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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

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 feedback@theragens.com and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used. We'd like to hear from you.
Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families

A FEDERAL APPOINTEE
CHAPTER 23

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 Renton.

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 hotel.

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.

Region 13
WAGE STABILIZATION BOARD
Seattle, Wash.
905 2nd Avenue Building

February 11, 1953

Dr. Duncan S. Ballantine, President
Reed College
Portland 2, Oregon

Dear Doctor Ballantine:

This letter 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 controls.

Dr. Munk 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.

The Wage Stabilization Board, indeed the entire community, therefore, is deeply obligated to you for making possible Dr. Munk's services here.

Sincerely yours,

s/JB Gillingham
J. B. GILLINGHAM
Regional Chairman

 

 

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