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The Boss

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

The issue now shifted from strikes and unionization to freedom of speech and assembly. It is reported that some of the Mayor's advisers, including his attorney, John Milton, advised him not to fight it out on this line; but the business groups and the Catholic Church encouraged him. At any rate, the C.I.O. and the Civil Liberties Union sued in federal district court in Newark for an injunction against the enforcement of the Jersey City ordinances. In the trial that followed, the Mayor was on the stand for three days; the late Dean Spaulding Frazer, attorney for the C.I.O., appearing to be very friendly to the star witness, led him on and on into the most damaging testimony, much of which is quoted in these pages, which illuminated not only his views on labor matters but also showed how his political organization functioned. Frank Hague, during those June days in 1938, was very talkative and very proud of himself; happily for the student of American politics, Judge William Clark allowed him to ramble freely under the plaintiffs' allegation that they were seeking to ascertain the Mayor's state of mind and his sources of information when speaking permits were denied in Jersey City. The Mayor was so eager to talk that he often answered questions before his counsel could object, or overruled his counsel and answered after an objection had been made.

Judge Clark granted the injunction; the city appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals and lost, and then to the Supreme Court, and lost again. (Frank Hague et al. v. The Committee for Industrial Organization et al., 307 U.S. 500 (1939)) The decision was a crushing defeat for the Mayor, though he announced, of course, that the decision would be `followed implicitly.' Jersey City could no longer offer everything to industry.

The C.I.O. was naturally jubilant. Mr. Carney issued a public statement June 5, 1939, in which he said that the decision showed that `the Hague machine is cracking.' The C.I.O., he said, planned to continue its organizing: 'Specifically we plan to concentrate on four large key plants. There will be no "mass invasion" of Jersey City.... Our job is to organize the unorganized peacefully.' He promised to use the political power of the C.I.O. against Hague through Labor's Nonpartisan League: `The 30,000 members of the C.I.O. in Hudson County have enlisted for the duration of the war until Hague is either in jail or in political oblivion.'

This defiant, anti-Hague attitude lasted approximately a month. A truce was announced on August 3, the full terms of which have never been publicly revealed. Albert L. Smith and Thomas Neil, for the C.I.O., and Frank Hague Eggers, John Malone, and Daniel Casey, acting in behalf of the city administration, met in the Mayor's office in the City Hall. When they emerged from the conference, there was no talk of sending anyone to jail or into political oblivion; on the contrary, the representatives of the C.I.O. announced: `When the Republicans came to our aid in our fight with the Mayor, they were just using the C.I.O. for their own ends. We're not interested in the Republican Party of New Jersey, which takes its orders from the anti-labor national G.O.P. We must depend on the Democratic machine. We will work with anyone who'll help us.' The Mayor himself could not have improved upon such sentiments.


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