Pitiful Pleadings of Dedicated
Ignored by AFL-CIO Bureaucracy:
THE JOHN WIGGS CASE
December 10, 1955
Mr. John Livingston
718 Jackson Place, N.W.
Washington 6, D.C.
Dear Brother Livingston:
I tried very hard while in New York to have a talk
with you but I know that you were a very busy man, however I did talk to
John Riffe and Delmond Garst who is C.I.O. Regional Director in St.
Louis and they both told me to write you a letter explaining to you in
detail why I would like to if possible be transferred back as close to
my home as possible.
You see Brother Livingston, I have a Son who is 16
years old that has a brain tumor and cannot be operated on for it is
imbedded to deep in his brain, and he has gotten to the place now where
he has no use of his legs and his eyes are about gone and he is in such
shape that he requires special care and must be close to the Barnes
Hospital in St. Louis so he can take xray and other treatments and it is
hell to be 1300 miles away from him when he may pass away at any time.
I have never before ask any favors and I am not
asking for any now, but I thought that if you were going to transfer any
men to the midwest that maybe you would consider me since my home is in
Hannibal, Missouri only 120 miles from St. Louis and I have been away
from home since 1944.
I worked in the midwest and eastern shoe drive on the
National C.I.O. payroll and then I was put in to the St. Louis regional
Office as a service man for the L.I.U. Locals which consisted of
Building Workers, Distillery Workers, and Refinery Workers. In addition
to this I helped the steel Workers and Wood Workers in their organizing
campaign in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. Then in 1946 I was sent to
the six men under my direction. I stayed on the Southern drive National
C.I.O. payroll until 1949 and the Southern drive was disbanded in
The United Shoe Workers ask me if I would stay in
Arkansas as a service man for them. I stayed in Arkansas as a Service
man and my work as service man consisted of, Contract Negotiations, Time
studying for piece workers, Arbitrations, Labor Board hearings for
elections, Unemployment Compensations cases, Workmen Compensations cases
as well as organizing, writing and mimeographing all leaflets. And then
in 1954 Walter Harris who I had been in three organizational drives with
requested that I be placed back on National C.I.O. payroll and sent to
work with him in the Pennsylvania Shoe drive and I am still in Penna.
I can't say that I am happy of the results in
elections since I have been here.
I am sure that Delmond Garst would agree to take me
if there is a chance of my being transferred, and if you get a chance I
think Dick Leonard would gladly talk on my behalf because he knows of my
circumstances. However brother Livingston I want you to know that where
ever I am at I will give my best for the Labor Movement.
I am enclosing a copy of a letter of recommendation
from my old Director Walter Harris.
Hoping you every success in your new assignment,
I am fraternally yours,
* * *
* * * * *
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
[attached to letter above]
The bearer of this letter, Mr. John Wiggs, has worked
with me in organizational work since the year 1940.
He formerly worked in a shoe factory in Hannibal, Mo.
He has been associated with me in three drives of organization. Namely,
the organization of the International and Brown Shoe Company's in the
midwest and the state of New Hampshire, the Southern Drive in the state
of Arkansas and the shoe drive in the state of Pennsylvania.
Because of his sincerity of purpose and his devotion
to duty, plus his experience in organizational work, petitioning for
elections, representing the union at hearings before the NLRB, setting
up Local Unions, which included the timing of jobs, the establishment of
piece rates and base hourly rates are qualifications which certainly
place him in the category of a "finished organizer."
I would highly recommend him for a position with any
In view of the fact that I am retiring on September
19, 1955, and if any officer of the International Union desires to
contact me relative to this recommendation, I can be reached at RD# 4,
Tunkhanock, Pennsylvania - by mail.
Sincerely and fraternally yours,
Walter H. Harris
* * *
* * * *
January 15, 1958
Mr. John Wiggs,
American Federation of
Congress of Industrial
P.O. Box 83
Dear Sir and Brother:
As a result of decisions made recently by the AFL-CIO
Executive Committee, the executive officers of the AFL-CIO find it
necessary to reduce the size of the AFL-CIO staff to conform to the
organization's current programs and financial position. This adjustment
will take effect, February 1, 1958.
In pursuance of this decision, we regretfully inform
you that your services as an AFL-CIO field representative must be
terminated on that date.
In the hope of placing with AFL-CIO international
unions as many of our separated staff members as possible, we are
providing all our affiliates with a resume of each staff member's
experience and general union background.
During the first week in February, a check will be
transmitted to you for vacation pay in lieu of 1958 vacation time.
