In the late 1930s, Pete 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-air meetings with hundreds of men assembling at the docks to demand change.
The mobbed-up union goons threatened Panto, ordering him to stop his activism for workers’ rights. 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 for his murder.
Panto’s body was subsequently 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.)
The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Queens College, CUNY, is now organizing this fundraiser to install a tombstone at the unmarked grave of Pietro “Pete” Panto (1910–1939).
We feel that the simple act of putting a headstone on his grave 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, including back annual care, endowed care, a filing fee, and a foundation fee, and $2,550 for the tombstone itself, 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.
Click here to watch a video about Panto and about this fundraising effort in his honor.
Click here to go to the GoFundMe page to make your donation.