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Jack Ranger

Scandal in Illinois Throws Light on
Political Line of Some Labor Leaders –

Union Officials Secretly on Repub Payroll

(13 June 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 25, 20 June 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CHICAGO, June 13 – As a flash of lightning illuminates a violent landscape, so the recent revelation of the Illinois labor scandal reveals one powerful reason why labor in the United States has no independent political power.

A few days ago the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – a Democratic paper which has been carrying on a feud with the Chicago Tribune, chief support of the former Green Republican administration in Illinois – uncovered the fact that a number of AFL and railroad union officials in Illinois were on the payroll of the Green machine to the extent of $124,793.

Since the Green machine in Illinois was succeeded by a Democratic machine last November, several interesting revelations about Green’s administration have come to light. A few weeks ago, the same St. Louis paper revealed that 51 editors, publishers and columnists in Illinois were paid a total of nearly $500,000 from the state treasury during Green’s tenure in office.

Most of the top union officials involved, it was revealed, were secretly receiving pay from the state Republican machine – one of the most reactionary wings of the national Republican Party – without the knowledge of their own executive boards or union memberships. Most of the union payrollers were listed as “investigators” for the state labor department or the attorney general’s office.

The scandal is all the more sickening when one recalls that, 30 years ago, after the First World War, the union movement in this state was one of the most progressive, politically, in the entire AFL. The Chicago Federation of Labor was then in the forefront of the movement to build a new national labor party.

He Had a Little List

The list of labor traitors reaches right up to the top of the Illinois Federation of Labor, and reads like a Who’s Who of Illinois labor leadership. Here are some of the Judases:

  1. John H. Walker, former president of the Illinois State Federation of Labor, drew $200 a month from September 1, 1945 to December 31, 1948 – $8,000 in all – as a Labor Department “field investigator.”
  2. Carl Soderstrom, attorney and son of Reuben Soderstrom, president of the State Federation of Labor, was paid $7,561 as a labor conciliator between January 1947 and January 1949. Soderstrom has refused to discuss his state job.
  3. Earl J. McMahon of Chicago, secretary-treasurer of the state federation and secretary of the Chicago Building Trades Council, collected $4,575 from 1944 to 1946 from the Green-Chicago Tribune machine. McMahon was first carried on the state payroll as a “clerk in the office of the superintendent of public instruction,” later as a Labor Department investigator.

    Asked if his state job had any connection with the support he gave to Governor Green’s third-term candidacy, McMahon said, “I should say not. I supported a lot of Democrats too.”

    Asked if he supported the idea of labor’s building its own political party, independent of and opposed to the two old parties, McMahon said, “Gracious, no.”

Ends on Boss’s Payroll

  1. Louis Rodier, president of the Springfield Building and Construction Trades Council, skipped out of town when the secret was revealed that he had taken $11,000 from the Republican Green machine, at $250 a month. He was down as an “investigator for the attorney general.”

    “None of us knew Rodier was on the state payroll and members didn’t like it when they found it out,” said Earl Welch, council secretary. “There hasn’t been an election of officers around here for quite a while.”
  2. One of the labor traitors has wound up in a cushy job with an employer, after having worked for Green at $360 a month in 1948. While on the Green payroll, this union official was “settling” strikes in southern Illinois, supposedly in the interests of the workers involved. He is Joseph Hodges, president of the Peoria Building and Construction Trades Council. Hodges liked working for the enemies of labor so much that he wound up as business manager of a road contracting firm.
  3. John Brenton of East St. Louis, business agent and secretary of the Tri-County Carpenters District Council, said that his executive board actually approved his taking $300 a month from the Green machine. The Carpenters Union is headed nationally by William Hutcheson, one of the few labor leaders who has been openly identified with the Republican Party.
  4. Another official of the Carpenters Union who served the Green-Chicago Tribune interests rather than those of the working class is Jack Ellis of Kewanee, business agent of Local 154. When uncovered as a Green pigeon, Ellis blustered that “I did it more or less as a patriotic duty since I had three boys in the service and the work was mostly with veterans.” Ellis was listed as an investigator for the Department of Labor. Green must have liked his service because Ellis was raised from $150 a month to $213.
  5. A number of Dan Tobin’s Teamsters Union officials were pie for the Green bribery. Guy Anthony, business agent of a Teamsters Union local, drew $200 a month as “investigator for the attorney general.” An assistant in the attorney general’s office recalls that “Long was in and out a good deal and did a lot of investigating.” Long continued to hold his union job while on the state payroll. He left town when his perfidy was uncovered.
  6. Herbert C. Wagner of the DeKalb County Teamsters Union took $6,140 of Green’s payoff money from 1944 to 1948. He “couldn’t be reached for comment.”
  7. David O. Sark, president of the Chicago Municipal Teamsters Union, was “field investigator” in the state Labor Department at $200 a month. He “couldn’t be reached for comment.”
  8. The late Leonard A. Murphy of Rockford, secretary of the General Drivers Union Local 325, took $11,198 from 1942 to 1948.

“Naturally” for Green

  1. While Thomas Roe was pretending to represent the interests of the Order of Railway Conductors as legislative chief of Springfield, he was slipped $11,518 from the Green machine – as “investigator” for the highway division at $204 a month. Roe is refusing to answer telephoned questions as to his queer concept of loyalty to organized labor.
  2. Thomas F. O’Connor, business agent of the Peoria Bartenders Union, was on the Green payroll for $8,374. He had the odd assignment of keeping Green’s Labor Department informed about the TP&W rail strike, a strike in which several pickets were murdered by company gunmen near Peoria. Asked if he was in favor of Green for governor, O’Connor said, “Naturally.”
  3. John Bateman of Murphysboro, business agent of Plumbers & Steamfitters Union Local 160, received $150 a month from the labor-hating Green machine. “I was a sort of investigator and conciliator for the Labor Department,” said Bateman. “I was told they would call on me but they never did.”
  4. Lester Mason, business agent of the Springfield Bricklayers Union, was really in the dough, drawing $400 a month as “mason foreman” on Secretary of State Rowe’s payroll. “I really worked every day, making repairs on tile, brick and stone at The State House,” insisted Mason.

They’re Against Labor Party

Each one of these union officials who, it is now revealed, has secretly been dipping into the Republican Party pork-barrel, is conspicuously identified with the “business” type of craft unionism. All are conservative, indifferent to lack of democracy within the union movement, and viciously opposed to the movement for an independent labor party.

The revelations have shaken the Illinois union movement. While they obviously uncover one of the central motives of American labor leaders in opposing a labor party, they also have dark implications for many other union officials in the United States.

If – many union members are today asking themselves – a number of union officials in Illinois have for years secretly accepted money from a political machine controlled by our enemies, how about other union leaders? Are they also being bribed by the Republicans or Democrats? Is this why they oppose militant democratic unionism and always spout off so hotly whenever the labor-party question comes up on the floor?

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