Class Welfare

"It's kind of like the old protection racket. If you have the right sticker, we won't break your knees.'This is beyond the pale to force a small-business person to choose when they want to stay neutral." Jim Haney Outgoing head of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Detroit's notorious Purple Gang of the 1920s and early 1930s engaged in - among other nefarious things - a protection racket against shopkeepers. According to one account, they got the name Purple Gang because they would threaten to throw purple dye and ruin the laundry of local dry-cleaning stores. You know the phrase from dozens of gangster movies: "Nice little shop ya got here. Be too bad if something happened to it." Purple Gang tactics are being used in Wisconsin. A public employee union local, embroiled in a battle with elected officials of that state, are now dragging in local shopkeepers - sending them letters demanding that they post signs in their windows supporting the unions or face a union boycott. Jim Haney, the outgoing head of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a pro-business lobby, said the union effort was appalling. And he said the campaign would backfire.

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