N&W in 1908 -- State fair

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Fri Oct 24 20:58:20 EDT 2008

[This is slightly out of chronological sequence with other items from the Bluefield newspaper because the article was so indistinct on the microfilm that it had to be reviewed at a later session to clear up some items. It is heartening to see the way these union leaders defended the N&W, even if in an excessively wordy manner.]

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
September 12, 1908

General Chairmen of Various Orders Give Out Statement Defending Policy of Railroad

A meeting was held Thursday afternoon at the St. James Hotel in Roanoke, at which were present [list of five N&W brotherhood general chairmen omitted here]. The object of the meeting was to express their opinion of the attitude of the Richmond newspapers, regarding rates on the Norfolk and Western railway for the state fair at Richmond.
After the meeting a statement was given to the press in which it was set forth that while the railroad employes do not desire to appear in the role of criticizers of the press they do feel interested in the financial and physical welfare of the railroads of this state, especially the Norfolk and Western Railroad [sic], and it was claimed that the Richmond hotels might as well be criticized for not offering marked reduced rates during fair week.
"As employes of this road," the statement continues, "we are almost if not fully as much interested in their welfare and prosperity as the people who own them, for we share both in their prosperity and their adversity.
"We take the position that men at the head of conventions of all kinds, whether they be for amusement or profit, the heads of state and county fairs, and the press should fully realize that the railroads must have revenue to conduct their business, and if they are favored by the public to operate the railroads with passenger and freight rates too low it means at a loss--and must of necessity, sooner or later, go into the hands of receivers, or be forced to attempt to reduce the wages of hundreds of thousands of employes engaged in this hazardous occupation for a living, and most of us are men who have spent long years of our lives educating ourselves up to the highest standard of proficiency in our calling, undergoing all kinds of hardships--facing cold or sunshine, day and night--practically taking our lives in our hands every day--and even with the increase in wages the railroads have given us in the past few years, the cost of living has increased to such an extent that a wage reduction would make the difference between meat and no meat at all to untold employes. It also means the difference between education for our children and no education.
" We understand that a railroad company under the law cannot grant to one class of people a reduced rate without granting it to all people in like classes and business, and if the rate asked for, and for which the new management was criticized for not agreeing to, had been granted, it certainly appears that every county fair in the state would have been entitled to the same rate, and this would have meant a continued reduction of their rates from now until the last of October and we doubt if the state fair will be as far reaching in benefit to the masses of Virginia people as the county fairs of the state.
"Naturally, having spent the best years of our lives in the service of the Norfolk and Western Railway, we are in a fairly good position to speak from experience as to its public spirited goals.
"We claim there is no more public spirited or liberally managed railroad in the state of Virginia than the Norfolk and Western, but public spirit and liberality does not in our opinion, mean concessions to one fair over another; one political, religious or educational convention over another, but means to treat all with the same spirit of fairness, which we sincerely believe they have done, and further that they have furnished first class facilities and equipment for their passengers and freight traffic, which guarantees safe and proper conduct for both providing convenience and comfort for the public and its employes, fair and liberal in its treatment of the men in every respect and thereby using its public spirit and liberality, not to classes, but to the people at large, including the public as well as its employes."

Gordon Hamilton
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