Death on the Waterfront
By J. R. de Szigethy
One of the businesses that was the inspiration for the classic motion picture 'On the Waterfront' has now quietly died after operating on the Brooklyn waterfront for 148 years. Over 200 employees of the landmark Domino Sugar plant recently joined the ranks of the unemployed. An examination of the history of the Domino Sugar plant also reveals the troubled history of organized labor and organized crime in America as well, including the evolution over the decades of the methods in which State and Federal authorities have sought to address the plight of working people and their families.
The Domino Sugar plant opened on the Brooklyn waterfront in 1856. Franklin Pierce was then President of the United States. For decades the sugar plant provided profitable employment to hundreds of New Yorkers without incident. Then, 80 years after its opening, the workers at the Sugar plant, along with the rest of America, found themselves facing the Great Depression. With the collapse of the Stock Market in 1929 businesses by the thousands failed and a quarter of America's Workers were unemployed. The Domino Sugar plant was one business that survived, but a new threat would emerge for its Workers.
The economic hardships endured by the American people during the Great Depression prompted many to examine Communism as an answer to solving the problems of working people. One of the tenants of the Communist doctrine was the forming of Labor Unions to further the agenda of working people. Congress passed legislation during the Depression which facilitated the forming of Labor Unions, and tens of thousands of working men and women across the United States soon formed a Union within their workplace.
Most of the working people who formed Unions were not Communists, but were certainly aware that Communists were in fact amongst their ranks. For many in the labor movement, this was not seen as a problem. What was unforeseen, however, was the opportunity for members of organized crime to gain control over many of these Unions. Just as Prohibition in the 1920s had fueled opportunities for the Mob to grow in power, so the labor movement of the 1930s presented avenues of opportunity for the American Mafia.
What attracted organized crime to the Union movement was a simple commodity the labor Unions possessed; money. By that time thousands of Union members across America were paying compulsory Union Dues which amounted into the millions of dollars. Many of these millions resided in Union Pension Funds and health care programs, an easy target for organized crime rip-offs. The Mob's infiltration of labor Unions was self-perpetuating given that Mob violence or the threat of Mob violence was often used by some Unions to force the businesses to accede to the Union's demands. In many cases the "Collective Bargaining" of a Union amounted to "Collective Extortion."
The first law enforcement figure to make a significant impact in the fight against organized crime on behalf of working people and their families was Thomas Dewey, who in 1931 was appointed as a Special Prosecutor for the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Dewey created a sensation across America, winning dozens of trials of Mafia figures such as "Lucky" Luciano and heroin dealer Lepke Buchalter. With these prosecutions came enormous risks, and Mob associate Dutch Schultz schemed with others to assassinate Dewey. Fearing such a move would bring further 'heat' upon them by law enforcement, associates of Schultz had him murdered before his plot against Dewey could be carried out.
The average Worker in New York during this time was weary of the effects of organized crime on their daily lives. The crime wave that was the result of the Mob's drug dealing, gambling, and prostitution schemes created an atmosphere of fear that made average citizens fearful to venture into the public, making them in effect prisoners within their own homes. Working people in cities controlled by the Mafia understood that they paid a "Mafia tax" on most goods and services, thus reducing their disposable income and standard of living.
Thus, the efforts of Thomas Dewey against organized crime resonated with working people in New York. Dewey capitalized on this, winning election as District Attorney for Manhattan in 1937 and as Governor of New York for three terms beginning in 1942. In 1948 Dewey ran for President on the Republican ticket. Most members of the Media expected Dewey to win, given his enormous popularity with crime-weary residents of the major cities of the United States. When Dewey's opponent Harry Truman went to bed on election night, Truman did so believing he had lost the election, given that the urban vote had been tabulated and was overwhelmingly for Dewey. Overnight, however, as the ''farm' vote slowly came in from rural America, the vote total shifted towards Truman. The working people of Chicago, clearly the most corrupt city in America, awoke that day to the promise that they would be rescued by the election of a tough, anti-Mafia President in Prosecutor Dewey. The Chicago Daily Tribune's front page opened with the headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!"
Unfortunately, for the next four years working people would be victimized by organized crime and organized labor figures that were protected by President Truman's Attorney General Tom Clark, one of the most corrupt Attorney Generals in United States history.
Despite his narrow loss, the enormous popularity of Thomas Dewey with urban Americans was the first example of the potential of a Mafia prosecutor to build a strong political base by taking a stand against the scourge of working people and their families. Democrats Robert F. Kennedy and Robert Morgenthau and Republicans Fiorello LaGuardia and Rudolph Giuliani would adopt Dewey's example with success.
The end of World War II saw a new "Cold War" emerge between Democracies such as the United States and Great Britain versus the Communist Soviet Union. The Soviets seized upon the chaos of the war by mobilizing their armies to set up puppet regimes throughout Eastern Europe, enslaving millions of working people. In the United States, Communism was losing its appeal as the American people learned of the horrors of totalitarianism. Media reports that in recent years the Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin had deliberately starved to death between 7 to 10 million people in the Ukraine made a profound impact on the American people. Thus, the 'Workers paradise' the Communists had promised worldwide was in fact a 'Workers Holocaust' that equaled the crimes against Humanity committed by Nazi Germany.
