Rising Star of Teamsters’ Leader

Westbrook Pegler

Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 10, 1946

Dan Tobin, the president of the Teamsters’ Union, is 76 years old and will be pushed out of his job in a revolution of young turks. The only aspirant for his place is Dave Beck, of Seattle, a dictator in his own jurisdiction which includes the entire Pacific coast.

Mr. Beck entered the situation as Mr. Tobin’s protege and for 10 years has ruled not only the Teamsters but much of the interstate and intrastate commerce of California, Washington and Oregon. He began by personal appointment as Mr. Tobin’s representative. Mr. Beck is an alert, highly intelligent, aggressive professional unioneer who hates Communists and takes, and deserves, credit for a successful fight in that area to confine Harry Bridges to the waterfront, resisting Mr. Bridges’ efforts to shove his influence inshore. 

TO CALL HIM a professional unioneer is simply to acknowledge that here is a relatively young man, in his 50’s, who, like Tom Dewey in government, has made a profession of his occupation, studying the history of the labor movement and developing his strength progressively, year after year. 

His power is such that, with a word from Seattle, he was able to call off the general strike in Oakland last week at an alarming moment when, otherwise, a local, or wider, civil war might have occurred. However, he could start a civil war just as easily under our laws. Although he is much more intelligent and efficient than Mr. Tobin and has none of the old man’s vanity, he is not, necessarily, a more desirable man from the standpoint of the whole public. He undoubtedly would clean out, however, many of the stupid old local and regional bosses of Mr. Tobin’s political organization within the Teamsters and organize an entirely new administration. 

MR. BECK is now the most likely candidate for the presidency of the entire American Federation of Labor but not necessarily as the immediate successor to William Green, who is 73 years old and weary of the painful personal strife which moved John L. Lewis to write last year that there actually was no labor movement in the United States but a confusion of bitter rivalries. 

Until Mr. Lewis jeopardized his own power with the current coal strike and drew down upon his union and himself the fines and the spectacular denunciation pronounced by Judge T. Alan Goldsborough, a scheme had existed whereby Mr. Lewis was to persuade Mr. Green to resign as president of the A. F. L. and contrive the appointment of William L. Hutcheson, the president of the Carpenters Union, another of the big A. F. L. unions, to serve the unexpired portion of Mr. Green’s term. Mr. Hutcheson has wanted the A. F. L. presidency as an honor to end his career.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to foresee whether Mr. Lewis will emerge from his present troubles bigger than ever, a busted dictator or only scuffed up. Anyway, the scheme certainly goes on ice for a time, but even if old Hutch should presently get a term or a portion of a term as president of the A. F. L. that would mean no impediment to Mr. Beck’s ambitions, if he wants the job. Mr. Hutcheson is just too old to carry on. Mr. Beck might be delayed a year or two but that little time would serve him comfortably in the development of his political plans and power. In any case, Mr. Beck is coming on whereas the old men are tired and fading and realize now that the only question facing them is not whether they will go but how gracefully. 

Like Mr. Hutcheson. Mr. Lewis, and F. D. Roosevelt. Old Dan has been a good practicing nepotist, for there have always been soft, well-paid jobs for his boys on the Teamsters’ pay roll. The Tobins have really been a royal family. 

MR. TOBIN had ambitions to be secretary of labor under Mr. Roosevelt but was told Mrs. Roosevelt had promised the job to her friend. Frances Perkins, who held it until Mr. Big died. So the closest that Dan ever came to his goal was one of those selfless secretariats in the White House, in 1940. He lasted only from August to October, however, and no explanation ever was made of what he did or why he got out. 

When Mr. Roosevelt was trying to pack the Supreme Court his press agents insisted that a man’s usefulness diminished after 70. Here are Tobin 76, Hutcheson 77, Green, 78 and Lewis 67, all sot on old ideas, cramped by old rivalries and defensive positions and unable to consider any progressive plans. Changes are in the making now. A year or a little more will see the clearance of old monuments, personalities as well as antiquated prejudices and reactionary ideas.


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