Teamsters Local 237

Sam Hall: Hospital Cook

Sam Hall retired as a cook on December 30, 1990, after 33 years of employment at Coler Hospital, on Roosevelt Island. After retirement, he participated regularly in Retiree Division programs. He  stepped down as chairperson of the Retiree Division’s Activities Committee and recording secretary of the Sunshine Club for health reasons but remained active with the committees. He was a member of Senior Summer, the AFL-CIO’s program to involve retired union members in organizing drives and campaigns. He lives in South Ozone Park, Queens, with his wife, Shirley, a retired member of District Council 37, and has five children, two grandchildren, and one great- grandchild.

He was interviewed in the Retiree Division office in May 1999.

I went to work for the City of New York on October 1, 1957, at the Housing Authority. Before I worked at the Housing Authority I was in the army for eight years. When I got out of the army I was looking for a job and someone told me to go to the Veterans Administration. The Veterans sent me to a shoe store but they had already gotten someone else for the job. I didn’t know I was supposed to report back to the Veterans to tell them that I didn’t get the job, but two weeks later they called me and I told them. They told me there was an opening in Housing. I went to the Housing Authority, to the Ft. Greene project, and they hired me right away.

I was a porter. I worked there until December 15 of the same year. I left because I was told that the Housing Authority was going to lay off anyone who hadn’t taken the civil service test. The test had been given before I went to work at the Housing Authority, so it was too late for me to take it. I had kids, so I started looking for another job. I spoke to a cousin who was a nurse at Coler Hospital and she helped me get a job there as a dietary aide.

Left: Sam Hall at Coler Hospital in 1981; right: Hall todaySam Hall

When I went there I became a member of Local 237. Mr. Lavell was the union representative for Local 237. He was an elevator man.

We cleaned dishes, cleaned the pantry, and set up the dining room area. We made sure everything ran smoothly.

For awhile I was not a member of Local 237. District Council 37 was coming in and the workers had to decide which union they wanted. We had a vote for what union would represent the different departments. The majority went for District Council 37. I don’t know why those workers went for D.C. 37, because I voted for 237. Mr. Lavell said Local 237 was a better union, and I agreed. The cooks, butchers, storekeepers and some others in the hospital voted for Local 237, they stayed with 237. The rest went to DC 37, including the dietary aides. I was still a dietary aide. This was around 1959 or ‘60.

I went to school for cooking because I liked cooking. I went to the VA school for cooking from ‘59 to ‘61. I think it was on 13th Street. I worked the early shift, from 6 to 1, and went to school in the evening from 5 to 8 or 9.

After I finished school I worked as a cook’s helper at the hospital. They gave us training. I was a cook’s helper from ‘61 to ‘69, eight years. I went back to Local 237 because the cooks had stayed with Local 237.

We cooked for the doctors and the employees. We served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I went in in the morning we made breakfast. Then we had to make sure that meals were prepared and ready for 12 o’clock. When we prepared lunch, we put aside food for the dinner menu. Then that would be heated up for the evening.

When I first started we used to cook for 650 people. There was the main cook, Mr. Stitch, and Mr. Hensley, and I was the assistant cook. We weren’t really tired at the end of the day. If you really like something it doesn’t bother you, really. I cooked at home, too. I cook now, too.

In 1969 I was promoted to cook. A couple of cooks retired or were transferred. I was very happy because I had wanted to be a cook for a long time. I wanted to better my chances because I had three children. My twins were 15 and Marcia was about 13.

The workers had a softball team, and then they talked about a bowling league so a lot of us signed up. I think it was a nurse who started the league, and she got everyone involved. We were on the same team with Goldwater Hospital. We played against different hospitals. We had a good time. It went on for two or three years. I don’t think they still have a bowling league. We did it after work, in the evenings. I hadn’t bowled before. It was something new and it was a lot of fun. There were about six teams, with about five people on a team.

I never had any problems. I attended union meetings. We also used to have meetings at the job. Mr. Jeffers was one of our union representatives. He was a shop steward. Also Frank Perez; he was a butcher. And Mr. Hensley. He was also a steward. My BA was Pauline Dyer- Woodson. I remember when we had a strike, around 1967 or ‘68. I think it was during Mayor Beame’s time.

The cooks were friendly with the cooks, with the stores people, with the butcher—everyone was friends. Everyone got along at the job until we got a new supervisor. Things didn’t go too well after that. He was very bossy, and he was

unfair and disrepectful to me and the other workers, and he made false accusations. I had a very hard time. That was part of the reason I retired at 62 instead of 65. Before that, I thought about leaving the job, but then I thought about the security, the health benefits, and I decided to stay, and I stayed longer and longer. I stayed for about 33 years. Just before I retired, the union asked at a meeting who would like to sign up for the retirement classes, and I signed up. That was right at the beginning of the classes. Shirley, my wife, came with me to the classes. I retired December 30, 1990. The supervisor retired not too long after I did and moved to Florida.

There are some buddies I still see now—Mr. Caby and Mr. Peterson, who live near me. Caby was in stores and Peterson was a cook’s helper. I also see Mr. Jeffers and Mr. Vasquez at the union.

It was lucky for me the shoe store job was taken. I don’t regret going to work for the city at all.

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