From International Socialist Review, Vol.28 No.5, September-October 1967, pp.61-63.
Mark up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The Labor Spy Racket
by Leo Huberman
Republished from 1937 Modern Age Books edition by Monthly Review,
with postscript on McClellan Committee hearings (1957). 209 pp. $5.00.
In this era when labor statesmen like Walter Reuther and George Meany are trying to prove that there is no class war and there are no class distinctions, the republication of this valuable handbook on anti-labor techniques and tactics as they have been developed throughout the whole history of organized labor, is welcome indeed.
Huberman wrote his original book in 1937, basing himself on the first eight volumes of the LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee. This committee spent months delving into the anti-union activities of big business in the turbulent ’30s when the CIO was on the rise. Much of the text of the original book is actual testimony by reluctant witnesses from business, from the then burgeoning labor espionage industry, from labor spies themselves, and from workers “hooked” into stooging on their fellow workers.
Perhaps one of the most infamous cases involves Richard Frankensteen who was the first president of the independent Automotive Industrial Workers Assn. Frankensteen’s best friend, John Andrews, the vice president of AIWS paint local at Dodge, was a spy. During the long period that he and Frankensteen worked to build the union he appeared to be a strong union man, an able organizer, a good speaker, ready and willing to do anything to build the union.
The wives and children of the two men also became inseparable. The two families even shared a summer cottage for one vacation while the plant was shut down. Every night during that long association John Andrews wrote a detailed report to his agency – the Corporations Auxiliary Co., a private detective agency hired by Chrysler Corp. John Andrews was paid $40 a month for his treachery. The Chrysler Corp. paid Auxiliary $9 a day for his services.
Multiply John Andrews by many thousands and you get a vague idea of the bigness of these “labor relations” operations.
In his postscript Huberman deals with the very short hearings of the McClellan Committee (Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Field of the US Senate, 1957). This committee spent many months delving into possible racketeering connections of the labor movement, but took only two months to investigate “improper” activities in the management field. But their revelations were interesting.
While “labor statesmen” may believe the old days of class war are all over, the capitalist class has no such illusions. It still looks upon the working class as its class enemy. It still employs every weapon at its disposal to keep its supremacy. In the north, in the big industrial cities where the unions are well established the methods used are more modern – bugging devices everywhere, even in union headquarters, take the place of most of the old fashioned labor spies. But it is a different story in the south where runaway plants are now in danger of being organized. There the old methods still serve.
For instance, in North and South Carolina, the J.T. Stevens Company, headed by former Secretary of the Army Stevens, is fighting an organizing drive of the Textile Workers Union with labor spies. More than 100 workers have been fired for union activity. Recently an appealed NLRB award, ordering the Stevens company to rehire 87 of those workers, has been upheld by a Circuit Court of Appeals. Now Stevens is taking the case to the Supreme Court.
And in McKeepsport, Tenn. Pinkerton thugs are guarding scab labor at the McKeepsport Press, where several unions of the printing trades have been on strike for five years.
Much of the material in this book will be new to the young generation of students, civil rights fighters and workers. To many young people the history of the labor movement, especially that dynamic period beginning in the 1930s is either entirely unknown or thought of as one views an historic novel – interesting but dramatized beyond reality. To those of us who lived through and fought in the battle to bring unionization to the masses of American workers it is anything but mysterious and over-rated. It was life. And it was very real.
Today there is a new turbulence in the labor movement, a new fighting spirit especially among young workers who refused to be led
by their noses into bad agreements by “labor statesmen” who insist the class war is over. This book should be read and studied by all union members, by all students, civil rights workers and antiwar fighters. It is a good idea to know your enemy. And it is even better to be fully aware of his arsenal of weapons.
Last updated on 19 June 2009