Long history of rulers’ attacks on Fifth Amendment rights

By Terry Evans
May 28, 2018

The attack on Fifth Amendment rights is aimed at hard-won constitutional protections workers and the union movement need. The labor upsurge that swept the United States after the Second World War was an enormous problem for the U.S. rulers. Their response was a witch hunt aimed at labor and the radical movement.

Some 378 teachers in New York alone were thrown out of their jobs when school officials used the fact that they had invoked their Fifth Amendment rights upon being dragged before government witch-hunting committees and the Board of Education and asked to name names. Among those dismissed was Samuel Wallach, who had been president of the Teachers Union.

Top union officials joined the assault on workers’ rights. In 1957 the AFL-CIO Executive Committee made the criminal decision that any union official who invoked his constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment should automatically lose his post.

Bosses continue to try to attack this right. Illinois high school teacher John Dryden was docked a day’s pay and issued a warning in 2013 after he told his students about their Fifth Amendment rights when they had to answer a mandatory personal survey about drug, tobacco and alcohol use.