In addition, if you have not succeeded in obtaining a
suitable post by February 15, 1958, you will be given a severance
payment representing two week's salary for each year of service, or
major fraction thereof, to assist you during the period you are seeking
As soon as possible please advise Harold H. Jack,
Accounting Department, where your rental automobile can be picked up by
a representative of Transportation Vehicles, Inc. and please return to
the Accounting Department, your gasoline credit cards.
You should also advise the Accounting Department of
the method that you intend to use in reimbursing the AFL-CIO for the
$200.00 travel advance granted you some months ago. The Accounting
Department will accept your personal check in this amount or will deduct
the $200.00 advance from your terminal payment.
We regret the necessity for this staff reduction and
assure you that AFL-CIO will do all it can to assist terminated staff
members obtain employment in the organizing field.
Please accept our sincere thanks for service you have
rendered, and our best wishes for your future undertakings.
Sincerely and fraternally,
WIlliam F. Schnitzler
* * *
* * * *
January 20, 1958
Mr. George Meany, Pres.
815 Sixteenth St. N.W.
Washington 6, D.C.
To All Executive Councilmen of A.F.L.C.I.O.:
The following is the record of John Wiggs. In 1938
John L. Lewis put me on the C.I.O. payroll as a part time organizer in
Hannibal, Mo. at $10.00 per week. I worked on two shoe plants and a
Rubber plant in Hannibal. At that time we had a Company and the Boot and
Shoe workers Union in our plant. Both had signed the same contract and
we wanted to get rid of them. When it was found out that I was working
for C.I.O. I was beat up. This was in December 1938.
After I got over the beating John L. Lewis came to
Springfield, Illinois and three of we workers out of the plant went to
see him. This was Jan. 6, 1939. He told me to keep on organizing and I
would get $50.00 a week as a part time organizer, and I was to try to
organize three steel plants in Hannibal. I got cards signed in all three
plants and a Lime kiln as well as the rubber plant and two shoe plants.
Then a rubber workers Rep. by the name of Floyd Robertson came in to
Hannibal to work with me on the rubber plant. He wrote to John L. Lewis
and told him that I was needed full time because I had so many plants
organizing. In 1940 we won the rubber plant in C.I.O. and I was put on
the C.I.O. pay roll full time.
In 1940 we won the Lime kiln and the two steel plants
for C.I.O. and also a glove plant in Louisiana, Mo. In the last part of
1940 the United Shoe workers and C.I.O. worked out an agreement to put
on a drive in International and Brown shoe Company's with Walter Harris
Dir. I was assigned to help in that drive but was told to work on any
other plants that I could, and at that time Al Kojetinsky was acting
Reg. Dir. for C.I.O.
In 1941 we won the other steel plant in Hannibal, Mo.
and after an N.L.R.B. hearing that lasted 35 days the N.LR.B. ordered an
election in the two shoe plants in Hannibal. One plant had 1,200
employees, the other 800. C.I.O. won both of them. Also I worked on and
won a woodworking plant and the other glove plant in Louisiana, Mo. I
also signed 350 and got initiation fees of $2.00 per member in Starks
Nursery in Louisiana, Mo. We had to strike and at 12:00 o'clock one
night I was taken from my hotel room and beat up. Al Kojetinsky sent Joe
Dunoncourt who later became Re. Dir. in Oklahoma to take over the
Then I worked on a glove plant in Clarksville, Mo. We
won this plant. After this election I went back to help Walter Harris in
shoe. We won 32 elections in Int. and Brown shoe and I was beat up in
Pittsfield, Illinois and put in jail. A Doctor came to the jail and
ordered me to the hospital. After x-rays were made of me it was found
that I had 5 broken ribs, both jaw bones broken and one eye partly put
out. After this Walter Harris was taken out of the shoe drive and Walter
Smithers made Dir. After I came out of the hospital I was sent to
Kirsville, Mo. to organize an Int shoe plant. There I was taken out of
town and thrown in a lake and stones thrown at me.
But I went back and organized this plant and won the
election. Then I was sent to Quincy, Ill. to organize a shoe plant and a
steel plant. While handing out leaflets at the shoe plant about 50 men
came and got me and put a wire around my neck and hanged me off the
Mississippi river bridge and an Illinois state police cut me down.
After working with Dir. Smithers for about 4 months
three of we C.I.O. men were sent back to the Reg. office. Fred Otten
went with steel, Henry Swartzot went to Kansas City and I stayed in St.
