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PREFERENCE BILL. This measure in its final passage was known as House Bill No. 1581, the so-called Coolidge Bill, an act presented in its original form as Senate Bill No. 87 by your Department Commander, Timothy W. Kelly. We will follow it through its different stages to exemplify the work necessary to pass such an important measure, and the many snags placed in its way to hinder its passage.
Your Committee on Legislation, in meeting assembled, held conference with your Department Commander, and decided to place before the Legislature a just bill, one richly deserved by all who had served their country faithfully in time of war, and who had been honorably discharged for duty well performed.
The birth of the Full Preference Act originated in your organization, and was presented by it, through the Department Commander, with the unanimous consent of the Legislative Committee in meeting assembled on July 7, 1918. It was Senate Bill No. 87, “Further defining the Word Veteran as used in the Civil Service Laws and Regulations,” and was placed for hearing before the Public Service Committee in the House on February 7, and referred to a Joint Committee on Reconstruction and Public Service on February 10, where its number was changed to House Bill No. 1514. Here, this Committee on Reconstruction and Public Service changed its number once more, and based its new number, 1581, on several bills which were combined on account of all being in favor of veterans, as follows: Senate Bills Nos. 87, 291 and 292; House Bills Nos. 37, 38, 1124, 1125, 1242, 1243 and 1404. As House Bill No. 1581 all of these bills combined were in the House March 25, ordered to a third reading March 26, and engrossed by the House April 3.
As House Bill No. 1581 it was received in the Senate April 9, ordered to a third reading April 10, amended April 15, amended and engrossed in Senate April 16, referred to House, which nonconcurred, April 18, returned back to the Senate, which body insisted upon the amendments on April 22, and returned the bill back to the House again, which body refused again to concur on April 23.
A Conference Committee was appointed in the Senate and House to act on the bill, but they could not agree, and another committee was appointed in their place, and the new committee reported on April 24, excluding the promotions amendment, the Senate accepting this report and passing the bill to be engrossed. At this time we can safely say the General Preference Act will become statute law by the time this convention adjourns, making for your organization, as well as for our Comrades now fighting in the World War, a victory after twenty years of hard work by your Legislative Committees of this Department.
You can readily see that the work of your committee has been hard, and much time had to be given toward the passage of this bill, and we cannot forget the assistance given by your Department Commander, as well as Camps and loyal Comrades, our friends in both branches of the Legislature, too numerous to mention as individuals, as well as other sources which assisted us in its passage.
Your committee not only worked in the interests of our organization, but protected the rights of those fighting in the World War until they had returned and organized. We had to contend with opposition to portions of the Preference Bill by individuals and associations who opposed us through the press, and when requested to retract the stories printed in the papers in opposition to the Preference Bill they refused to do so, or claimed their organizations had nothing to do with publishing the notice. The following is a clipping taken from a Boston newspaper which shows the extent of their opposition:
PLAN TO FIGHT PREFERENCE LAW.
Civil Service generally lining up against Proposed Act. Boston firemen and policemen, reinforced by practically all other civil service employees in this State, are preparing to fight against the enactment of the bill proposed by Governor Calvin Coolidge, giving preferred classification for appointment and promotion under civil service laws, to veterans of the war.
A joint meeting to discuss plans for this fight will be held by the directors of the Russell Fire Club, composed of Boston firemen, and the Boston Social Club, composed of patrolmen, is scheduled for this week. The State Branch of the Fire Fighters' Union and the Massachusetts Police Association are expected to take similar action for men outside of this city, while all other organizations of State and municipal employees are preparing to appear at the State House in force.
The leaders do not intend to fight a law that will recognize the services of the men who went to the front and “did their bit,” but it is believed that allowing them a percentage for these services will be sufficient. Under the law proposed Governor Coolidge intends that a veteran of the war who qualifies with 65 per cent will automatically go to the head of the list, even over men who are not veterans and who receive a mark in the high 90's.
Policemen and firemen brand this as class legislation, pointing out that firemen who enlisted and were placed on fire duty at local camps, and did less fire duty than the men who protected the property in the cities, would be promoted over the heads of veterans in the service.
A case is cited as showing the injustice the proposed law would place upon the employees in a Boston Fire Department. An engineer, who is a qualified marine engineer, took the examinations for an engineer's commission in the navy, and was awarded his commission. Fire Commissioner Grady disapproved of his request for a leave of absence to go into the navy, and with the assistance of the State Committee on Public Safety, it is said succeeded in convincing the navy that the city of Boston would burn down if this man was not in the department. As a consequence the commission was withdrawn and the man forced to stay.
