I joined the Housing Authority in the 1970s. I lived in a housing project and the manager referred me to a job in the JOP program. I had switchboard and typing experience, but my first assignment was to clean and organize the hall supply closet. I guess they thought "once a housewife always a housewife."
(Today my first thought would be to call the union.)
Within hours I had stacked, alphabetized, numerized, and labeled every form and slip of paper in that huge closet. "Job well done," the manager said, but when the program ended shortly after, I was the first to go.
|Laura Scanlan in 1979 (left), during her early years with the Housing Authority,
and in 2001 (right), as a retiree, addressing the Sunshine Club's annual
Shortly after, the receptionist left and I got called back to replace her. A title, Hooray! I guess the closet cleaning paid off.
During our orientation, a union representative spoke to us about the benefits of belonging. ... Most people were not too anxious to part with dues, but after talking to people about how the Union had helped, and realizing how important it is, they came across and were thankful later.
I, on the other hand, said "Where are the forms?" Having been married to a union man at that time for twenty-three years, I knew the advantages. They did not have to persuade me. From that time on I spent a lot of my time convincing fellow workers that the Union was the only way to go.
After that, with the help of the union classes, which were very informative, and no cost to us, I was able to climb the ladder from receptionist/switchboard to teller, then to Senior Teller. I took the supervising teller test on the day my daughter was giving birth to my granddaughter. Obviously my mind was not on the test and I didn't get a high grade. Then, through negotiations, the Senior Tellers were able to skip a step and take the Housing Assistant test. I took that with a clear head and scored high.
Unfortunately there was a lot of controversy over skipping a step of the ladder, and by the time it was settled, I was retired. I could have gone back, but with the help of the Union benefits, I was enjoying life too much.
Thank God for Teamsters 237! Without them, I probably would still be plugging away or cleaning closets.
Hercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.
Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.