My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories
from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his
memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as
long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one
request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at
firstname.lastname@example.org and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would
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© Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families
A FEDERAL APPOINTEE
One of the more
unusual phases of my career was my appointment as Public Member of the Regional
Wage Stabilization Board in Seattle during the Korean War. I served in that
capacity from August 1951 to February 1953.
It was a job I
neither sought nor particularly enjoyed. I never felt entirely comfortable with
it for the simple reason that I did not consider myself fully qualified. I was
recommended by Mr. E.B. MacNaughton, who was for all practical purposes
president of just about everything in Portland, including First National Bank
(now First Interstate), the Oregonian, and at that time also President of Reed
College. He apparently suggested me to Senator Wayne Morse who arranged my
appointment by the National Board.
The Korean War was
then in full swing and the administration introduced price and wage controls to
combat inflation. The purpose of the Board was to decide any labor dispute which
"is not resolved by collective bargaining or by the prior use of conciliation
and mediation and which threatens an interruption of work affecting the national
defense" where the parties to the dispute either submit the dispute to the Board
or "the President is of the opinion that the dispute . . . substantially
threatens the progress of national defense."
The Board was a
tri-partite body composed of three members representing business, three for
labor and three public members, of which I was one. In most cases the three
business members and the three labor members voted differently, at least on the
record, as a result of which the public members usually decided the outcome of
the decision. Unofficially, a good deal of hanky-panky was going on, with
business and labor able and willing to countenance various deals. I only
gradually learned the ropes.
Back room deals
were not uncommon and occasionally welcome. When our Michael needed a summer job
(he was then about 18) I only had to mention it to the labor member representing
the Machinists Union and he promptly got a job in an armaments factory in
At the beginning I
had to heavily rely on the other two public members and on the Regional
Chairman, Leo Kotin, who was a labor economist by profession. Only gradually did
I gain experience and more confidence in my judgment.
While serving the
government, I had a brush with McCarthyism, being investigated by the Loyalty
Board of the National WSB for having contributed $5 to the Joint Anti-Fascist
Refugee Committee in the 1940's. Naturally, the investigation came to nothing.
I was glad when the
Board was abolished by Executive Order in March 1953. The continuous commuting
to Seattle by train and many nights in different hotels while there were
becoming rather tiresome, even though some of the cases were rather interesting.
This was, of course, long before the Ragens moved to Seattle. Usually, all of
what I saw of the city was the old Federal Building on Second Avenue and the
After I had
concluded my membership in the Board, the new, and last, Regional Chairman,
Professor J.B. Gillingham wrote a letter to the President of Reed College, of
which I include a copy. I am not sure my term in office warranted the
evaluation, but here it is for what it is worth.
WAGE STABILIZATION BOARD
905 2nd Avenue Building
Dr. Duncan S.
Portland 2, Oregon
is to thank you and Reed College for making possible the very valuable
services of Dr. Frank Munk to this Regional Wage Stabilization Board
during the 18 months of its active life, which ended February 6 with
President Eisenhower's executive order suspending all wage and salary
brought great wisdom, wit and integrity to the Board, and I sincerely feel
that it would not have functioned as well had anyone else been occupying
his chair. As you may know, he was one of the very few persons of wide
reputation and prestige in the Northwest who was mutually acceptable to
the Labor Members and the Industry Members of this Board. This difficulty
in finding highly qualified men who were acceptable to all sides of the
Board was the main reason the Board found it necessary to function with
the bare minimum number of public members during most of its life. This in
turn meant that the Public Members on this Board carried a heavier load in
terms of cases and policy formulation than was true in most other regional
boards. Dr. Munk carried his full share of the load with distinction.
Stabilization Board, indeed the entire community, therefore, is deeply
obligated to you for making possible Dr. Munk's services here.
J. B. GILLINGHAM
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