Beneficiary Features of American Trade Unions by James B. Kennedy

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Asad Razzaki and PG Distributed Proofreaders BENEFICIARY FEATURES OF AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS BY JAMES B. KENNEDY, PH.D. Professor of Political Economy in Wells College * * * * * SERIES XXVI NOS. 11-12 JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY STUDIES IN HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE Under the Direction of the Departments of History, Political
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Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Asad Razzaki and PG Distributed Proofreaders




Professor of Political Economy in Wells College

* * * * *





Under the Direction of the

Departments of History, Political Economy, and Political Science

* * * * *

November-December, 1908

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CHAPTER I. Insurance Against Death and Disability CHAPTER II. Death Benefits
CHAPTER III. Sick Benefits
CHAPTER IV. Out-of-Work Benefits
CHAPTER V. Superannuation Benefits CHAPTER VI. Administration


This monograph had its origin in the investigations of American trade-union activities which have engaged the attention of the Economic Seminary of the Johns Hopkins University since October, 1902. It was begun and completed while the author was a graduate student at the University.

The study is based on a survey of the beneficiary activities of national and international trade unions. While no attempt has been made to study in detail the various forms of mutual insurance maintained by local trade unions, frequent references are made thereto, inasmuch as the local activities have usually an important genetic connection with the national. The sources from which information has been secured are the trade-union publications in the Johns Hopkins University collection and important documents at the headquarters of different unions. These have been supplemented by personal interviews with prominent officials and labor leaders.

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance received, at every stage of the work, from Professor Jacob H. Hollander and Associate Professor George E. Barnett of the Department of Political Economy of the Johns Hopkins University.




The American trade unions have developed beneficiary functions far more slowly than the trade unions of England and Germany. Only since about 1880 has there been any considerable increase in such activities. Prior to that time the national unions with few exceptions paid no benefits.[1] The local unions, here and there, developed beneficiary systems, but these were not continuous nor, in many cases, important.

[Footnote 1: The term “benefit” is used in this monograph to include all forms of mutual insurance other than those directly connected with the enforcement of trade-union rules by collective bargaining. “Strike benefits” and “victimized benefits” are thus without the scope of the study.]

The history of trade-union beneficiary activities in the United States may be roughly divided into three periods. In the first, extending from the beginning of the century to about 1830, the local associations laid great stress on their beneficiary functions. The societies of printers organized from 1794 to 1815 in the most important American cities were typical of the period. In all of them, as far as the extant records show, the beneficiary functions were regarded as equally important with the trade-regulating activities. American trade unionism owed its origin as much to the desire to associate for mutual insurance as to the desire to establish trade rules.

The second period, from 1830 to 1880, was marked by the subordination of beneficiary to trade purposes. The maintenance of a minimum rate and other trade policies came to occupy the foremost place in the program of the local unions. In this period national unions were formed in many trades.

The new national unions were not strong enough to establish beneficiary systems. Moreover, at many points the establishment of local benefits conflicted with the success of the national organizations. A local union was usually forced to impose certain restrictions upon claimants of benefits, either an initiation fee or a requisite term of membership, in order to protect its funds. Such limitations on the full participation of all members in the benefits of membership militated severely against the carrying out of the prime function of the national unions–the nationalization of membership. The leaders in the trade-union movement of this period were interested chiefly in strengthening the relations of the local unions. They saw, therefore, in the local benefits a hindrance to the accomplishment of their aims. By 1860 it had become a fairly well accepted doctrine that a trade union should not attempt to develop beneficiary functions. It was argued that since the expense of maintaining benefits made the dues of members higher, persons who might otherwise join the unions were prevented from doing so. The leaders of the Iron Molders for years opposed the introduction of beneficiary features on the ground that the development of such activities was likely to interfere with the trade functions of the organization. In 1866 President Sylvis for this reason vigorously opposed the introduction of a national sick benefit.[2] As late as 1895 the veteran president of the Iron Molders–Mr. Martin Fox–counselled the Union against developing an extensive beneficiary system.[3] The same views were entertained by the leaders of the other more important unions of the period.

[Footnote 2: Iron Molders’ Journal, Vol. I, p. 309.]

[Footnote 3: Proceedings of the Twentieth Session, 1895, Report of the President.]

Shortly after the close of the Civil War the rapid growth of mutual insurance companies attracted the attention of many trade unionists. The formation of insurance associations under the auspices of the national unions with a membership limited to the members of the unions was discussed in the most important organizations of the day. In many of them voluntary associations of one kind and another were inaugurated. The Granite Cutters, the Iron Molders and the Printers all experimented after this fashion. Only in the railway brotherhoods did these insurance systems develop into a permanent feature.

The development of beneficiary functions by the leading national unions began about 1880. The benefits administered by these organizations do not interfere with the nationalization of membership. A new theory as to the relation between the beneficiary and the trade functions began about 1880 to gain wide acceptance. It was argued and with much force that the benefits were a direct aid in the accomplishment of trade purposes. While some leaders of the older school have seen in the rapid development of beneficiary functions a danger to the unions, the greater number who have come into positions of authority since 1880 have steadily advocated the establishment of benefits.

The table on p. 12 gives the year in which the principal national unions were organized, together with the date and order of introduction of their national benefit systems.

This change in the attitude of American trade unions toward beneficiary activities is illustrated by the fact that while in the older American trade unions, such as the Typographical Union, the Cigar Makers’ Union and the Iron Molders’ Union, many years elapsed between the founding of national organizations and the institution of national benefit systems, of the national unions organized since about 1880, some, as for example, the Granite Cutters’ Union, the Brotherhood of Painters, the Metal Polishers’ Union, and the Wood Workers’ Union, incorporated provisions for the payment of benefits in their first constitutions, and many others adopted benefit systems within a few years after organization.

========================================================================== | |Date of | Date of |Order of | |National|Introduction|Introduction | Name of Organization. | Organi-|of Benefit |of Benefit | | zation.| System[4] | System ————————————————————————– | Typographical Union……………. | 1850 | 1891 | 11 | Hatters’ Association……………. | 1853 | 1887 | 6 | Stone Cutters’ Association………. | 1853 | 1892 | 13 | Glass Bottle Blowers……………. | 1857 | 1891 | 12 | Iron Molders’ Union…………….. | 1859 | 1870 | 2 | Cigar Makers’ Union…………….. | 1864 | 1867 | 1 | Typographia, Deutsch-Amerikanischen. | 1873 | 1884 | 5 | Iron, Steel and Tin Workers……… | 1876 | 1903 | 22 | Granite Cutters………………… | 1877 | 1877 | 3 | Carpenters and Joiners, Brotherhood. | 1881 | 1882 | 4 | Tailors’ Union…………………. | 1884 | 1890 | 8 | Painters’ Brotherhood…………… | 1887 | 1887 | 7 | Pattern Makers’ League………….. | 1887 | 1898 | 16 | Barbers’ Union…………………. | 1887 | 1895 | 15 | Plumbers’ Association…………… | 1889 | 1903 | 23 | Machinists’ Association…………. | 1889 | 1893 | 14 | Metal Polishers’ Union………….. | 1890 | 1890 | 9 | Wood Workers…………………… | 1890 | 1890 | 10 | Garment Workers’ Union………….. | 1891 | 1902 | 21 | Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union…….. | 1895 | 1898 | 18 | Tobacco Workers’ Union………….. | 1895 | 1896 | 17 | Leather Workers on Horse Goods…… | 1896 | 1898 | 19 | Piano and Organ Workers…………. | 1898 | 1898 | 20 | United Metal Workers……………. | 1900 | 1900 | 24 ——————————————————————

[Footnote 4: The dates given indicate the years in which the unions first succeeded in adopting national benefits of some kind, and not the dates on which successful systems were inaugurated. For example, the Cigar Makers’ system of travelling loans adopted in 1867 and its “endowment plan” adopted in 1873 were unsuccessful and the present system was not adopted until 1880. (Cigar Makers’ Journal and Program, twentieth session, pp. 57-63.)]

It is maintained that the establishment of beneficiary features is a direct aid to a union in carrying through its trade policies. In the first place, successful systems of benefits, whether they attract members or not, undoubtedly retain them. Sharp and sudden declinations in membership during industrial disturbances are thus prevented. The effect of the panic of 1893-1897 was peculiarly instructive in this respect. Many labor unions suffered a considerable decline in members. The Typographical Union lost about ten per cent. of its membership, the Brotherhood of Carpenters about fifty per cent., while the Cigar Makers with a highly developed system of benefits lost only one and one half per cent. The trade unionists naturally regard it as peculiarly desirable that the members should not abandon the organization when the difficulty of maintaining wages and conditions is greatest. To hold in hard times what has been gained in good times is a vital point in trade-union policy. The trade unionists realize that the chief work of the unions is not so much in advancing wages in good times as in preventing recessions when employment is scarce. President Strasser of the Cigar Makers has pointed out that the Cigar Makers came through the depression of 1893-1897 with very slight reductions in wages. This result he attributed to the beneficiary system which held the membership in good standing.[5]

[Footnote 5: Cigar Makers’ Journal, Vol. 26, September, 1901.]

It is, of course, impossible to estimate with any degree of precision the effect of trade-union benefits in retaining members. Certain unions, such as the Cigar Makers and the Typographia, having compact organizations with highly developed systems of benefits lose almost none of their membership in periods of depression. The experience of the Cigar Makers is peculiarly instructive since we are here able to note the effect due to the introduction of a system of benefits. In 1869 the membership of the union was 5800. No benefits were paid except the strike benefit. In 1873 the membership had fallen to 3771, in 1874 to 2167, in 1875 to 1604, and in 1877 to 1016. A noticeable increase set in about 1879 and by 1883 the number of members was 13,214.[6] In the depression extending from 1893 to 1897 the membership of the Cigar Makers remained almost stationary. The following table shows the number of members for each year from 1890 to 1900:

1890..24,624 1984..27,828 1898..26,460 1891..24,221 1895..27,760 1899..28,994 1892..26,678 1896..27,318 1900..33,955 1893..26,788 1897..26,347

[Footnote 6: Cigar Makers’ Journal, Vol. 10, Aug., 1885; Vol. 19, May, 1894, p. 8. The records of initiations and suspensions for various periods in the history of the union also show the increase in the power to retain members. During 1877-1879, with only strike benefits in operation, 3000 members were initiated and 2750 were suspended; from September, 1879, to September, 1880, with strike and travelling benefits in force, 5453 were initiated and 1853, or 33.9 per cent., were suspended, while from September, 1880, to September, 1881, when a sick benefit was also being paid, 7402 were initiated, and 1867, or 25.2 per cent., were suspended. (Cigar Makers’ Journal, Vol. 6, June, 1881, p. i; Vol. 7, October, 1881, p. 3.)]

