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Episode 3 – Operation Underworld
Joe Ryan’s two and a half decades of leadership of the International Longshoremen’s Association could be most charitably described as “stable.” His focus on labor peace at nearly any cost and his cozy relationship with the shipping companies, gangsters, and the federal government created a series of strange relationships as the country entered World War 2. Finding mobsters useful in keeping radical organizers off the docks, the federal government struck a deal with the same criminal forces they would later condemn union officials for working with. However, even with strongarm goons and redbaiting as his go-to tactics, Ryan could not totally keep a lid on post-war discontent by workers returning to find low wages and inhuman treatment while shipping bosses made millions. The Rank and File made their voice heard, by whatever means they could find.
Main sources for this series include: Reds or Rackets by Howard Kimeldorf, Strife on the Waterfront by Vernon Jensen, New York Longshoremen: Class and Power on the Docks by William Mello, and Mobsters, Unions, and Feds by James Jacobs. Clips from YouTube.
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