To combat the threat of Communism the U. S. Congress in 1947 passed legislation which created the Central Intelligence Agency. The original charter prohibited the CIA from operating domestic intelligence gathering operations within the United States. However, in 1949 Congress amended the CIA's charter to allow the agency to spy on labor Unions within the United States, in response to the fact that many of America's Unions were still infiltrated by avowed Communists.
In 1947 Congress began a series of inquiries into the Communist movement within America. One of those who testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee was Ronald Reagan, then the President of the Screen Actors Guild, the Union that represents actors in Hollywood. Reagan without hesitation answered questions as to his knowledge of Communists within his Union.
The House Un-American Activities Committee then forced under subpoena 10 Hollywood screenwriters to appear before Congress. All 10 refused to answer questions as to their involvement with the Communist Party. These "Hollywood Ten" were then "blacklisted" - denied an opportunity to work in the entertainment industry. In 1950 the "Hollywood Ten" were all sent to prison for Contempt of Congress. Thus began a painful era in American history that would evolve into a modern-day 'witch hunt,' an Inquisition that would punish the innocent as well as the guilty.
Simultaneous to the Congressional efforts to fight domestic Communism, a crusade against the American Mafia emerged in New York. This crusade was not led by the successors to Thomas Dewey in law enforcement, but rather by a Catholic Priest headquartered in Manhattan. The year was 1949, and Father John Corridan began approaching rank-and-file members of the Longshoremen's Unions along the Waterfront to challenge them to initiate a Union Reform Movement by standing up against the corrupt Mob bosses that ran their Unions. Among those Father Corridan challenged in this regard were Workers at the Domino Sugar plant, who belonged to Local 1814 of the ILA.
Malcolm Johnson, a courageous investigative reporter for the New York Sun newspaper, soon championed Father Corridan's brave initiative. Johnson began publishing an on-going series of exposÚs of the Mafia and the Longshoremen's Union entitled "Crime on the Waterfront." Johnson's riveting series depicted in stark detail the American Mafia's use of violence - and the threat of violence - to enslave the Workers in the Waterfront Unions. This series created a sensation throughout America and for this series Malcolm Johnson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Johnson later turned this series into a book, "Crime on the Labor Front."
This book and series set the stage for the televised hearings on the American Mafia in 1951 led by U. S. Senator Estes Kefauver. Senator Kefauver's Committee took their investigation into this plight on American Workers across the country in highly publicized hearings in most large American cities. By the millions, average American Workers flocked to bars, department stores, private homes and public facilities, - wherever they could find a television set, - to follow the unfolding drama of the growing menace to working people and their families by organized crime.
One result of these investigations was the subpoena a few months later of Hollywood Director Elia Kazan, who was forced to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kazan explained to the Committee that as a young man he believed that Communism was the answer for America's social problems and thus he joined the Communist Party. Kazan testifed that he soon became disillusioned and left the Communist Party after 18 months because he was tired of "being told what to say and think and do!" The Communists' disdain for Freedom of Speech, one of America's most cherished rights under our Constitution, prompted Kazan to "name names" of 8 members of the Hollywood community whom Kazan knew to be members of the Communist Party. Kazan's testimony created another sensation, furthering the 'blacklist' that destroyed many lives. Among those was legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin, who was forced into exile outside the United States through the machinations of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Another comedian who would have to answer questions about her flirtation with Communism was Lucille Ball.
During this troubled time the International Longshoremen's Union was in turmoil. Concluding that the I. L. A. was hopelessly corrupt, in 1953 the American Federation of Labor suspended the I. L. A. from its organization and formed a rival Union, the International Brotherhood of Longshoremen. The A. F. L. then began an organizing campaign to persuade the Waterfront Workers to De-Certify from the I. L. A. and join the I.B.L. In December 1953 the National Labor Relations Board called an election in this regard. Inspiration for the Waterfront Workers to take this action came from several fronts, most notably from New York Governor Thomas Dewey, who had been holding public hearings of the New York State Crime Commission that exposed the corruption of the Longshoremen's Union. According to Dewey biographer Richard Norton Smith, the I. L.A. on a daily basis extorted huge amounts of cash and goods from hostage business owners whose goods were unloaded on the Waterfront docks. When the vote was tabulated the Workers had narrowly "voted" to stay within the I.L.A. Governor Dewey suspected voter fraud, and called the I.L.A. leadership "a ruthless mob attempting to preserve by force . . . power which it gained by force!"
As the events that led to this vote were unfolding Elia Kazan saw an opportunity to present to the American people the story of the plight of the Longshoremen's Union Workers along the Waterfront. Screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who also had flirted briefly with the Communist movement, turned Malcolm Johnson's series into a screenplay. Called "On the Waterfront" the story opened with the sensational event of a rank-and-file Worker in the Union being murdered by Union leaders for having spoken out against the Mafia corruption in his workplace. The script for this movie followed the moral dilemma of a rank-and-filer who knew who had committed this murder but, fearing for his own life, chose to remain silent. Prompting this young Worker to take a stand against Evil was a Catholic Priest, modeled after Father Corridan.
This story was so shocking and disturbing that studio executives in Hollywood were reluctant to touch it. Elia Kazan persisted, eventually convincing Columbia Studios to make the film with Kazan as Director. At first, studio executives expressed their desire to see Frank Sinatra play the leading role, but Kazan, who had directed Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire," wanted Brando. The film premiered in October 1954 and was a sensational hit, resonating with working people across America. The film won 8 Oscars, including those for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.