This man by the new law would not be a veteran of the war and not qualified for a high percentage on the promotion list. It is cases of this kind that the opponents of the law propose to place before the members of the General Court as an example of what an injustice its enactment would be.
This opposition was raised in order to defeat the preference in promotions, and it was successful so far as the opposition was concerned, for this amendment was defeated in the House. Pressure was brought to bear on the Legislature by a strong lobby, which followed the bill in its many stages, composed of legal representatives as well as some of the members of the Russell Club of the Boston Fire Department and the Boston Police Social Club. Your committee would have placed as strong a lobby composed of war veterans in the police department if it were not for a rule of the Police Commissioner that a police officer could not lobby at the State House or other place where legislation is being considered. Many of our Comrades who served in war, and who were members of the police department, would have assisted us at the State House if it were not for this ruling. The Boston Police Social Club, through some of its members, strongly opposed the Preference Bill in part, and we can safely say the same of the Russell Club of Boston Firemen, for neither of these organizations retracted the statement credited to them in the press.
Your Department Commander and myself visited personally the president of both organizations, and requested them to deny this statement in the papers. President Looney of the Russell Club of Boston Firemen stated he would publish a denial if President Lynch of the Boston Police Social Club took such action, and on being personally interviewed for such a denial he refused to deny the statement, mentioning that he did not believe in preference, also that his organization did not take any such action as the papers stated, as they did not have any meeting to discuss this question. He stated the commissioner did not allow the police to discuss through the press any such denials, as it was politics. We asked him if we went to the commissioner and got his permission to print a denial would he then send a statement to the press. He said no he would have nothing to do with it. We stated to him it was unfair to his organization that the press would be able to publish a statement which was so detrimental to veterans of war as coming from his organization, when, as he stated, they did not take any such action, and he as head of the organization should deny it through the same source.
We visited police headquarters in an effort to see some of the directors of the Social Club and have them use their efforts to have the statement denied, for we were not going to let the police or fire organizations get away with it without action on our part.
Not getting any satisfaction in our effort to have a statement published we interviewed the night editor of the “Boston Post," who is a Spanish American War Veteran, and he said the notice that was printed in the “Post” came from some one in authority, but he would not give the name, and offered to deny the notice if we could receive the signature of some one authorized in both organizations, which we were not able to get, as explained in this report.
We had the same experience with the night editor of the “Boston Globe," and after giving this editor a four-page statement, written and signed by ourselves, informing these organizations how we felt over the press notice, and what means we had taken in an effort to have it denied, the press did not publish our letter, which, if it had been printed, would have gone a good way toward a demand on the floor of both organizations for a published denial, for we have many of their members who are active in the United Spanish American War Veterans, as well as serving in the World War, who would have demanded such action.
Our opposition was not so strong that they could defeat the whole bill, so your committee recommends that the committee next term place before the Legislature a full preference in promotion bill, and by that time it will be sure of passage, for the boys from over there will then be home and work with us for its passage, and then we can say there will not be any valuable time lost fighting such unfair opposition as your committee has had working against it, as there will be none to fight.
Your committee never let the grass grow under its feet, but was always on the job at the State House and at every hearing, and, in fact, every day either your Department Commander or one of the committee was in the State House.
Everything was going along so nicely regarding the Preference Bill that we had some spare time between sleeping hours to give a little consideration to other legislation which we had in action, and we had nothing else to worry us, as the time for
filing legislation had passed, and it is an unusual thing to see any legislation proposed after that time; but we received the greatest surprise of the year when we found that the Honorable President of the Senate, Edwin T. McKnight, introduced under the suspension of rules a temporary measure as an emergency bill, granting to veterans of the World War a temporary Full Preference, which did not include the veterans of 1898 to 1902. This bill of the Honorable President of the Senate was an effort to make an eleventh hour steal, — to snatch away from your organization and Legislative Committee the success and honors which it would have with a final passage of a Preference Act. Justice was to prevail and honors were to come to those who did the work, for the Honorable President's bill began to hit the rocks in the course of its passage, the same as our own had, but our bill was in a safe harbor, while his bill had to buck the storm of opposition alone, and it was footballed back and forth, fixing this part and that part, until it was chopped to pieces in an effort to get it to look like a real piece of legislation; for when it was first filed, before it was improved upon, it showed lack of study, as well as care in drawing up, especially so when, in his anxiety to go over the top and beat your committee to it, he forgot that from 1898 to 1902 many thousand young representatives of American manhood in the State of Massachusetts left their homes as volunteers to protect the honor of flag and country in foreign soil, — to protect humanity, and who were also in fever-stricken camps en route, where the lack of knowledge of sanitary conditions and poor food, as well as the enemy's bullets and bolos, caused their death. Those brave boys of the Cuba, Porto Rico, Philippine and China campaign were for the moment forgotten by the Honorable President of the Senate in his haste to do something which he had plenty of time to consider, if he really meant it, instead of resorting to an emergency bill after time for filing had passed. But he did not even consider a bill of this nature until he realized your committee had one well under way, and had finished the advertising necessary for its safe action and passage, and then he proposed this emergency bill, warning your committee that if his bill did not pass ours would not. So we had to play the game carefully, watching his moves, and finally, using good judgment, we beat him to it. In the shuffle his bill was lost while ours continued to show progress toward passage.