Louis and worked with Dir Jim Ritchie until April 1946 I was called by
Allen Haywood to come to Washington. Mr. Haywood told me that I was
going in the Southern drive as an area Dir. in North-east Arkansas.
Walter Harris was State Dir. but later was made one
of Van Birtners assistant Directors for 4 states. I had 4 men assigned
to me in North-east Ark. I will attach a list of the plants that we won
to this letter.
In June 1946 again I was beat up in Pocahontas, Ark.
I was area Dir. in north-east Ark. until 1949 and was told that I was
going back to the St. Louis Re. Office. Lee Tucker was Re. Dir. in Ark
and the drive was over in Ark. James Mitchell, Sec. Treas. of the United
Shoe wanted to put a shoe drive on in Tennessee. I was to be the Dir.
with 5 men from shoe and 5 men from C.I.O. I went to Tennessee and
rented an Office in Jackson, Tenn. and stayed for 30 days but the
ex-board of the U.S.W.A. would not go along with James Mitchell so the
drive in Tenn. was called off and I was to go to St. Louis Re. Office.
We had organized 4 shoe plants in Ark. and none of
the shoe workers staff wanted to come to Ark. So James Mitchell again
went to Mr. Haywood and asked for me to stay in Ark. to service the 4
plants. The shoe workers were to pay my salary and the C.I.O. my
expense. The reason was that Dave Wilson who was with shoe was getting
his salary from C.I.O. and his expense from shoe. Mr. Haywood said he
could not have two men from his staff loaned to an Int. Union and pay
both salaries, so Dave Wilson was paid one way and me the other, but Mr.
Haywood told me that I would not lose my seniority by helping the show
I picked a man out of the Brown Shoe plant in
Pocahontas, Ark. and kept him with me for 2 years teaching him to
negotiate contracts and make time studies and service local unions. His
name was Tom Anderson but when he was ready to take over he got in bad
and was fired by the show workers. Again I was to stay in Ark. and pick
another man to do the service work for shoe and by this time we had won
2 more shoe plants and a tub mill at Newport, Ark. and a glass plant. I
picked a man by the name of John Spikes and stayed with him until 1954
with the understanding that I would go to the Reg. office in St. Louis.
But in July 1954 James Mitchell and Walter Harris
wanted me to come in the shoe drive in Pa. I never refused to go any
place that I was told to go in 17 years with C.I.O. and A.F.L.C.I.O. I
worked with Walter Harris in the shoe drive in Pa. until he retired.
It is true no shoe elections were won in Pa. by
Walter Harris and his staff in 3 years and 32 elections.
Since I have been in Pa. it is the first time I have
been on the losing side and it has not made me feel good. I have always
wanted to get back to the St. Louis Reg. office and during the C.I.O.
convention in New York City in 1955 when A.F.L.C.I.O. were getting ready
to merge I talked to John Riffe and Del Garst about getting back to St.
Louis and they both said that they would talk to John Livingston. Del
Garst said that he would like for me to work with him because I would be
a great help to him because I know his territory so well.
At the first staff meeting after the merger I was in
with John Livingston I asked him when I was going back to St. Louis and
he told me to give him a little while, that he was going to put all his
staff closer to home. After waiting for 4 months I wrote to del Garst
and asked him to write John. I got a letter back from del Garst and he
said he had talked to John Livingston about me and he was sure that if I
give John a little more time I would be back in St. Louis.
I waited 9 more months and in the meantime I was
paying $120.00 a month rent. After 9 more months I wrote to John
Livingston again and told him I would like to know if I was going back
home in St. Louis or going to stay in Pa. as I did not like to pay all I
made out for rent and if I was going to stay in Pa. I was going to buy a
John Livingston wrote and said I was going to stay in
Pa. permanently and he advised me to buy a home in Pa. So I took the
$2,000.00 I had in the bank besides borrowing $750.00 from the
A.F.L.C.I.O. credit Union and paid it down on a home in Mechanicsburg,
I guess many of you will wonder why I have not saved
any more in all these years. Well I have a Son who is now 18 years old
who has a brain tumor and has had it since 1950. I have had dim to many
different hospitals and Doctors and it has cost me almost all the money
I have made, besides the Hospital and medical insurance I have. He is
now in a wheel chair and the Doctors say he will never be out an I may
lose him any time now. I also have a little girl with bad heart and a
wife who is sick, and I have been in and out of the Hospital since 1947
with a very bad heart and I also have ulcers of the stomach. I am still
under the Doctors care because of the last heart attack in November of
last year, but I have been working with this bad heart when the Doctors
have told me not to. I have always put my Union above every thing else
because I believed I was doing the next best thing in this world,
putting people in my Union and making a better life for them while they
Now I find out after all these years and I am too old
and sick to get another job that I am out and don't have anything to
look forward to and I don't even have $100.00 in the bank. All the money
I have is put in a home that I will lose because I have no job to make
the payments on it. I am 1,000 miles away from home. I have always
believed in security, it was one of the greatest selling points in
organizing. Now I find out that it did not mean me. Job security I have
told workers is worth all you pay in dues. Now I find out that I have no
Gentlemen when you read this letter I want you to
remember that you are in office because the organizer worked night and
day and organized workers to elect you to office and made you look good.
