Posts Tagged ‘Eugene Trefethen Jr’

Kaiser’s first labor attorney in the thick of union battles

posted on January 23, 2014

By Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Second in a series

In 1941, before the United States entered World War II, Henry J. Kaiser was already building cargo ships for the British war effort. Early on, labor jurisdiction issues loomed large, and Kaiser’s labor man Harry F. Morton had his hands full.

Before the shipyards opened, Kaiser representatives signed a closed-shop agreement with American Federation of Labor-affiliated unions and hired a handful of workers; when the yards began full operation, the thousands of new workers were required to join the AFL.

Because many of them were already members of Congress of Industrial Organizations-affiliated unions, they were subsequently discharged. The CIO filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board.

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Aerial photo, Todd-California Shipyard in Richmond, CA (later Permanente Metals shipyard #1), circa 1941

In a letter dated Dec. 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor, Morton reported to Kaiser’s shipyard managers, Edgar Kaiser in Portland and Clay Bedford in Richmond, on this issue.

The “industry” side proposed a formal proportional allocation among the unions for journeyman jobs for welders, but this did not sit well with the nine AFL unions whose members included welders.

Eventually a compromise was reached in which welders in the shipyards would not be required to maintain membership in more than one union and that employment would not require purchase of a permit fee.[i]

Morton aligns with the AFL in closed shop fight

When the jurisdiction wars erupted again in 1943, Morton fought alongside the shipyard craft unions and received a landmark favorable ruling.

The U.S. government had charged that the Kaiser shipyards in Portland had acted unfairly in favoring the American Federation of Labor over the emerging, competitive, and radical CIO.

This time Congress’ help was called upon and passed what is known as the “Frey amendment” (named for head of the AFL Metal Trades Department, John P. Frey). The CIO lost on a technicality.

This ruling was crucial because it meant Henry J. Kaiser could run a closed shop in his shipyards, and production of ships for the war would not be jeopardized by struggles over workforce representation.

Morton read his victory telegram at a Metal Trades conference and declared: “And thus endeth another chapter in the history of the attempt of the National Labor Relations Board to break the union shop.”[ii]

Labor man tapped for aircraft plant

Corsairs in production line at Brewster Aviation.

Corsairs in production line at Brewster Aeronautical, circa 1943.

In late 1943 Morton moved back East as vice president of Industrial Relations for the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation. Brewster was manufacturing F3A-1 Corsair[iii] fighters, but had been ineptly run.

As a favor to the Navy Secretary, Kaiser agreed to try and turn the company around. Despite cost-cutting and improved output, Kaiser was delighted to turn the plant back over to Navy officials in May 1944.

While at Brewster, Morton continued to advise Kaiser on labor.  After reviewing a report by Industrial Relations Counselors[iv] on the then-new steel mill in Fontana, Calif., Morton sent a telegram to Kaiser executive Eugene Trefethen Jr.:

“I did not advocate a closed shop provision for the Fontana contract, but I did object to IRC’s recommendation that “. . . the company resist any demands of the union for a closed shop or union shop contract.”

“This is so foreign to all of Mr. Kaiser’s fundamental beliefs and public utterances that I could not let it go unchallenged . . . I violently disagree with the fundamental approach of IRC to labor problems.

“It is the approach of AT&T, Bethlehem, DuPont, G.E., General Motors, Standard [Oil] of New Jersey, U.S. Rubber and U.S. Steel, but not of Kaiser.

“It is my conviction that a large part of Brewster’s trouble is the result of IRC thinking and approach, and I am confident that what is needed is less IRC and more Kaiser thinking and approach in labor relations.[v]

Morton active after war ends

In early 1945, Morton briefed Kaiser on a meeting he’d had with Charles MacGowan, president of the Boilermakers union, a group that was influential (and controversial) in Kaiser’s wartime shipyards.

The subject was the merger of the American Federal of Labor with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. MacGowan opposed the merger. Morton advised Kaiser:

“I pass these suggestions on to you for what they may be worth. Personally, I don’t believe they are worth much, as [Philip] Murray and [William] Green had agreed to this once before and the agreement was later repudiated.[vi]

Green (AF of L) and Murray (CIO) both died in 1952; it would not be until 1955 that the two labor organizations would merge under the leadership of George Meany. The AFL-CIO Murray-Green award received by Henry J. Kaiser in 1965 was named for them.

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Carl Brown (left), president of the Independent Foremen’s Association of America, confers with Harry F. Morton while representing Kaiser-Frazer. UPI newspaper photo, 2/19/1949.

The last known records of Morton’s career reflect his negotiation with employees at the Kaiser-Frazer automobile plant. One of the provisions of the recently enacted landmark Taft-Hartley Act removed any legal obligation to bargain with foremen; Morton felt that they should keep faith with the foremen, and the Ford Motor Company managers felt they should not.

Harry F. Morton’s full story remains to be told. We lose sight of him in our research after the early 1950s. However, he now is recognized as a significant factor in shaping the climate of positive labor relations that characterizes Henry J. Kaiser’s legacy.

