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’re familiar with the structure of labor unions, you know the Shop Steward position is a key to any local chapter’s ability to be effective, especially at its inception. It is 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 bargain collectively with effectiveness. 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 their workers had organized. They began looking south to the non-union labor markets and sure enough, within a few short years they started transferring large scale manufacturing operations in that direction. By 1969, the last 250 of what used to be 4,000 manufacturing jobs in Amsterdam’s carpet industry were eliminated.

By then the company was called Mohasco and Tony continued working there until 1980, retiring after a total of 51 years of employment. He and his first wife Marina raised a son and a daughter. After Marina passed away, he married his second wife, Delores. Tony was an active member of St. Michael’s Church and the Knights of Columbus. He was also a very good baseball and softball player in his day and a pretty talented bowler as well. He served on the city’s Recreation Commission and if you listened to Amsterdam’s local talk radio shows back then, you frequently heard Tony call in to share his knowledge of the Carpet City’s past, passionately present his astute opinions on the issues of the day or give listeners an update on the ripeness and quality of this year’s tomato patch. One of the saddest days of his life occurred in 1992 when the Mohasco complex erupted into flames. He stood across the street from the inferno, watching with tears in his eyes. Tony lived to be 97 years old, passing away a week before Christmas in 2008. He was an Amsterdam original.

This Amsterdam born, nationally recognized cardiologist was also born on October 3.

 

 

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