The report on railroad and street transportation takes up a class of wage earning occupations that give employment in Cleveland to approximately 15,000 men. A much larger proportion than is found in most other industrial manual occupations are natives of the city. Although some of the work is relatively unskilled, all of the different occupations have one common characteristic—the necessity for a knowledge of the English language and some acquaintance with local customs and conditions. For this reason comparatively few foreigners are employed.
The report takes up separately three types of workers, those employed in railroad train service, those engaged in wagon or automobile transportation, and the car service employees of the street railroad.
The study covered only those railroad occupations that are directly concerned with the actual operation of trains, such as those of engineers, firemen, conductors, and trainmen. These occupations have many points in common and bring into play many similar mental and physical characteristics. The requirements for entrance are strict and examinations for the higher positions are obligatory. In all of them the hazards are great. Each occupation is firmly intrenched in trade unionism. Differences with employers relating to such matters as promotion, hours of labor, wages, and overtime are settled by collective bargaining or, in case of failure to agree, by arbitration proceedings.
The estimated number of men in Cleveland employed in these occupations in 1915 is approximately 4,500. Of these about one-fourth are switchmen and flagmen, one-fourth enginemen, one-fifth brakemen, one-sixth conductors, and one-eighth firemen.
The requirements for entrance call for a high degree of physical fitness. The applicant for employment must pass a severe examination as to vision and hearing, and in addition furnish certain data as to his family history, as it relates to insanity, tuberculosis, and certain other diseases. The high standard maintained insures a type of employees which for physical fitness, mental alertness, and ability to handle difficult situations is unsurpassed in any industry.
Frequent examinations, which are compulsory, are the stepping stones to the higher positions. In this way a brakeman qualifies for the position of freight conductor, a freight conductor for that of passenger conductor, and a fireman for a position as engineer.
Each of the two services, passenger and freight, has its advantages. In the passenger service the working day is short, with little overtime. Freight service requires a longer working day and a considerable amount of overtime. Promotions in both services and from one to the other are made on the basis of seniority.