask a ruling on that, Mr. Chairman.[Pg 156] If we lay all these substitutes for this resolution on the table will that kill the resolution?"
The Chairman: "Unless you dispense with the rules."
MR. KNOX: "Mr. Chairman, I move you, sir, the suspension of the rules to a sufficient extent so that we may table the substitutes which have been offered to the original resolution offered by the committee."
Motion seconded by Mr. Bond of New York and carried.
The Chairman: "The question now comes back to the original resolution."
The question was called for and it was adopted.
Mr. Ackley: "Mr. Chairman, I have another amendment to offer."
The Chairman: "It's too late. The secretary will read the next resolution."