Our readers know about the Congressional investigations of the methods and policies of David Beck and James R. Hoffa, leaders of the powerful Teamsters’ Union and the corrupt practices which came to light in the course of these inquiries. They have read about the packed convention at Miami where Mr. Hoffa was elected as president of the union in spite of his defiant attitude toward his investigators and their revelations of his misuse of union funds. It is a familiar story and requires no elaboration.
We do feel impelled to express a few thoughts that have been uppermost in our mind as a result of the revelations of scandal in the Teamsters’ Union, said to be the most powerful of all the labor organizations in this country.
Our first thought is that the rank and file of the members of this union seem to stand helpless over against the manipulations of their corrupt leaders who rule the union like autocrats, spurn all investigations, and seem to feel no shame for the revelations of extreme corruption at the hearings before the Senate’s Committee of Investigation. The better element in the Union was unable to prevent the election of Mr. Hoffa as president of the Union at the Miami convention last September. All this seems to confirm the position of those among us who insist on separate Christian labor organizations and claim that it is completely unrealistic to say that Christian members of the “neutral” unions can witness for Christ in their union meetings. They can do nothing to prevent corrupt practices and measures of violence, not to speak of making appeals for justice and fairness in matters of dispute between employers and employees. The utter ruthlessness with which the union leaders pursue their aims and the dictatorial manner in which such leaders are elected and delegates to conventions are chosen seem to make it impossible for the Christians among the membership to exert a wholesome and restraining influence on union affairs.
Our second thought concerns the brethren, members of our churches, who dare not refuse to belong to the Teamsters’ Union. and probably could not operate as teamsters without being members. This may not be the case in certain small towns but it is doubtless true in large cities like Chicago and many that are much smaller. We have members in our congregations who belong to this organization. They must have uneasy consciences because of their affiliation with an organization that tolerates leaders like Dave Beck and James R. Hoffa—men who remind us of the Psalmist’s description of the wicked: “Pride is as a chain about their neck; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They scoff, and in wickedness utter oppression: they speak loftily. They have set their mouth in the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.”
It seems to us the conscientious person must squirm at being associated with such persons in one organization. For, as our Synod has said, there is such a thing as corporate responsibility -that is, the responsibility of one member of a body—family, church, social organization—for the actions of other members of that same body.
We would not judge these brethren who are members of the Teamsters’ union harshly. We sympathize with them in their predicament. They must feel chagrined and indignant because of the revelations of corruption in their union. Yet we feel impelled to ask: Can they justly continue as members of such a union without being co-responsible before God for the deeds of their leaders? Should they not at the very least protest, individually or jointly, against the refusal of the organization heads to clean out this filthy stable?
And what about the words of Paul: “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord”? Is it not imperative for our Christian brethren who are members of the Teamsters’ Union, in fact of all “neutral” unions, to give serious thought to the establishment of Christian organizations for their own trades or kinds of work, or to affiliate with the existing Christian Labor Organization.
We realize that it is a herculean task for the Christian workers of the United States to compete, as it were, with the powerful A F L and C I O. For the comparatively few Christian men and women of Reformed persuasion to do this alone seems a hopeless task. The Christians of all the denominations in this land should unite in such a movement. Once it seemed that our membership in the National Association of Evangelicals might be the avenue along which this ideal could be realized, even as our system of parental schools found favor with the leaders of the N.A.E. and resulted in the establishment of many such Christian schools outside of our own circles. We hope our Church will retrace its steps in this matter and rejoin the N.A.E. Who knows, some day members of all the evangelical churches in this country may join hands in the formation of a nationwide Christian labor movement! In this area too Christ must be acknowledged and served as Lord.