“On the Waterfront” still rings true in many ways

16 Feb

Today I have a cold, so I am staying inside to watch movies on tv.  What luck – the old movies channel is playing “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb.

I know – it’s “just a movie” – but it tells the story of the unions and how they are corrupt by nature.  Based on a series of stories written by Malcolm Johnson for the New York Sun, OTWF dramatizes “the corruption and organized crime infiltration on the New York City waterfront… the inhumane treatment of longshoremen implicitly condoned by the unions, and the suspicious disappearance of anyone who spoke out against the system…”

As I sit at the keyboard I am listening to the “Johnny Friendly” character, played by Lee J. Cobb, explain to Marlon Brando’s “Terry” why his friend had to die,  how many people had died for the control of the waterfront jobs. As they speak around the pool table, Johnny is continually given reports of the thousands of dollars his minions have conscripted from the workers.

Later Karl Malden asks the workers why  they put up with the treatment from Friendly, ” what about your union?” The men cautiously tell the priest that anybody who raises any question about the treatment of the workers loses electricity in his apartment, “and then your lights go out..” “Name one place where it’s safe to talk without getting clobbered…” adds another man.

Did you know that in order to have a job with the Chico Police or Fire Department you are required to be to pay membership dues, whether or not you choose to be an actual member. You simply give up your right to vote in union matters, but you have to keep paying the dues that end up in campaign contributions at election time. The CPOA is routinely the biggest single donor in Chico elections.

This is a great movie, but here’s more information on the original stories:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/malcolm-johnson/on-the-waterfront/

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