The scandal of George Scalise: A case study in the rise of labor racketeering in the 1930s

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Abstract

In 1940, the newspaper columnist Westbrook Pegler exposed the criminal past and organized crime connections of George Scalise, the president of the Building Service Employees International Union. Later that same year, Scalise was indicted and then convicted of criminal charges. This widely reported scandal tarnished the labor movement and served to vindicate conservative critics of organized labor, who cited such corruption to support efforts to rein in union power. Scalise's career demonstrates how organized crime came to control certain unions in the 1930s and the various ways corrupt officials used the labor movement for private gain. This scandal also highlights the biased reporting on union corruption, which depicted employers simply as victims, when many of them played a much more complicit role. The real victims were workers, who found themselves forced to join a union organization that did nothing but levy a tax on their employment. For many of these workers this experience left them deeply disillusioned with the labor movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social History
Volume36
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

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labor movement
scandal
organized crime
labor
corruption
charge
worker
taxes
critic
building
employer
newspaper
president
career
employee
organization
1930s
Rise
Scandal
Labor

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

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abstract = "In 1940, the newspaper columnist Westbrook Pegler exposed the criminal past and organized crime connections of George Scalise, the president of the Building Service Employees International Union. Later that same year, Scalise was indicted and then convicted of criminal charges. This widely reported scandal tarnished the labor movement and served to vindicate conservative critics of organized labor, who cited such corruption to support efforts to rein in union power. Scalise's career demonstrates how organized crime came to control certain unions in the 1930s and the various ways corrupt officials used the labor movement for private gain. This scandal also highlights the biased reporting on union corruption, which depicted employers simply as victims, when many of them played a much more complicit role. The real victims were workers, who found themselves forced to join a union organization that did nothing but levy a tax on their employment. For many of these workers this experience left them deeply disillusioned with the labor movement.",
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