This movie made a profound impact on millions of Americans who experienced it; among those was a young, brash child of privilege, Robert Kennedy, who vowed that he would dedicate his life to championing those American Workers who were being exploited by corrupt Unions.
During the time this movie was being produced the hysteria in America regarding domestic Communists was reaching its climax. Three men who happened to be closeted homosexuals seized upon this national anxiety to further their own careers. Those three were FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, former Assistant U. S. Attorney Roy Cohn, and Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. Hoover brought to this equation an obsession for investigating suspected Communists while at the same time publicly denying that the Mafia existed in America. Roy Cohn had been one of the Federal Prosecutors that convicted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg of passing nuclear technology to the Soviet Union. Senator McCarthy was the novice in this unholy alliance but was a fast learner in the art of demagoguery.
For four years Senator McCarthy led his witch-hunt for Communists within the U. S. government, holding sensational hearings that captured the attention of the American people. On his staff was a young attorney, Bobby Kennedy. The televised McCarthy hearings made everyone connected to the Committee an instant national figure. However, Bobby Kennedy became increasingly uncomfortable with the tactics of panel members such as Roy Cohn. Kennedy then wisely resigned from the Committee after a few months of service.
Gradually, the American people began to realize that they were being taken for a ride by McCarthy and his associates, that the threat to America by domestic Communists was being overstated and exploited. President Dwight Eisenhower was among those who quietly conspired to expose Senator McCarthy and bring about his downfall. Finally, an attorney for the United States Army, Joseph Welch, stood up to the Senator in one of the most riveting moments in American history, an event broadcast live on television. Welch admonished the Senator thus: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?"
Thus Senator McCarthy's reign of terror came to an end. McCarthy drank him himself to death within 3 short years. J. Edgar Hoover would continue his campaign against perceived Communists while completely ignoring the growing menace to working people presented by the Mafia. Roy Cohn would go on to represent as a criminal attorney some of America's most dangerous Mafia figures. Cohn died of AIDS in 1986.
Bobby Kennedy emerged from this debacle with his reputation intact and an invigorated compassion for working people and their families. Determined to make his mark, Kennedy approached Senator John McClellan after the Democrats regained a majority in the Congress following the elections of 1954. Kennedy asked to be Chief Counsel on a new Committee led by McClellan that would investigate organized crime in America. Joining Bobby Kennedy on this Committee would be his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
The McClellan Committee became another national obsession, with Bobby Kennedy the star during televised hearings in which Kennedy grilled leading Mafia figures of the day, most of whom repeatedly invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Bobby Kennedy taunted his adversaries relentlessly; during one such grilling of Chicago Mob Boss Sam Giancana, the wiseguy erupted into a nervous giggle, prompting Bobby Kennedy to taunt: "I thought only little girls giggled, Mr. Giancana!" Bobby Kennedy also aggressively pursued Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa, and Tony Provenzano of the Teamsters' Union as well as Mob bosses Joey Gallo, Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante.
In his 1978 biography of Robert Kennedy Arthur Schlesinger Jr. revealed that Kennedy, like Thomas Dewey before him, was the target of conspiracies by organized crime figures. Threats were made against Kennedy's young children. A whispering campaign was launched with members of the Media that falsely claimed Kennedy was a homosexual. One newspaper reported that Kennedy utilized the services of bodyguards to protect his family, a claim Kennedy denied.
Kennedy would not be intimidated and his efforts sent many Mafia/Labor figures to prison, including Teamsters President Dave Beck. Efforts by Kennedy to do the same to Beck's successor, Jimmy Hoffa, took many years of work before reaching fruition.
In order to empower working people and their families victimized by corrupt Labor Unions, Robert Kennedy and his brother John spent two years drafting legislation towards this end. Congress finally passed a compromise Bill in 1959. Called the Landrum-Griffin Act, the legislation included provisions that prohibited individuals from holding office within a labor Union for a period of 5 years after that person had resigned as a member of the Communist Party and/or 5 years after being released from prison after a felony conviction. The Act also strengthened Freedom of Speech rights for Union members who dared to criticize Union leaders, strengthened the rights of members to sue their Unions, and compels labor Unions to file annual financial reports with the U. S. Department of Labor. As in the case of Father Corridan's efforts, the legislation was passed in the hopes that rank-and-file members of corrupt Unions would lead an internal Union Reform Movement. Towards this end, Bobby Kennedy published that year a book that summarized his fight for working people and their families. Entitled "The Enemy Within: The McClellan Committee's Crusade Against Jimmy Hoffa and Corrupt Labor Unions," the book became an immediate best seller.
There was, however, a dark, downside to Robert Kennedy's investigations; his uncovering of his own father's ties to organized crime and corrupt labor Unions. Robert's father Joseph Kennedy had made a fortune during Prohibition by running illegal liquor from his headquarters in Boston. He took this money with him to Hollywood, where he made more millions as a self-made movie mogul. In the process he acquired associations with some of the most notorious organized crime figures in America.
In the 1930s Joseph Kennedy literally purchased from the Roosevelt Administration an appointment as Ambassador to Great Britain. This position ended in disgrace after Ambassador Kennedy uttered pro-Nazi sentiments just as the world was headed towards another World War. Ambassador Kennedy returned to the United States, still pursuing his dream of seeing his son Joseph Junior elected the first Irish-American President of the United States.
