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Copyright (c) 2003 The University of Chicago
Crime and Justice

ARTICLE: Labor Racketeering: The Mafia and the Unions


30 Crime & Just. 229


James B. Jacobs and Ellen Peters


When John L. Lewis, former president of the United Mine Workers (1920-60), observed that "Labor, like Israel, has many sorrows" (United States v. Local 560, IBT, 581 F. Supp. 279 [1984], p. 279), he was referring to the long history (even then) of corruption and racketeering that has plagued the American labor movement. Likewise, the labor leader David Dubinsky called labor racketeering "a cancer that almost destroyed the American labor movement" (Dubinsky and Raskin 1977, p. 145). Robert F. Kennedy, who served as general counsel (1957-60) to the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor Management Field (McClellan Committee), warned that labor racketeering was a threat to society generally, and he made labor racketeering (especially Jimmy Hoffa) a top Justice Department priority when he became attorney general in 1961 (Kennedy 1960). No other country has a history of union-related criminality approaching what has been exposed in a century-long litany of scandals, articles by investigative journalists, governmental hearings, prosecutions, and lawsuits. 1

"Labor corruption" refers to the misuse of union office and authority for unlawful personal gain. The immediate victim may be an employer or the union itself, but the ultimate victim is always the union rank and file. "Labor racketeering" refers to labor corruption committed by, in alliance with, or under the auspices of organized crime groups. 2 Labor racketeers include members or associates of organized crime groups, some of whom hold union offices, as well as union officials who work on behalf ...
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