When the New York City Bagel-Bakers’ Union Took on the Mafia—and Won

By the 1960s, virtually all of the more than 300 bakers in New York City’s bagel shops belonged to Local 338 of the Bakery and Confectionary Workers, which maintained closed shops and contracts favorable to workers. But then a mobster named Giovanni Ignazio Dioguardi—known as Johnny Dio—who had spent the past few years enriching himself by meddling in the kosher hot-dog business, decided to take on bagels. Jason Turbow describes what followed:

In 1966, a man named Ben Willner started the W&S Baking Corporation in the Bronx. Not only was he determined to run a non-union bagel shop, but he was among the first to embrace what would, over time, become 338’s most pressing issue: automation. . . . With [a mechanical bagel roller], Willner began pumping out more bagels in a shorter time with one unskilled worker than a traditional shop using a union-approved team of four; this allowed Willner to undercut his competitors’ prices substantially. With his bakery location sufficiently north of Local 338’s area of operations, he mostly flew under the union’s radar.

Dio soon showed up at the bakery to bandy about his wholesaling leverage—namely, the ability to get supermarket buyers to bend to his whim under threat of labor unrest. Before long, W&S bagels were being stocked on shelves around the city, and the bakery prospered.

Except that Willner’s weren’t the only mobbed-up bagels in town. In 1964, a shop called Bagel Boys had opened in the center of Jewish New York, on King’s Highway in Brooklyn. Among its principals was Thomas Eboli, otherwise known as Tommy Ryan, a capo in the Genovese crime family and a direct counter to Dio. Eboli was so powerful, in fact, that when Vito Genovese died a few years later, Eboli reigned for a time as the family boss.

Dio may have been a capo [as well], but his Lucchese-family backing was no match for the Genoveses. . . . Inevitably, W&S went out of business, with Willner’s machines ending up at Bagel Boys in clear violation of the union mandate. This was a problem. Eboli, with the Manhattan mafia behind him, made the concerns about Dio seem puny by comparison. A fight was in the offing. The main question was whether—and how—to enjoin it.

Ultimately, the union handled the mafia the same way that it handled nearly all extreme issues with management: full public confrontation. Nearly as soon as Bagel Boys opened its doors, Local 338 members showed up en masse to picket, distributing leaflets headlined, “PLEASE DON’T BUY,” with warnings that non-union bagels “jeopardize the hard-won standards of labor and inspection which the New York City public now enjoy.” Their most effective tactic in such situations was handing out free product in quantities sufficient to devastate business. It worked.

Read more at Grub Street

More about: Jewish food, Mafia, New York City


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus