Ice-Pick Unionism

Westbrook Pegler

Spartanburg Herald-Journal/May 1, 1940

New York, April 30.—This will be one more fill-in on George Scalise, the labor racketeer, after which these dispatches will let him stew in his own juice for a while.

It has been shown that the official list of the Building Service Employees’ International Union, of which he became president by the process of muscling in, is loaded with ex-convicts and that the bosom friend of Scalise during the time he was rehabilitating himself through altruistic service to the toilers at $20,000 a year and unlimited expenses was little Augie Carfano, alias Pisano, alias Little Aug, a well-known gunman and a conspicuous bubble in the criminal scum which drifts to the Miamis in the winter and to Sarasota in the summer. Little Aug was a close companion of Scalise during the time that William Green’s distinguished colleague was organizing the car washers’ and garage hands’ racket in Brooklyn, which was known as an ice-pick or razor blade union because it was noticed that the tires on cars which were parked in non-union garages came down of ice pick punctures in their tires and of razor slashes in their upholstery.

Against this background consider now an announcement published on page 14 of The Building Service Employee, the official publication of the union, in the issue of January last.

The announcement said that the union had now acquired its own detective agency, “namely, Special Officers’ ad Guards’ Union Service, Inc.; license No. 3256,” as a subsidiary of the Special Officers’ and Guards’ local, No. 177. The possibilities for crime should not need detailed explanation when it is considered that this agency was to occupy a status subordinate to the international under the presidency of Mr. Scalise.

Building service employees include not only bellhops and chambermaids who might have access to the papers and possessions of hotel guests, but the guards and doormen of apartment buildings, who can exclude or admit unauthorized persons above stairs, who have access to the passkeys of apartments and who are in position to know when tenants are home and when they are out. The purposes of the detective agency are not announced in The Building Service Employee but the avowed purposes are unimportant by comparison with the possibilities which would suggest themselves to the lively imagination of those executives who prepared themselves for the labor movement in various prisons.

The Building Service Employee, published at the expense of the union members, most of whom were muscled into the fold and none of whom ever cast a vote on the presidency, is nominally a members’ journal but actually a horn for the personal ballyhoo of Mr. Scalise and a few subordinate officers. Mr. Scalise’s picture adorns the editorial page, with a message from him to those who, willingly or otherwise, were paying his salary and expenses, but the new year spirit bubbled up in a beautiful extra tribute to Mr. George Scalise under the signature of Mr. George Cammarata, secretary-treasurer of Local 32-E.

These dispatches regret to say that they have no background on Mr. Cammarata, and, not knowing how he came into the labor movement or anything about his previous activities, cannot suggest whether he was being naïve or what in writing as follows:

“It is a pleasure as well as a privilege to devote part of this page to our parent body and to our general president, Mr. George Scalise. There are few locals which take time enough off to tell the membership anything about their governing bodies and the men who are directly responsible for the strength and solidarity of their unions. Probably the reason why some of the officers of the locals don’t take time off to talk about their parent bodies is because they are ashamed of the men who are at the head. But we are particularly proud of our general president, Mr. George Scalise. He is a grand person and a militant leader. We are especially proud to have him as a member of our local. That is an honor no one can take away from us. We consider ourselves lucky to have such a man as Mr. Scalise head our international, because he is a darned good man for the job and a swell guy.”

In a few days these dispatches will return to the subject of labor with a capital L. But in the meantime it is the hope of your correspondent to throw a change of pace.