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Joseph P. Cahill,


before the Select Committee
on Existing Labor Troubles in Pennsylvania,
U.S. House of Representatives


Excerpts from a Digitized Text  at Google Books.

Joseph P. Cahill was a thirty-one years old and had worked for the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad Company (in Philadelphia) for ten years). About six months prior to his testimony, he was elected to the executive board of the Reading Railroad employees belonging to the Knights of Labor. (The KOL was a prominent labor organization in the 1880s, representing almost all the Reading Railroad workers.) Members of the Select Committee asked him to describe the employees' most important grievances.

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Joseph P. Cahill: The main grievance of our men at this end of the line was with officials of the company. William Dotts, dispatcher of the company, was a man who was considered the greatest tyrant in the State of Pennsylvania working upon a railroad.
Congressman Abraham X. Parker:  Who considered him so?
Cahill:  The employees of the company who were under him. . . . We went to the Fourth-street office and saw Mr. Sweigard. We told Mr. Sweigard about Mr. Dotts and what we intended to prove; that he was one of the greatest tyrants who ever worked on a railroad having charge of men; that we would also prove that he was a man who would not work to the interests of the company; that we would also prove that he was a man who was taking the company's employees to perform work upon properties that he was agent for, while he was general dispatcher of the company; that the Reading Railroad tools and property were used to perform the work; and that we would also prove that the Reading Railroad Company was paying for the labor performed, and different other counts; that he had imposed upon the business community, from Pottsville to Palo Alto, through the place he held as general dispatcher. We heard over one hundred and thirty-five witnesses, to the best of my knowledge, in the case. . . .

Cahill: We closed our case and took the evidence to Mr. Sweigard. He asked us to give him time to look up the evidence in the case. We told him we would call for the decision. He said "Boys, you have established your case."  If you desire I will give you a little detail of the tyranny of this man and why the men objected to him. We had one man by the name of Rauk, his residence is at the foot of this town. His father was blown up by an explosion and the body went in the air about 50 feet right within 2 or 3 feet of Mr. Dotts. His body was taken to the roundhouse, and his son was working about a square off where he saw his father being killed. He went to the roundhouse and sent for an undertaker, and because he had refused to report off duty in the excitement to go to his own father's funeral, he was laid off for four weeks afterwards. . . . by Dotts.

Parker:  Can you give any other instances?
Cahill:  Misfortune followed the family. It seemed Mr. Dotts had personal malice or spite against it. [Mr. Rauk's] brother had both legs cut off. It is a rule of our company in case of an accident that two men would go with the person home or at least to bring them to the hospital. The doctors did not deem it advisable to move this young man, who died. This same young man [Mr. Rauk] was docked even to a half an hour he was off, which was showed by the company's books. It was such an inhuman act that we brought Mr. Dotts on the witness stand. Mr. Stackhouse, the chief detective, said to him, "This witness makes serious charges against you, Mr. Dotts," he then repeated the testimony. "What have you to say to this statement?" Mr. Dotts, he wheels around to the witness, "John, do you mean to say that I did anything like that." "Yes, sir; Mr. Dotts, there is my statement that I swear before God is correct." He then said,"I have no recollection of it whatever. I believe you will have to leave it go down as evidence.". . .

Cahill:  Men were treated more like brutes than human beings. . . . He would holloa at the men, and he would discharge a man if he looked cross-eyed at him almost. . . .

Cahill:  Another tyranny was the discharge of a man named Mather because he had reported a man who was collecting fares upon freight trains, and he reported the man to Mr. Price.  [Mr. Mather] had caught the man who was collecting fares, and he said, "You have done that once too often, and if I catch you collecting fares upon this train I will report you.  If ever you are caught at the business all hands will be discharged, and I have a widowed mother to support." [Mr. Mather] caught him again at the business and reported the man to Mr. Price. Mr. Price turned the case over to Mr. Dotts to make an investigation. The following week [Mr. Dotts] made it and this young fellow [Mr. Mather] was laid off.
Parker: How did [Mr. Dotts] do it?
Cahill: He got one of his men, one of his cronies there, to irritate this young fellow, called him a "son of a bitch," and young Mather was going to hit him with a pin, although he did not do it. Then the fellow reported him to Mr. Dotts and he laid him off for four months.

Parker: What was the effect of the laying off for four months?
Cahill: He did not earn anything.
Parker: Did he live without going to work?
Cahill: There is nothing else in this country to do except work on the railroad or in the mines.
Parker: Could not he have gone to a private colliery and gone to work?
Cahill: He was not a miner; he was one of the railroad men. . .

Parker: Now come to Mr. Sweigard's action in regard to this. What did he do?
Cahill: Mr. Sweigard stated, "Boys, you have established your case in all its details, but owing to the number of years of service rendered by Mr. Dotts, I propose to give him an engine to run. I do not care to take the bread and butter away from his family. I will strip him of all power of having charge of men." He asked if that would satisfy us. We told him no; that the men demanded the final removal of William H. Dotts.
Parker: What was done?
Cahill: . . . They put him down at Atlantic City, where we had no organization at all; where we could not reach him.
Parker: At some other work?
Cahill: As yard-master.

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