The Typographia, the only other American trade union which has developed its system of benefits as fully as the Cigar Makers, held its membership equally well during the depression of 1893-1897. The following table shows the membership of the Typographia from 1890 to 1900 by years:

1890 …1233 1894 …1204 1898 …1100 1891 …1322 1895 …1092 1899 …1071 1892 …1382 1896 …1115 1900 …1044 1893 …1380 1897 …1083

The falling off in membership in 1894 and 1895 was due only to a very small extent to defections. The introduction of the linotype decreased the opportunity for employment in the trade, and the gradual shrinkage in the amount of German printing done in the United States due to the falling off in German immigration was accentuated by the depression.

While the two unions having the most highly developed beneficiary systems thus show an ability to retain members during periods of depression, it would be absurd to assume that this result is solely the effect of the establishment of the benefits. The Cigar Makers’ Union in 1892 would undoubtedly have held its membership better than it did in 1872 even if it had developed no benefits. It is interesting in this connection to note that while in the depression of 1873-1878 the membership of the Typographical Union fell from 9799 to 4260, a loss of forty per cent., and the number of local unions decreased from 105 to 60, in the great depression of 1893-1897 the membership fell from 31,379 in 1894 to 28,096 in 1897, a loss of only ten per cent. Part even of this small loss was due to the withdrawal of the pressmen and bookbinders from the organization. It thus appears that the Typographical Union with a death benefit of sixty-five dollars and a home for the aged held its membership almost as well as the Cigar Makers with their much more highly developed beneficiary system. The change in the power of the Typographical Union to retain its membership was obviously due not so much to the establishment of beneficiary features as to the greater support which it gave its members in collective bargaining.

A comparison of the effect of the depression of 1893-1897 on the Typographical Union and on the Brotherhood of Carpenters makes the point still clearer. In 1893 when the depression set in the per capita expenditure of the Typographical Union for beneficiary features was $1.50, while that of the Carpenters was $1.40. The death benefit in the Carpenters’ union was graded in such a way as to offer an additional incentive to retain membership. The two unions were, as far as the development of benefits is concerned, on about the same plane. As has been noted above, the Printers lost almost none of their members. The Carpenters lost from 1893 to 1895 over half of their membership. The following table shows the membership of the Carpenters by years from 1890 to 1900:

1890….53,769 1894….33,917 1898….31,508 1891….56,937 1895….25,152 1899\ 1892….51,313 1896….29,691 …68,463 1893….54,121 1897….28,209 1900/

It is obvious that beneficiary features are only one of several factors in retaining membership.

How far benefits attract members into the unions it is difficult to estimate. In the Cigar Makers’ Union, the membership in 1880 was 4440, while in 1881 it was 14,604, an increase of 228 per cent. The increase in 1880 over 1879 had, however, been very large. How far the rapid increase in 1881 was due to the development of the beneficiary system and how far to the natural growth consequent upon a period of industrial activity can only be conjectured. In much the same way the rapid increase in the membership of the Iron Molders, from 20,920 on January 1, 1896, to 41,189 on January 1, 1900, was certainly not due primarily to the introduction of the sick benefit into that union.[7] The Boot and Shoe Workers introduced a system of sick benefits on January 1, 1900. At that time the union had a membership of 2910; at the close of the year the members numbered 10,618, and on January i, 1904, the number had increased to 69,290.[8] This phenomenal increase was not due chiefly to the desire of the boot and shoe workers to insure themselves against illness, but to the policy of the union in unionizing shoe plants by a liberal granting of the use of the label.

[Footnote 7: Iron Molders’ Journal, Vol. 33, p. 73; Vol. 36, p. 78.]

[Footnote 8: Proceedings of the Fifth Convention, Detroit, 1902; Shoe Workers’ Journal, Vol. 5, February, 1904, pp. 19, 25.]

The causes of an increase in membership are usually so intertwined that nothing can be proved statistically as to the effect of the introduction of beneficiary systems. The executive officers of the unions with beneficiary features are, however, a unit in declaring that the desire to secure the advantage of the benefits does attract members.[9]

[Footnote 9: Barbers’ Journal, Vol. 10, p. 10; Shoe Workers’ Journal, Vol. 2, April, 1901, p. 6.]

A second effect of the introduction of benefits is the strengthening of the national treasury. The ordinary trade unionist is not disposed to be liberal in voting supplies to his national officials for trade purposes. A union without beneficiary functions usually has small reserve funds or none at all. The effect of the introduction of beneficiary features is, in the first place, to increase the funds which may in an emergency be used for strike benefits, and more important, perhaps, the members, accustomed to paying a considerable sum weekly or monthly for benefits, are less reluctant to vote assessments adequate for carrying on vigorously the trade policies of the union.

Finally, certain trade-union benefits aid even more directly in accomplishing the trade purposes of the unions by tiding the members over illness or unemployment. An unemployed journeyman, or one impoverished by illness, unless supported by his union is tempted to work below the union rate. A starving man cannot higgle over the conditions of employment. The unions recognize that in time of strike they must support the strikers. The establishment of out-of-work benefits is urged on much the same ground.

While these considerations have been effectual in leading the great mass of American trade unionists to believe in the advisability of developing beneficiary systems in connection with their unions, the real reason for the rapid growth of benefits lies, of course, in the desire of the members to participate in such beneficiary systems. The development of beneficiary systems has, therefore, not been guided chiefly or largely by the consideration as to what benefits would most aid the trade unions in enforcing their trade policies. The unions have chosen rather to develop those benefits for which there was the greatest need. Taking the Report of the American Federation of Labor as a convenient summary of the beneficiary activities of American trade unions, it appears that in 1907 of sixty-seven national unions paying benefits of all kinds, sixty-three paid death benefits, six paid benefits on the death of members’ wives, twenty-four paid sick benefits, eight paid travelling benefits and six paid out-of-work benefits. The benefit which is most effective as an aid to the enforcement of collective bargaining is out-of-work relief. This it will be noted has been adopted by very few unions. On the contrary, the death or funeral benefit of small amount is far and away the predominant form of national trade-union benefit. Probably no other benefit offers as little support to the militant side of trade unionism. The reasons for the greater development of this benefit are, first, the great need among many trade unionists for benefits of this kind. Only within recent years has the funeral benefit been widely obtainable from ordinary insurance companies. Secondly, the administration of a small funeral benefit presents few difficulties as compared with the sick or out-of-work benefit.

While the principle that trade-union benefits are an aid in collective bargaining has not led to the development in American trade unions of those varieties which might be supposed to have an advantage in this respect, the form of some of the benefits has been shaped in accordance with this theory. Thus, there is a tendency to grade the amount of the benefit according to the length of membership, the intention being to make it more serviceable in retaining members.

In practically all the unions trade-union benefits originated with the local unions. With the introduction of national systems the unions have pursued different policies with regard to the degree of freedom allowed the local union in paying benefits. The national unions that pay benefits may thus be divided into three classes according to their relations with the local unions. In the first class are those unions that pay insurance against death and disability.[10] These unions reserve to the national union the exclusive right and authority to issue insurance but permit the local organizations to pay other benefits. In the second group are those unions that pay death, sick or out-of-work benefits from their national treasuries, but prohibit the local unions from paying similar benefits. The unions that have patterned after the Cigar Makers’ Union belong to this group. The chief of these are the Deutsch-Amerikanischen Typographia, the Iron Molders’ Union, the Journeymen Plumbers’ Association, and the Piano and Organ Workers’ Union. Finally, the largest group of unions paying benefits permit the local unions also to pay similar benefits. The principal unions of this character are the Typographical Union, the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the Brotherhood of Painters, and the Amalgamated Wood Workers’ Union. In general, the more highly developed the beneficiary functions of the national unions become, the less freedom the local unions are given in carrying on such functions. The tendency is therefore to replace local with national benefits. The local unions still play, however, a large role in the payment of benefits. It is probable that the aggregate sum disbursed by local unions in the United States for such purposes does not fall far short of the amount expended by the national unions.

[Footnote 10: Order of Railway Conductors, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, Order of Railroad Telegraphers, Switchmen’s Union, Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees, and National Association of Letter Carriers.]



The distinction between systems of insurance on the one hand and systems of death benefits on the other is not so much one of quality as of quantity. Legally the distinction lies in the fact that in the case of insurance a signed contract known as a policy is given to the insured, while in the case of a benefit no policy is issued. This difference is not of economic importance. Ordinarily, however, where a trade union issues insurance policies to its members the amount paid is larger than in the case of a death benefit. The establishment of insurance systems has thus been confined to a few organizations. The membership of these unions receive relatively high wages and are regularly employed. The highly important role which insurance systems have played in the formation and working of these unions and the general similarity of their experiences make it desirable to treat insurance against death and disability separately from the more common death benefits.

The unions which have been successful in establishing insurance systems are the seven principal unions of railway employees, viz., the Grand Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Order of Railway Conductors, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, the Order of Railroad Telegraphers, the Switchmen’s Union of North America, and the International Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

The oldest of these organizations, the Engineers, was formed at Detroit, August 17, 1863, as the “Brotherhood of the Footboard,” and was reorganized at Indianapolis, Indiana, August 17, 1864, under the present name. Under the original constitution, foremen and machinists as well as engineers were admitted; but since February 23, 1864, membership has been restricted to locomotive engineers.[11] The Brotherhood was prosperous from the outset, and at the twenty-first convention in 1884 Grand Chief Arthur reported 258 subordinate divisions with 16,000 members; at the sixth biennial session in May, 1904, Grand Chief Stone reported 652 divisions with 46,400 members.

[Footnote 11: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, February, 1867.]

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is not only the oldest of the railway unions, but was the first to institute national beneficiary features. Three years after its organization, in September, 1866, the grand division levied an assessment to raise a fund for “widows and orphans and totally disabled members.” The law was unsatisfactory, and few subordinate divisions paid the assessments prior to the Cincinnati convention of October, 1867. This convention ordered all assessments paid at once, and on December 2, 1867, $1212.40 was paid over to the chairman of the board of trustees. This was the nucleus of a fund which reached $10,787.63 on March 1, 1871. On account of charges of mismanagement and the slow growth of the fund repeated efforts were made to repeal the “fund” law, but without success. At the Nashville convention of 1870 a committee appointed to consider the disposition of the fund at the expiration of the five years recommended that the entire sum be paid back to the subordinate divisions. The grand chief opposed this use of the fund, since he regarded it as the Brotherhood’s “strongest pillar.”[12]

[Footnote 12: _Ibid.,_ Vol. 5, p. 294.]

