"The Longshoremen's Bill"
to restore to dock workers and repair men along shore the protection of state workmen's compensation laws Of all American workmen, those who perform the extremely dangerous tasks of loading, unloading and repairing vessels at the dock, are least favorably treated when injured by accident. They have been called "the legal stepchildren among modern wage-workers." Longshoremen and ship repairmen, perhaps to the number of a quarter of a million, are engaged at their hazardous employments not only at ocean ports but wherever such work is required anywhere on inland lakes, canals or navigable streams. When the states in 1911 first enacted workmen's compensation laws they as a matter of course included longshoremen. Longshore workers were so protected against injuries until the highest court in 1917 by a five-to-four decision in the Jensen case held that under certain circumstances longshoremen were "maritime" workers and therefore outside of state jurisdiction. This decision left longshoremen and their employers in a dilemma. Such workmen if injured on the dock might still be protected by state legislation, but the minute a longshoreman or repairman crossed the gang-plank to a ship he would not be so protected, but must sue for damages. Moreover, many injuries occur under circumstances making the jurisdiction doubtful. In such cases, the workman is in doubt as to his proper remedy and his employer must be insured against two types of liability. Congress alone has power to correct this evil. Congress did attempt, in 1917, to give these workers their just remedy by amending the judicial code so as to extend the optional protection of state workmen's compensation to all maritime workers. But in 1920 the highest court, by another five-to-four decision, in the Knickerbocker Ice case, declared this amendment unsatisfactory. Thus workers whose employment occasionally takes them aboard vessels in maritime jurisdiction are again deprived of the full protection of their state workmen's compensation laws. Longshoremen need this protection-their work is extra-hazardous Danger is an ever-present reality to those working "alongshore." In the loading of one ship in New York arbor there were eighty-six accidents sufficiently serious to report to the compensation bureau. As indicative of the frequency and severity of longshore injuries it is significant that one-tenth of the accidents reported to the New York State Compensation Bureau are long-shore cases and that the deputy commissioner in New York City devoted three days weekly to the hearing of longshoremen's cases alone. Longshoremen are not properly classed as "maritime" workers Although longshoremen work now on land now on water, are not migratory like seamen. For all practical purposes they retain the localized characteristics of land workers. Moreover, there are many land employees who are occasionally assigned by their employers to assist in unloading a barge or lighter who are placed in the same dilemma. Simply because their duties occasionally take them across a gang-plank they are they are now denied state compensation. Their employers are subject part of the time to state law and part of the time to maritime law. If crossing the gang-plank is to exclude such workers from the state's protection, then 40 percent of the employers insured by one of the largest compensation insurance carriers in New York State are subject to some maritime risk against which they are not protected. How Congress can meet "uniformity" rule It is impossible to draw a clear line between longshoremen and other land-workers who occasionally board vessels. There is, however, a distinct line between longshoremen and seamen. It is for Congress to draw the line so that the uniformity of maritime law may be preserved for seamen-the true maritime worker-while restoring the complete protection of their state workmen's compensation laws to longshoremen and similar land-workers. The states have done their utmost to compensation these local workmen when injured. Congress alone can remove the obstructing legal technicality. Provisions of the Longshoremen's Bill (S. 4606) This bill aims to comply with the principles laid down by the Supreme Court by making an amendment to the federal judicial code which plainly distinguishes between "members of the crew" and land-workers such as boiler-scalers, machinists, painters, carpenters and longshoremen, whose employment only occasionally takes them aboard vessels in maritime jurisdiction. It specifically restores state workmen's compensation benefits to the latter class who are in no sense members of the crew. It abolishes the vexatious "twilight zone" between federal and state jurisdictions.
This bill is endorsed by the International Longshoremen's Association and other unions directly affect, and by the American Association for Labor Legislation. It is approved by officials administering state workmen's compensation laws. It will enable employers of land-workers to insure all their employees in one insurance policy. It requires no appropriation by Congress. Restore protection of state workmen's compensation laws to longshoremen and other "borderline" land-workers by insisting that your senator and representative at Washington vote and work actively for the Longshoremen's Bill (S. 4606). For additional information address: American Association for Labor Legislation, 131 East 23rd Street, New York City. [symbol]