Union Bosses are Old, Old, Old

Westbrook Pegler

Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 11, 1946

For a real, popular understanding of the fight to rescue the American Government from the boss unioneers, the fact must be sounded again and again, as the Hyde Park hant used to say, and sounded above the clamor of their mechanized propaganda, that the men who claim this power over the nation are old, old, old.

They are old and reactionary. They haven’t had a new idea in 15 years and the last idea they did have and the one they cling to today is that they are not mere princes of privilege, to employ another of the spook’s corn-tassel posies, but kings, emperors, of divine right and wisdom.

Often, they are rogues and liars to one another in their own, arcanal repartee, however, as when old Philip Murray, the president of the C. I. O., after comparing his own paltry megrims to the Passion of Jesus Christ, howled to the 1942 convention of the C. I. O. that John L. Lewis “was a national prevaricator, universally recognized by the workers and the citizens of our country.”

MR. LEWIS had a “diabolical mind,” Mr. Murray whined in self-pity, after charging that an agent of Mr. Lewis had ordered his followers “to keep after this fellow Murray until you kill him.”

“Those are the things that are going on,” he wailed. “Organized despotisms, the devices used by Hitler are being resorted to in the 20 puppet districts of the United Mine Workers over which John L. Lewis has complete domination.”

Yet, when Mr. Lewis called the miners out and popular government made a desperate stand against the Hitlerian despot, Mr. Murray and his C. I. O. were found on the side of Mr. Lewis and against the Republic. And this, I think, would be an occasion to notice that Judge Goldsborough, in passing sentence on the “little man” with the “diabolical mind,” did not prattle of democracy but properly called this nation a republic and said it must prevail. 

They are old. 

MR. LEWIS is 66. Alex Whitney of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, who laid a similar, bony old crutch on the nation’s throat last spring, is 74 and has been riding the cushions on the gravy train as a union politician for the last 46 years, almost half a century. 

He served only 13 years as a working stiff, but a portion of even that short qualifying career as a horny-handed son of toil was spent in the romantic, Algeresque business of swaying through the aisles of an Iowa local under a uniform cap with a patent-leather bill selling salted peanuts, nickel novels and the Omaha Bee. 

For me he tells us that he began as a “news agent” at 15 and became chairman of the union’s grievance committee at 28. In the years since he has acquired not mere wealth but riches of his own, regal and opulent status, and the effrontery common to his caste who treat the working stiffs as subjects and presidents of the United States as their employees. 

WILLIAM HUTCHESON, of the Carpenters Union, is 73. Dan Tobin, of the Teamsters’ Union, 72. Mr. Lewis is 66 and William Green is 74. J. A. Franklin, the president of the Boilermakers’ Union, held on until the scandal of the insurance shakedown of hundreds of thousands of wartime shipbuilders in favor of his sedentary son, Harold, aroused the fury of penniless old men with tattered union cards and he was kicked upstairs on a pension. 

His age I do not know in years but he is up among the rest of those so long aloof from toil and the sweaty smell of men who do, that they can’t even remember when “labor” was a verb and not a political commodity. 

They are old, old, old. Break their power and they mope. They totter, forlorn, bitter and toothless to their graves, barked at by dogs and mocked by the liberated inmates of their slave compounds. Even mayors and congressmen would circle out of range of the quavering strokes of their canes, yapping at their harmless old rage. Cops would call them “Gramp” and gravely humor them. 

THE SECRET of it all has been vanity and selfishness. When these men speak of the toilers they are thinking of their own privileges, their brief but swollen importance and their own inevitable collapse the moment the government, by law, affirms its duty to govern them as well as all other elements of the United States. 

On their way to power they bumbled the phrase-book bromide that a “static” civilization was “sterile.” A system that didn’t go forward must go backward and “change” was mankind’s only hope of progress. 

Having achieved their power, they have resisted all change, since 1934, bellowing at all who proposed the slightest impairment of their privileges, the most reactionary and despotic group in the entire history of the nation. Fearful, suspicious, backward, selfish and old, old, old.


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