Young Joseph, however, was killed during the War, as was nearly his brother John. At first, the Ambassador was reluctant to transfer his hopes upon his son John, who was ill with a variety of ailments and who nearly died on at least two occasions. Still, the Ambassador was determined in his quest and by 1960 the elder Kennedy believed the time was right for his son the Senator. Ambassador Kennedy used his considerable contacts in organized crime and organized labor to secure for his son the Nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. Robert Kennedy resigned from the McClellan Committee in order to manage his brother's campaign, playing the role of 'good cop' to his father's 'bad cop.'
The election of 1960 was one of the closest in U. S. history and the country faced the prospect of Court challenges to the outcome. Clear evidence existed of massive voter fraud committed by corrupt figures in Illinois and Texas that threw the election to Senator Kennedy. The Republican candidate Richard Nixon later stated in his memoirs that he could not put the country through a contentious Court challenge of the voter fraud, although some Republican operatives acted otherwise. Thus, on a cold January morning in 1961, Nixon stood a few feet away on the steps of the Capital as John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President.
One of the most decisive yet controversial acts of the new President was to name his brother Robert as his choice for Attorney General of the United States. Bobby Kennedy's priorities as Attorney General were two-fold; to move the country along in the growing civil rights movement and to prosecute those members of organized crime and organized labor who preyed upon working people and their families.
A major obstacle to both goals was in the person of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. In theory, the Director of the FBI reports to the Attorney General. In practice, however, Hoover was his own force to be reckoned with. In regards to the Mafia, the Mafia personally compromised Hoover himself. Hoover associated with members of the Mob, gambled with them, and took the public position that the Mafia did not even exist. (What did in fact exist, along with the Mob, according to some, was the Mob's possession of photographs of Hoover in a compromising position with another man.) On the civil rights issue, Hoover was a racist, dead opposed to the burgeoning movement for civil rights for all of America's citizens. One leader of this cause was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Hoover had spied upon for many years.
While a victim of blackmail himself, Hoover was a master in the art of blackmail. Biographies on Robert Kennedy such as that by historian Evan Thomas reveal the treacherous methods the FBI Director would resort to. Through his network of spies -which included members of the Mafia and their criminal attorney of choice, Roy Cohn - Hoover would detect John F. Kennedy in an alleged indiscretion and then write it up in a memo he would then pass on to his 'boss' - Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. Hoover would express his concern that the President was setting himself up as a potential target of blackmail, with the implication that such activity was a serious issue of 'national security.' This blackmail on Hoover's part was implicit and venal and was the only reason Hoover retained his position as FBI Director for so many years.
Mafia figures during this time also played the 'national security card' by offering their considerable skills at murder to participate in a plot to assassinate Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro. The Communist leader had become the number one target of the Kennedy Administration after Castro brought the world to the brink of nuclear war by allowing the instillation of Soviet strategic nuclear missiles inside Cuba. Those various members of organized crime involved in this scheme were quick to point out to the Kennedy Administration that in order to concoct and carry out such a hit, it would be necessary for the Attorney General to curtail his efforts to put them into prison.
Such was the complex situation Attorney General Robert Kennedy faced in his crusade to protect the average American citizen from organized crime. To secure the popular support he felt he needed in order to carry out his agenda against the Mafia, Bobby Kennedy turned to the example set by the movie "On the Waterfront." Recognizing the enormous impact this motion picture had made with the American people, Kennedy approached Budd Schulberg, the Oscar-winning screenplay author of that movie and convinced him to write a screenplay of his book "The Enemy Within: The McClellan Committee's Crusade Against Jimmy Hoffa and Corrupt Labor Unions." Schulberg agreed and he and Kennedy had actor Paul Newman in mind to portray young Kennedy. Hollywood was already in the process of turning the exploits of one member of the Kennedy family into a movie, that being 'PT 109,' the exploits of JFK as a Naval Officer during World War II.
However, Kennedy and Schulberg soon encountered resistance from the labor Unions that wielded enormous power in Hollywood. The Teamsters threatened that their truck drivers would not deliver copies of such a movie to the thousands of movie theatres across America that they were under contract to. The projectionists that loaded the movies within every theater also belonged to a mobbed-up Union. Hollywood Mob boss Johnny Roselli was reported to be pulling strings to prevent the movie from being made. Jimmy Hoffa's cronies also waged a campaign of intimidation against Hollywood moguls to keep the movie from being made. Then, the Producer of the movie suddenly died of a heart attack. He was just 49 years old. Thus, the movie version of "The Enemy Within" died.
Undaunted, Attorney General Kennedy kept up his relentless pursuit of Mafia and Union bosses. Kennedy had federal agents arrest drug dealer Carlos Marcello and physically deport him to his alleged country of origin, Guatemala. Jimmy Hoffa was put on trial on charges of extortion.
On a November day in 1963 the Attorney General was having lunch at his home outside Washington with several members of his Mafia and Union prosecution team, including a young Robert Morgenthau, then the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Kennedy received a phone call from J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI Director informed the Attorney General that his brother had just been shot in Dallas, Texas.
In SONS AND BROTHERS Kennedy biographer Richard D. Mahoney reveals that from that moment until his death, Bobby Kennedy was tormented by his belief that his brother's murder was the result of his relentless prosecution of organized crime. This suspicion was strengthened 3 days after the President's murder when the man held in custody for this crime, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself murdered by a man named Jack Ruby, an event witnessed nationwide on live television. Ruby, a nightclub owner and former Organizer for a corrupt Union, was an Associate of the Chicago Mafia Family.
