Labor: Yesterday's Tune

The little old man laughed at the notion of a rank-and-file revolt. To James C. ("Little Caesar") Petrillo, 70, onetime autocratic overlord of 260,000 U.S. musicians, it seemed like a piccolo challenging a calliope. "Everything is tops," cried Petrillo.

But everything was far from fine—at least to the members of Local 10, the Chicago Federation of Musicians, which has played syncopated sycophant to Petrillo since 1923. The local had gone all that time under Petrillo's presidency without a meaningful challenge to his reign. Now it dared to rebel. "Jimmy, why don't you cut out?" demanded a folk singer at a...

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