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The boss of the beach

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

headline in New York papers this week got me thinking about the wildest union corruption story I ever read. The story involves lifeguards who can’t swim and the 40-year reign of neglect, corruption, and death at the hands of a guy known as the Boss of the Beach.

The article, published in New York Magazine, is a powerful illustration of the fact that unchecked power corrupts, especially when that power involves Big Labor.

I don’t want to give away too much because the article that taught me about Peter Stein and the largest lifeguard corps in the country is so beautifully written that I think you ought to pour yourself a cup of whatever, prop your feet up, and prepare to be immersed in a tale so bizarre it’s hard to be believed.

Every tabloid scandal, every wrongful-death lawsuit, and every drowning – there have been 79 since 1988 – is well documented in the piece. What’s also documented is the tremendous protection afforded to this labor boss by union officials and politicians.

It was hard to select just one excerpt for you, but this one gives you a good idea of how powerful this lifeguard-slash-union-boss was:

“Stein had learned quickly how to leverage the union’s power. Just a year after becoming citywide lifeguard coordinator, he created a PAC called Politically Unified Lifeguard Labor, or PULL. According to a former lifeguard’s civil suit and a 1989 investigative report by the New York Post, Stein demanded $10 from every lifeguard in the city and threatened that any who refused would fail the swim test. Over the next several years, PULL made campaign contributions to Governor Mario Cuomo and Mayor Koch.”                      

Excerpt from Boss of the Beach by David Gauvey Herbert, New York Magazine

Like I said, what a story. Or dare I say, what a beach read?


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Elisabeth Messenger

Elisabeth Messenger is CEO of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Elisabeth was in the publicity department at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, CA. From there, she learned how to build organizations that would impact culture through positions in operations and business development at Universal Music Group, VEVO, and Beats Music.