Before the expiration of the five-year period, however, on December 3, 1867, the Brotherhood founded an insurance association.[13] On March 13, 1869, the secretary-treasurer reported: number of members admitted during 1868, 2426; amount of claims paid, $31,920; average amount of each claim, $1520.09; cost per member, $19. At Baltimore, on October 21,1869, by-laws were adopted providing for assessments of $1 per member for each death, and 50 cents for each case of total disability,[14] and at the annual convention of 1871 President Sherman reported that for the three and one half years of the life of the association there had been 86 deaths and 88 assessments, aggregating $196,358.50, an average of $3278.

[Footnote 13: _Ibid.,_ Vol. 3, p. 232.]

[Footnote 14: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 4, p. 31.]

The industrial depression of the seventies decreased the membership, but with the revival of trade an increase set in. Since January 1, 1890, insurance has been compulsory upon all members of the Brotherhood under fifty years of age. In January, 1890, the association numbered about 8000, and on January 1, 1897, it had increased to 18,000. During the twenty-five years of voluntary insurance $3,122,-669.61 was paid in death and disability benefits, and at the close of 1896 this total had been increased to $5,771,214.61.[15] Ten years later, December 31, 1906, the membership had grown to 49,328, with $97,799,500 insurance in force, and the total aggregate paid in death and disability claims had reached $10,323,181.60.

[Footnote 15: _Ibid.,_ Vol. 25, p. 951; Vol. 31, p. 504.]

The next organization of railway employees to be formed was the “Conductors’ Brotherhood,” at Mendota, Illinois, July 6, 1868. Being desirous of a more comprehensive organization, a few conductors issued, in November, 1868, a circular to the railway conductors of the United States and the British Provinces. As a result of this effort, the Grand Division of the Order of Railway Conductors was organized at Columbus, Ohio, on December 15, 1868.[16] For a period of twenty-two years the organization grew slowly against much opposition. From 1877 to 1890 the Order was exclusively beneficiary, and many of its members withdrew to organize the “Grand International Brotherhood of Railway Conductors of America.” In 1890 the National Convention decided to make collective bargaining one of its functions, and the members of the International Brotherhood joined the Order of Railway Conductors in such numbers that a year later the Brotherhood disbanded. On January 1, 1890, there were 249 subordinate divisions and 13,720 members; on January 1, 1904, there were 446 divisions with 31,288 members.

[Footnote 16: Proceedings, 1868-1885 (Cedar Rapids, 1888), p. 13.]

The convention which founded the Grand Division of the Order of Railway Conductors also instituted a mutual insurance association. The association thus formed was a voluntary society. Members paid $1 upon each death or each case of disability and the amount thus collected constituted the “benefit” paid.[17] At the first annual session held in Chicago in June, 1869, efforts were made to create a permanent insurance fund, but without result; and at the second session held in Buffalo, New York, in October, 1869, after lengthy discussion, the benefit law, adopted in 1868, was unanimously repealed.[18] For a year the Order had no insurance feature; but at the third session in October, 1870, a definite plan was adopted.[19]

[Footnote 17: Proceedings, 1868-1885 (Cedar Rapids, 1888), p. 19.]

[Footnote 18: _Ibid.,_ p. 42.]

[Footnote 19: _Ibid.,_ pp. 48-49.]

From the adoption of this plan to the session at Buffalo, in 1881, the insurance department remained of small importance, and only nineteen claims were paid, aggregating $1672. At almost every annual session during this period the reports of the grand chief conductor and the grand secretary-treasurer showed that the department was losing ground. At the session of 1881, the secretary-treasurer reported the “very unsatisfactory condition of the department,” and said: “A complete revision of its laws can no longer be postponed, if we keep it from going to pieces altogether.”[20] In 1882 the insurance laws were amended, and an immediate improvement began in the condition of the department. In 1891 the insurance became compulsory. On April 1, 1891, there were 3950 members and the outstanding risks amounted to $9,875,000, while on April 1, 1893, there were 11,436 members, carrying insurance to the amount of $24,963,000. On January 1, 1891, only 27.21 per cent. of the Order carried insurance, as against 64.07 per cent. in May, 1895. During the financial and industrial depression of 1893-1896 the Order maintained its prosperity; and on December 31, 1906, the reports showed 34,142 members in the insurance department, with outstanding insurance aggregating $64,997,000 and a grand total of $9,563,567 benefits paid since organization.

[Footnote 20: _Ibid.,_ pp. 395, 435.]

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen was organized at Port Jervis, New York, on December 1, 1873, as a benevolent association. In 1885 it became a labor organization with a “protective policy.”[21] During the first fifteen years of its history its growth was retarded by the great strike of 1877, by the opposition of the International Firemen’s Union, by the difficulties with the Knights of Labor in 1885, and by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy strike of 1888. These checks were only temporary, however, and by the close of 1893 the Firemen had 510 lodges with 28,681 members. During the next two years there was a heavy falling off to 484 lodges with 21,408 members. Since 1895 the growth has been rapid, and the present membership is about 55,000.[22]

[Footnote 21: Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, Vol. 14, p. 998.]

[Footnote 22: _Ibid.,_ Vol. 14, p. 998.]

At its first annual convention in 1874 the Brotherhood established an insurance feature, which after the first four years was made compulsory. The Firemen suffered a temporary check by the strike on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, but were assisted by a loan of $25,839.60 from the Engineers, and regained sufficient strength to withstand the financial and industrial depression of 1893-1896. In 1897 Grand Master Sargent said, “The condition of the beneficiary department excels by far any previous period in the history of the Brotherhood–so far as prompt payment of claims and the dispatch of business of the department.”[23] The present membership of the insurance department is practically the same as that of the Brotherhood, 58,849. The total outstanding insurance amounts to $75,559,000, and since its organization the department has paid $9,971,615 in death and disability claims.

[Footnote 23: _Ibid.,_ Vol. 13, p. 247; Vol. 24, p. 195.]

The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was founded at Oneonta, New York, September 23, 1883, under the name “Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen,” which it retained until January 1, 1890, when, “because many of its members had been promoted in the service, the more appropriate name of Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was adopted.” The membership consists of conductors, brakemen, train baggagemen, train flagmen, yard masters, yard foremen and switchmen. On August 31, 1893, the membership was 28,540, but on December 31, 1894, it had fallen to 22,359, and at the close of 1896 it had reached the low water-mark at 22,326. Since 1896 the increase has been rapid and on December 31, 1904, there were 721 lodges with 74,539 members.[24]

[Footnote 24: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Convention, 1905 (Cleveland, n.d.), p. 121.]

The Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen provided in its first constitution for death and disability insurance. Up to the end of the fiscal year, August 31, 1893, the membership of the insurance department increased rapidly, but with the financial and industrial depression the membership decreased, so that in May, 1895, it showed a reduction from 28,000 to about 18,000. The membership of the beneficiary department at the close of the year 1904 was 71,146, or 95.43 per cent of the membership of the Brotherhood, and the total amount of insurance paid from date of organization to January 1, 1906, amounted to $11,725,059.83.[25]

[Footnote 25: Trainmen’s Journal, Vol. 23, p. 100.]

The Order of Railroad Telegraphers was instituted at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 9, 1886. To it is admitted “any white person of good moral character, eighteen years of age and employed on a railroad as a telegrapher, line repairer, leverman, or interlocker, including all employees connected with operation of signal towers and interlocking plants.”[26] By April 30, 1893, the membership numbered 17,780. A rapid decrease reduced its strength to 10,114 on April 30, 1894, to 6684 on December 30, 1894, and finally to 4976 on December 31, 1895. On August 1, 1904, the membership had increased to 37,700.[27]

[Footnote 26: Constitution, 1903 (St. Louis, n.d.), pp. 5, 7.]

[Footnote 27: The Railroad Telegrapher, Vol. 21, p. 292.]

Although the Order paid benefits almost from its organization, it was without an effective system of insurance until January 1, 1898, when the present system was established. The first constitution, 1886, provided that local divisions should exercise every honorable means to assist a member in need, and at the session in 1887 a voluntary insurance association was established under the name of “Mutual Life Insurance Association of North America.” The insurance failed entirely to attract any considerable part of the membership, and up to July, 1890, the total amount paid was only $2430.05.[28] In 1896 the Grand Division appointed a committee to devise a plan for a system of insurance. The plan reported was submitted to referendum vote in December, 1897, and became operative on January 1, 1898.[29] From March 1, 1898, to June 15, 1899, applicants were received without an entrance fee, and during this period the success of the department was practically assured. The insurance is compulsory on all members. At present there are about 38,000 members carrying insurance, the mortuary fund has a balance of $120,000, and the total amount of insurance paid aggregates $142,000.

[Footnote 28: Vol. 6, p. 310.]

[Footnote 29: Vol. 14, p. 880.]

A local organization of switchmen was effected at Chicago on August 18, 1877, but a national union was not formed until February 22, 1886, when the Switchmen’s Mutual Aid Association was inaugurated. At the first annual session in September, 1886, the grand master declared that the purposes of the organization were “to wage war against discrimination made by arbitrary employers; to organize for benevolent purposes; to amicably adjust labor disputes by arbitration; and for mutual aid to its members.”[30] The Association was forced by the defalcations of its treasurer to disband, and a new organization, the Switchmen’s Union, was formed. Since this reorganization in 1897 rapid growth has been made under the management of conservative officers. On January 1, 1903, the Switchmen’s Union had a membership of 14,000.

[Footnote 30: Switchmen’s Journal, Vol. 2, p. 247.]

The first constitution provided for death and disability insurance. At the second session in September, 1887, the grand master reported $15,000 paid for death and disability claims during the year.[31] Until the disbanding of the Association in 1894 the insurance department was successful. In 1901 the Union without a dissenting vote adopted a compulsory system of insurance. During 1902 $6,151,200 of insurance was issued, during 1903, $2,906,600; while at the close of 1902 $4,779,600 of insurance was in force, and at the close of 1903 $6,679,200. The total amount paid in death and disability claims since reorganization has aggregated $207,335.75.

[Footnote 31: Switchmen’s Journal, Vol. 1, p. 244.]

The present International Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees has suffered many vicissitudes in its development. It was organized in the summer of 1887 as the Order of Railway Trackmen, and admitted into membership foremen in the maintenance-of-way department, road masters and bridge and building masters.[32] In October, 1891, this organization, with a membership of 600, united with the Brotherhood of Railway Section Foremen, an organization with 400 members. The new union took the name of Brotherhood of Railway Trackmen of North America. Prior to 1898 the Brotherhood was almost exclusively a fraternal insurance society, but in that year collective bargaining was added to its functions. In 1903 the organization became the Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees. It admits to membership “persons employed in the track, bridge and building, water and fuel department, and signal and interlocking service.” During the last five years the membership of the Order has shown considerable increase. In 1903 over 15,000 members were added, making a total of over 40,000 on January 1, 1904.

