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television station in New York, calling and asking if they could televise
the show. I recall responding that, “You can if you have a shovel.”
What were you feeling then? Frustration?
Frustration, but it was over. You couldn't bring it back. But I
learned so much from it that stood me well later on.
The other things I remember is the opening day, the night before the
May 8th strike in the hospitals in 1959, all of us seated in the
conference room all night, we were at 709 8th Avenue.
“All of you” means?
Officers and staff, which was very small. They were drug
division people. And with Davis, who had said that the strike is going
to take place the next morning. We sat all night long there, with my
head on my hands, you know, on the table, grabbing a nap. But we
were on the eve of a historic event.
At five o'clock, Davis said, “Okay, the strike starts at six. Everybody to
the hospital you've been assigned to,” and everybody went out. I
remained because of talking to the press. I stayed with Davis. Elliott
[Godoff], everybody went out. That's an event that stands in my mind
because we didn't know, we had no idea what could happen. It was
obviously an historic event, but prior to that date, Harry van Arsdale,
who was really the -- I continue to call him the patron saint of 1199,
had said that he'll support 1199 up to a strike, but the labor
movement cannot support a strike in hospitals.
He was president of the Central Labor Council.
He was president of the Central Labor Council and the president
of Local 3 of the Electrical Workers. He was a powerful person. That
was a time when the AFL-CIO had merged into a central body. Harry
looked at the strike, I believe, as an opportunity to bring the unions
together, AFL and the CIO, around an issue, and he thought that this
was the issue. But when the strike came, he said it can't be a strike
against the hospitals that he could support. He ended up in the
So at that moment, the moment before the strike began, you were
feeling uncertainty about the consequences. You were feeling anxiety.
What else do you remember about the mood?
The mood was, we had an aggressive mood. We were fighting
the good fight, and we thought and hoped that the workers would
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