I see that one and one-half million dollars is going
to be spent in the next year for an educational program. Why not give
this to the organizer. Give him the job of going from one local union to
another and different organizations and teach what our Union stands for.
He will do a better job than all the letters you can print in your
Am I mad at my Union? No sir, I am not. I will do
anything I can to help the workers come in my Union. I believe in it
with all my heart but I will also fight for my rights and my right in my
seniority, and to be laid off according to seniority. That is what I
have preached for 17 years and this is what I believe in. Attached is a
list of plants that I have helped win for my union, and I know that I
can put many more workers in my Union if I am given the chance.
I am sending copies of this letter to every executive
Council man in the A.F.L.C.I.O. in hopes they will read it.
* * *
* * * *
815 Sixteenth Street
Washington 6, D.C.
January 24, 1958
Mr. John Wiggs
P.O. Box 83
Dear Brother Wiggs:
This is written in response to your letter of January
17, 1958 discussing the question of your credited service record.
I have examined personally the pertinent records in
the possession of the Secretary-Treasurer's office and in the
Organization Department to determine if there is documentary evidence in
support of your claim of uninterrupted service since 1941.
Not only is there no such evidence available, the
fact is that the materials on hand seems to establish beyond a doubt
that your service was interrupted by an interval of at least five years.
The records show that you were placed on the CIO
payroll first in February, 1942, and removed in August 1945. Some time
subsequent to that date you became associated with the CIO's Southern
Drive until 1949 when the State of Arkansas was eliminated from the
Southern Drive area.
You received a new appointment to the CIO July 1,
1954 after a break in employment, either with National CIO or the
Southern Drive of CIO, of approximately five years.
Under terms of the pension program, employment prior
to the time of interrupted service can not be included when computing
the AFL-CIO credited service if the period of interruption is greater
than twenty-four consecutive months.
That the period of your interrupted service is in
excess of that is established by the evidence on hand including a letter
over your signature to CIO Secretary Treasurer James B. Carey date
November 25, 1954 which states that you were on the United Shoeworkers
payroll from 1949 until July 1, 1954.
Your credited service for AFL-CIO retirement purposes
dates, accordingly, from your appointment in 1954.
Final decision on credited service rests, as you
know, outside this Department, but we would take every step possible to
support your position if there were anything concrete on which to base a
I regret that there is nothing further I can do in
With all good wishes, I am
John W. Livingston
* * *
* * * *
January 24, 1958
Mr. George Meany, Pres.
815 Sixteenth St. N.W.
I am at a loss to understand what is happening to me
after organizing workers in to our great Union for the last 18 years.
And I am sure that you will not agree with the answers I have gotten in
trying to take up my case in the Organizational Dep't in Washington,
I have written to John Livingston and James Carey
asking them to let me bring my records in to show that I have 17 years
seniority with the organizing staff of former C.I.O. The only answer
that I have gotten was a call from one of John Livingston's assistants
telling me that I had lost my seniority when I was loaned to an
International Union in the Southern Drive.
This is not true because an agreement was reached
between Allen Haywood, James Mitchell, Sec't. of U.S.W.A. and myself and
if I am given the chance to meet with you, James Carey and Walter
Reuther I am sure that I can prove that I am entitled to my seniority
Besides this Mr. Meany my home is Hannibal, Mo. and I
worked out of the St. Louis Regional Office. During the first staff
meeting after John Livingston was made organizational Director I talked
to him about going back to the St. Louis Region and at that time he told
me that he was going to move all of his organizers as close to home as
possible. And if I would give him a little time he thought that I would
be going back to St. Louis. However, after about 9 months I wrote to him
again about it and told him that I was paying such high rent in Pa. that
if I was going to be kept here it would be better for me to buy a home.
I received an answer from John telling me that I was
assigned in Pa. permanently and not to worry about my job and go ahead
and buy a home. I taken all the money I had in the bank and borrowed
$600.00 from the Credit Union and put it on my home. Now I find out by a
very short notice that I am no longer needed on the staff.