[Footnote 32: Advance Advocate, Vol. 7, p. 106.]

Originally the insurance was compulsory. At the convention of October, 1893, it became optional and remained so until October, 1894, when it again became compulsory. Owing to opposition from members carrying old-line insurance and from the uncertainty in the number of assessments levied each year, the St. Louis convention of 1896 reverted to a system of optional insurance. Previous to the adoption of this plan the Order had paid death, total disability and partial disability claims to the amount of about $75,000. From January 1, 1897, to September 30, 1904, $74,909.66 was paid to beneficiaries, making a total paid since organization of about $150,000.

The National Association of Letter Carriers of the United States of America was organized at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1889. In 1891 the Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey, and on February 26, 1892, was reincorporated under the laws of the State of Tennessee. The aim of this organization is “to unite fraternally all the letter carriers in the United States so as (_a_) to secure their rights as Government employees and to promote the welfare of every member, and (_b_) to found the United States Letter Carriers’ Mutual Benefit Association.”[33] The first annual session appointed a committee to draw up a plan for an insurance system. The report was published in January, 1891, and was considered by the National Association at its second annual session in August, 1891,[34] and the Mutual Benefit Association was instituted.[35] The insurance has always been voluntary and consequently the membership of the Benefit Association has been only a small part of that of the National Association. On July 1, 1905, there were 5318 members carrying insurance to the amount of $13,866,000, while there were 19,000 members of the National Association.

[Footnote 33: Constitution, 1904 (Washington, 1904), p. 3.]

[Footnote 34: The Postal Record, Vol. 4, pp. 8, 118, 119.]

[Footnote 35: _Ibid._, Vol. 5, p. 528.]

All the railway organizations described above make a distinction between death and disability insurance, and sick and accident insurance. The local unions have been prohibited either specifically or by implication from maintaining any association or society for paying death and disability benefits. This rule was first established by the Conductors. During the early years of the Conductors’ national organization, 1868-1880, many subordinate divisions maintained mutual benefit associations for the payment of death and disability insurance. The growth of the national benefit department was thus retarded, and at the tenth annual session in October, 1877, subordinate divisions were prohibited from maintaining “mutual benefit societies.”[36] The national organizations, on the other hand, do not furnish accident insurance, but leave this function to the local bodies. In the formation of this policy, also, the Conductors took the initiative by providing in their first national constitution in December, 1868, that the order should never become a weekly benefit association.[37] The Engineers had a similar provision as early as September, 1869; but national regulations governing the payment of weekly benefits were nevertheless formulated. The other unions have followed this policy, and their constitutions provide that the weekly benefits shall be levied, collected, and distributed according to national rules.

[Footnote 36: Proceedings of the Order of Railway Conductors of America, 1868-1885 (Cedar Rapids, 1888), p. 207.]

[Footnote 37: _Ibid_., p. 21.]

The most striking characteristic of the insurance features of these organizations has been the combination of disability and death insurance. The fact that railway employees are specially exposed to the risks of disabling accidents has been the chief influence in this direction. The large number of claims paid for disability in the Conductors’, the Firemen’s, and the Trainmen’s beneficiary departments during recent years shows the high importance of disability insurance to the men engaged in the more hazardous occupations. The disability claims paid among the Firemen for the eleven years from 1894 to 1904 were 24.5 per cent. of the total number of claims paid, or about one third of the number of death claims paid. Among the Conductors the disability claims, paid during the same period, amounted to one seventh of the death claims paid. The disability claims paid by the Trainmen during twenty years, 1884-1904, were 32.5 per cent. of all claims paid.

The proportion of disability to death claims has decreased in each of these organizations in recent years. The disability claims paid by the Conductors in 1894 were 15.6 per cent. of the total number, and at the close of 1904, 11.8 per cent.; while among the Firemen the percentages for the biennial terms 1894-1896 and 1902-1904 were 32.9 per cent. and 21.4 per cent., respectively. The claim statistics of the Trainmen show the same tendency although there are great variations from year to year. In 1890, 1895 and 1897 the percentage of disability claims rose to 40, 41 and 40, respectively, while in 1888, 1900 and 1903 the percentage fell to 28, 29 and 27, respectively.

DEATH AND DISABILITY CLAIMS. ===================================================================== | | Claims Paid. | Per Cent. of| Disability Name of | Term. |——————| Disability| Claims per Organization| | Death.|Disability| Claims. | 1000 of | | | | | Total
| | | | | Membership. ————|———-|——-|———-|————-|———— Conductors |1893-1894 | 265 | 49 | 15.6 | 3.8 |1895-1896 | 274 | 46 | 14.3 | 3.1 |1897-1898 | 363 | 63 | 14.8 | 3.6 |1899-1900 | 440 | 55 | 11.1 | 2.6 |1901-1902 | 523 | 81 | 13.4 | 3.2 |1903-1904 | 688 | 92 | 11.8 | 3 | | | | |
| | | | |
Firemen |1894-1896 | 295 | 145 | 32.9 | 6 |1896-1898 | 349 | 118 | 25.3 | 4.3 |1898-1900 | 488 | 174 | 26.3 | 4.7 |1900-1002 | 655 | 186 | 22.1 | 3.9 |1902-1904 | 857 | 234 | 21.4 | 4.3 | | | | |
| | | | |
Trainmen[38]| 1886 | 75 | 37 | 33 | 4.6 | 1887 | 77 | 42 | 35 | 4.8 | 1888 | 145 | 59 | 28 | 5.2 | 1889 | 152 | 69 | 31 | 5.1 | 1890 | 175 | 116 | 40 | 8.6 | 1891 | 264 | 123 | 32 | 6.6 | 1892 | 270 | 145 | 34 | 6.1 | 1893 | 372 | 201 | 35 | 7.1 | 1894 | 304 | 138 | 31 | 6.1 | 1895 | 212 | 147 | 41 | 7.8 | 1896 | 254 | 159 | 38 | 7.2 | 1897 | 240 | 160 | 40 | 6.3 | 1898 | 358 | 165 | 31 | 5.8 | 1899 | 403 | 211 | 34 | 5.7 | 1900 | 498 | 205 | 29 | 4.9 | 1901 | 507 | 231 | 31 | 5.1 | 1902 | 570 | 249 | 30 | 4.7 | 1903 | 788 | 305 | 27 | 4.6 | 1904 | 849 | 374 | 31 | 5.2 ———————————————————————

[Footnote 38: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Convention, 1905 (Cleveland, n.d.); Report of Secretary-Treasurer, p. 124.]

The decrease in the ratio of disability to death claims paid is due primarily to a stricter definition of disability and to better administration. The number of disability claims paid per 1000 of membership shows also, however, a slight decrease.

The records of the Trainmen which separate claims resulting from accidents still farther emphasize the need for disability insurance.

====================================================================== Kind of |Number |Number from|Percentage of|Percentage of|Percentage Claims |from | Accidental| Claims from | Claims from | of Claims |Natural| Causes | Natural | Accidental | from all |Causes | | Causes | Causes. | Causes. ———–+——-+———–+————-+————-+———- Disability.| 526 | 2,610 | 16.77 | 83.23 | 32-1/3 Death | 2,033 | 4,522 | 31. | 69. | 67-2/3 ———–+——-+———–+————-+————-+———- Total | 2,559 | 7,322 | 26-1/3 | 73-2/3 | 100 ———–+——-+———–+————-+————-+———-

The data show the place disability insurance has occupied among the Railway Trainmen during twenty years. For this period disability claims for all causes were 32-1/3 per cent. of all claims paid. The percentage of claims from accidental causes–including both disability and death–was 73-2/3 of the whole number of claims paid, while the percentage from natural causes was only 26-1/2. In other words, these statistics show that the Trainmen’s accidental disability and death claims, as compared with those due to natural causes, have averaged almost three claims paid as the result of accidental causes to one as the result of natural causes.[39]

[Footnote 39: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Convention, 1905 (Cleveland, n.d.), pp. 65-66.]

The old-line companies do not offer the form of disability insurance required by railway employees. These companies issue accident policies against death and total or partial disability from accident while on duty; but there are two defects in the form of this insurance. In the first place, the definition of total disability adopted by the companies is much stricter than that of the insurance departments of the railway brotherhoods. A typical insurance company’s definition of total disability is incapacity for “prosecuting any and every kind of business pertaining to a regular occupation from the loss of both eyes, both hands, both feet, or one hand and one foot;” while partial disability is “the loss of one hand or one foot or any injury preventing the performance of one or more important daily duties pertaining to a regular occupation.” In other words, to secure the indemnity for total disability, the insured must be disabled from performing any regular labor whatever. In the railway organizations total disability is so defined as to cover inability of the insured to continue in his position. Secondly, the disability insurance offered by the regular insurance companies is joined with accident insurance affording a weekly indemnity during the period of illness due to accident. The railway employee, if he insures against totally disabling accidents, must also insure against temporarily disabling accidents, since the companies do not separate the two forms of insurance. The inclusion of all accidents in one policy necessitates a heavy premium. For example, to secure accident insurance including, besides a weekly indemnity of $20, provision for the payment of $1000 in case of death or total disability resulting from accidents, an engineer must pay an annual premium of $50.40 or $56 according to the section of the country over which he runs, or the system by which he is employed. The combination of life with disability insurance meets the need of the ordinary railway employee better than any other combination.

The formative period of the two older organizations furnished opportunities for a study of the disability benefit and showed its usefulness in strengthening the national unions. These organizations, however, experienced grave difficulties in their attempts to administer disability insurance. The Engineers included “totally disabled members” among the beneficiaries of the fund provided for in 1866.[40] The by-laws of the insurance association founded by the Brotherhood on December 3, 1867, provided for assessments of 50 cents per member for the benefit of each totally disabled member–one half the amount assessed in case of death.[41] The history of this benefit was tersely summed up by General Secretary-Treasurer Abbott in his address to the Engineers’ Association, December 3, 1871: “The Baltimore convention, 1869, adopted a disability clause, the Nashville, Tenn., convention amended it, and the Toronto, Canada, convention, 1871, repealed it.” At St. Louis, 1872, the Brotherhood formed a separate association, known as the “Total Disability Insurance Association,” for furnishing insurance against disability to members. An entrance fee of $2 was required and the assessment was fixed at $1.[42] In 1876 the convention dissolved the Total Disability Insurance Association, and the Engineers did not succeed in establishing a satisfactory system of disability insurance until 1884, when the prosperous condition of the association enabled the convention to carry out its long-cherished plan and to make provision for the payment of the same benefit in case of total disability as at death.[43] In the call of the Conductors for a convention to effect a permanent organization issued in November, 1868, the purpose of the proposed Order was stated to be the protection of “the members and their families in case of sickness, accident or death.”[44] The mutual insurance association instituted by the first convention paid a disability benefit equal to the death benefit. The law under which the association operated was repealed at the second convention in October, 1869; but when the third convention in October, 1870, adopted a new insurance plan, provision was made that disability insurance should be paid in an amount equal to that paid in case of death. Not until 1881, however, did the Conductors satisfactorily solve the problem.

[Footnote 40: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 1, p. 9.]

[Footnote 41: Constitution, 1869, in Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 4, p. 31.]

[Footnote 42: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 5, p. 11; Vol. 7, pp. 28, 60.]

[Footnote 43: _Ibid_., Vol. 7, pp. 28-60; Vol. 11, p. 78; Constitution, 1884 (Cleveland, 1884).]

[Footnote 44: Proceedings of the Order of Railway Conductors of America, 1868-1885 (Cedar Rapids, 1888), p. 19.]

The difficulties experienced by the Engineers and the Conductors in establishing disability insurance, without doubt, served to deter the Firemen from adopting a similar system until their fifth convention in 1878. During the period 1868-1880 the disability benefit was in process of evolution. By 1880 the three older organizations had demonstrated the possibility of maintaining the benefit, and since that time it has been regarded as an essential element in railway insurance systems. Hence the Trainmen in 1883, the Telegraphers in 1887, and the Switchmen in 1886, in their first constitutions, and the Trackmen in 1893, made the disability insurance equal to that paid in case of death. All of the railway organizations, except the Telegraphers, follow this policy at the present time. The Telegraphers have not paid a disability benefit since 1897. They provide, however, that should a member become totally or permanently disabled the insurance committee may order his assessments paid and shall deduct the amount of these assessments when the benefit is finally paid.[45] The failure of the Telegraphers to pay a disability benefit is largely due to the fact that their occupation is less dangerous than other forms of railway service.

[Footnote 45: Constitution, 1903 (St. Louis, ii. d.), p. 106.]

The Letter Carriers also have not the same urgent need for the payment of a disability benefit and until the Denver convention, 1902, paid insurance against death without direct provision for disability. At this convention, however, the National Association organized a Retirement Association for the payment of superannuation benefits to the aged and disabled members.[46] The Association had in view in founding this department the growing necessity of making some provision for the large number of carriers whom old age prevented from doing the regular amount of work.[47] Under the original plan, which went into effect January 1, 1903, the Association issued retirement certificates to members in the sums of $500, $400, $300 and $200 at monthly premiums of $6.70, $5.35, $4.00 and $2.70, respectively. On retirement, after having paid thirty annual premiums, or their equivalent, the beneficiary was entitled to receive annually the amount of his certificate. The retirement might also take place after thirty years’ service, or after thirty years’ membership in the Association, or after the age of sixty-five had been reached, provided ten annual premiums had been made.[48] This “ten annual premium” concession was for the special benefit of old men whose circumstances would not allow them to pay the sum of thirty years’ premiums. The concession was allowed only for a period of ten years.[49]

[Footnote 46: The Postal Record, Vol. 15, pp. 235, 254-257.]

[Footnote 47: The Postal Record, Vol. 15, p. 301.]

[Footnote 48: _Ibid_., Vol. 17, p. 6.]

[Footnote 49: _Ibid_., Vol. 15, p. 302.]

The scheme also included provision for disability. After January 1, 1906, any member of the Retirement Association who became permanently incapacitated, mentally or physically, for any kind of remunerative labor before thirty years’ service or before attaining the age of sixty-five years, was to receive annually from the retirement fund a certain per cent. of the face value of his retirement certificate. The amount was proportionate to the years of service. For five years’ membership such a member received fifteen per cent.; for ten years’, thirty per cent.; for fifteen years’, forty-five per cent.; for twenty years’, sixty per cent.; for twenty-five years’, seventy-five per cent. Any member of not less than five years’ standing might, after ninety days’ notice to the chief clerk, withdraw from the Association; and in such event he became entitled to receive seventy-five per cent. of the annual premiums paid to the Association. Also in case of death within two years of his retirement and prior to the payment of not more than twenty-four monthly installments of pension, the Association agreed to pay to the widow, the children, or legal heirs the annuity provided in the deceased member’s certificate until the amount paid should aggregate seventy-five per cent. of all premiums received by the Association.[50]

[Footnote 50: The Postal Record, Vol. 17, p. 6.]

This plan was a failure. In it business principles had been sacrificed for fraternity. Relief had been provided for the old man particularly, but very few took advantage of the opportunity. The young men refused to enter because the favorable rates to old men placed a heavy burden upon the younger members.[51] The report of the chief clerk to the Syracuse convention, in 1903, showed that up to September 1, 1903, only eighteen retirement certificates had been issued, of which thirteen were for $500, two for $300, and three for $200. The average age at entrance was fifty-three and the average length of service, twenty-two years. The total receipts of the retirement fund were only $390.90.[52] On September 1, 1905, the total number of certificates issued had reached twenty-five, with only nineteen outstanding, while the retirement fund had increased to $2839.88.[53] The originators of the Retirement Association were forced to abandon their experimental fraternity scheme and to formulate a plan based more upon business principles. Consequently, at the Portland convention in September, 1905, Chairman Goodwin and Chief Clerk Wilson of the retirement committee proposed a new plan.[54]

[Footnote 51: _Ibid_., Vol. 19, p. 7.]

[Footnote 52: _Ibid_., Vol. 16, p. 237.]

[Footnote 53: _Ibid_., Vol. 18, p. 215.]

[Footnote 54: _Ibid_., Vol. 18, pp. 214-215.]

Under the new law, which became operative January 1, 1906, the Retirement Association was authorized to offer insurance against disability and old age. The members are, therefore, divided into two classes, annuity members and disability members, but those duly qualified may hold both annuity and disability certificates. Any member of the National Association of Letter Carriers may become an “annuity member;” but only those under sixty-five years of age and in good physical condition may become “disability members.” A member retiring from the carriers’ service ceases to be entitled to disability relief; on the other hand, however, retirement from the carrier service does not affect the right of a member to an annuity.[55]

[Footnote 55: Constitution of Retirement Association, 1905, Art. 7; Postal Record, Vol. 19, pp. 2-6.]

The plan provides for annuities of one, two, three, four or five hundred dollars. The annuities can begin in five, or any multiple of five years after the policy is issued and the rate varies according to the deferment of the annuity. A member may withdraw at any time prior to reaching the annuity, and in that event all payments are to be returned, with interest. Members may receive loans to the amount of ninety-five per cent. of the sum accredited to them in the retirement fund, provided this aggregates two hundred dollars or over, and they surrender their certificates as collateral, so that members credited with one hundred dollars or more may receive a loan of fifty dollars as an emergency loan for three months during any one year.[56]

[Footnote 56: The Postal Record, Vol. 19, p. 2.]

The following table shows the cost of the annuity per $100 for various ages according to the age at which the annuity begins:

MONTHLY COST OF $100 ANNUITY IN THE LETTER CARRIERS.[57] ====================================================================== Age | Age at which Annuity Begins. at |————————————————————— Entry| 30 | 35 | 40 | 45 | 50 | 55 | 60 | 65 | 70 ———————————————————————- 20 |$13.47|$ 7.66|$ 4.83|$ 3.19|$ 2.16|$ 1.47| $ .99| $ .66| $ .45 30 | | 28.31| 11.97| 6.63| 4.05| 2.59| 1.68| 1.08| .72 40 | | | | 24.50| 10.06| 5.37| 3.16| 1.91| 1.21 50 | | | | | |19.83 | 7.79| 3.98| 2.27 60 | | | | | | | | 14.62| 5.62 65 | | | | | | | | | 12.46 ———————————————————————-

[Footnote 57: _Ibid_., Vol. 17, p. 11.]

The new system differs in two important respects from the old. In the first place, the rates are graded according to age, and secondly, the new system provides that a member may retire five years after entrance, or thereafter at any successive period of five years up to seventy, and that his premiums shall be fixed according to the time of retirement and the period of his expectancy.

The disability certificates provide for an indemnity of eight dollars per week for loss of time resulting from disability caused by accident or sickness, a maximum of twenty weeks’ disability during any one year.[58] However, should a member, after entrance into the association, become disabled permanently by “tuberculosis, paralysis, locomotor ataxia, dropsy, cancer, diabetes, sciatica, chronic rheumatism, chronic kidney or mental disease, or any other chronic disease,” not especially named in the constitution, that may, in the judgment of the board of directors, cause permanent drain upon the funds of the Association, the said member shall receive the disability allowance for twenty weeks, after which all payments shall cease and his certificate shall be cancelled.[59] The disability insurance is thus really sick insurance.

[Footnote 58: The Postal Record, Vol. 17, p. 6.]

[Footnote 59: Constitution 1905, Art. 12, in The Postal Record, Vol. 19, pp. 2-6.]

To aid members who are too old to take advantage of the plan offered for securing annuities by their own financial efforts, the Association, in convention at Portland, September, 1905, endorsed an “extended leave of absence retirement plan.”[60] The Post Office Department of the United States was requested to grant an extended leave of absence to “superannuated or permanently impaired” carriers on condition that they accept 40 per cent. of their regular salary, while retired, and that they pay the remaining 60 per cent. to the senior substitute in their office. Under the conditions of this plan, the applicant for retirement must submit himself to the board of examiners, who shall, after a physical examination by the physician of the board, determine his eligibility. The results of this plan would be two-fold: first, to relieve the detrimental effect of superannuation upon the efficiency of the service, and, secondly, to remove the fear of those who look for more drastic measures of relief. Aside from a regular pension grant by the Government this plan is considered the most efficient method of securing adequate protection for the superannuated who are too old to avail themselves of the opportunities offered under the system of annuities.[61]

[Footnote 60: The Postal Record, Vol. 18, pp. 220-222.]

[Footnote 61: The Postal Record, Vol. 19, p. 6.]

The principal obstacle to the successful operation of disability insurance has been the difficulty experienced in its administration–largely on account of the impracticability of closely defining permanent or total disability. With almost every revision of the constitutions changes were made in the definition of the term “disability.” Strict construction of the law by the executive officials led to dissatisfaction and often to appeals from their decisions to the insurance committees, or to the boards of trustees.[62] During the early years disability claims were often presented through subordinate officials, who were either unable to interpret the laws aright, or were unwilling to assume the responsibility of pronouncing the claims illegal. The Engineers, after a period of thirty-two years, in 1898 adopted a satisfactory definition of total disability: “Any member of this Association losing by amputation a hand at or above the wrist joint; a foot at or above the ankle joint; or sustaining the total and permanent loss of sight in one eye or both eyes, shall receive the full amount of his insurance.”[63] Similar definitions of disability have been worked out by the other railway organizations. The Conductors add to this “total loss of the sense of hearing.” The Switchmen include “the loss of four fingers of one hand, at or above the second joint.” Disability, as defined by the Letter Carriers, means inability, because of sickness or accident, to perform the regular duties of a letter carrier.[64]

[Footnote 62: Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Session of the Order of Railway Conductors of America, 1887 (n.p., n.d.), p. 69.]

[Footnote 63: Constitution, 1899 (Cleveland, 1898), Art. 28.]

[Footnote 64: Constitution of the Letter Carriers of the United States, 1905, Art. 13, in The Postal Record, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 3.]

The most important development in the insurance systems of the railway unions has been the change in the amount paid from an uncertain to a fixed amount. This evolution is best illustrated in the history of the older organizations. In the period from 1868 to 1884 the amount paid was the sum collected by levying upon each member a certain assessment for each death or disability. The amount of the benefit therefore varied with the number of members. In the first stage, the Engineers paid one dollar per member upon each death and fifty cents in each case of disability, the Conductors paid one dollar per member upon each death or case of disability, while the Firemen paid fifty cents upon each death or case of disability.[65] The membership was small and the assessments were largely regarded as benevolent contributions. This phase is well illustrated by the early history of the benefit among the Conductors. The first benefit, paid in December, 1871, amounted to $48. During the first thirteen years of the department’s activity 19 claims were paid. The last was $70, and the average amount paid was $88.[66] This system continued until 1881-1884, when a general revision of constitutions in these three brotherhoods limited the amount of insurance paid, and laid the foundation for issuing insurance certificates in fixed sums. In the second period, from 1883 to 1890, the number of assessments remained undetermined; but the amount of the benefit was limited to a fixed sum and all surpluses were placed in reserve. The Conductors and the Firemen took the initiative in this change and in the constitution of 1881 fixed the maximum amount for death or disability at $2000 and $1000, respectively; the Engineers, in the constitution of 1884, placed this maximum at $3000.

[Footnote 65: Constitution of the Locomotive Engineers, 1869, in Journal, Vol. 4, p. 31; Proceedings of the Railway Conductors, 1868-1885 (Cedar Rapids, 1888), p. 119; Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, Vol. 21, p. 181.]

[Footnote 66: Proceedings of the Eighteenth Convention, 1885 (Cedar Rapids, 1888), p. 754; The Railway Conductor, Vol. 4, p. 188.]

The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, the Order of Railroad Telegraphers, the Switchmen’s Union, and the Maintenance-of-Way Employees did not pass through the first period of development, but were organized during the second stage when the amount of insurance was limited. The Trainmen, the Telegraphers, and the Switchmen, in their first constitutions of 1883, 1887 and 1886, respectively, and the Trackmen (Maintenance-of-Way Employees) in 1892 fixed the amount paid at the definite sums of $300, $1000, $500 and $1000, respectively.[67] The Letter Carriers, although organized after the railway unions had fixed at a definite sum the amount of insurance to be paid, for several years paid only a sum equivalent to one assessment, at the regular rates, upon all the certificates in force at the time of the death of the insured.[68] The amounts paid on the second death, March 22, 1892, and on the third death, July 28, 1893, were $599.16 and $596.12, respectively.[69] Finally, in the third period, from 1890 to the present, the number of assessments was also fixed.

[Footnote 67: Constitutions for the several years. Reference is made to the Trackmen’s Constitution, 1893 (n.p. n.d.); Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention, 1893, in Advance Advocate, Vol. 2.]

[Footnote 68: The Postal Record, Vol. 5, p. 185.]

[Footnote 69: _Ibid_., Vol. 5, p. 138.]

Another important change in the method of conducting these insurance systems was made in the decade from 1890 to 1900. The organizations with two exceptions have not adopted the policy of the insurance companies in varying the charge with the age of the insured. The device they have commonly used is the differentiation in the amount of insurance which may be taken in such a way that the older members may insure themselves only for a smaller amount. As early as 1886 the Firemen provided that only members under forty-five years of age might take insurance,[70] and in 1887 the Telegraphers adopted an age limit of fifty years.[71] The Conductors, under the constitution of 1890, provided that any member between the ages of fifteen and fifty might take $2500 of insurance against death or disability, and any member between the ages of fifty and sixty might take $1000 against death and $500 against disability.[72] In 1892 the Engineers introduced an age limit of fifty, and in 1894 further differentiated applicants so that those under forty years of age might secure $4500, those under forty-five years of age might obtain $3000, and all over forty-five and under fifty years of age, $1500.[73] Even now the Switchmen and the Trainmen offer equal amounts to members of all ages at the same rate.

[Footnote 70: Constitution, 1886 (Terre Haute, n.d.), sec. 71.]

[Footnote 71: Constitution, 1887, Arts. 12-13, in the Railroad Telegrapher, Vol. 2.]

[Footnote 72: Constitution, 1888, second edition (Rochester, 1890), p. 38.]

[Footnote 73: Constitution, 1894 (Peoria, 1895).]

The Maintenance-of-Way Employees and the Letter Carriers not only limit the age of the insured but also grade the charge per $1000 according to age. In the case of the former, members from eighteen to thirty-five years of age pay $1 monthly per $1000 of insurance; those from thirty-five to forty, $1.25; from forty to fifty, $1.50. Insurance rates in the Letter Carriers’ Mutual Benefit Department have, with the exception of the first year of operation, been graded according to age. The minimum and maximum age limits are twenty-one and fifty-five years. The monthly rates vary according to age from 77 cents per $1000 of insurance at twenty-one years to $2.06 at fifty years.

The following table shows the regulations as to the amount and rate of insurance issued according to ages:

Amount of Insurance Organization. Age Classes. Issued.

Engineers …………. Under 40 years. $4500 40 and under 45. 3000
45 and under 50. 1500

Conductors ………… Under 35 years. 3000 35 and under 45. 2000
45 to 50. 1000

Firemen …………… Under 45 years. 3000 45 and over. 1500

Trainmen ………….. No age restriction. 1350

Telegraphers ………. 18 and under 45. 1000 45 and under 50. 500
50 and under 60. 300

Switchmen …………. No age restriction. 1200

Employees ……….. 18 and under 45 at graded rates. 1000

Letter Carriers ……. 21 to 55 at graded rates. 1000 to 3000

The necessity for a reduction in the amount of insurance issued to the older men was more urgent among the Engineers and the Conductors than among the other railway organizations, since the latter form the school of apprenticeship from which the engineers and the conductors are drawn. In the Trainmen’s and the Switchmen’s organizations the young men contribute materially to the cost of insuring the old men. This charge is not so heavy as might appear at first sight, since in both organizations many members withdraw when they are promoted to higher positions in the service. In grading the amount of insurance offered according to age, the brotherhoods have made a compromise between an assessment on each individual according to the liability incurred, and a system in which the welfare of the individual is regarded as entirely at one with the welfare of the membership. The principle of solidarity is still recognized, but under limitations.

Originally these unions collected assessments to meet death or disability claims after the occurrence of the death or disability. Considerable delay was thus entailed in the final settlement. All of them, with the exception of the Engineers, now hold reserve funds for the payment of claims. The Conductors took the initiative by providing in the constitution of 1881 that the grand secretary-treasurer, on paying a claim, should levy the regular assessment upon each member to be held in reserve to pay the next claim.[74] This was followed in 1885 by a regulation of the Trainmen which required all members to pay in advance one death assessment. This was repealed by the convention of 1886; but the convention of 1888 re-enacted the law. The Firemen provided in 1888[75] that the subordinate lodges should collect all dues quarterly in advance.

[Footnote 74: Constitution, 1903 (Pittsburg, 1903), pp. 80, 86.]

[Footnote 75: Constitution, 1888 (Terre Haute, 1888), secs. 50, 52, 53.]

In determining the amount of insurance offered, the organizations have had necessarily to consider what their members can afford to pay. Only a certain per cent. of earnings can be set aside for insurance purposes, and that amount has been determined only by the long experience of the organizations. Again, the insurance must be in an amount which accords with the idea of the workmen of what constitutes a satisfactory provision against death or disability. The amount offered must for this reason be comparable with that offered by insurance companies.

The following table shows the minimum and the maximum amounts paid by the several brotherhoods:

Minimum Maximum
Brotherhoods. Amount. Amount.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers … $1500 $4500 Order of Railway Conductors ……….. 1000 3000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen ….. 1500 3000 Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen …… 500 1350 Order of Railroad Telegraphers …….. 300 1000 Switchmen’s Union ………………… 600 1200 Maintenance-of-Way Employees ………. 500 1000 Letter Carriers’ Association[76] …… 1000 3000

[Footnote 76: Under a unique system, known as the “Post Mortem Deduction” scheme, the actual value of a certificate of the Letter Carriers’ Association at date of issue is fifteen per cent. less than its face value plus the amount of one assessment, and the value of the certificate does not become equal to its face value until the member has paid assessments equal to fifteen per cent. of the face amount (Constitution, 1904, pp. 67-68).]

Originally, except in the case of the Letter Carriers, the maximum amounts paid were much lower than at present. As the membership increased, a greater benefit was paid. In 1887 the Conductors’ maximum insurance was $2500, and in 1888 the Firemen’s, the Trainmen’s, and the Switchmen’s was raised to $1500, $1000 and $800, respectively. Each of the railway organizations has since raised the maximum; the Engineers to $4500 in 1892; the Conductors to $5000 in 1893, reduced since 1899 to $3000; the Firemen to $3000 in 1903; the Trainmen to $1350 in 1903; and the Switchmen to $1200 in 1901. While the Engineers, the Conductors, and the Firemen offer insurance in relatively large amounts, only a small per cent. of the membership take out certificates for the larger sums. On June 30, 1904, of the 54,434 Firemen, 43,228 carried $1500 certificates, while only 717 carried $2000 certificates, and 824, $3000 certificates.[77] On November 1, 1904, of the 41,124 Engineers, 24,187 carried $1500, and 10,337 and 1602 carried $3000 and $4500, respectively.[78] In each of these organizations the $1500 certificates are thus in greatest demand. The rule restricting the amount that members over forty-five years of age may take lessens the number of policies for larger sums, but it is evident that the great majority of members in these unions do not care to insure for more than $1500. The Letter Carriers are an exception to this rule. The report of the Chief Collector for December 1, 1905, shows that out of 5284 insurance certificates in force there were 473 $1000 certificates, 386 $1500 certificates, 541 $2000 certificates, and 3884 $3000 certificates.[79]

[Footnote 77: Report of W.S. Carter, Grand Secretary-Treasurer, June 30,1904.]

