Before the 1950s, maintenance workers were members of the Bookbinders Union in the CIO. But we were told we could not go on strike because as city workers we would lose our jobs. We were underpaid, but our union could not help us get the raise we needed to survive.
The Teamsters Union was signing up new members to get representation. They promised us a raise if we joined their union.
They told us that we would not lose our jobs if we followed their instructions and went on strike.
Orders came from the Union Hall to go on strike. We did, and the next day the Union told us to go back to work. They won a $720 per year raise for us, as well as back pay. In those times that was a lot of money!!!
Our supervisors called us Communists for joining the Teamsters Union. This was during the McCarthy Era. But after three or four years, these same supervisors were begging us to allow them to join the Teamsters.
Today you and I are enjoying our retirement, thanks to the hard work of the Teamsters Union. Thank you again, Teamsters, for all your help over the years. Frank Dughi, 81 retired maintenance worker Local 237
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.