Posts tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

The Violent Attacks On Organized Labor

Labor History Articles Labor, History Cast Unfavorable Glance at the Pinkertons: A Checkered Past
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Labor, History Cast Unfavorable Glance at the Pinkertons:
A Checkered Past

(This article was first published in the November/December 2006 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Offering a range of “private investigative” services, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was founded in 1850 and at first specialized in train robberies: the protection of railroad property. By the late 1860s, however, Pinkerton agents were protecting all manner of property — most notoriously when its ownership was at odds with organized labor.
A barge filled with Pinkerton goons received a rough greeting in Homestead, PA. This 1892 Harper’s Weekly illustration was based on a photo taken during the riot.

A barge filled with Pinkerton goons received a rough greeting in Homestead, PA. This 1892 Harper’s Weekly illustration was based on a photo taken during the riot.

“Pinkerton” survives to this day as part of an international security business, but is nothing more than a brand name, while the name itself maintains its strong historical associations with anti-worker movements that typically involved organized brutality.

A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Allan Pinkerton emigrated to the United States in 1842 at age 23. Trained as a cooper, or barrel-maker, the future detective had had to flee the United Kingdom because of his association with a radical group seeking to reform Parliament: Young Pinkerton was a well-known advocate of civil disobedience.

Settling near Chicago, Pinkerton started a cooperage. During a wood-gathering visit to a previously uninhabited island, he chanced upon a counterfeit-coin ring and alerted the authorities. This led to his appointment as a deputy sheriff and he soon had become Chicago’s first full-time detective. A few years later he left the city police force and started his own agency.

Working with the railroads was an ideal way to get one’s name before the public. In 1861, Pinkerton was given credit for uncovering an inauguration-train-stop plot against Abraham Lincoln. An impressed president hired the agency to spy on the Confederacy. Pinkerton operatives were known as a “secret service,” but were not the predecessors of the Treasury Department entity we know today, which did not begin to protect U.S. presidents until the 1890s.

The Agency’s Reputation

Pinkerton returned to Chicago after the Civil War and supervised the development of an impressive criminal database, including the world’s largest collection of mug shots. The agency’s logo, known as “The All-Seeing Eye,” is acknowledged as inspiring the term “private eye” to describe a private investigator or detective.

A lot of agency detective work, however, became “protective” work. With labor disputes often turning violent, several states had enacted laws to give businesses the authority to create or rent police forces.

Corporations desirous of ascertaining whether their employees are joining any secret labor organizations with a view of compelling terms from employers can [hire] a detective suitable to obtain this information.
— Pinkerton advertisement,
early 1890s

The Pinkerton agency’s first foray into strikebreaking took place at an Illinois mine in 1866, during which it provided “guards” to “protect” replacement workers. An armed force would escort scabs into a factory, plant or mine, while armed watchmen in towers would intimidate strikers.

Hundreds of strike-breaking operations were created during the 1870s, with some, such as the Baldwin-Felts Agency, openly boasting about organizer harassment and other “labor discipline services.”

One infamous “Pink” was James McParlan, who infiltrated the Molly Maguires, a secret organization of coal miners. Beginning in 1872, he was part of the “Mollies” for perhaps four years, and allegedly witnessed several incidents of terrorism in the coal fields. He later offered sensational testimony during murder trials, which ultimately led to the hanging of 10 men. Historians are divided on whether the “Mollies” were truly guilty and, if so, whether these 10 in particular were set up, possibly by McParlan. Pinkerton, no stranger to self-promotion, gave his favorable version of events in a book published in 1877: The Molly Maguires and the Detectives.

A year later, he authored Strikers, Communists and Tramps. The title is quite telling, and in the pages of the book he defended the use of his agents as strikebreakers, arguing that it was an extension of his original property-safety business and that opposition to unionism was a good way to “protect”workers.

Homestead and Other Riots

In late June 1884, Allan Pinkerton stumbled during a stroll on a sidewalk. He bit his tongue, developed gangrene, and died quickly thereafter, at age 64. His sons, Robert and William, took over the agency, whose reputation as a force against labor continued to grow. Pinkertons were alleged to have ignited the bomb that sparked Chicago’s deadly Haymarket Riot of 1886. At the very least this incident supported the notion that trouble often came on the heels of the Pinkertons. It made sense: Day-laborer “detectives” could perpetuate their own employment by inciting riots.

