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The Boss

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

During the period when the city administration was reorganizing – or disorganizing – labor, an advertising campaign was conducted to attract new industries to Jersey City. Each year twenty-five thousand dollars was (and still is) appropriated for newspaper and periodical advertising. The slogan then adopted for the city and today displayed upon billboards was, `Jersey City Has Everything for Industry.' A pamphlet bearing that title was issued in 1937; the arguments advanced for locating in Jersey City included the geographical advantages, which are indisputable; the friendliness of the city administration to labor and capital, which is dubious; and the `low cost' of the `city taxes and essential services,' which is fallacious. Executives were invited to write to City Hall to arrange meetings with authorities. Mayor Hague was asked about the advertising when he was testifying in the C.I.O. case:

Q. And one of the inducements you set forth in those advertisements is that Jersey City is free from labor difficulties, isn't it?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have any new industries located in Jersey City as a result of that advertisement?
A. The report I got from Mr. Greer [city comptroller], hundreds of them, that is, for a period of a couple of years, Counselor. (Transcript, p. 1180.)

The Mayor failed to mention by name a single industry among the incoming hundreds, but he did admit that hundreds of sweatshops had crossed the river from New York and Brooklyn:
Q. Didn't you have some runaway shops that came over from Brooklyn as a result of this invitation?
A. So they say. I don't remember, I don't recognize them.

Q. The Uneeda Slipper Company; do you recognize them?
A. I think that is the company that has given us a lot of trouble ...

Q. The Uneeda Slipper Company is located in the Harborside Building.
A. You see that is a big building, Counselor; that has, I presume, I don't know how many hundred thousand feet of floor space – that was a failure, you see, it was turned over to the hands of a receiver, and then they opened it up to the various industries to come in and set aside a certain amount of space, and hundreds of them got in there .... (Ibid., p. 1181.)

Mayor Hague asserted that `We try to discourage all those sweatshops, we don't allow it. I am utterly opposed to the sweat shop.' Although he tried to blame the railroad that controls the Harborside Building for the existence of sweatshops in Jersey City, it is well known that they exist elsewhere within his jurisdiction, especially in tenement dwellings. Photographs were published in Life of a Jersey City family making lamp shades at home for $2.50 per day for all four working members of the family, which included one child kept out of school to work. (Life, February 7, 1938, p. 49.) The influx of sweatshops should certainly have been expected with the breaking up of the unions.

Six years of advertising, six years of successful anti-union activity, brought into Jersey City by the Mayor's admission, only `hundreds' of sweatshops. The important, taxable industries did not come. The heavy, and constantly increasing, burden of taxes was not attractive, in spite of Jersey City's location and in spite of promises of freedom from labor difficulties. There was hope, nevertheless, that industries might move in when the economic depression lifted, for relations were cordial between the administration and employers, aside from the matter of taxes. The `invasion' of the C.I.O. in 1936 was therefore a direct challenge to the organization.


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