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Jack Wilson

New Jersey C.I.O. Meets Challenge of Boss Hague

(December 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 19, 18 December 1937, p. 3
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The wide-spread publicity given to the C.I.O. organizing drive here because of the outrageous actions of “I am the Law” Mayor Frank Hague revealed the shocking extent to which this sweat-shop area is controlled by the Democratic party machine as a brutal dictatorship without any civil rights for the exploited workers. Labor is terrorized in this city by the cops acting under Hague’s orders. He promised the chamber of commerce that he would keep Jersey City open shop and he’s doing his best in that direction.

Raid on Organizers

When forty CIO organizers were run out of town recently and thirteen others were arrested for distributing leaflets, the oppressive conditions here were first exposed.

The railroading of the arrested organizers into prison without any pretence of giving them a fair trial (no jury or bond rights) emphasized the nature of the Democratic party regime here.

Not content with “teaching the C.I.O.” that lesson, Hague closed all union halls and kept C.I.O. unions already organized from holding meetings.

Hague’s influence is not a local affair. Last summer an exposure of Nazi activities in New Jersey brought a demand for a congressional investigation. Hague called Jim Farley, right hand man of President Roosevelt, and told him to get it called off! It was called off.

Tie-Up With Roosevelt

Roosevelt’s plurality in New Jersey was due to the Hague machine, and Hague hasn’t been a political boss for twenty years without knowing how to extract benefits for votes given!

Not since the late Huey Long smashed every pretence of so-called democratic government and ruled by the might of the National Guard has America seen a more dangerous menace to Organized Labor than “I am the Law” Hague.

The Hague-Democratic party machine in New Jersey is smoothly organized and operates with the power and influence that only Tammany Hall, in its greatest days, could be compared to it. Besides building a party bureaucracy on the basis of government jobs, Hague has devised a new and more effective method of keeping his machine intact and influential.

Basis of Hague Control

Every open shop employer is guaranteed no “labor trouble,” if he allows Hague to control part of the jobs in the plants. Any man going to a factory with an OK by Hague is given work. Hague thus builds his political machine among the workers on the basis of his job distribution power.

Is it any wonder that Hague’s machine has withstood various attacks for the past twenty years?

The employers know the power of Hague’s machine and have been flocking to New Jersey to erect sweatshops because it offers great profit-making possibilities at the expense of the defenseless workers.

Appalling Conditions

The state Department of Labor last week revealed that over 34,000 women and children were employed for less than $6 a week working over 40 hours.

It also reported that over 292,000 women were employed at less than $17 a week, which is considered the minimum wage necessary to stave off starvation.

Over 326,000 are employed at starvation wages in New Jersey! Magnificent prospects for profits!

Just as the open shop South threatens the unions in the Northern states because of lower wage levels etc., the Jersey sweatshops not only exploit their own employees but drag down wage scales in nearby areas, especially New York, whose “runaway” factories have settled in Hague’s domain.

Even though the deepening of the crisis makes organizing campaigns infinitely more difficult, the C.I.O. is seeking to smash through the dictatorship over the sweatshops.

One of the leading militants in the C.I.O., Bill Carney, veteran of the Goodyear and General Motors strikes, is directing the C.I.O. campaign in New Jersey.

“Underground” Organizing

While the various legal moves of the C.I.O. have been receiving the bulk of the publicity in the drive, the chief work of the C.I.O. organisers remains in carrying out “underground” organizational activity in Jersey City.

Until the workers of Jersey City themselves can be placed in struggles against the Hague machine and the employers whom he represents, the C.I.O. campaign cannot assume major proportions.

Legal battles against Hague have been won, time and again, but he merely ignores the court decisions, with the silent approval of the judges who took office as his men.

The outstanding lesson to date of the Jersey City situation is that the workers who voted Democratic because Roosevelt and his administration pretended to be “friends of labor’’ were deceived and are beginning to realize it.

The sentiment for a labor party is partly based in Jersey on the fact that the workers see they cannot get anything by tagging along with the capitalist parties, Republican or Democratic.

In fighting to smash the dictatorship of Hague and the Democratic machine, the workers learn that until capitalism itself is destroyed the sweatshops will remain.

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