In the early 1890s, the iron and steel workers’ union was a strong one, with numerous contracts, including a threeyear agreement in the western Pennsylvania steel-mill town of Homestead. But even though the industry was healthy, Andrew Carnegie sought a wage reduction there. On July 1, 1892, with only a few days left under the contract, the union rejected the offer; the workers were locked out.

The Pinkertons were on their way, and they would not be welcome. “Our people as a general thing think they are a horde of cut-throats, thieves, and murderers,” Homestead’s mayor told newspapers, “and are in the employ of unscrupulous capital for the oppression of honest labor.” It was recalled how the agency had been used in nearby coal fields, in 1884 to protect Hungarians and Slavs brought in as strikebreakers, and in 1891 to protect Italian replacement workers hired to fill in for the then-striking Hungarians and Slavs.

The locked-out Homestead workers prepared to meet the Pinkertons on their own terms. A few days after the lockout began, a boatload of agents landed near the mill. A battle followed during which 10 men — including three detectives — were killed and three dozen wounded. After a 14-hour fight, the workers captured 300 agents and held them captive. A day later, the disarmed and disgraced Pinkertons were run out of town.

An angry Henry C. Frick, hired by Carnegie to run the mill with replacements, sought help from Pennsylvania’s governor. In a few days, the mill town of 12,000 was an armed camp. It stayed that way until the soldiers departed in late November, when the lockout officially ended in utter defeat: The union treasury was empty, and workers’ families were facing winter. Desperate workers went back in the mill, without a union.

Bad Publicity

Newspaper editorial writers used Homestead as an illustration of the plight of the common man, and the Pinkertons were seen as a tool of the unscrupulous corporation. The agency’s reputation never fully recovered; largely forgotten was the company’s role in the pursuit of outlaws such as Frank and Jesse James, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

By the early 20th Century, workers had achieved some governmental protections against thuggish strikebreaking practices. Union-busting tactics evolved, with the more successful anti-labor operations preparing large forces of replacement workers, sometimes skilled, and ready to travel where needed.

The Pinkerton company became mainly a security guard operation, with few public encounters with labor. Robert died in 1907, and William in 1923. Robert’s son, Allan II, a World War I veteran, led the agency until his death in 1930. The last of the line to lead the Pinkertons was Robert II, great-grandson of the founder. When he died in 1967, the private agency became a public corporation.

During the 1980s, the American Brands conglomerate acquired Pinkerton. In 1999, a European company, Securitas Group, absorbed the “brand,” and it soon had scooped up other big-name security firms. In 2003, Pinkerton, Burns, Wells Fargo, American Protective Services, First Security and others became Securitas USA.

Pinkerton Government Services, as the branch of Securitas is now known, has two divisions: Governmental Security and Homeland Security. A visitor to the company’s Web site learns about the “Private Eye” and the agency’s early days, but virtually nothing about strikebreaking.

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ALEC – Government for the Corporations

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  (Abraham Lincoln – The Gettysburg Address)

What is ALEC?
With nearly 2,000 members, ALEC is the nation’s largest
nonpartisan, individual membership association of state
legislators. Well over 100 ALEC members hold senior
leadership positions in their state legislatures. ALEC’s alumni
include almost 80 current members of Congress and sitting
or former governors.ALEC’s goal is to ensure that each of its legislative members
is fully armed with the information, research, and ideas they
need to be an ally of the free-market system.

Over the course of the past thirty-eight years The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate sector members and the legislative active members and alumni members have successfully redefined our government as “government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations”.

Government of the corporations, by the corporations
While no corporations actively sit in our state and federal legislatures, these ALEC member corporations are faithfully represented in the state and federal legislatures by the over 2700 active and alumni members of ALEC.

At about this time, the state chairs of ALEC are sending out letters to legislators in your state, telling them that ALEC will reimburse them for up to $1,900 to attend the ALEC annual meeting to be held in New Orleans in August.

This $1,900 is donated by corporations to be spent on “tuition fees” to the annual meeting so that the corporations can be assured that they will be able to talk with our state legislators to influence corporate-focused legislation to be passed at our state legislatures.

The corporations that attend the ALEC meeting sit with our legislators, talk with our legislators, discuss new “Model Legislation” with our  legislators and VOTE on “Model legislation” that they want implemented in our government, as new legislation.

