Publication: The Telegrapher
New York, NY, United States
Economy in the Western Union Service. - Bad
Condition of the Wires. - Difficulties in
Telegraphing the President's
WASHINGTON, D. C., Dec. 5.
To the Editor of The Telegrapher.
WASHINGTON is itself again. Congress has resumed its sessions, the President and heads of departments are all on hand, our streets are well filled with people, and everything (including telegraphing) becomes lively and interesting. Usually, upon the assembling of Congress, there is quite an addition to the telegraphic force employed here, but it is understood that it is not intended at this session to increase the force in the Western Union office, which, since the collapse of the Bankers and Brokers' line, does about all the telegraph business from and to this city. An effort will be made to economize by employing the present force extra time - which, under the peculiar arrangement and system inaugurated here by Mr. Tinker, the manager, is really economical for the company; whether it is just to the employes the readers of THE TELEGRAPHER can judge. The day Western Union force here are supposed to be on duty from 8 o'clock A. M. to 5 o'clock P. M. - nine hours. The night force are supposed to be on duty from 5 o'clock P. M. to midnight - seven hours. For any overwork they are paid by the hour - not a fixed sum, but in proportion to their fixed salaries - the maximum being forty cents per hour. In other large offices it is understood that the pay for overwork is uniform at fifty cents per hour. This discrimination against the Washington operators is an injustice, to begin with.
There is another and very economical tail to this kite, however, which is worthy of being recorded for the benefit of other economical managers. As has been stated, the regular time of the day operators is nine, and of the night operators seven hours. If, from lack of business, disarrangement of wires, or any other cause, an operator's services are not required for the full time, he is sent home, and the deficit of time is charged against him. Then, when his services are employed over time, he is credited with the overplus, and at the end of the month one is deducted from the other, and payment is made for the balance of overwork, if there be any! It makes no difference that the operator is ready and willing to work full time every day, if his services can by any means be dispensed with he is made to pay in overwork at another time fur the enforced and undesired luxury of loafing.
Instead of employing operators for the Capitol offices at regular salaries, as heretofore, the night force is drawn upon for this duty, and paid at the rate of twenty-five to thirty dollars per month extra therefor [sic] therefore. Truly, the economy with which the Western Union Washington office is managed is wonderful, and must be the result of the combined intellect of Tinker, Bates and Eckert.
Yesterday was a "dentition moist, unpleasant" day, as Mantilini would say. The usual result followed on the "improved" Western Union wires, with the favorite glass insulators of Eckert and Bates. They were in horrible condition. There was an enormous pressure of business. Superintendent Bates came over himself to superintend the transmission of the President's message. When it came in, although repeaters were on most of the wires at Philadelphia, all the side and way offices had to be ordered out of circuit to get it through in decent time. It is estimated that it was actually transmitted from six to ten times before all the offices entitled to it had been furnished with copies. Another season of such improvement of the wires and insulation, and they won't work at all after a heavy dew has fallen. I notice an attempt on the part of a supposed Harrisburg Western Union operator to reply to and contradict the damaging exposures of the condition of these "improved" Western Union wires. The statements which have appeared in your paper in regard to them are true, as regards the Washington and New York wires - and, as far as my observation and information extends, of the other wires.
|Date completed:||September 12, 2005 by: Elton Gish;|