Memorandum by Mr. Murray M. Wise of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs82

Attached are paragraphs on labor discrimination taken from the memoranda of conversation covering the first two round table conferences in Panama; also a memorandum received from the Panamanian Foreign Office,83 listing examples of discrimination against Panamanians in the Canal Zone.

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In the first round table conference Dr. Alfaro84 said that the theory of the 1936 Treaty regarding labor practices was good, but that in practice it was not effective.

Ambassador Hines told Dr. Alfaro confidentially that a study of the entire question was being made. He explained that the Army had been careful about non-discrimination of employees, that the Panama Canal had not been too careful and that the Navy had the fewest gold roll employees.

During the second round table discussion Ambassador Hines told Dr. Alfaro that he had sent a proposal to Governor Mehaffey in which he had suggested the complete elimination of “gold” and “silver” classifications and that he had suggested instead that laborers be grouped as skilled, semiskilled and unskilled employees. The Ambassador said that one of the main difficulties in all discussions was the bringing into the picture of other than Americans and Panamanians. Other nationalities are not covered by the 1936 Treaty85 commitments to Panama.

Ambassador Hines has suggested to Governor Mehaffey that he should have a board whose responsibility would be (1) to classify employees, and (2) to handle all complaints relative to classification or treatment of laborers. The Ambassador suggested that on this Board there must be Panamanians and Americans. This idea pleased Dr. Alfaro very much.

The Ambassador raised the question of how much trade unions in the Canal Zone influenced methods of employment. Dr. Alfaro said that the unions had been very active and that they have a powerful lobby in Washington working for discriminative legislation. Dr. Alfaro in his list of complaints that the United States is not living up to its treaty commitments toward Panamanian labor mentions such matters as salary, annual leave, sick leave, exclusion of white Panamanians from white North American lunchrooms, vacation pay, reduction in pay without adequate notice or just reason, etc.

  1. Addressed to ARA: Mr. Butler and Mr. Briggs, and to A–Br: Mr. Braden.
  2. None printed.
  3. Panamanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ricardo J. Alfaro.
  4. Department of State Treaty Series No. 945; 53 Stat. (pt. 3) 1807.