Extensive investigations by the Warren Commission, CBS News, ABC News, and acclaimed author Gerald Posner, who wrote the best-seller CASE CLOSED all concluded that there was no Mafia conspiracy to murder the President and that Oswald acted alone. To this day four decades after Kennedy's death, millions of Americans believe the Mafia was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
In 1964 Robert Kennedy, still deeply distraught over the murder of his brother, set out on a tour of Germany and Poland in an apparent effort to 'find himself.' What Kennedy 'found' in Poland was an enthusiastic embrace by the working people of that occupied country. Kennedy and the average Polish Worker had three things in common which led to an immediate bond; adherence to the Catholic Faith, which was opposed by the Atheist Communist regime, opposition to Communism itself, and opposition to labor Unions that were under Communist control. So moved by the warmth and support he received from the average rank-and-file Workers in Poland, Robert Kennedy was emboldened to take on a new direction in his life. Upon returning to the United States, Robert Kennedy announced that he was resigning as Attorney General in order to seek election to the United States Senate from the State of New York.
In the next year, Robert Kennedy would undertake another excursion in an attempt to define to his followers as well as to himself who he was and where he was going with his life. In 1965 LIFE Magazine featured a story written by the newly elected Senator Kennedy. Months earlier the government of Canada had named it's highest unclimbed mountain peak after the slain President and Robert Kennedy felt compelled to be the first human to climb to the top of that mountain. The reason Mount Kennedy had yet to be climbed was the fact that it was a very steep and extremely dangerous mountain. Robert Kennedy recognized the dangers in attempting this endeavor but pursued it with the help of several seasoned climbers. Once successfully atop Mount Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy planted a plaque in memory of his slain brother. In LIFE Magazine, Kennedy wrote: "In our conversations, they (the fellow climbers) insisted that politics was far more dangerous than climbing."
In 1967 LIFE Magazine published an exposÚ on organized crime in America. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was at last quoted publicly stating that the Mafia did in fact exist and that the Gambino and Genovese families exercised ironclad control over the Waterfront Unions in New York and New Jersey. The story was remarkable also in reporting the acknowledgement of Anthony Scotto, the President of Local 1814 of the Longshoremen's Union, that the Mafia did in fact exist. Scotto also noted his close association with State and Federal organized crime Prosecutors, as well as his friendship with and admiration of New York Senator Robert Kennedy.
In 1968 Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for President of the United States. On June 5 the crucial California primary was held. Kennedy had resonated with working people in California through his championing of the campaign of the United Farm Workers led by Ceasar Chavez. As the elections results came in that night, among Kennedy's entourage at campaign headquarters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles were authors Budd Schulberg and George Plimpton, along with football star Rosey Grier. As millions watched on television after Kennedy's victory speech, an assassin, a young Palestinian named Sirhan B. Sirhan, cut down Bobby Kennedy. With Robert Kennedy died the opportunity for any meaningful prosecution of organized crime for more than another decade.
The election of 1968 was one of the closest in American history, with Republican Richard Nixon edging out Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. President Nixon named as his Attorney General his campaign director, John Mitchell. In 1970 Congress passed new legislation that gave Prosecutors potent new weapons in the fight against organized crime. The legislation was entitled the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, "RICO" for short. Unfortunately, Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell was himself a criminal and Mitchell declined to use the new powers granted by Congress to combat organized crime. President Nixon betrayed where he stood on this issue when, in 1971 Nixon Commuted the sentence of former Teamsters' President Jimmy Hoffa.
John Mitchell became the first U. S. Attorney General to be convicted of serious crimes and was imprisoned for his illegal activities during the Watergate affair. Facing Impeachment, President Nixon resigned in disgrace. His successor, Gerald Ford, issued a Presidential Pardon to both Nixon and former Teamsters' President Dave Beck.
Ford's successor Jimmy Carter sought unsuccessfully to appoint Anthony Scotto as Secretary of Labor. At the time, Scotto was still President of Local 1814 that represented the Domino Sugar plant workers. In 1978 Scotto appeared at a labor rally with New York Lieutenant Governor Mario Cuomo, Governor Hugh Carey, and President Jimmy Carter. Scotto and Local 1814's Executive Vice-President Anthony Anastasio were convicted in 1979 on labor racketeering charges and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. Reagan brought to his Administration his strong opposition to the "Evil Empire" represented by the Soviet Union and his determination to take a stand against organized crime. Reagan named William French Smith as his Attorney General. Appointed to the number 3 position within the Justice Department was a young attorney from New York named Rudolph Giuliani. That position put Giuliani in charge of all of the U. S. Attorneys across the country. In 1983 Giuliani accepted his own demotion to that of U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani felt he could make more of an impact on organized crime by prosecuting members of New York's Five Mafia families utilizing the provisions of the RICO Act of 1970. Giuliani soon racked up one of the most impressive records of prosecutions of Mafia figures in United States history. Among these was 1986's "Commission Trial" in which top associates of all five New York Mafia families were convicted, as well as the infamous "Pizza Connection" drug trafficking trial.
Among the most unusual Federal Prosecutions during the 1980s were the weapons trafficking and murder solicitation trials of a rogue retired Officer of the U. S. Intelligence community, Ed Wilson. As detailed in Peter Maas' book MANHUNT, Ed Wilson's carreer offered a rare glimpse into the interactions between the CIA and the labor union movement. Recruited by the CIA while in college back in the dark days of the Cold War, the CIA first sent Wilson through the School for Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in New York City. This school had been founded decades earlier by Mob-buster Thomas Dewey.
