LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee
LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee or more formally, Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee Investigating Violations of Free Speech and the Rights of Labor (1933-1941) began as an inquiry into a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation of methods used by employers in certain industries to avoid collective bargaining with unions. Between 1936 and 1944, the subcommittee published exhaustive hearings and reports on the use of industrial espionage, private police systems, strikebreaking services, munitions in industrial warfare, and employers' associations to break strikes and to disrupt legal union activities in other ways. Robert M. La Follette, Jr., a Republican and Progressive Party Senator from Wisconsin chaired the Committee.
The Committee reported that as late as 1937 its census of working "labor spies" from 1933 to 1937 total 3,871 for the period. Private security firms like Pinkerton National Detective Agency and Burns were employed to infiltrate labor unions.
The Committee reported:
- "Such a spy system . . . places the employer in the very heart of the union council from the outset of any organizing effort. News of organizers coming into a town, contacts the organizers make among his employees, the names of employees who join the union, all organization plans, all activities of the union—these are as readily available to the employer as though he himself were running the union".
Espionage on the Committee
In 1995, with the release of the Venona project transcripts, so far as is known, no less than four American citizens, employees of the federal government, Senate staffers, illegal members of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) as defined by the Hatch Act of 1939, and agents of the CPUSA's secret appartus working on behalf Soviet intelligence, furthing the objectives of the Comintern, were at one time or another staff members of the subcommittee.
Those agents who have been idnetified are:
- John Abt, Chief Counsel to the LaFollette Committee; Assistant General Counsel of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and in 1948 worked in the presidential campaign for former Vice President Henry A. Wallace
- Charles Flato, who during World War II served on the Board of Economic Warfare (BEW) and the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA)
- Charles Kramer, who served on four other congressional staffs and the NLRB
- Allen Rosenberg, who served on the NLRB, BEW, and FEA