<http://www.ircounselors.org/about.html>

Short link to this story: http://bit.ly/19R0OiK


[i] Harry F. Morton correspondence to Edgar F. Kaiser and Clay Bedford, December 6, 1941; BANC MSS 83/42C, ctn 9, folder 12.

[ii] Speech by Harry F. Morton, in Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO, September 27, 1943.

[iii] The Brewster F3A was an F4U “Corsair” built by Brewster for the U.S Navy; Chance-Vought created and built the Corsair, which also was built under contract by Goodyear.

[iv] In the wake of the horrific Ludlow Massacre in the Colorado minefields of 1917, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., created a labor-management think tank that today is known as Industrial Relations Counselors, Inc. <http://www.ircounselors.org/about.html>

[v] Telegram from Harry F. Morton to Eugene Trefethen Jr., about IRC report on Fontana, October 1, 1943; BANC MSS 83/42C, ctn 19, folder 25.

[vi] Interoffice memo, Fleetwings Division of Kaiser Cargo [aviation manufacturing, Bristol, PA], from Harry F. Morton to Henry J. Kaiser in New York, January 22, 1945; BANC MSS 83/42C, ctn 151, folder 12.

 

 

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Kaiser Permanente and UC enjoy common ground over decades

posted on October 3, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Kaiser Permanente Marching Song

Jack Chapman, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region’s director of education, adapted UC’s “Big C” fight song in 1972 to apply to the Health Plan.

Kaiser Permanente and the University of California are two major California-based institutions that share a long history of partnership. The collaboration started right after World War II with UC securing Health Plan coverage for its employees beginning in 1945, the year the plan opened to the public.

From the beginning, Permanente physicians joined UC for many medical research projects, and over the decades many have taken on professorships at UC campuses in Northern and Southern California. By all accounts, the partnership has been a fruitful one.

Professor touts KP care

A 1949 feature story in the Kaiser Permanente member newsletter Planning for Health pointed out that the University of California was the Health Plan’s fourth largest group, starting in 1945 with 59 members and reaching 1,961 members by 1949.[i]

The article included an interview with electrical engineering professor Charles F. Dalziel and his wife, who were early members of the university plan.

“During much of the period the family have been members of the group, Mrs. Dalziel has had many opportunities to evaluate the Plan in action. Like so many otherwise healthy children, their charming daughter, Isabelle, aged 8, is allergic.

“Mrs. Dalziel is enthusiastic in her comments on the results Permanente doctors have achieved in determining the child’s allergies and combating them,” the interviewer wrote.

Permanente educator adapts UC fight song

In 1972, Kaiser Permanente’s Jack Chapman wrote the “Kaiser-Permanente Marching Song,” an authorized adaptation of the UC Berkeley athletic fight song “The Big C.” Chapman was the first Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek hospital administrator and later the Northern California regional director of training and management development.

Chapman’s first two lines:

“We are Kaiser-Permanente, finest plan in all the land
K-P stands for qual-i-ty and doing all we can.”

UC graduates lead Health Plan

"University of California is our Fourth Largest," Planning for Health, 1949-04Notable UC alumni include Eugene Trefethen, Jr., longtime Kaiser Industries president, James Vohs, longtime Health Plan president, Henry J. Kaiser’s son, Edgar F. Kaiser, and many others.

Edgar spent 3½ years at UC Berkeley majoring in economics. But in 1930, one semester short of graduation, he quit college and headed for Texas where he had been offered a chance to work as a pipeline construction superintendent.

His father gave him his blessing. “I talked it over with my father,” he once recalled, “and we agreed that I had learned about as much as I could in college, and that two months more of class work would not matter.”[ii]

Physicians join university faculty

Many Permanente physicians have associated with UC to teach and conduct research on various campuses. Morris Collen, MD, taught a public health course at UC Berkeley. Mark Binstock, MD, MPH, a Kaiser Permanente physician at Woodland Hills, was an assistant clinical professor at the UC Los Angeles School of Medicine in the 1990s. Monte Gregg Steadman, MD, was a lecturer at UC San Francisco.

UC Berkeley’s venerable Bancroft Library houses the Henry J. Kaiser Papers collection, a massive trove of Kaiser’s personal and business correspondence, memoranda, speeches, and papers. Kaiser’s documents from his Oakland, New York, and Hawaii businesses, principally from the period after World War II, are archived at the Bancroft.

The collection includes material on the Kaiser Industries corporation, the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, the Kaiser Shipyards at Richmond, Calif., and other Kaiser industries.

UC’s Bancroft archives Health Plan pioneers’ interviews

UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office staff has interviewed dozens of Kaiser Permanente pioneer physicians, administrators, and board members to document their roles in the development of this innovative health maintenance organization.

The initial interviews were conducted between 1984 and 1999 as the series: “History of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program—Founding Generation.” A second series of interviews started in 2005 to look at Kaiser Permanente and the transformation of health care in the U.S. from 1970 to present.

 

Short link to this article: http://ow.ly/pvoLk



[i] “University of California Is our Fourth Largest,” Planning for Health, April 1949[ii] Obituary, New York Times, December 13, 1981

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