The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of Labor, 1900-1909 - Vol. 3

By Philip S. Foner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Political Policies and Practices, 1907-1909

The time seemed ripe for increased activity in behalf of an independent party of labor. One of the most effective arguments against the movement for a labor party at the A. F. of L. convention had been the assurance by the Federation's leadership that the policy of "reward your friends and punish your enemies," so vigorously pursued in the 1906 election, would pay off in the new Congressional session. Certainly, then, the barren fruits of that session so far as labor was concerned should have stimulated an increased demand for the labor party.


LULL IN 1907

But the year 1907 saw instead a setback for the labor party movement. It was the year of revelation of graft and corruption in the municipal administration of San Francisco where the Union Labor Party had been in power since 1901. The investigation showed that the Labor Party and the mayor, the union musician, Eugene E. Schmitz, were controlled by the Boss Abe Reuf who, under the guise of legal fees, was able to extort large sums of money from the public utilities, gambling houses, and houses of prostitution in return for favors and protection. In the spring of 1907, at the height of the graft scandals, the Union Labor Party was driven out of office.

Actually, in the course of the investigation and the trials that followed, it became clear that Ruef was a tool of big business which used him as a means of gaining control of the public utilities. The Graft Prosecution showed that it was big business that corrupted politics, but of all those accused, only Ruef went to jail. Indeed, as soon as it was evident that the investigation would touch the wealthy bribers as well as the bribe-takers, big business changed its attitude and demanded that the Graft Prosecution be called off. "As long as only Ruef and Schmitz had been

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