Feeling that legislation of this nature must pass, the Civil Service Commission sent for our Department Commander, and with Comrade Arthur Newhall of Camp 31, Stoneham, a member of our committee as well as a member of the Legislature, drew up a Preference Bill, while in conference, which the Governor agreed was sound legislation, and His Excellency sent the bill exactly as drawn to the Legislature, with a message of his approval for its passage. On this bill the ninety days' clause was waived by adding a preamble that it should take effect immediately.
The bill as drawn up by this committee in conference, and which was sent with the approval of Governor Calvin Coolidge to the Legislature, contained not only full preference on entering a position, but full preference in promotion, the promotion clause being eliminated by the Committees on Reconstruction and Public Service sitting jointly.
In addition to what has already been mentioned in the report regarding the General Preference Bill, and to give you some idea of the added work that was performed incidental to its passage, Comrades of all wars, as well as every person in the Commonwealth supposed to be friendly to the veteran, including every member of the Legislature, were reached by communication or in personal interviews and urged to co-operate, and on many occasions reurged in our endeavor to pass this bill.
One of the many ideas that were thought out and worked on, and which were a great help, was the passage of resolutions by city and town governments. Camps and active Comrades throughout the Department of Massachusetts were notified that an effort was to be made to have such resolutions passed, and skeleton copies of resolutions were forwarded to them, and they were requested to get in touch with their officials of cities and towns, for them to take action at their meetings.
Your Department Commander, Timothy W. Kelly, appeared before the city council of the city of Boston in executive session, and although most of its members received the endorsement of the Good Government Association, a body who, year after year, opposed and condemned any person who, while a member of the Legislature, voted for preference for veterans when they became a candidate for re-election or any other public office, the Executive Committee, which comprises every member of the council, voted unanimously in favor of a resolution in favor of the General Preference Bill.
This was the first resolution passed in favor of the bill. Camps and Comrades throughout the State who were awaiting the result in Boston were immediately notified, and with this precedent success was assured and every mail carried the welcome news that other cities and towns were passing similar resolutions. At least two hundred cities and towns in the Commonwealth passed such resolutions before the Bill for Preference was acted on.
It would be taking up too much space in this report to mention the names of all the cities and towns which passed favorable resolutions, or to print copies of those on which favorable action had been taken; however, the resolution following, which is a copy of one passed by the city of Lowell, is a fair sample to illustrate all that were passed in cities and towns:
Whereas, We owe our freedom and our well-being to the valor and the sacrifices of the men who have served in the army and the navy in this World War and all other wars in which the United States has been engaged; and
Whereas, In the discharge of their duties these men have demonstrated that they are zealous in the performance of their tasks, worthy of trust, and amenable to strict discipline; be it
Resolved, That it is our bounden duty to assist them in obtaining dignified employment, and we therefore strongly urge that the Governor's message, dated Boston, Feb. 27, 1919, accompanied by House Bill No. 1404, which provides that the veterans of all the United States wars shall be given the same rights heretofore enjoyed by the Civil War veterans, or legislation similar in scope, be made the law of the Commonwealth; and be it further
Resolved, That the municipal council of the city of Lowell endorse the message of the Governor and House Bill No. 1404; and be it further
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to His Excellency Calvin Coolidge; to the President of the Senate, Edwin T. McKnight; to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Joseph E. Warner; to Senator Augustus P. Loring, chairman, Committee on Reconstruction; and to Senator George A. Hastings, chairman, Committee on Public Service, all of the Massachusetts Legislature.
Your committee sent circulars and personal letters to public officials, military organizations other than our own, and to the press, many of which were printed or acknowledged favorably, all this work promoting the success and safe passage of the bill.