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Guide to the Daniel French Papers WAG.101

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Jane Latour, c.1997 and Wendy Scheir, 2005.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 07, 2018
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: French, Daniel, 1908-
Source - dnr: French, Daniel, 1908-
Title: Daniel French Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1947-1997
Abstract: Daniel French (1908-1996) joined the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades (IBPAT) in 1934, and was elected as a delegate from his local to IBPAT District Council 9 (DC 9) in 1939. In 1946, after three years fighting in World War II, French was elected Business Agent of his local, and was reelected to the post for the next five terms. In 1953, French joined IBPAT Local 490. As President of Local 490, French charged certain DC 9 officials with corruption, and became involved in a series of lengthy legal battles. The collection documents French's five decades of struggle against union corruption.
Quantity: 2 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Call Phrase: WAG.101

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Historical/Biographical Note

Daniel French was born in Hamrun, Malta, in 1908, the youngest of four children. The family immigrated to Toronto, Canada when he was a young child. French followed his older brother, Ralph, to New York City in 1926, and got a job working for the Equitable Insurance Company. Hard times during the Great Depression convinced Daniel to take up his brother's trade as a painter, and he joined the Painters' Union in 1934. When a kickback scheme deprived French of a pay increase, he participated in a protest against the union. When he voted in his first union election in 1935, union corruption resulted in a stolen election. Disgusted, French transferred to Local 848. Combating union corruption was to become a lifelong mission.

While Local 848 was a stronghold of Communist Party activity within the Painters' Union, French was not interested in ideological politics. As he saw it, he faced a choice between "the thieves and the crooks on the right and the Communists on the left." He chose the Communist group, and supported their program through the United Rank-and-File Caucus. French was elected delegate to the District Council from his local in 1939. In 1940, he served as "Impartial Distributor" of jobs during the last pre-war General Strike by the Painters. French was elected Council Trustee on the United Rank-and-File Slate that elected Louis Weinstock Secretary-Treasurer.

French enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served in the Airborne Infantry, 188th Paratroop-Glider Infantry Regiment. He was a machine gunner in the Pacific Theater, serving in Luzon, Lahti and Okinowa, and was in the first group of soldiers to land in Japan after the surrender. After his discharge in November 1946, French returned to union involvement, running for Business Agent of his local. (The expression for seeking election in the union was "going for the badge"--French went for the badge and was issued Badge #1.) He was reelected to the post for the next five terms.

Political activity within the District Council and the locals was divided between the competing poles of the Communists, known as the Rank-and-File Caucus, and the Socialists, or Progressives. Martin Rarback, who would dominate DC 9 for the next twenty-one years, first ran for Secretary-Treasurer in 1945 on the Progressive ticket. He lost that bid but won the following year.

In 1953, French became a member of Paperhangers' Local 490, and was soon elected President. When Rarback negotiated a secret agreement for the Paperhangers that resulted in lowered wages for members, French and Local 490 initiated a legal battle with Rarback. Rarback sued French and the local for libel. Without backing from DC 9, Local 490 went on strike in 1962 over contractual differences, leading DC 9 to issue a directive to the building trades unions, declaring, "There is No Strike." Local 490 remained an outpost of opposition to the leadership of DC 9 for the next three decades.

French continued to battle DC 9, and came to be seen by members of Local 490 as a fighter who wasn't afraid to stick his neck out against the status quo. It was this attribute that led local members to ask French to run for Business Agent against Frank Arnold in 1976. Arnold was backed by James Bishop, the Secretary-Treasurer of DC 9 who had replaced the reform administration of Frank Schonfeld.. When French won the election, Arnold waged a four-year legal battle to overturn the results, culminating in French's victory over Arnold in the State Supreme Court. Arnold ran against French in three subsequent elections, and each time was defeated.

As Local 490 continued its opposition to DC 9, hostilities between Secretary-Treasurer Bishop and the local's officers escalated. In 1988, French sued Bishop for libel; Bishop entered into a settlement agreement prior to the trial. In May 1990, Bishop was murdered, initiating a government investigation into organized crime activity within DC 9. Indictments and convictions of District Council officials followed.

Daniel French lived in Manhattan with his wife, Diana Flax French. He died in 1996.

Sources:

  • Hall, Burton H., editor. Autocracy and Insurgency in Organized Labor. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1972.
  • Corruption and Racketeering in the New York City Construction Industry. Interim Report by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force. Ithaca: ILR Press, 1988.
  • Corruption and Racketeering in the New York City Construction Industry. Final Report to Governor Mario Cuomo. Ronald Goldstock, Director, New York State Organized Crime Task Force. December, 1989.
  • Hutchinson, John. The Imperfect Union: A History of Corruption in American Trade Unions. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972.
  • Zausner, Philip. Unvarnished: The Autobiography of a Labor Leader. New York: Brotherhood Publishers, 1941.

