Anti-racketeering laws are not the answer to labor corruption, said Sydney Cohn, a New York Lawyer active in the labor field for almost thirty years, in a speech sponsored by the Harvard Liberal Union last night.
"Corruption in the labor unions is a reflection of corruption in society," Cohn observed, pointing out that union bossism has existed for a long time. Recent disclosures in this field have contributed to a general public feeling that the situation can only be corrected by new laws, he explained, and this led to the introduction of the Kennedy-Ives Bill in Congress last year.
Declaring "You can't legislate goodness and kindness," Cohn said the proposed laws would only add to government bureaucracy, create trouble and cause litigation for unions. Needed instead, he stated, is more vigilant enforcement of the present laws, and "an aroused rank and file...that is free to fight its own cause."
Cohn pointed to the arsenal of existing state and federal laws that could be used against illicit labor practices involving larceny, assault, bribery, conspiracy, and income tax underpayment. Vigilant officials could use exciting weapons effectively to curb labor excesses, he said, naming as an example the actions of Thomas Dewey when district attorney.
Informed public opinion is in itself an effective deterrent of labor racketeering, he stated. "It is my belief that the enemies of the union members are official indifference and money," Cohn asserted. Corrupt labor bosses are often financed by employers who find bribery cheaper than paying fair wages, he lamented.