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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Early labor record. Hague and Brandle, the `czar' of New Jersey labor. The building of the Skyway and the break with Brandle. `Disorganizing' AFL unions. Attempts to attract industry to Jersey City, and the `hundreds' of sweatshops that came in. Relations with the Chamber of Commerce in the CIO fight.

As all cities are divided into guilds and companies the Prince should show attention to these societies, and sometimes take part in their meetings; nevertheless, he should always maintain the majesty of his rank, for this he must never consent to abate in anything.

EXCEPT FOR THE FEW MONTHS in his youth when he worked, to use his words, as `a nursemaid to locomotives,' Frank Hague never did any manual labor; politics was always his vocation. So far as the record shows, he was never a member of any labor union, though he was made in later life an honorary member. He rose to power, however, as a defender of labor; not only was he supported by his friend, Theodore Brandle, but he was active in helping labor during strikes. In 1919, for instance, his police turned back fifty strikebreakers sent over from New York City to unload the Italian steamship Giuseppe Verdi. The agents protested to Secretary of State Lansing, but they did not break the strike. From his first election through the election of 1929 Hague was annually endorsed by the Hudson County Central Labor Union.

Until the `invasion' of the C.I.O., organized labor in Jersey City and Hudson County was largely confined to the building trades, and the Mayor did not have to go very far to be known as `labor's best friend.' The estimates of the extent of unionization vary, but Jersey City has generally been known as an open-shop town. In its bulletin for February, 1936, the city chamber of commerce estimated that `the industries of this city are more than eighty per cent open shop.'

This proportion seems reasonable because of the nature of the population; in the words of the pamphlet `Jersey City Has Everything for Industry,' published in 1937, `A diversified labor market is immediately available in Jersey City, particularly for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.' Such workers have everywhere been notably difficult to organize; in Jersey City, as one employer, Mr. T. C. Sheehan, president of the Durham Duplex Razor Company, wrote:

One may safely make the statement, without fear of contradiction, that the 350,000 [sic] inhabitants of Jersey City are less affected by the radical tendencies of the age than are the 350,000 people of any community on earth. There is less of the Bolshevistic, less of the Socialistic, and less of the other isms that go to make up unrest .... (Journal of Industry and Finance, vol. I, p. 16, November, 1927. )


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