After graduation Wilson convinced Paul Hall, the President of the International Seafarers Union to hire him as an Organizer. Hall sent Wilson to Belgium, where Wilson infiltrated the Communists involved in the Union movement and performed various 'dirty tricks' against Labor leaders. Wilson then returned to the United States where he obtained work in the International Department of the A.F.L. - C.I.O. Wilson's biographer relates that while the Seafarers were not aware that Wilson was in fact working for the CIA, the AFL-CIO was aware. This organization has long maintained close ties to the U. S. Intelligence community and to this day labor activists in the United States will jokingly refer to this organization as the 'AFL-CIA!' The AFL-CIO then sent Wilson to Latin America to infiltrate the various Communist-dominated labor Unions there that were advocating the Soviet agenda.
After spying on the international labor movement for several years Ed Wilson retired from the CIA and went into the international arms trafficking business. By the end of the 1970s the CIA had detected Wilson participating in the Weapons of Mass Destruction program of Libyan Dictator Muamar Qadafy. Wilson had secretly smuggled thousands of pounds of C-4 plastic explosives to Libya and provided to the terrorist regime expertise in the assembly of explosive devices. Ed Wilson was eventually apprehended and brought back to the United States to stand trial. Wilson was convicted in Federal Court in Houston for his role in supplying Libya with the C-4 plastic explosives. In Giuliani's office in New York City, Wilson was convicted on various charges, including the charge that he tried to hire a Mafia hitman to murder Prosecutors in his trial. It would be many years later before the New Yorker Magazine would reveal that the "Mafia hitman" Wilson tried to hire was in fact FBI agent Lyndley DeVecchio. Agent DeVecchio would later be accused by FBI agents of leaking information to his Informant Greg Scarpa, a hitman in the Colombo Family who was actively involved in the murders committed during the Colombo Family War of the early 1990s. DeVecchio was never charged with a crime regarding his actions with Scarpa.
If Ed Wilson was not the only person sent by the CIA to infiltrate the International Labor movement then the U. S. government likely had in place several such operatives at a critical time in the 20th Century. By 1980 Workers on a Waterfront business were ready to revolt and the long-anticipated Union Reform Movement was born. This event occurred not in New York but along the Waterfront in Gdansk, Poland. Lech Walesa was a Dissident Shop Steward who had been fired from his job for demanding reforms. Walesa then joined with shipyard Workers who demanded a Union free from Communist control. The Dissidents named their organization SOLIDARITY.
As the Workers' revolt grew in strength, the Soviet Union prepared to put down the unrest. In December 1981 the military took over Poland, throwing Walesa and scores of SOLIDARITY members into prison. The Reagan Administration reacted by imposing economic sanctions against Poland. The International Longshoremen's Association, which for decades had been staunchly anti-Communist, announced they would boycott all commercial shipments to and from Poland. Pope John Paul II also threw his support behind the Dissident movement. After years of struggle SOLIDARITY triumphed. Lech Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and was elected President of Poland in 1990.
The success of SOLIDARITY in Poland encouraged Workers in other Communist countries to rebel. By the end of the 1980s Soviet Premiere Antonin Gorbachov faced a dilemma when thousands of Workers in East Germany demanded free passage to West Germany where working conditions were far superior. Rather than face a Revolution that could quickly spread to the Soviet Union, Gorbachev opened up the Berlin Wall.
The Workers revolt, however, would not be stopped. The revolt quickly spread throughout Europe and by 1993 had toppled all Communist governments in Europe, including the Soviet Union. In the case of the Soviet Union, the "Evil Empire" fell with the deaths of only three young Workers, Architect Ilya Krichevsky, armed services veteran Dmitry Komar, and Vladimir Usov, an Accountant.
The Union Reform Movement that saw it's birth in Poland quickly spread to the United States and Canada during this time. In 1988 a Dissident movement sprang up within the International Longshoremen's Association centered around a Local of the Union in Charleston, South Carolina. Calling themselves the Longshore Workers Coalition, the Dissidents began what would become many years of struggle against their International Union, a bitter fight that continues to this day.
In the 1990s Dissidents calling themselves NEW DIRECTIONS began to challenge the leadership of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union in New York City. To this day the website of this Union acknowledges that members of the Communist Party were instrumental in the forming of this Union, including renowned Communist Michael Quill. In the ultimate of ironies, a former Leftist named Roger Toussaint, who first gained employment as a janitor cleaning up the subway cars of New York City, gradually emerged as the leader against the rulers of Local 100. Toussaint, a Shop Steward, had been fired by the corrupt leaders of his Union over trumped-up charges but was been reinstated by the Courts. Eventually, Toussaint and his crusaders took over Local 100, an event that sent shock waves across the leadership of corrupt Unions throughout America.