This is what ALEC refers to as a dynamic partnership in its latest corporate member brochure

One of ALEC’s greatest strengths is the public-private
partnership. ALEC provides the private sector with an
unparalleled opportunity to have its voice heard, and its
perspective appreciated, by the legislative members.

Unfortunately, for “we the people”, the representatives that we elected to office, who have chosen to become ALEC members no longer believe in representative government “of the people” – they now serve the corporations.

For a corporate donation of $1,900 per legislator, the corporations get our legislators undivided attention for up to four meetings every year – to write, vote on and approve – “Model Legislation” that promotes ALEC “free-market” philosophy – which is specifically written for the corporations.

Government for the corporations
It is important to remember that ALEC exists for the sole purpose of promoting a “free-market” philosophy.  Free market has absolutely NOTHING to do with representation “for the people” and has EVERYTHING to do with representation “for the corporations”.

Based on the research I have done on ALEC – the end result of all the “ALEC Model Legislation” is more profits for corporations and that’s all ALEC is concerned with – providing more business opportunties and/or more profit for their corporate sector members.  You and I, the citizens of this great country do not, repeat do not, have anything to do with their purpose and mission, unless, ALEC can use us to further corporate profits.

What does government “for the corporation” look like?  How are your legislators, who are ALEC members, providing corporations with more business opportunties and more corporate profits, at the expense of the rights of the people?  Well, let’s take a look at just a few examples.

ALEC believes that government services provide an unfair competitive advantage to private sector companies and because of that the government sector is a major impediment to the ability for private sector companies to make more profit.  ALEC’s  solution to this is legislation that promotes privatization of government services.  We see this in the news almost every day with the introduction of voucher systems to private schools, proposed voucher systems for Medicare, or legislation that promotes privatization of government services through the use of competitive bidding for government services.  These are ALL ALEC initiatives.

The problem with this model is that when you have private industry supplying government services, their customer is no longer you or me – the citizen who pays for those services.  When government services are privatized, the customer then becomes the government entity that contracted the service and you and I are left without a voice regarding government services provided to us – just ask the folks in Benton Harbor.  Private industry is not held responsible to “we the people”.

ALEC has been at the forefront of fighting for “de-regulation”. ANY type of regulation – labor, environmental, health is open game for ALEC.  The one and only reason ALEC so vehemently opposes health, labor and environmental regulations is because their corporate members see reduced profits due to regulations.  In 1997, the then National Chair of ALEC, Bonnie Cooper wrote a letter to ALEC members referring to these types of legislation as “heart-strings legislation” – “written as a result of an emotional appeal rather than sound reasoning”.

When deregulation is allowed to occur or when funding for these agencies is allowed to be reduced – who loses?  We the people.  Legislation by ALEC members at the state and federal level that focuses on corporate profit above the appeals of their citizenry – is just plain wrong!

Over the past thirty eight years we have assumed that our government was a representative “government of the people, by the people, for the people” we can no longer make that assumption.  Legislators at the state and federal level who are or have been ALEC members have changed all that.

It has become extremely clear to me over the last few months that the democratic leaders of this country and the news media want nothing to do with this issue.  They would rather spend hours talking about divorces and sex scandals, than spend more than 10 minutes exposing ALEC.

Because of that – this is our issue to handle.  This is our responsibility to clean up.
Action must be taken by “we the people.”

There is only one way that we can ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”

Over the course of the next several elections, we MUST do everything we can to identify ALEC members at the state and federal level.  ALEC does not release their full membership list – they only release enough to keep the media off their back – We must identify every one of the over 2,700 legislative (state and federal) members.  See this diary and see this google doc

Once ALEC members have been identified, we MUST make sure that they are not re-elected in the upcoming elections.  The only way to stop this subversion of our democracy is to remove these representatives from office.  ALEC legislators are no longer representing the people – they are representing the corporations.

It is at times like this that remembering the past can be of benefit to us, to motivate us.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We must be

dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion

Since the time my grandparents immigrated to the United States, multiple family members of each successive generation have served in the US Forces.  I write this diary in their honor and in hopes that their service was not in vain.

If you don’t know what ALEC is you should –
please read this, or this, or this, or this, or this.

Originally posted to MNDem999 on Sun May 29, 2011 at 10:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Exposing ALEC and Community Spotlight.

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