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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Russell, July 25, 1974. Interview E-0014-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Signing an anti-Communist affidavit upon the merger of the Fur and Leather Workers with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters

Russell explains why the leaders of the Fur and Leather Workers Union had to sign affidavits that they were not members of the Communist Party when they merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters in 1955. According to Russell, this measure was demanded by George Meany who wanted to make sure that the AFL-CIO was not associated with Communism. Russell argues that most of the Fur and Leather Workers, particularly Abe Fineglass, did so because they saw it in the best interest of the movement; however, this event created tensions between them and past leaders, such as Fineglass, Ben Gold, and Irving Potash.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Russell, July 25, 1974. Interview E-0014-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM FINGER:
Well that brings me to my next question. Is part of the merger agreement every official of Fur and Leather had to sign …
JOHN RUSSELL:
A non-Communist affidavit, did it for years, in fact.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you signed that paper?
JOHN RUSSELL:
Yeah, because … but they are talking there about a member of the Communist Party. I don't know … it would be a fine distinction, you understand. The technical thing, I suppose, whether you are a political Communist or whether you are an organized Communist, or whether you are philosophically a Communist, or whether you are also an organized one. So …
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you signed it?
JOHN RUSSELL:
Yeah, everybody did.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And it went on to the Amalgamated records and so you could keep …
JOHN RUSSELL:
Well, yeah … technically we were right, you know, and they knew it. They knew it didn't mean anything.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well did they put that in the merger agreement so they could show Meany?
JOHN RUSSELL:
Well, that is the only way they got any blessing from Meany on the deal, you see. Not Meany, Meany was a son-of-a-bitch, but also Bedensky was a bastard, you see … who were radically opposed. You see, Meany had his negotiating to do with the old guard Socialists, you see, who were bitterly opposed to arguing to come back to the AF of L. In fact, it took a number of meetings with Meany and a number of meetings with the Executive Board before it was finally okayed. They kept attaching conditions, I mean the conditions on the thing …
WILLIAM FINGER:
They had to go through this New York City purge.
JOHN RUSSELL:
Yeah … Leon Strauss, Joe … what's his name? Isn't it funny the way names go out of my head nowadays that I'm getting old. Anyway, all kinds of our guys, Jack Snyder, people like that had to go, you know.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But Fineglass was interested in getting the merger through so he did what he had to do in New York City.
JOHN RUSSELL:
Right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do people hold that against him?
JOHN RUSSELL:
No, I don't think so. Gold did for many years and probably does yet, but I don't … I'm not even sure about that … I know Potash don't … you know old Potash isn't where he is, so at least I don't believe he does. They speak at dinners for these people and things. For instance, they had a dinner for Leon Strauss, everybody comes … the old guys, the guys who are gone, you know. They meet, they have drinks together. I think there is still some bitterness on Ben's part, how much, I don't really know. I haven't seen Ben now in many years, and I don't even see Abe anymore, you know.