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Scope and Content Note

Series I, General Files, documents French's five-decades of struggle against union corruption. Materials include correspondence, including letters from Louis Weinstock to French in 1990; legal documents, including affidavits, briefs, opinions, indictments, and the transcript of French's pre-trial examination in his libel suit against James Bishop. Also included are news clippings, internal union documents, reports, opposition flyers, campaign literature and other election materials.

Series II, Biographical Material and Memorabilia, contains French's campaign materials, including palm cards, flyers, and appeals; identification documents, certifications, and membership materials; documents relating to Ralph French; commemorative publications; and notes.

Arrangement

Series I is arranged chronologically; Series II is arranged alphabetically.

Organized into 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I, General Files
  2. II, Biographical Material and Memorabilia

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Arnold, Frank
  • Bishop, James
  • French, Daniel, 1908-
  • Hall, Burton
  • Rarback, Martin
  • Schonfeld, Frank
  • Weinstock, Louis, 1903-1994
  • French, Daniel, 1908-

Document Type

  • Correspondence.
  • Indictments (legal documents).
  • Reports.
  • Legal documents.
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Pamphlets.

Subject Organizations

  • United Rank and File Painters Social Clubs of Greater New York
  • Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators, and Paperhangers of America. Local 848 (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators, and Paperhangers of America. Local 490 (New York, N.Y.)
  • Communist Party of the United States of America
  • International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades
  • International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades. Painters District Council 9 of New York City

Subject Topics

  • Painters, Industrial -- Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Labor unions and communism.
  • Painters, Industrial -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Collective labor agreements -- Painters, Industrial -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Labor leaders -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Labor unions -- Corrupt practices -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Labor disputes -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Labor union democracy -- New York (State) -- New York.

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Administrative Information

Provenance

These papers were created and collected by Daniel French while a member and officer of District Council 9 (DC 9) of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades (IBPAT), and his home locals, 848 and 490. Daniel French donated the bulk of the Collection to the Wagner Labor Archives in 1992 when Debra Bernhardt interviewed him for the "New Yorkers at Work" Oral History Project. Additional material was added to the collection in later years.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by Daniel French were transferred to New York University in 1992 by Daniel French. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives. Please contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu, (212) 998-2630.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Carl Blum Papers (Wagner #100).

Sam Winn Papers (Wagner #203).

International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 9: Trusteeship Records (Wagner #149).

Oral History Collections: Interview with Daniel French (OH1, Tape # 213)

Tamiment Library Vertical File: Herman Benson, AF (Author File} "Insurgency and Reform in the Painters, 1960-1987."

Louis Weinstock Papers (Wagner 013).

Burton Hall Papers (Wagner 087).

Frank Schonfeld Papers (Wagner 027).

Separated Material

Six pins, five delegate badges (1940-1950) and one IBPAT DC 9 belt buckle were transferred to the Tamiment Library Non-Print Collections (Accession # NPO1-37).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Daniel French, 1992. The accession number associated with this gift is 1992.002.

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Container List

Series I: General Files, 1939-1990s.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Local 848
1939-1946 , undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Local 848
1947-1949
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Locals 848 and 490
1950-1959
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Local 490
1960-1961
Box: 1 Folder : 5 French v. Caputo (1)
1962
Box: 1 Folder : 6 French v. Caputo (2)
1962
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Rarback v. French
1963
Box: 1 Folder : 8 DC 9: Background Material on Elections and Corruption
1964-1970
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French
1972-1976
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French (1)
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French (2)
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French (1)
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French (2)
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French (3)
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Local 490 disputes with DC 9
1980-1986
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Local 490 disputes with DC 9
1987
Box: 1 Folder : 18 DC 9: Directory of Secretaries and Business Representatives
1987
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Arnold v. DC 9, IBPAT and French
1988
Box: 2 Folder : 2 French v. Bishop (1)
1988
Box: 2 Folder : 3 French v. Bishop (2)
1988
Box: 2 Folder : 4 French v. Bishop (1)
1989
Box: 2 Folder : 5 French v. Bishop (2)
1989
Box: 2 Folder : 6 French v. Bishop (3)
1989
Box: 2 Folder : 7 French v. Bishop (4)
1989
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Indictment of DC 9 Officials (1)
1990
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Indictment of DC 9 Officials (2)
1990
Box: 2 Folder : 10 DC 9: Background Material on Corruption
1990s
Box: 2 Folder : 11 DC 9: Appointment of Special Trustee
undated

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Series II: Biographical Material and Memorabilia, 1947-1997.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Commemorative and other publications
1953 , 1961 , 1974, 1984-1985
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Flyers, Notes, Stationery, Clipping
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 14 French, Daniel: Election flyers and appeals
1973 , 1976 , undated
Box: 2 Folder : 15 French, Daniel: Identification documents, Certificates, Memberships
1961 , 1967-1988 , undated
Box: 2 Folder : 16 French, Ralph
1947-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 17 Local 1969: Election poster
1997

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