I also find out that there is no job on any Int.
Union for me and the $200.00 that was advanced for organizational
expenses about a year ago will be deducted from my last check.
Although I have spent a great deal more than the
$200.00 out of my own pocket paying for parking, hotel bills over the
$6.50 and for meals for people I was trying to organize. I called Harold
Jack and ask him if I could pay back the $200.00 in payments starting in
March and he informed me that I could not.
Mr. Meany I have a Son who has a brain tumor that is
very serious and I need all the money that I can possibly get hold of to
try and save his life, but it seems that no consideration can be given
me because of certain rulings of the executive council.
Mr. Meany I have been beat up 4 different times with
about every bone in my body broken and one eye party put out working for
my Union preaching security. Now I find out that I am an old man who
can't get a job any where else and without security.
Mr. Meany would you and Walter Reuther please give me
an appointment so that I can bring my records to you.
Thanking you in advance
for your consideration,
* * *
* * * * *
February 20, 1958
Mr. John W. Wiggs, Sr.
214 South High Street
Dear Sir and Brother:
In our letter to you of January 15, 1958, in which we
notified you of the termination of your employment effective February 1,
1958, you were advised that you had not succeeded in obtaining a
suitable position by February 15, 1958, you would be given a severance
payment representing two weeks salary for each year of service or major
fraction thereof to assist you during the period you are seeking other
To date we have not been advised that you have been
able to obtain such a position, and we are therefore, enclosing our
check representing eight weeks severance pay.
We are continuing in force, your group life insurance
and medical coverage for the number of weeks noted above for which you
are receiving severance pay.
Within thirty-one (31) days from the date your group
life insurance coverage is terminated, there is a conversion privilege
to a regular life insurance policy without a physical examination.
Notification should be given the Union labor Life
Insurance Company, 200 East 70th Street, New York 21, N.Y. before the
end of this thirty-one (31) day conversion period. With your
notification, you should advise them of your date of birth.
With very best wishes, I am
* * *
* * * *
January 5, 1960
Mr. Henry McFarland,
Region III, AFL-CIO
This is to acknowledge your letter of December 17 and
the enclosed communication addressed to you by John Wiggs.
In reference to your statement, "It seems a pity
that we in the Labor Movement, while doing everything we can for our
membership, seem to forget those who contributed to the welfare and
safety of the rank and file members", you may not be aware of the
generous allowance granted Brother Wiggs shortly after he was laid off
in 1958, which was over and above his regular severance pay.
Having noted in one of his letters that he had
applied for Social Security in February 1959, which obviously would have
to come under the total and permanent disability provision of the Act,
AFL-CIO Social Security Director Nelson Cruickshank was asked to seek a
speedy decision on the matter.
Brother Wiggs and his wife have written to many
people about their situation. The director of his international union in
his territory, Russell Taylor, has written to all local unions and
organizers asking that they make a donation or collection for John Wiggs.
Of course, I am sure you are aware that anyone
wishing to do so may make a financial contribution to the Wiggs family.
Sincerely and fraternally,
John W. Livingston
Director of Organization
* * *
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus
By Charles C. Mann
a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous
New Revelations of the Americas Before
Columbus, in which he
provides a sweeping and provocative
examination of North and South America
prior to the arrival of Christopher
Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched
but so wonderfully written that it’s
anything but exhausting to read. With
1493, Mann has taken it to a
new, truly global level. Building on the
groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby
The Columbian Exchange and, I’m
proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer),
Mann has written nothing less than the
story of our world: how a planet of what
were once several autonomous continents
is quickly becoming a single,
Mann not only talked to countless
scientists and researchers; he visited
the places he writes about, and as a
consequence, the book has a marvelously
wide-ranging yet personal feel as we
follow Mann from one far-flung corner of
the world to the next. And always, the
prose is masterful. In telling the
improbable story of how Spanish and
Chinese cultures collided in the
Philippines in the sixteenth century, he
takes us to the island of Mindoro whose
“southern coast consists of a number of
small bays, one next to another like
tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how
the spread of malaria, the potato,
tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar
cane have disrupted and convulsed the
planet and will continue to do so until
we are finally living on one integrated
or at least close-to-integrated Earth.
Whether or not the human instigators of
all this remarkable change will survive
the process they helped to initiate more
than five hundred years ago remains,
Mann suggests in this monumental and
revelatory book, an open question.
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
update 25 July