March 6, 1958
The lady gave her name as Mrs. Clara Alberty. She wasn't timid about giving her age, either.
"I'm 60," she told me. "Two years younger than my husband."
I asked Mrs. Alberty to sit down and she did--on the edge of her chair.
She clasped her hands together and began:
"My husband is a member of Local 250, Steamfitters Union. I like unions," she said. "They're wonderful if they're run right. But this one isn't run right."
Mrs. Alberty opened her purse and handed me the classified ad. I read it.
"What happened," she explained, " is that when a reform group moved in and tried to clean the mess up, the local was suspended by the international.
"Their men are running it now, and it's no better than it ever was. Our men can't even get a decent day's work now."
"How did the wives get involved?" I asked.
Mrs. Alberty leaned further forward on her chair.
"Well, naturally, we all took a little interest in our husbands' work. We got together now and then and finally, last year, we decided to form a ladies auxiliary--a social club.
But at the meetings we got so riled up at what was happening to our husbands--at the way some of the officials were stealing money from them and the way the goons and ex-cons were coming from the East to take over their jobs--that we finally decided to do something about it.
"So, last fall, we set up a picket line of wives. We carried big signs telling the union bosses what we thought of them."
"What did the signs say?" I asked.
Mrs. Alberty smiled. "Oh, they said plenty. Things like 'McClellan, Where Are You?' "
"Are all the wives being sued?"
"Oh no," she answered. "They just picked out seven of us. Seven whose husbands were active in the reform movement."
"Who's doing the suing?" I said.
"There's a Mr. Schoemann, he's head of the International," she answered. "And a Mr. Gelski. He's the man Mr. Schoemann sent out here to manage things after he took away our local autonomy."
Mrs. Alberty continued:
"My husband was getting lots of work until the local was suspended. But he hasn't been given a job out of the local since last May. He's had to work out of Riverside.
"Lots of others have just moved away. They've been starved out. But they're not going to starve me out. This is my home. I shouldn't leave."
"What does the suit charge you with?" I said.
"Well," Mrs. Alberty spoke, "we picketed them a few times and we hung them in effigy once. They're suing us for libel."
"And you go to court next month?"
"That's right. They've got a lot of money--some of it our own money we paid in dues ... against us. But I think we'll come out all right. We've got some facts."
I handed the classified ad back to Mrs. Alberty. Standing, she folded it and placed it in her purse.
"This ad wasn't just a joke," she said. "We still need money to fight them. And like our men, we're not afraid of work."