“Go to hell”

Jon Corzine isn’t the only Democrat to have problems with New Jersey labor unions. When R.J. Reynolds attempted to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes by 10% in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson stepped in and imposed a 3.2% wage-price guideline on management and labor. But this ill-fated guideline seemed better at stopping industry from raising prices than labor from increasing wages. Johnson’s plan was in trouble when a New Jersey local of the International Union of Operating Engineers, already earning an hourly rate of $6.55, won a 10% pay hike from contractors. The White House used their national labor contacts to force the head of the New Jersey local, Peter Weber, to go to Washington and meet with Johnson’s economic advisors. White House aides threatened to cut off about $200 million in federal aid for New Jersey transportation projects. Weber’s response: he told the Johnson staff to “go to hell.” When Weber refused to back down, the Johnson administration knew they would have no luck imposing their wage-price guideline. Footnote: Two years later, Johnson’s Justice Department won a conviction against Weber. The federal prosecutor in that case was Herbert Stern, a former U.S. Attorney and U.S. District Court Judge who is now UMDNJ’s federal monitor.

“Go to hell”