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Rep. Clare Hoffman aids union busting: 1948 | by Washington Area Spark
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Rep. Clare Hoffman aids union busting: 1948

Rep. Clare Hoffman (R-Mi.) became the chief defender of Government Services, Inc. (GSI) stance of refusing to negotiate with the Washington, D.C. United Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers Union Local 471, UPWA CIO during a 78-day strike in 1948.


Hoffman repeatedly called hearings of a special subcommittee of the House Labor Committee to defend GSI and attack the union and President Harry S. Truman’s administration for their intervention in the strike.


A mediator appointed by the government, Col. George E. Strong said of Hoffman,


“The activities of this committee that has been investigating the strike under direction of Rep. Clare E. Hoffman (R.-Mi.) have made settlement of the strike almost impossible.”


“Just when I thought I had the strike settled, the subcommittee would get in contact with GSI, or issue subpoenas, or hold at hearing at which GSI’s representatives would made commitments under oath which they could not modify to effect a settlement."


Strong told a Washington Post reporter that GSI “is intent on breaking this union.”


Hoffman was given license to act by a Republican majority in Congress. He was already well known as an anti-Semite with fascist sympathies, speaking at rallies held for the far right America First Party in the 1940s.


Later he was a vocal opponent of the National Polio Immunization Program, claiming that the U.S. Public Health Service had been heavily infiltrated by Russian-born doctors, He opposed polio vaccines and fluoridation of water.


The strike by Local 471 began January 5, 1948 after GSI refused to meet, negotiate or enter a contract with the union unless local officials and the parent UPWA union signed non-communist affidavits.


In addition, GSI insisted the union win a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election even though they had entered into contracts with the union for the past 10 years.


The union was initially recognized in a preference ballot conducted by the NLRB in 1938 after GSI took the position then that as a quasi-government agency they were not covered by the NLRB.


The federal government eventually intervened in the long strike after a campaign to put pressure on President Harry S. Truman by the union.


The Truman administration insisted local officials sign the affidavits before they would help, although the parent UPWA officials never did. Eventually the government threatened to terminate the GSI contract in order to force a settlement of the 78-day strike.


The largest African American union in the city at about 4,000 members was preserved and continued as a progressive union. It provided ground troops in 1950-53 for pickets, sit-ins and boycotts of public facilities in the District that practiced Jim Crow, resulting in complete victory over segregation of public facilities in 1953.


For more information and related images, see


For a detailed account of the strike and its implications, see


The photographer is unknown. The image was sent out February 24, 1949 to news outlets affiliated with the Central Press Association service after Hoffman called U.S. President Harry S. Truman unfit for President after Truman uttered the initials S.O.B. publicly. The image was obtained via an Internet sale.

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Taken circa 1949