[Footnote 78: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 38, p. 966.]

[Footnote 79: Postal Record, Vol. 19, p. 10.]

The advantage of insurance as a means of securing identity of interest within the organization was not fully recognized in the early development of the insurance systems, consequently entrance into the insurance departments of these organizations was originally optional. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen first adopted compulsory insurance at the fourth annual convention, 1878.[80] The Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen next adopted a similar feature in 1888. Although the Engineers and the Conductors did not enforce compulsory insurance until 1890 and 1891, respectively, during the twenty years preceding its adoption frequent proposals were made by subordinate divisions of both these organizations for the adoption of such an arrangement. On different occasions the national conventions considered the wisdom of such proposals, weighing in turn the advisability of such a measure and the ability of the organization to enforce it. The thorough discussion of the subject among the Engineers and the Conductors undoubtedly prepared the younger organizations for the settlement of this question at an earlier stage in their development. The Trainmen adopted compulsory insurance in 1888, while the two older organizations were in the midst of the struggle.

[Footnote 80: Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, Vol. 21, p. 181.]

The Switchmen adopted it in 1892, and, after reorganization, again on October 1, 1901, and the Telegraphers on January 1, 1898. The Letter Carriers alone retain the system of optional insurance.

Only in the Switchmen’s Union and in the Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees has the operation of the compulsory system met with interruption. The compulsory rule of the Maintenance-of-Way Employees during the early nineties was frequently repealed and readopted. The opposition to it was due in a large measure to uncertainty as to the number of yearly assessments necessary and also to the fact that many of the members carried insurance in old-line companies.[81] The Switchmen’s insurance department suffered a suspension from 1894 to 1897, and although the Union had compulsory insurance before its suspension, on reorganization a voluntary system was adopted, and not until October 1, 1901, did the Union succeed in reestablishing a compulsory system.

[Footnote 81: Advance Advocate, Vol. 5, p. 485.]

In all the organizations there is a class of members, called non-beneficiary, who are not eligible to the insurance departments because of partial disability or because of having passed the age limit. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen provides that the non-beneficiary member shall be entitled to all the privileges of the subordinate lodge, but shall not take part in the national convention or in any way participate in the benefits and privileges of the beneficiary department.[82] Similar rules are found in the other brotherhoods. The Trainmen and the Switchmen issue to non-beneficiary members insurance certificates only against death in the sums of $500 and $600, respectively.

[Footnote 82: Constitution, amended 1902 (Peoria, n.d.), sec. 163.]

The efficiency of compulsory insurance rules in securing and retaining members in the brotherhoods is generally acknowledged among the railway employees. After the member has carried insurance for several years, his financial interests are bound up with the interests of the organization, and his loyalty to the union is increased. From this loyalty flows greater interest in every phase of the brotherhood’s work. The operation of compulsory insurance appears to have caused an increase in the membership of the brotherhoods. On January 1, 1890, the date on which compulsory insurance became operative, the membership of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers numbered 7408; on January 1, 1897, it had increased to 18,739; and in May, 1904, to 46,400.[83] On January 1, 1891, the date on which compulsory insurance was inaugurated, the membership of the Order of Railway Conductors numbered 3933; on January 1, 1898, it had increased to 15,807, and again on January 1, 1904, to 31,288. It is noteworthy that during the depression, 1893-1897, those organizations having systems of voluntary insurance suffered far more severely than those enforcing compulsory insurance. Thus, the Telegraphers were almost annihilated, while the Firemen and the Conductors practically maintained their position.

[Footnote 83: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 37, p. 446; Vol. 18, p. 654.]

The cost of insurance per $1000 varies greatly in the different organizations, as may be seen by the following table:[84]

Cost of Insurance per Organizations. Fiscal Year Ending. $1000 a Year. Engineers ……….. December 31, 1903 $17.80 Conductors ………. December 31, 1903 16.00 Firemen …………. June 30, 1904 12.00 Trainmen ………… December 31, 1903 18.00 Telegraphers …….. December 31, 1903 7.20 Switchmen ……….. December 31, 1903 20.00 Maintenance-of-Way 12.00\ Employees ……… December 31, 1903 15.00 | according 18.00/ to age
Letter Carriers…… December 31, 1906 9.24\ according 21.96/ to age

[Footnote 84: These amounts have been furnished by the grand secretary-treasurers of the several organizations, except those of the Telegraphers and the Maintenance-of-Way Employees, which have been taken from the 1903 constitutions and represent the amount of the regular monthly assessment.]

The differences in the cost of insurance are the result of several factors. The slight degree of risk in the occupation is largely responsible for the relative cheapness of the Telegraphers’ and the Letter Carriers’ insurance. More important differences are due to the age grouping of the membership. Thus the Firemen, whom old-line companies, for the most part, classify as extra-hazardous, furnish insurance against death and disability at $12 per $1000. The principal reason for this low rate is the rapid change in membership, the old men withdrawing and being replaced by young men. Near the close of the nineties the cry of “Something must be done to keep the old members in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen” was raised; but it was clearly shown that “the greatest favor a member of the Brotherhood could show the insurance department was to pay his assessment for ten years and then withdraw, permitting a man ten years his junior to take his place.” The grand secretary-treasurer states that the membership practically changes every seven years, due to promotions to the position of engineer and to withdrawals of older men for various reasons. The withdrawal of old men conduces to a more favorable age grouping, to a decrease in the death rate, and to a consequent decrease in the cost of insurance. The Switchmen’s Union presents an interesting contrast. The Union prescribes no age limit, and higher positions in the service are not so frequently open to the advancement of its members. The result is that the number of older members is relatively greater, and insurance is maintained at a considerably higher cost.

The cheapness of the insurance offered by these organizations is better appreciated when compared with that offered by old-line companies. The following table shows the cost of insurance per $1000 in a typical life insurance company for different classes of railway employees and letter carriers at thirty-five years of age:

Class of Employees. Rate per $1000.[85]

Engineers ……………………………… $27.23 Conductors …………………………….. 22.23 Firemen ……………………………….. 27.23 Trainmen ………………………………. 27.23 Telegraphers …………………………… 22.23 Switchmen ……………………………… 27.23 Maintenance-of-Way Employees …………….. 27.23 Letter Carriers ………………………… 27.30

[Footnote 85: The letter carriers’ rate is that of the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, the rates of the other classes of employees are those of the Aetna Life Insurance Company.]

Assuming that the average age at admission of the members of unions is thirty-five, the cost of insurance in the regular companies is far higher than the cost for an equal amount in the unions. The conductors pay their union twenty-five per cent. less than they would have to pay to an insurance company and the locomotive firemen pay considerably less than one half of company rates. These rates, moreover, are for insurance against death only, while the insurance offered by the brotherhoods also provides against total disability.

The compulsory insurance has not been in operation long enough in any of the organizations for its full effect to be seen. It is certain that as the unions grow older they must materially raise the rates at which they issue insurance. The rapid growth in membership has brought into all the unions in this class in recent years a proportionately large number of young men. The limitation on the age of the insured has contributed to this result. As these members grow older, the death rate will increase. As has been noted above, however, it has not been primarily the cheapness of the insurance but the combination of death and disability insurance which has been the advantage possessed by the union systems.

The primary purpose of the insurance features of these organizations is to obtain for the members and their families a higher degree of economic security. The two great economic contingencies against which the railway organizations provide insurance are, first, the loss to a family in consequence of the death of the income-earning member, and second, the economic hardship involved in shifting from one industry to another made necessary by certain severe physical accidents. Insurance paid to the totally disabled employee, or to the family of a deceased member, is frequently the means of maintaining the standard of living of the unfortunate family. The risks to which the railway employee is exposed are due to the nature of the trade, the negligence of a fellow workman, or the negligence of the employers. Compensation for only the last class is given by the law. Against the other two kinds of accident the railway employee must himself make provision, and this provision is amplest and surest when made by insurance. The organizations, as we have seen, have never entirely subordinated the idea of benevolence to the principles of business. In the early years of its history, each grand convention set aside large sums for charitable payments. Before the adoption and satisfactory operation of the Engineers’ insurance system, it is estimated that eight tenths of the husbands and fathers of those who applied for charity were uninsured.[86] Purely charitable relief was found inadequate and the present systems represent a compromise between charity and business.

[Footnote 86: Locomotive Engineers’ Journal, Vol. 22, p. 33.]

The insurance features have further been the means of securing and retaining members and thus building up these trade organizations as factors in collective bargaining. The power of the brotherhoods to secure satisfactory agreements with their employers is largely measured by the strength of the organizations, and that strength is usually in direct proportion to the development of their insurance systems. Thus not only is insurance a prime support in the collective bargaining of the unions, but it insures control in the exercise of that function. The infrequency of railroad strikes may be attributed largely to the almost perfect control of the head officials of the brotherhoods over their membership.



The most needed trade-union benefits are those against death and these were the first to be established. At the present time about one half of American national trade unions maintain death benefit systems. In 1904, out of a total of one hundred and seventeen national unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, fifty-three were paying death benefits.[87] Of those unions not affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, ten were also paying such benefits.

[Footnote 87: Proceedings of the Twenty-fourth Annual Convention of the American Federation of Labor, 1904, p. 46.]

The development of death benefits in American trade unions resembles closely the growth of the insurance systems described in the preceding chapter. The first unions to adopt death benefits, for example, paid for a time a sum fluctuating in amount. The benefit was in each case the sum raised by per capita assessments, and the yield varied according to the membership. Thus, the Iron Molders paid a fluctuating benefit from 1870 to 1879.[88] Upon the death of a member, an assessment of forty cents and later of forty-five per capita was levied. At Detroit in 1873 the Cigar Makers inaugurated an endowment plan which provided for the payment of a death benefit, the amount of which was to be the sum raised by an assessment of ten cents on each member. Similarly, the Glass Bottle Blowers, introducing the benefit as late as 1891, made provision for paying the amount secured by an assessment of twenty-five cents per capita.[89]

[Footnote 88: Iron Molders’ Journal, Vol. 25, June, 1889; Constitution, 1878 (Cincinnati, 1878), Art. 17.]

[Footnote 89: Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention, Milwaukee, 1901; Report of Secretary Launer (Milwaukee, 1901).]

