Chapter XVII: "God Bless You All"
"No Communist, no left-winger, no one who owes his allegiance to the Moscow government can be trusted to work on any American vessel that transports our boys and material to Korea. It is time that our government take every step necessary to drive the Commies out of our unions and off this waterfront, so we no longer have to worry about being stabbed in the back by the evil menace of the Communist copperhead snakes in our midst. I say thank God for the screening program, thank God for the Magnuson bill, thank God for America. God bless you all."
These were the words spoken at the Marine Firemen's Union membership meeting by an official of the union and a proclaimed member of the Association of Catholic Trade Unions. Those words started a series of motions and resolutions from right-wingers that would deny refuge or membership to anyone who was refused new documents by the Coast Guard. The first motion proclaimed that dues would be refused from any member without the new documents, and it specified that no one without such documents would be allowed into the union hall.
One might well ask at this stage, what happened to the years of intensive work among the rank-and-file membership? What happened that could cause the rank and file to forget so easily and side with those ready to support the Coast Guard screening of militants from the union? Never had the membership been faced with such a situation, where the holding of one small document or card meant your whole livelihood was at stake.
It was not the shipowners who were now holding the ace in the hole. They too took a back seat and glowed with delight as the government took charge and did the dirty work that they had not been able to do. The top cards were now being dealt by the government.
The union officials and the rest of the conservatives made it their business to get the word around to the rank and file that their behavior was carefully being monitored, and those that dared show any support to any screened member would himself be considered a security risk and lose his seagoing documents--guilty by association, guilty by suspicion.
It was no accident that when I was walking down the street and came within recognizing distance of another member of the union who had been declared "loyal," he would quickly abort any possible meeting. The word had been passed around that the FBI was tapping all phones of the "Commies," and reading their mail to seek out "Commie supporters." So the rank and file were advised to go about their business and be happy that they were able to work and continue going to sea. Too bad about that handful of lefties, but maybe they deserved what they were getting.
Copyright © 1993 by Bill Bailey. All Rights Reserved.
The Kid from Hoboken: Book Three