Pete: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

31
Widening Support

BY THE late summer and early fall of 1943 it was clear that there was no cause for nervousness. Pete's record was getting amazing response. Barring untoward accident or wholesale larceny, the city's first "avowed Communist" councilman would be reelected.

A powerful labor committee for Pete came into existence quickly, with forty unions represented, both AFL and CIO. Early in October the Political Action Committee of the CIO Industrial Union Council of Greater New York announced it was backing Pete on the basis of his record. From Joseph Curran, the CIO council president, and Saul Mills, its secretary, came a warm letter to Pete:

Your endorsement was unanimously voted by the CIO Council delegates because of your outstanding record in the present City Council. Your fight for such measures as bills to prevent waterfront sabotage, outlawing discrimination and to alleviate the financial crisis of New York City has won the support of all workers in the Borough of Brooklyn. You can be assured of the support of all CIO members in Brooklyn.

(This was, of course, in Joe Curran's salad days. He later became one of the highest paid bureaucrats in the trade union movement, taking a salary of about $100,000 a year, surrounding himself with sycophants and suppressing democratic opposition. Before he retired in the early seventies he acquired an estate in upstate New York and wangled a near-million dollar pension from the National Maritime Union. But in the thirties and early forties Curran was still part of the powerful left-wing bloc in organized labor.)

Pete clearly had strength among seamen, longshoremen, transport workers, furriers, furniture workers and painters. He had a big following among the thousands of members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union who lived in Brooklyn, particularly the shorefront area of Coney Island and Brighton Beach where they had fled from the

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