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Who’s Who » Biographical Sketches (1939) »

Edward J. Decker

“I’m just a plain painter and my life contains nothing worth mentioning,” declared Edward J. Decker, business agent and financial secretary of the International Brotherhood of Painters, Paperhangers and Decorators, Local 150, who has been active in the painting business for the last 54 years.

However, further investigation into Mr. Decker’s past history revealed he is a master of under- statement when speaking of himself.

Born somewhere in Europe, Mr. Decker came to Rochester when he was an infant. He attended old 23 school, but was obliged to leave at an early age in order to go to work.

Young Decker’s first job was as a helper in a nursery, aiding in the care of the shrubs. After that he obtained a position as an apprentice painter at the salary of $1.50 for a 60 hour week. Serving as an apprentice for six or seven years, Decker finally became a full-fledged master painter. He has handled as many as 50 or 60 men on painting jobs, over which he was foreman.

Despite the fact that he went to work at an early age, Decker found time to become an ardent baseball fan. Even then he expressed his dislike for sports with a “crooked or shady” background and today he states he has lost his interest in both wrestling and boxing because of this dislike.

One time young Decker decided to become a sheet metal worker and obtained a job in a metal shop. However, his term of employment lasted only a week when he found that deductions for tools from his $6 salary left him with only a little over a dollar for himself.

In the year 1900 he joined the Painter’s Union, Local 150, and in 1901 was elected to the office of financial secretary, which he has held ever since. Decker claims the distinction of being one of the three oldest financial secretaries in the International Brotherhood.

He was elected to the post of business agent in July of 1927 and each year since he has been returned to office. As a Painter’s Union representative he has attended the Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and Jamestown conventions of the State Federation of Labor.

Decker also attended several conventions of the International Brotherhood of Painters, Paperhangers and Decorators including: Memphis, Tenn. in 1907; Rochester, N.Y. in 1913 and Buffalo, N.Y. in 1935.

A delegate to the Central Trades and Labor Council, he has been financial secretary of the Building Trades since 1902. Decker was elected to the Chairmanship of the Allied Building Trades Council at its inception, several years ago.

During his lengthy term in the painting business, Decker has seen many changes in the working conditions and wages of the painters. Before the days of ready mixed paint, each painter had to grind his own pigments and mix his own colors.

The wages of the painters have graduated from $2.25 for a nine-hour day to an all-time high of $1.26 an hour. Their present hourly scale is $1.20.

Mr. Decker, who has an unfulfilled desire to travel, declares there is enough to be seen in this country to satisfy anybody. He and Mrs. Decker celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary last Halloween, Oct. 31.