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The Boss

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

The American Labor Party was organized in New Jersey in 1936 and supported President Roosevelt for re-election. It got no sympathy or co-operation from Mayor Hague, however, regardless of his devotion to the President. He did not want any Democratic candidates in New Jersey to have anything to do with the new party, not only because such association with any third party was dangerous, he thought, to Democratic party loyalty, but also because the American Labor Party was too closely connected with the C.I.O. and was, therefore, communistic. He expressed himself in detail on the matter in his testimony in the C.I.O. case:

There is nothing that I have any hesitancy in expressing myself in regards to anything concerning labor. Anything concerning any groups, I have always assumed that if it was un-American, I should never hesitate in expressing myself, and I have never hesitated in expressing myself, Counselor. I do feel that it is an error for public officials to be seeking those votes of the American Labor Party. I have branded the American Labor Party as being a communistic group. I can prove that they are communistic. I can prove that everyone associated with the group here in New Jersey that I charged was an adjunct to the communistic group, that the American Labor Party that was organized in New Jersey was no- thing pure and simple but a communist, and I wanted nothing to do with it.... (Transcript, p. 1091.)
The first important attempt of the C.I.O. to organize labor in Jersey City resulted in the seamen's strike along the Hudson County waterfront late in 1936 and early in 1937. Chief of Police Harry Walsh announced that there was no strike, and that he would not permit picketing. The C.I.O., which had been successful in other parts of the country, could not permit Jersey City to defy it, and other strikes broke out.

In November, 1937, the C.I.O. sought to inform the wage earners of Jersey City of their rights and benefits under the Wagner Act. To accomplish this purpose they wished to distribute leaflets explaining the law. They were notified by the city counsel that such an act constituted a violation of a local ordinance but they persisted nonetheless. The report of the bar conference summarized what happened to them:

On November 29, 1937, when C.I.O. workers, both from without and within New Jersey, attempted to distribute such literature on the streets of Jersey City, police officers stationed at the Hudson Tube stations stopped and attempted to turn back all persons identified as C.I.O. workers coming from New York City or Newark, New Jersey, and all such workers already in Jersey City, with the object of preventing them from reaching C.I.O. headquarters in Jersey City; police seized and searched without warrants persons ... and their automobiles, confiscating on the spot all C.I.O. literature found; ... others who attempted to distribute literature to persons who willingly received it, were forced to proceed on ferries going to New York, forcibly placed on such ferries and transported to New York, despite protests that they were Jersey City or New Jersey residents; seven distributors were sentenced to five days' imprisonment for violating the aforementioned ordinance; five distributors were arrested on a charge of unlawful assembly and held in jail until bail of $1000 was raised the next day. When distributors returned to headquarters to replace supplies of circulars confiscated by the police, they were prevented by the police from leaving the building. Police searched all persons in the lobby of the building, confiscated circulars and other printed matter pertaining to the C.I.0., and forced many persons into automobiles and caused them to be transported outside the limits of Jersey City. (Report, pp. 18-19.)
The organizers tried at the same time to hire halls at which speakers would explain the Wagner Act and discuss unionization. Private halls were denied them both under a city ordinance and under City Hall pressure; as the Mayor testified, ` a mere expression from me, Counselor, is sufficient' for the owners to feel `that they are not working within the proper scope.' When the C.I.O. could not hire halls, William J. Carney announced plans on December 19, 1937, for an open-air meeting; a permit for such a meeting (required by ordinance) was denied, and the city counsel threatened prosecution if a meeting were held without a permit.

The American Civil Liberties Union also applied for a permit for an open-air meeting to discuss civil rights under the Constitution, though they did not concede the legality of the ordinance which required them to ask for the permit. At once veterans' organizations objected, and Director Casey denied the request. It came out later that most of the officers of the veterans' associations were public employees or relatives of public employees.


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