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The Boss

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

Police violence accompanied other efforts to put down union activity or was used when other methods failed. The bar committee reported : (Report of the Committee on Civil Rights of the Junior Bar Conference of the American Bar Association (1938), p. 17.)

In late 1936 and early 1937 there was a seamen's strike along the Hudson County waterfront including the docks at Jersey City and Hoboken. Chief of Police Harry Walsh of Jersey City forbade picketing, stating he would make no arrests but use such force as was necessary to `break it up.'. .. Seamen, union officials, and sympathizers were trailed by the police. Meeting places, restaurants, soup kitchens, and other sources of food were made unavailable by police to all concerned with the strikers' side of the dispute.
Mayor Hague freely admitted the use of violence by the police, but he always insisted that the union men on whom it was used were racketeers. Of a teamsters' union he said: `I found that four gangsters was the head of that union. I drove them out of the city and disorganized the union.' And in the case of the McArdle Trucking Company, `I went into that company and broke it [the racket] up, and I arrested the ringleaders, and we did apply the nightsticks because we found it necessary to apply nightsticks on an element of that character; and we will apply it again tomorrow if they make their appearance.' (Hague v. C.I.O., Transcript, pp. 1162 and 1165.)

In addition to outright physical violence, unions found their halls closed for violations of building codes; union leaders were deported from Jersey City, offered the choice of jail or exile; and signs, pamphlets, handbills, and other union property were seized. Newspaper men, photographers, writers, and representatives of civil rights groups were arbitrarily barred from locations where strikes were in progress. There appears to be in the record no instance of a strike being won in Jersey City by the workers during the years 1931 to 1937. The Mayor's testimony in the C.I.O. case would indicate, on the contrary, that during those years he had succeeded in breaking up most of the unions in his territory:

Q. Now, do you remember stating to the industry that came back [the Baltimore Transfer Company] after it had left, 'We took a hand in reorganizing labor without regard for national heads of organized labor themselves. The leaders who planted a feeling of hatred in the minds of the men are gone, and in their places are leaders with whom you can deal.' Do you remember making such a statement?
A. No, I don't know – that was in my mind, though. That was the condition that was brought about ... of course, after I got the labor conditions so adjusted that I could invite industry back I could assure the present heads of industries that was located in Jersey City that they could feel secured, that their investment would be protected.... (Transcript, p. 1168.)

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