We note the passing of Harry Van Arsdale Jr. on February 16, 35 years ago. He was 80 years old when he died. Most of his contemporaries are gone as well, but the lessons he taught us live on. The benefits we enjoy today were part of his life’s work.
He became the Business Manager of Local 3 in 1933 when America was slowly coming out of the Great Depression. New laws were passed and workers were joining unions in great numbers. Harry and his associates fought the communists and the gangsters and grew our union to over 33,000 members. We were strong and militant, and we prospered.
He used the strength of our organization while President of the NYC Central Labor Council to grow the Labor Movement in New York City, organizing the taxi drivers, the teachers union and SEIU 1199.
His mantra was to help those less fortunate. The attacks on unions began in earnest in the early 1980’s when Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers and a wave of strikes began anew as corporate America waged its war on working men and women, vying for a union-free environment.
That war continues to take its toll. For forty years we have battled those intent on destroying the Labor Movement, and, although weakened, we continue to make progress protecting the hard fought for benefits we enjoy today. Harry reminded us, “Eternal vigilance is the price of good unionism.”
As we note his passing, let’s all commit to strengthening our Local by being active, being vigilant and protecting one another. By doing so, we will weather this storm. Rest in peace Harry, we got this.