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Guide to the New York City Central Labor Council Records WAG.049

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2596

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Paul Sager, 2007

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 02, 2022
Finding aid is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Updated by Megan O'Shea to incorporate artwork being sent to offsite art storage in September 2017. Record updated by Amy C. Vo to reflect February 2020 accretion Edited by Nicole Greenhouse to reflect additional administrative information and added archived websites  , August 2017 , February 2020 , February 2022

Historical Note

The New York City Central Labor Council had its origins in the Central Trades and Labor Council of Greater New York City, chartered in 1920 by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The Council represented AFL-affiliated local unions in the New York City area. After the split between the AFL and the newly-formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the mid-1930s, CIO unions in the city were represented by a separate CIO Council. The Central Trades and Labor Council merged with the New York City CIO on February 19, 1959 to form the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. This move followed the 1955 national merger of the AFL and the CIO, and the 1958 merger of New York state-level AFL and CIO bodies.

The New York City Central Labor Council is an organization comprised of nearly 400 local union affiliates. It only acts on local activities and concerns. It issues no statements on AFL-CIO policy and does not participate in the affairs of its local affiliates or their parent organizations. Its purpose, according to its constitution, is to further the rights of workers to organize in unions and bargain collectively; to advocate legislation which is beneficial to workers and oppose that which is not; to correct abuses and to insure the workers their just rights. It also has the broader purposes of helping all workers to improve their working conditions and raise their standard of living; to preserve workers' rights to act together for mutual aid and advancement; to further the cause of trade unions; and to strengthen civil rights. It acts as the central body of the City's labor movement, providing assistance and education through its various committees and councils.

The regular activities of the New York City Central Labor Council are directed by its executive officers, Executive Board, and Delegates' Council meetings. The planning and execution of programs and conferences is the province of a number of standing and special committees. These committees are composed of members from affiliated local unions, and each has its own officers and advisory staff. And is responsible for conducting specific programs and conferences. An important special committee is the Labor Day Parade Committee.

Harry Van Arsdale, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electricians Local 3, was elected the president of the Central Trades and Labor Council of the AFL in 1957. With the merger in 1959 he became the president of the Central Labor Council. During his presidency (1957-1986), the council established many committees and programs such as the Rehabilitation Council (1963), Hispanic Labor Committee (1970), and the Black Trade Unionists Leadership Committee (1972). After Harry Van Arsdale Jr.'s death in 1986, his son, Thomas Van Arsdale was elected to the post of president. During the Van Arsdales' tenure the Council campaigned to organize taxicab drivers, helped to found a worker education program (the Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College, SUNY), mobilized the labor movement to confront the City's fiscal crisis of the late 1970s, and generally worked to foster a spirit of solidarity throughout the many disparate sectors of the New York City labor movement

Thomas Van Arsdale was succeeded as president by Brian M. McLaughlin, also of IBEW Local 3, in 1995; and Gary LaBarbera of the Teamsters union was elected to replace McLaughlin in June 2007, with Ed Ott serving in the newly created position of Executive Director.

The Council's web site is