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DECEMBER 3, 1937. Subject: Disorder and lawlessness on Steamship Black Falcon, sailing October 30,

1937, from New York to Rotterdam, Hon. Royal S. COPELAND,

The Senate, Washington, D. C. DEAR SENATOR: I was a passenger on the above steamer operated by the Black Diamond Line, and spent 13 days of about the worst treatment, in common with several other passengers, that could be faced. This abuse, intimidation, and disorder were due totally to the crew, including the master and mates. The master was cowed and powerless; the first mate expressed the admission that he was "red"; the second mate was a surly disagreeable character; and the third mate was continually ordering passengers from any place that he wished, though in one case countermanded by the master.

The first 2 days the cook dealt out liquor to make many of the crew drunk, and this cook was apparently the leading agitator and leader of the mutinous

The same cook repeatedly refused to do his obvious duties; on one occasion he engaged in cursing and abuse of the master, with an intimidating committee of the crew, over his refusal to cook dinner. On one occasion the same cook refused to fry two eggs for breakfast, on request of the writer. Most of the crew were snarling and showing threatening manners to the passengers on every occasion where it was necessary to come in contact with them.

The crew did little work on deck, tossed into the sea all the forward deck cargoeach drunken sailor tossing some overboard as he passed on the deck. The aft deck cargo was hardly lashed, and a great part of it was lost, due to this wild conduct and failure to properly stow it. There was quite a lot of water taken on deck; but to me this was due to the fact that the sailors acting as quartermasters did not care how then steered. On one occasion we noticed a variation of 120° in the course; and on another occasion the first mate rushed to the wheel house as the ship veered about 45° or more from its course, to find what was going on. Few of the crew could speak English properly, and were obviously qualified as Americans only by law, not by birth or characteristics; the third mate was Lithuanian, and spoke English in a broken manner. The Americanborn members of the crew were not in agreement with, and were anxious to get away from the communistic and alien group of mutinous hoodlums led by the cook.

To find the motives for abuse of the passengers, it seems that the crew claimed that the passengers occupied cabins that should be given to the crew, and possibly had taken these methods to drive the passengers off the line. I was told that the crew "struck" to have their favored first mate engaged for the voyage; they or their fellow strikers some weeks before had beaten the ship's steward, so he was cowed. The cook's refusal to cook fried eggs, when he had boiled eggs on the menu, the refusal several times to serve food to the passengers within the published hours (served only promptly at the first few minutes of the appointed time, and Dot later) was only the most effective means that the crew could use against the passengers. The fierce and menacing and surly actions when a passenger came in contact with members of the crew cannot be adequately stated in words.

The darkening of any available lounging space at night, avoidance of passengers by master and mates, even when addressed by the passengers, was the rule.

The driving of passengers off the ship and the destruction of cargo by such sabotage as we witnessed, can lead to only one end: The destruction of American shipping. It will be useless to try to maintain a merchant marine under such lawless and mutinous conditions.

I personally have no stake in the matter, except as an American. I actually enjoyed the experience on the crazy-steered course, by the hooligan crew, including the mates, and the cowed and intimidated master. However, it was deemed best to make my return by another line, the Compagnie Maritime Belge, where an American was safe and well treated in every imaginable way.

Very truly yours,
Mr. Borow. Whom is that signed by?

The CHAIRMAN. I shall consult with the committee about putting it in the record.

But listen: This is not the only letter; this is characteristic of the complaints that have come, about American crews.

Now, I am interested, and the committee is interested, in building up an American merchant marine. How can we hope to do it, when the American public is coming to realize and to believe that it is not safe to travel on an American ship. And here you say that the Black Diamond Line, of which this ship is a member, has a most satisfactory contract with labor; and yet this is the way the employees of the ship acted toward the passengers. Now, how are you ever going to build up an American merchant marine? Mr. Borow. I do not accept that letter. The CHAIRMAN. You just deny the letter? Mr. Borow. No, sir; I don't deny the letter. The CHAIRMAN. You deny the allegations of the letter?

Mr. Borow. Well, it is hard for me to take any reasonable position on the letter at all. I don't know the circumstances under which it was written. I don't know whether the gentleman who wrote that was nuts or crazy or screwy.

The CHAIRMAN. You have not heard of any other instances like that?

Mr. Borow. I have heard of a number of instances, and I have heard of instances years ago, too, but which were a lot worse than the writer of the letter says the conditions are. But nothing was done at that time.

But it seems you are trying to use those things for a particular purpose.

The CHAIRMAN. What is the purpose?

Mr. Borow. And not for the purpose of building up the American merchant marine, I must say.

The ChairMAN. What is the purpose?
Mr. Borow. I think you know, as well as I do.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the purpose?

Mr. Borow. The purpose, as I see it, is you want to use things like that to force through legislation which would provide for compulsory arbitration of labor disputes.

The CHAIRMAN. It is not. I have no more interest in that legislation than any Member of Congress; I am not excited about it in the least.

Personally I have no hope for the upbuilding of the American merchant marine. If I had $100,000,000, I should not build a ship in an American shipyard, to sail under the American flag, because I know I would lose my hundred million.

I read this letter for just one purpose: And that is, to make clear to you gentlemen who come here as representatives of American labor--and of labor with which Congress has great sympathy-the true situation, in order that you may know what you have to face. And this will not be the end of it; there will be a great deal more of it from officials of this Government, to show what is going on, on the sea.

And, Mr. Borow, what we must have in order to have an American merchant marine is this: There will have to be an understanding between maritime labor and the men who operate the ships.

Mr. Borow. Maritime labor is doing its part now, Mr. Senator, and is willing to do its part.

Senator VANDENBERG. Will you consider that any circumstances, at sea, would justify a sit-down strike at sea?

Mr. Borow. No, sir; under no circumstances whatsoever.

Mr. CHAIRMAN. Mr. Borow, I am sorry the time has come when we must adjourn. If you care to come again, you will be very welcome and we shall be glad to be told very fully of the grievances of labor, and particularly the ambitions of labor. But we want to learn, before we pass any laws or appropriate any more money, whether it is worth while to do so. Senator GUFFEY. Will the witness be here tomorrow?

The CHAIRMAN. We shall meet again tomorrow at half past 10, if you care to come, Mr. Borow.

Mr. Borow. Thank you, sir.

Senator PEPPER. And all the labor people understand that they will have a full opportunity to be heard?

The CHAIRMAN. Oh, absolutely. We have the names of their witnesses, and we shall hear every one.

(Whereupon, at 12:05 p. m., an adjournment was taken until tomorrow, Wednesday, December 15, 1937, at 10:30 a. m.)

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A BILL TO AMEND THE MERCHANT MARINE ACT OF 1936

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

PART 4

DECEMBER 15, 1937

Printed for the use of the Committee on
Commerce and the Committee on Education and Labor

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