Contemporary with the Dissident movement in the Transport Workers Union was a similar movement within the Teamsters Union. In 1991 the Court-sanctioned Independent Review Board overseeing the Teamsters Union supervised elections by the rank-and-file. This election marked the first time in its troubled history that Democratic principles allowed the election of the Union's President by a vote of all the members. As a result of this election, Ron Carey, the leader of a Reform movement called Teamsters for a Democratic Union, was elected President. Carey was re-elected President in 1996. In 1997 Carey became a national hero in the labor movement through his decisive leadership that won a Strike against United Parcel System. (UPS)
Unfortunately for the Union Reform Movement, Carey was later indicted by Mary Jo White, U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on charges he committed Perjury while claiming before a Grand Jury that he had no part in a scheme that funneled huge amounts of Union funds into his re-election campaign. A Federal jury in Manhattan acquitted Carey on all charges in October 2001. However, Court authorities in 1998 Banned Carey for Life from participating in the Teamsters' Union. Many Reformers within the Teamsters' Union have expressed their belief that Carey was 'set-up' by rogue elements within the government, adding yet another 'conspiracy theory' to the scores that millions of Americans already believe in.
Such claims against the tenure of Mary Jo White as U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York were nothing new. Soon after White's appointment in 1993 by President Clinton an intense rivalry developed between White, whose office focused on white collar crime, versus Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, whose office focussed on Union bosses who ripped-off the rank-and-file. The most infamous case of this rivalry erupted in the year 2000, when both offices announced simultaneously indictments against members of the Luchese Mafia Family. Morgenthau's indictments named 38 people involved with the Mob and the Bricklayers, Carpenters, and Laborer's Unions. White's indictments named only 6 low-level Mafia associates and no Union officials. With the exception of White's successful prosecution of Gambino Family Acting Godfather John "Junior" Gotti, White's legacy as a Prosecutor is more remarkable for those she did not indict as opposed to those her office did pursue, including those cases she did not win.
Robert Morgenthau's legacy as a Prosecutor, however, is among the best in American history. Among Morgenthau's most celebrated prosecutions was that of the corrupt labor leaders in the Municipal Workers' Union DC-37. While the rank-and-file of this Union were making sub-standard wages as the result of sub-standard Contracts illegally imposed upon the Workers, the leaders of the Union, Morgenthau claimed, were using Union Dues to live lavish lifestyles. When making his indictments public, Morgenthau announced that millions of dollars of Union funds were missing, and that some of the Union leaders had used Union Dues money to pay for the services of male prostitutes. DC 37 also poured Workers' monies into a Communist organization. Morgenthau obtained several convictions on a variety of charges, bringing down in the process Union bosses Al Diop, Stanley Hill and Charles Hughes. Morgenthau was pursuing Colombo Family associate "Wild Bill" Cutolo, a corrupt Union President who was involved in crimes with DC 37 when Cutolo disappeared in 1999. Cutolo, a veteran of the Colombo Family War of the early 1990s, is presumed murdered.
Morgenthau's actions encouraged a Dissident movement of rank-and-filers who called themselves the Committee for Real Change in DC37. Ray Markey, leader of a Union representing Library Workers, emerged as a leader of this Movement. Mark Rosenthal led a successful Reform movement that resulted in his being elected President of Local 983 of DC 37. Rosenthal survived numerous death threats from Mafia associates. Simultaneous to these events in New York City, investigative reporter Bob Fitch emerged as the modern-day 'Malcolm Johnson,' championing those who had the courage to speak out against Union corruption.
Meanwhile, Robert Morgenthau's investigations continued. Morgenthau pursued corrupt officials in a Plumbers Union, the Newspaper and Mail Deliverers Union, the Laborers Union, the Carpenters' Union, Local 32 BJ, the Motor Vehicle Operators Union, the Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Union, among others.
In the year 2000 an event occurred in South Carolina that would have International repercussions for the Union Reform Movement. In January of that year, an event that can only be described by numerous observers as a 'police riot' occurred on the Waterfront in Charleston, South Carolina, where members of the International Longshoremen's Union were picketing the anti-labor practices of a foreign shipping firm. In an incident that was reminiscent of the police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, the police rioted against the Workers and 5 members of the Union were arrested on what many considered to be trumped up charges. This event by authorities in South Carolina was construed by many in the Labor Movement as an assault on the Constitutional guarantees of Freedom of Speech and Assembly. As a result, over 4,000 Labor Union activists from across America descended on the State Capital of Columbia on June 9, 2001. These thousands of activists then marched through the streets in an act of Solidarity that had not been seen since the civil rights protests of the 1960s. The Demonstration ended at the State Capitol, over which flew the Confederate flag. Emerging as the crowd favorites were speakers Roger Toussaint, the newly elected Dissident President of the Transport Workers' Union Local 100, and Ken Riley, the Dissident President of Local 1422 of the International Longshoremen's Association.
Soon, authorities in South Carolina wisely dropped the charges against the "Charleston Five." One result of the Rally and Demonstration in Columbia was that Ken Riley and Roger Toussaint were elevated to national and international status as leaders of the Union Reform Movement.
Unfortunately for the working men and women of Local 1814 of the Longshoremen's Union in Brooklyn, events would quickly escalate that would not turn in their favor. In June 1999 Contract negotiations between the British corporation Tate and Lyle, which at that time owned the Domino Sugar Plant in Brooklyn, and Local 1814 ILA, broke down. The Management of Tate & Lyle were playing hardball, making honorus demands that would effectively render the Union impotent. The members of the Union voted to go On Strike. At first, the Strike appeared to be in favor of the Workers. However, several factors would play into the hands of the company. One was that the local news Media had no sympathy for a Union that had been the 'poster boy' symbol of Union corruption as presented by the movie 'On the Waterfront.' Secondly, Local 1814's own International Union offered little support for the striking Workers.