When the fluctuating benefits were inaugurated the unions were without experience in the exercise of beneficiary functions. They could not calculate with any exactness the amount of the assessment necessary to provide benefits in fixed sum. They preferred, therefore, not to guarantee the payment of any amount. The character of the first death benefit in the Granite Cutters’ Union illustrates the reluctance of the Union in assuming the responsibility of guaranteeing fixed benefits. In 1877 they adopted a benefit of fifty dollars, but also provided for an additional voluntary benefit to be raised by an assessment of fifty cents. After a few years the entire system was replaced by provision for the payment of a fixed funeral benefit.

The fluctuating benefit was very unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the insured member could not be certain as to what amount he would receive, and this uncertainty was aggravated by the voluntary character of the association. Even where participation was compulsory the fluctuations in the number of members were much greater than at present.

As soon as the unions became sufficiently strong, financially and numerically, and had acquired experience in the management of the benefit, they, with few exceptions, guaranteed to their members a benefit of fixed amount. A fixed payment of one hundred dollars was guaranteed by the Iron Molders in 1879 on the death of a member, and in 1882 the voluntary organization known as the Beneficial Association, which had maintained the system of special assessments, was disbanded.[90] The advantage of paying a benefit of fixed amount, as demonstrated by the experience of Local Union No. 87 of Brooklyn, led to the adoption of this system by the Cigar Makers’ International Union, in September, 1880.[91]

[Footnote 90: Constitution, 1878 (Cincinnati, 1878); Iron Molders’ Journal, Vol. 26, May, 1890, p. 2.]

[Footnote 91: Constitution, 1880 (New York, 1880), Art. 13.]

The majority of American trade unions have inaugurated their death benefits since 1880,[92] and hence have escaped the experimental period of benefits based upon the fluctuating principle. Learning from the experience of the older unions, they have in most cases paid from the beginning death benefits of fixed amount. The benefit is a definite sum in all the unions except the Watch Case Engravers’ Association and the Saw Smiths’ Union, which in their constitutions of 1901 and 1902 respectively provide for the payment of a benefit upon a fluctuating basis.[93] This must be attributed to the fact that the unions are not sufficiently strong to guarantee the payment of a definite amount.

[Footnote 92: See page 12.]

[Footnote 93: Constitution of the Watch Case Engravers’ International Association of America, 1901 (New York, n.d.), p. 21; Constitution of the Saw Smiths’ Union of North America, 1902 (Indianapolis, n.d.), p. 8.]

Under the fluctuating system the sum paid was often larger than the amount at which the benefit was later fixed. When, in 1880, the Cigar Makers adopted a death benefit of twenty-five dollars, their membership had increased to 4400, making possible, by a per capita assessment of ten cents, the payment of four hundred and forty-four dollars upon the death of each member. The assessment of twenty-five cents levied by the Glass Bottle Blowers for each death benefit upon a membership of 2423 in 1891 yielded a greater sum than the definite amount adopted one year later. The amount paid under the fluctuating system in the Iron Molders was also larger than the fixed amount later guaranteed by the International Union.

In another respect the early death benefits and insurance systems were alike. Participation in the more important and successful death systems was voluntary. Membership in the Iron Molders’ Beneficial Association, created to pay death benefits, was, for example, entirely optional.[94] The first constitution of the Granite Cutters provided for an additional voluntary benefit.[95] In both of the above named unions the voluntary idea was short-lived. In January, 1879, the Iron Molders provided for the payment of a death benefit for all members of the craft.[96] By 1884 the Granite Cutters had abolished the voluntary death benefit and paid it to all members.[97]

[Footnote 94: Iron Molders’ Journal, March, 1871.]

[Footnote 95: Constitution, 1877 (Rockland, 1877), Arts. 1-2.]

[Footnote 96: Iron Molders’ Journal, Vol. 26, May, 1890, p. 2.]

[Footnote 97: Constitution, 1884 (Quincy, n.d.), p. 11 ff.]

Thus, both the death benefit and the insurance systems in American trade unions had their origin in the movement for mutual insurance which was so widespread in the United States immediately after the Civil War. Only in the railway brotherhoods did the plan result in any considerable increase in membership. In the other unions the insurance systems were replaced by the establishment of benefits, and these were usually smaller in amount than the insurance systems had contemplated.[98]

[Footnote 98: The death benefits established by the Cigar Makers and Iron Molders in 1870 and 1879 were for $40 and $100. The ordinary death benefit in American trade unions is still a sum assumed to be sufficient to inter decently the deceased.]

The tendency in those unions which have longest maintained the death benefit has been to increase the amount of the benefit and to grade the amount according to the length of membership. The policy of the unions in these respects has, however, varied considerably. In some cases there has been an increase in the minimum amount paid, together with provision for the payment of larger sums to members who have been longer in good standing. In other unions, such as the Iron Molders and the Pattern Makers, the regular benefit remains as originally established, but a larger sum is paid to older members. Only a few of the older organizations retain the uniform benefit. The most notable of these are the Typographical Union, the Glass Bottle Blowers, and the Hatters.

The grading of the death benefit serves two purposes. In the first place, the funds are protected. If the benefit were uniform and large, persons in bad health would be tempted to join the union in order to secure protection for their families. The grading of the benefit is accordingly a crude but fairly effective device against a danger which presents itself as soon as the amount becomes large enough to be attractive to “bad risks.” A more important reason, perhaps, for the grading of the benefit is the desire to make it a more effective agency in attracting and holding members. If continuous membership carries with it constantly increasing insurance, the lapses in membership lessen.

The maximum death benefits paid by the Cigar Makers and the Glass Bottle Blowers are $550 and $500, respectively. The Iron Molders pay a maximum benefit of $200; the Carpenters of $200; the Pattern Makers of $400; the Germania Typographia of $200. In all these cases except that of the Glass Bottle Blowers the benefit is graded according to the period of membership. The maximum benefit is paid in the Cigar Makers and in the Pattern Makers to members of fifteen years’ standing.

Only a few unions have decreased the amount of the benefit from that first established. Among these are the Brotherhood of Carpenters, the Brotherhood of Leather Workers on Horse Goods, the Tailors’ Union, and the Metal Polishers’ Union. In the case of the Carpenters the death benefit which was originally established at $250 in 1882 was $100 in 1905. Changes of this kind have naturally followed the too liberal policy of inexperienced unions.

The following table, giving the amount of the death benefit as originally established and as paid at present in certain of the more important unions which have adopted the graded death benefit, illustrates the variety of forms which the systems take:

========================================================================== | | Date of | |
|Date of |Introducing|Amount of Death |Amount of Death Name of | Organi-| Death | Benefit Paid |Benefit Paid in Union | zation | Benefits | Originally | 1905. ————————————————————————– Boot and | 1895 | 1898 | $50 for six months’ |$50 for six months’ Shoe | | | membership. | membership. Workers | | | $100 for two years’ |$100 for two years’ | | | membership. | membership. | | | |
Carpenters,| 1881 | 1882 | $250 for six months’|$100 for six Brotherhood| | | membership. |months’ membership. of | | | |$200 for one year’s | | | |membership. | | | |
Cigar | 1864 | 1867 | Yield of a 10 |$50 for two years’ Makers | | | cent per capita | membership. | | | assessment. |$200 for five | | | | years’ membership. | | | |$350 for ten years’ | | | | membership. | | | |$550 for fifteen | | | |years’ membership. | | | |
Granite | 1877 | 1877 | $50……….. |$50. Cutters | | | |$75 for six months’ | | | | membership. | | | |$100 for one year’s | | | | membership. | | | |$150 for five | | | | years’ membership. | | | |$200 for ten years’ | | | | membership. | | | |
Iron | 1859 | 1870 | Yield of a 40 |$100 for one year’s Molders | | | cent per capita | membership. | | | assessment. $150 for five | | | | years’ membership. | | | |$175 for ten years’ | | | | membership. | | | |$200 for fifteen | | | |years’ membership. | | | |
Leather | 1896 | 1896 | $40 for one | Workers | | | year’s |
on Horse | | | membership. | | | | $60 for two |$40 for one | | | years’ |year’s | | | membership. |membership. | | | $100 for four |$75 for three | | | years’ |years’ | | | membership. |membership. | | | $200 for five |$100 for four | | | years’ | years’ | | | membership. |membership. | | | $300 for eight |
| | | years’ |
| | | membership. | | | | |
Metal | 1890 | 1890 | $100 for six |$50 for one year’s Polishers | | | months’ | membership. | | | membership. |$100 for two years’ | | | | membership. | | | |
Machinists | 1890 | 1890 | $50 for six |$50 for six months’ | | | months’ | membership. | | | membership. |$75 for one year’s | | | | membership. | | | |$100 for two years’ | | | | membership. | | | |$150 for three | | | |years’ membership. | | | |$200 for four | | | |years’ membership. | | | |
Painters | 1887 | 1887 | $100…………… |$50 for one year’s | | | | membership | | | |$100 for two years’ | | | | membership | | | |$150 for three | | | | years’ membership | | | |$200 for four years’ | | | | membership | | | |
Pattern | 1887 | 1898 | $50 |$50 for one year’s Makers | | | | membership | | | |$75 for two years’ | | | | membership | | | |$100 for three | | | | years’ membership | | | |$150 for five | | | | years’ membership | | | |$200 for seven | | | | years’ membership | | | |$250 for nine | | | | years’ membership | | | |$300 for eleven | | | | years’ membership | | | |$350 for thirteen | | | | years’ membership | | | |$400 for fifteen | | | | years’ membership | | | |
Piano and | 1898 | 1898 | $50 for six |$50 for one year’s Organ | | | months’ | membership Workers | | | membership |$100 for five | | | | years’ membership | | | |$200 for ten years’ | | | | membership | | | |
Tailors | 1884 | 1890 |$75 for three months’|$25 for six months’ | | | membership | membership | | |$100 for one years’ |$40 for one year’s | | | membership | membership | | | |$50 for two years’ | | | | membership | | | |$75 for three years’ | | | | membership | | | |$100 for four years’ | | | | membership —————————————————————————

A few of the unions require only that the deceased member shall have been in good standing. These unions ordinarily pay a small benefit, although the Glass Bottle Blowers pay five hundred dollars without requiring a preliminary period of membership. The term of necessary membership varies from thirty days in the case of the Barbers to two years in the Cigar Makers. The usual requirement is that the member shall have been in good standing for six months.

A few of the unions restrict the benefit to members under a certain age at the time of admission. Where such an age limit is imposed it is ordinarily fifty years, but in a few unions it is sixty years.

The following table shows the conditions imposed upon the payment of the death benefit in the more important unions: