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Plugging the Leaks: A Specialist Spies on Union Activities

In the earliest years of the 20th century, employers mounted organized campaigns to break the power of labor unions. The employers had a broad array of tactics, including blacklists, strikebreakers, and court injunctions against strikers’ use of boycotts and sympathy strikes. From 1900 to 1920, 775 injunctions were issued against labor activities. Between 1880 and 1900, there had been only 150. Although early twentieth-century employers had reliable allies in state police forces and tightly controlled local police, they continued to hire their own private police—detective agencies that used secret operatives to disrupt unions and supplied thugs to protect strikebreakers during strikes. F. J. Heine, general manager of the Employers’ Information Service in Cleveland, Ohio, explained his strike-breaking services to prospective clients in this 1911 letter.

Personal and Confidential

May 8, 1911

Dear Sir: Are there any leaks in your plant? Of course—but you may not know it. And how are you going to find out? It is the small leaks, the loss of dollars here and there, which help to eat up the large profits. Our business is to find the leaks in your business, and observe what it is not for the eyes and ears of the boss to see or hear.

We protect you against loss of time, labor or material, eliminate graft of any description, theft, and all irregularities that exist in both large and small concerns; also prevent the efforts of labor union agitators and organizers from becoming effective, and disrupting strikes when necessary.

Our system of inspection and checking of employees must necessarily appeal to every business man who desires to secure the most efficient service from them, and to know whether they are honest, loyal, and work together as one without friction, finally obtaining profits. . . .

Source: American Flint, June 1911. Reprinted in Harry W. Laidler, Boycotts and the Labor Struggle (New York: John Lane Company, 1913), 294.

See Also:Revwar.com
One Strike Against Her: A Store Clerk Dares to Join the Union
Pride and Joy: Specialists in Breaking Strikes