Friends of FMCS History Foundation

The history of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration

FMCS and The Red Scare of the 1950s

[1]The expansion of the Soviet Union into Eastern Europe, the Berlin Blockade, and other aggressive actions including espionage following World War 11 caused fear and anxiety in the U.S.


Taking advantage of these conditions in the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy, as head of the Senate Permanent Investigating Committee, used hearings and investigations to accuse individuals primarily in State Department of being Red sympathizers. Frequently, his charges were without merit, but negative publicity alone caused great harm to individuals’ reputations and employment.

The House Un-American Activities Committee used similar tactics in Hollywood, which resulted in black listing individuals, and making them unemployable. In some cases, the charge might be based on nothing more that attending a meeting.

Motivated by the same impulse, the Eisenhower Administration issued a sweeping requirement that all federal employees in sensitive positions file an extensive security form. FMCS mediators occupied sensitive positions, and several mediators felt the impact of this.

The Saturday Evening Post published an article about the son of Regional Director Morrison Garst having Red sympathies. The publicity caused Garst to resign. Two other mediators, Henry Tucker and Leo Colten, both resigned rather than being exposed to a public hearing.

The most dramatic case involved mediator James McNamara. The February 6, 1954, Cincinnati Enquirer reported that James McNamara, former Federal Mediation Commissioner in Cincinnati, admitted to a Congressional Committee in Albany, NY that he was a communist.

James McNamara, born 12-29-1901, served five years as Business Agent for the Hotel Workers Union. He also worked four years as a newspaper reporter and feature editor. USCS hired him on January 30,1942, and he transferred to FMCS following the passage of the LMRA in 1947.

US trade unions have always had some curiosity about the USSR employment system. The Reuther brothers’ extended visit in USSR was based on that curiosity.

Since many mediators gained their experience in unions, it follows the some mediators had an interest or at least curiosity about Russia and communism.

Another example of the concern about communism in the labor movement is illustrated by the fact that the NLRA of 1947 originally had are a requirement that labor union officials were required to sign a document stating they were not communist before the Union could utilize any benefits of NLRA. At the time, there were a few communist leaning labor organizations. However, that NLRA requirement was later eliminated.

[1] Based on oral history interviews of James Greenword (1985) and Sorine Preli (1985) by Jerry Barrett

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