The Boss

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

When the break with organized labor was complete, the political machine began in the early thirties a systematic attempt either to take over labor unions or, as Mayor Hague said, to `disorganize' them. While asserting at all times that he was not opposed to organized labor but only to `labor racketeering,' he did not distinguish it in practice from all labor activity and, as he said, attempted to drive out all labor unions:

A. But the time had arrived when certain elements got into labor, that was taking over all these industries, and demand- ing that they be considered in everything that took place in front of the men, to the extent in some instances they would insist upon playing double, they would insist upon playing for the men and playing with the industry – the result was that we had to drive them all out.

Q. And so you did drive them all out?
A. We drove them out, every one. (Hague v. C.I.O., Transcript, p. 1166.)

The process of driving them out took several forms. One device was to force unions into receiverships. This scheme had the advantage over others of converting the assets of the unions into political favors and opening up the records of the unions to the political organization. The National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners summarized the testimony it had heard upon union receiverships as follows:
The testimony also shows an unusually high percentage of trade-union receiverships in Hudson County. In these receiverships, have been involved, often to their considerable financial gain. a number of officials close to the Administration These receiverships have also been protracted to extraordinary lengths of time, during which the assets of the unions have been disbursed in receivership expenses. In many cases the unions have been virtually destroyed. In other cases their power to act for the economic interest of their members has been seriously curtailed. One may infer from the evidence that the officials of the administration have been interested in these cases. It is interesting to note also that the unions involved were mostly those which were not only financially strong and had large memberships, but were in a position to play a leading role in the Hudson County labor movement....

The officials of the unions who were present to testify, first of all demanded the assurance from the commission that their names would not be made public in any report. They explained that the reason for this was that they feared retaliation by the Jersey City police were they in any way to become publicly associated with an expose of the methods of the local administration. The nature of this evidence is so startling and involves so directly the integrity of law administration that ... an investigation should be made of this matter by the New Jersey Legislature. (Report (1937), pp. 4-5.)


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