The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Queens College, City University of New York is organizing this fundraiser to install a tombstone at the unmarked grave of assassinated labor activist Pietro “Pete” Panto (1910-1939).
In the late 1930s, Panto was a longshoreman on the Brooklyn waterfront. Working conditions on the Brooklyn docks were horrid, with endemic problems such as the “shape-up” hiring system (where men waited daily to be chosen to work), mandatory salary kickbacks, extortion, and high rates of work-related injuries.
In addition, the local union, the International Longshoremen’s Association, was rife with corruption, political patronage, and mob-controlled violence . Enforcing the status quo of this foul fiefdom, was gangster Albert Anastasia, head of the crime syndicate “Murder, Inc.”
Panto led a group of dockworkers who organized the Brooklyn Rank-and-File Committee to fight for better conditions. In the summer of 1939, they held open-aired meetings with hundreds of men assembling at docks demanding change.
The mobbed-up union goons threaten Panto to stop his activism for workers’ rights.
Finally on July 14, 1939, Panto was killed on orders of Albert Anastasia and his body was dumped in a lime pit in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. It wasn’t until January 1941 that Panto’s decayed corpse was discovered. No one was convicted of his murder.
Panto was buried in St. Charles Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Some have speculated that there was concern that Anastasia’s men would come to desecrate Panto’s resting place. We feel that this simple act is more than warranted given this Italian American working-class hero’s sacrifice on behalf of laboring people.
In order to erect a tombstone we need to raise $4,900 for various cemetery fees--back annual care, endowed care, filing fee, and foundation fee--and $2,550 for the tombstone for a total of $7,450. Historians Mary Anne Trasciatti and James Fisher, and writer Nathan Ward support this effort. We hope you will join them and make a donation on behalf of this noble cause.
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