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Meany, (William) George.                 more selected entries

Meany, (William) George (b New York City, 16 Aug 1894; d Bethesda, Md, 10 Jan 1980).

Labor union leader. Meany grew up in the Bronx and attended school until age 14. His father was president of a plumbers' union in the Bronx, and Meany became a plumber's helper at age 16, attending trade school at night. In 1917 he joined his father's union, Bronx Local 463, one of the largest in the nation, as a journeyman plumber. He was elected to the local's executive board in 1920 and as business agent in 1922. In 1932 he was elected to the executive board of the New York State Federation of Labor, and two years later he was chosen to head the 800,000-member state federation. Meany had close alliances with leading state Democrats such as Gov Herbert H. Lehman and Sen Robert F. Wagner Sr and worked to gain passage of several important labor laws. In 1940 he became secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). He served on the War Labor Board during World War II, and afterward he was one of the most outspoken anticommunist labor leaders. In 1952 Meany was elected AFL president and in 1955 helped end the rivalry between the AFL and the industrial unions that made up the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He became the first president of the unified AFL-CIO, the largest union organization in the United States. Gruff and autocratic, Meany held the federation together in years of massive decline for labor. He was a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, particularly against job discrimination. Meany retired as president in 1979.

Robinson, Archie. George Meany and His Times (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981)

Richard A. Greenwald


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