October 3 – Happy Birthday Tony Murdico

murdico2Born on October 3, 1915 Anthony “Tony” Murdico was just eight years old when he, his parents and four brothers moved to Amsterdam, NY in 1923 all the way from Reggio di Calabria, Italy. By the time he was fourteen, he had a job in the Mohawk Carpet Mills and he advanced steadily until he was given the coveted position of weaver.

Organized labor attempted to infiltrate the mills in 1942, when the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) inducted the State Labor Board to conduct an election to form a local chapter. Despite plenty of pressure from management, the workers voted to unionize and Local 489 was formed. Its first Shop Steward was Tony Murdico.

If you know anything about Unions than you know the Shop Steward position is a key to any local chapter’s ability to be effective, especially at its inception. It’s the position that recruits new members, makes sure they are performing according to contract, supports them in any workplace issues with management and develops the spirit of unity that is so essential to gaining the strength and leverage necessary to effectively collective bargain. Tony did a solid job in the position. In 1946 he became the local’s Recording Secretary and in 1952, he ran for President and won. His leadership was put to the test almost immediately when that same year, Local 489 joined textile workers at factories throughout the Northeastern US that went on strike for increased wages. In Amsterdam, it was known as the “big strike” and it lasted for 12 long weeks. In the end, the workers got an 11-cent increase in their hourly wage and though Tony would vocally resent the meagerness of that raise for the rest of his life, his members had remained unified and their respect for Murdico’s leadership grew. Murdico would remain chief executive of the Local for the next 27 years. He also served as President of the Amsterdam Joint Board of CIO, which included Chalmers, Fownes, Bigelow-Sanford and Mohawk Mills.

As meager as that eleven-cent raise seemed, Mohawk’s management was not happy…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam labor leader in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

 

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