Labor: Painters in Blood

Dow Wilson was never a man to be ignored. A swashbuckling, Shakespeare-spouting romantic, he was also a volatile, foulmouthed labor leader who spent years fighting chicanery in his union's higher echelons. As the $13,000-a-year secretary of the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators and Paperhangers' San Francisco Local 4—biggest in the U.S.—he commanded the unwavering allegiance of nearly all 2,600 local members. Wilson, 40, was parted from that job on April 5, when shotgun blasts tore into his chest and shattered his skull.

Wilson's murder, an unsettling echo of labor's internecine wars in the '30s, came as a grisly epilogue. His career had...

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