Soon, the working men and women at the Domino Sugar Plant realized that they truly were alone. One Worker committed suicide. Others, facing the loss of their homes contemplated crossing their own picket line and returning to work. As the Strike dragged on for months on end, one by one, once-proud members of Local 1814 took a single step across an impotent picket line on the Waterfront in Brooklyn. After a year and a half, the Union sent out secret ballots in a vote as to whether or not to continue with the Strike. When the vote was tallied a majority had voted to return to work without a Contract. Some members of Local 1814 felt betrayed by both the company AND the Union that represented them.
Two events were also in the works that would seal the fate of these working people; one was the decision by Tate & Lyle to sell the plant to the American Sugar Refining Company. The second was the indictment of the President of Local 1814, Frank "Red" Scollo, on Federal RICO charges.
In June 2002 the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced a sweeping indictment of mob bosses on the Waterfront in New York and New Jersey. "Red" Scollo was indicted along with Peter Gotti, Richard Gotti, Anthony Ciccone, and 13 other alleged members of the Gambino Family. The charges included racketeering, extortion, illegal gambling operations, and money laundering, all committed as part of the Mafia's corrupt influence over Local 1814 and Local 1 of the International Longshoremen's Union. The indictment mentioned the extortion of "an individual in the film industry" which would later turn out to be action star Steven Seagal.
The indictment referenced a previous RICO Civil suit in 1990 against the ILA and it's leaders Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone and Frank "Red" Scollo. That case resulted in a 1991 Consent Degree which prohibited Ciccone and Scollo from associating with known members of organized crime.
"Red" Scollo pleaded guilty to the 2002 charges and entered the Witness Protection Program. Scollo appeared as a Prosecution Witness in the first of the "On the Waterfront trials," as did film star Steven Seagal. The jury deemed Steven Seagal a credible witness in the first trial, which resulted in the conviction of Peter Gotti, his brother Richard V., and nephew Richard G. Gotti, among others. The second 'Waterfront' trial last year resulted in the conviction of Genovese Godfather Vinnie "Chin" Gigante on charges he 'acted crazy' for years as a means of avoiding Prosecution for his control of the Unions that operate the Waterfront on the East Coast. The third 'On the Waterfront' trial was averted when film Producer Julius Nasso pleaded guilty for his role in attempting to extort money from Seagal with the help of Waterfront Associates of the Gambino Family. Nasso, who helped bring to the screen the Seagal flicks 'Marked for Death,' 'Out for Justice,' 'Under Siege 2,' and 'Fire Down Below,' is serving a prison sentence under a plea bargain offered by the U. S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.
In August 2003 American Sugar Refining Company announced their decision to shut down the Domino Sugar Plant on the Waterfront in Brooklyn in the following year. Numerous factors are believed to be part of the equation that prompted the decision, one being the impact on the industry by the growing use of high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar in numerous products made in the United States. However, many familiar with this case believe that the company no longer wished to deal with a Union that for decades has been a symbol of Mafia corruption.
Thus, the Workers at the Domino Sugar plant joined the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs on the Waterfront over the past 30 years when Mafia-weary corporations decided to take their operations elsewhere. The Waterfront of New York City today is littered with the decaying piers and factories that once were part of a vibrant industry. In the end, the Unions that were supposed to protect jobs for working people and their families ended up destroying those jobs. The piers have gone silent as an industry has slowly died.
Arguably, the four most successful Prosecutors of organized crime in American history are Democrats Robert Kennedy and Robert Morgenthau and Republicans Thomas Dewey and Rudolph Giuliani. Thomas Dewey and Robert Kennedy came very close to being elected President of the United States. Robert Morgenthau has never lost an election as Manhattan Prosecutor and Rudolph Giuliani won two elections as Mayor in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic. Pollsters indicate Giuliani is a likely future candidate for President of the United States. These four men resonated with millions of American Workers because they had the courage to acknowledge and assault what many millions of American Workers confront every day in their workplace; exploitation by associates of the American Mafia.
In 1972 renown film Director Charlie Chaplin returned to Hollywood to accept a Lifetime Achievement Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Chaplin's return re-opened old wounds among Hollywood's elite of the McCarthy era, as did the decision by the Academy in 1999 to confer the same award on Director Elia Kazan. In 1983 Elia Kazan received the Annual Honors Award of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C.
At the time that Kazan was making "On the Waterfront" there existed an unwritten rule in Hollywood that dictated that whenever possible, a film should have a 'happy ending.' This doctrine reflected the relentless optimism of post-war America in the 1950s during a time of unprecedented affluence and social change. Thus, Kazan was forced to add a 'happy ending' to his otherwise grim and disturbing film. In this case, the film ended with the rank-and-file of the Union rising up in revolt against their corrupt Union bosses. While such a revolt has taken place in some Locals of the Longshoremen's Union, this never happened in Local 1814. For the Workers of the Domino Sugar plant on the Waterfront in Brooklyn, their story does not have a happy ending.
THE 'ON THE WATERFRONT' TRIALS
THE 'ON THE WATERFRONT' TRIALS
THE 'ON THE WATERFRONT TRIALS
THE 'ON THE WATERFRONT' TRIALS
Accardo: The Genuine Godfather by William F. Roemer
The Associated Press
The New York Post
Organized Crime and Organized Labor by James B. Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts, Director, Center for Research in Crime and Justice, New York University School of Law
Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
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