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Amateur Hour

Brass Tacks

By John D. Leonard

The fine Italian hand of history went to work on American labor last week.

A man in the striped denim uniform of a subway trainman appeared in the Mayor's office of the City of New York early last Tuesday morning, before the regular business hours. Theodore Loos, president of the Motorman's Benevolent Association, announced that the men on the IND were going to stage a wildcat strike at 5 a.m. the next morning.

Loos and the Benevolent men were upset over the Transit Authority's fact-finding committee, a panel which recently decided that all subway operators belong in the same union. This, reasoned Loos, sold out Benevolent to Mike Quill and the bigger, well-primed Transit Workers.

It has been a long time since grey Gotham saw a labor leader who actually punched a time-clock and went to work in a uniform. Abe Stark, Brooklyn's substitute for mayor, set the familiar monolith into action. The City of New York slapped an injunction on the Motormen, and threatened Theodore Loos with jail.

Loos went to work that day, and was available to the press only at a ten-minute break in the afternoon. He spent the night playing chess with a World-Telegram reporter (he learned to play by mail) and by morning decided to call the whole thing off.

Professional labor leaders--in the middle of an Atlantic City convention--wiped their foreheads and returned to the bar. New York politicos mumbled a sigh and turned to their work. "Gee," said Theodore Loos in his subway cab to a lingering reporter, "wouldn't it have been a dandy if we'd had it?"

On the other side of town, Mike Quill, grown obese on a well-fed gluttony for power, chuckled in his beer. Amateur hour was over.

The first snow of the year fell upon the City.

Yesterday New York awoke. Steam-heat husbands emerged from suburban incubators and made their careful ways to the street-corner. There were no subways. Court orders and oratory notwithstanding, the trainmen stayed home on Monday.

Theodore Loos and a number of the Benevolent men are in jail this morning, and Mike Quill in hurried conference with grim lieutenants. It's like the old days, sort of novel and romantic--and a source of grudging pride.

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