Murder in the Garment District: The Grip of Organized Crime and the Decline of Labor in the United States

New Pr. May 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781620974636. $26.99. POL SCI
Witwer (history, American studies) and Rios (humanities & educations, both Pennsylvania State Harrisburg) use the murder of a low-level labor organizer in New York’s Garment District in 1949 as a keystone for their study of the broader relationship between unions and organized crime in the mid-20th century. These two powerful groups interacted in ways that both aided and impeded labor’s interests. Ultimately, corruption came to the attention of influential columnists and resulted in the highly publicized McClellan Committee hearings. Ties to organized crime damaged labor’s reputation, while journalists and politicians built their own renown exposing the wrongdoing. The authors also emphasize how organized crime, labor, and small garment makers found mutual benefit through cooperation. Their storytelling skills help unravel the complex worlds of crime and labor at a time when both exercised considerable influence. While this is primarily a work of history and not the true crime tale implied by the title, patient readers will be rewarded by a fascinating narrative of individuals, families, and organizations, grounded in sound analyses.
VERDICT For anyone interested in labor history and organized crime, this will be a rewarding if challenging read.
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