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Frank Wills ‘blew the whistle’ on Watergate

Published Jun 13, 2005 8:29 PM

Ex-CIA agent James McCord didn’t think he would be stopped from installing wiretaps at Democratic National Committee headquarters by an $80-per-week security guard. Neither did fellow Watergate burglar Bernard Barker, a former member of CIA-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista’s secret police.

Frank Wills

On June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, an African American worker, was making his rounds on the graveyard shift at the Watergate buildings when he sounded the alarm about the break-in.

“I put my life on the line. I went out of my way,” Wills told a Boston Globe reporter on the 25th anniversary of Watergate. “If it wasn’t for me, Woodward and Bernstein would not have known anything about Watergate.”

Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein got $5 million from the University of Texas in 2003 for their Watergate notebooks and files. Frank Wills didn’t even get a pension.

He died penniless in an Augusta, Ga., hospital of a brain tumor on Sept. 27, 2000.

Wills couldn’t afford to bury his mother. He lived in a house without lights because he wasn’t able to pay the electric bill.

Wills found it hard to get a job after Watergate. One Washington area university told Wills they were afraid to hire him for fear their federal funds might be cut.

Frank Wills moved back to his home state of Georgia after his mother suffered a stroke. They lived together on her $450 monthly Social Security check.

Richard Nixon’s face is on a postage stamp. He and his fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger made millions of dollars off their memoirs.

President Nixon’s partner in crime, Vice- President Spiro Agnew, got three years' probation for evading taxes on bribes filched from highway contractors. Frank Wills was sentenced to a year in jail in 1983 for allegedly trying to shoplift a $12 pair of sneakers.

A victim of racial profiling, Wills wasn’t arrested while leaving the store. He was nabbed just for putting the shoes in his bag. He'd wanted to surprise a friend with his gift at the check-out counter.

Frank Wills epitomizes the plight of hundreds of thousands of low-paid security guards today, many of whom are African American. Increased employment in this field has gone hand in hand with the growing army of janitors. Growth of both jobs is a result of the office building construction boom.

Service Employees Local 1877 is trying to organize 10,000 guards in Los Angeles. Union supporters staged a sit-in at the Wells Fargo Tower there last September. Several months later, with the support of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the union marched through downtown Los Angeles.

This important struggle came out of the union's “Justice for Janitors” campaign. At one of the early actions by this campaign, on June 15, 1990, Los Angeles cops viciously attacked Service Employees members demanding a union contract at the Century City office complex. At least 148 workers were injured, including a pregnant woman who miscarried.

Despite this police riot, janitors at Century City have a union today. These overwhelming Latin@ janitors, 98 percent of whom are immigrants, are in solidarity with efforts by security guards, predominantly Black, to be unionized too.