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on November 24, 2009
This book is about the connection between organized labour and organized crime in the United States. It addresses: misappropriation of worker pension and operating funds by union office holders and other criminals; extortion of employers by union officials and the mafia; and union/employer conspiracies to operate cartels that corruptly allocate contracts and set prices. It mostly deals with its topic, labor racketeering, historically. In taking this approach, the author analyses the enduring patterns of criminal behaviour of a small group of stakeholders in the labour movement. Underlying this discussion are portraits of distinct periods in 20th century American history. These include: the bootlegging era; the congressional hearings "high-point" period of 1957-59 during which the McClelland senate select committee saw a procession of union officials and members of the mafia take the 5th Amendment; the age of federal law enforcement's obsession with communism as the only matter worth investigating and the consequent unabated proliferation of criminal organizations throughout the 1960s; and the post-Hoover FBI era when the murder of a high profile union official, Jimmy Hoffa, caused law enforcement to give priority to breaking up cosa nostra organized crime families.

The author traces the history of union racketeering and provides compelling accounts of the activities of parties from organized labour; criminal associations; employer groups; the United States Department of Justice and the FBI; and State and Federal Legislatures. The scope and nature of the crimes of well known union officials and mafia bosses are meticulously described as are the public-policy efforts which aimed to ensure that transgressions are not repeated. One of the book's strengths is its illumination of the legalistic aspects of how individuals with complex and ambiguous roles have behaved corruptly. For example, Jimmy Hoffa, head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Minnesota, and labour organizer of truck drivers, dock workers and warehousemen throughout the Midwest is referred to repeatedly. The reader is left with a sound understanding of the nature of his influence, diversity of his crimes, and legal remedies used to curtail their future occurrence.

In his book, Jacobs gives an important if unpalatable perspective of the workings and nature of organized labour. Through discussing union involvement in extortion, bribes, fraud, embezzlement and violence he also provides insight into modern employment relations. For those with an interest in union history, the book is as much an analysis of relations between actors in the labour management process as an exposé of organized crime. In this respect, it contributes to industrial sociology scholarship for at least three reasons. First, it gives detail about key events in the modern history of the United States labour movement. For example, it discuss the way the Wagner Act (1936) provided an impetus for union growth; the constraining influence of Taft-Hartley (1947); and the McClellend Commission which has been characterized as providing a platform for anti-union politicians. Second, the author indirectly sheds light on a likely reason for declining unionism through drawing attention to how the image of organized labour has been besmirched by criminals. This theme broadens debate about the changing nature of work. It implicitly suggests that the current trend towards individualism in employment relations is not solely due to the triumph of employers in an era of globalization. Rather, waning unionism may be a consequence of the conduct of labour officials as well as widely-documented influences such as growth of the services sector; an influx of women into the workforce; and increases in non-standard forms of employment. The third reason the book contributes to scholarship on employment relations is that its content demonstrates myriad ways that actors in the process may interact. Its anecdotes - although not necessarily its discussion of their legal aspects - reveal that interests, power and conflict exist at both an institutional and individual level. The book is replete with well researched historical accounts of how, in practice, unions do not automatically represent member interests. Rather, they are revealed as potentially corruptible entities that may detach from an institutional powerbase and align their objectives with those of employers or nefarious criminal enterprises. These revelations confront idealism and some employment-related theory. The author does not speculate about how ideas on labour relations may be further developed in light of insight about union corruption. His focus remains mostly on historical efforts to remedy the problem.

I have two related criticisms of Jacobs work. These may not actually be condemnations but rather reflect a difference of theoretical orientation between the author and myself. First, sometimes the writing is unduly legalistic. This approach has the advantage of efficiently conveying technical detail but does not necessarily provide the best opportunity to enjoy learning about an interesting subject. For example, during the McClelland Commission hearings Robert Kennedy had spectacular clashes with flamboyant Jimmy Hoffa. I was disappointed that this was hardly mentioned and that the transcripts of such exchanges were not included to enliven the discussion. A related criticism concerns the personalities of those being described. It would have been a more interesting book if it gave additional detail about the traits of key protagonists. Hoffa was charismatic and aggressive. Kennedy was somewhat callow. If such personas had been delineated the work's appeal would have been enhanced. The aforementioned criticisms may prompt some - probably including Jacobs himself - to point out that a book about union corruption should frame its question narrowly and use only relevant research to present an argument. Those who make such a case may also argue that narratives about legal history lose focus if they provide unnecessary detail. My response to such musings is that I believe it is possible to present excellent and focused scholarship and simultaneously maximize entertainment value. This is particularly so when the object of analysis is: Mobsters, Unions and Feds. Maybe the problem is that lawyers (the author) and sociologists (me) are turned-on by different things! That said, I am not aware of a book that covers the same ground as this one - let alone one that does so using such thorough research and with such technical competence.

Anthony M Gould PhD
Professor of Labor Relations
Laval University
Quebec City
CANADA

This review appears in Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations 62(3), 2007
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on March 8, 2006
Like the cliff notes to racketeering, this book submerses the reader in the core aspects of organized crime, how if has afflicated the United States and the history of labor and government's moves to resist it. A truly splendid piece of work by the Warren E Berger professor.
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on November 4, 2014
Mobster's influence into some of US Trade Unions

Received this book today by mailman into a good shape.

Containing very interesting stories, like to know on a clearly way what really had been happened about the mob influence into some sections of the American Labor Movement and their workforce, and other forms of conspiracy between politicians and Mafiosi, extorsion and bribery of big companies by other dubiously persons, like Frank Sinatra! And don't forget the Kennedy clan, headed by Joseph Kennedy sr. from New England, who had the hand in it by himself by paying Mafia bosses in Chicago for winning elections for is sons!
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on April 27, 2006
Jacobs' research has been diligent as evidenced by this inspired, spell binding, page turner. He takes the reader inside the American workers' unions and shows how the workers have been taken hostage by the mob. This is a MUST read for anyone who cares about the American worker!
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on August 15, 2010
James B Jacobs is the foremost expert on labor racketeering in America, and the effort to rid that evil by the government and ordinary trade unionists. A great read.
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on August 1, 2013
This book explores the connections between 'the mob' and the labor unions. It also details the federal effort to get a handle on the connection.
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on April 3, 2013
Professor Jacobs has written a book that deserves the attention of everyone. Many in this Country and Canada are enamored with the mafia and organized crime. It is really a shame because its existence would be quickly terminated; if only the public joined with the victims? Standing together and demanding that their elected officials (those not already entangled in the criminal web) act and act now. Today, the followers of Cain are armed with the best Attorney's and public relations firms who paint a picture projecting these pillagers as upstanding citizens who support charities and other humane causes. The pubic and in some circles the media, elected officials and even some religious organizations heap praise on this criminal organization.

Great job Professor

Ronald Fino
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on August 13, 2013
If your looking for the Godfather, or Jimmy Hoffa, forgettabodit, but if you love case history and reference this book will do the job.
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on September 21, 2013
A great book that delves into just how powerful the mob is with organized labor. Professor Jacobs, cleary explains the inner workings of labor racketeering
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on May 20, 2006
While the book reveals Jacobs knowledge of organized crime, the book does not provide evidence of the real struggles of workers who had benefited through their self-activity. This one sided book shows how the mob infiltrates unions but does not provide significant evidence of worker resistance to criminal activity in unions. The book is therefore more about organized crime and union raccateers rather than organized crime and union organizations. Why are unions singled out as the font of criminal action when so many other organizations are susceptible to mob influence? It is patently false to argue that union members are not interested in the affairs of unions. This argument is the equivalent of saying tht workers don't like unions, when they in fact are the primary forces in forming them. True, some union leaders are corrupt, but today we are finding a resurgence of rank-and-file local leaders who are not corrupt. Though Jacobs contends he is not anti-union, his book is certainly anti-worker. The book provides no adequate prescription for resolving the problem that he sees so endemic to unions. The book suffers from inadequate knowledge of the trajectory of labor history in the U.S. and an obsession with organized crime. Moreover, we cannot equate unions writ large with the broader labor movement that includes organized and unorganized workers.
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