Time was wasting, and I still hadn’t found a job. While in dire straits, I followed up on a lead from a drinking acquaintance, who said dock workers were making big bucks off-loading cargo ships. He also stressed that I should get there early in the morning. So, the next morning he was supposed to go with me, except he was suffering from a hangover; so I decided to go it alone and earn some extra dollars for hooch.
So I made a couple of trips to the waterfront and stood around waiting with other anxious laborers. Even though I was one of the first to arrive, it didn’t seem to matter. When the head foreman arrived, he selected men who seemed to be his favorites.
On the second day I asked a stodgy looking palooka, with a schnoz like the actor Carl Malden, “How come he never picks me?”
“Is you a member of the Longshoremen’s Union?” he responded with a South Philly Italian slur—like the fictitious Rocky Balboa character portrayed by Sylvester Stallone.
I replied, “No.”
Next he said, “Then you is considered to be a scab.”
“Whoops!” I said to myself.” I knew that a scab is a guy who wants to work without joining the union.
Then and now, the ILA (International Longshoremen’s Association) is influenced by underworld thugs from the mob, which includes the unions at the Philly, New York, and New Jersey docks. In fact, despite what the U.S. Government says it has done to “clean up” the unions from mob influence, it still hasn’t happened. In days to come, I would get my chance to join other unions that were also under mob influenced.