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Who’s Who » Biographical Sketches (1939) »

Daniel M. Kelly

One of Rochester’s younger labor lights is a man who tells the story of his labor affiliations in six brief words. Daniel M. Kelly is willing to begin and end his story with the statement, “from ice peddler to business agent.”

But further inquiry reveals the surprisingly rapid rise in the past seven years of this former ice peddler to a worker for workers. Short in words but long on action is a more apt description of Dan Kelly, who today celebrates his thirty-third birthday.

Starting in more or less with a bang, Kelly organized, and became business agent for, the Ice- Peddlers’ Union, when employers refused to re-hire him following a strike in 1932. The new union, under his leadership, successfully opposed a proposed reduction in wages from $36 to $24 a week. From then on his field of operation was all workers who drive motor vehicles of all kinds. He early organized Local 118, composed of over the road truckers, and miscellaneous drivers, including delivery services for the retail trade.

He then laid siege to taxicab, laundry, dry cleaning, bakery, coal and coke, and building material drivers and waged a successful organization campaign.

The next logical step was coordination of the activities of the different locals. Kelly therefore formed, and was chosen president of, the Rochester Joint Council of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen and Helpers, embracing all the motor transportation unions. Called, for convenience, the “Teamsters” the Joint Council covers approximately 1,500 workers, and is one of the largest AFL units in the city.

The set-up of the Joint Council provides for representation from each local in the central teamsters’ body, and delegates to the Central Trades and Labor Council.

Some of Kelly’s co-workers among the teamsters are Matthew Van Dame, of the Coal and Coke Drivers; Anthony Capone, of the Building Material Drivers; Edwin R. Young and Henry R. Steves of Local 118, and Arthur Brown, of the Ice-Peddlers.

With his eye open for new fields of organization, Kelly has spotted and is working on gas station attendants, drivers of gasoline trucks, and all workers in the automobile service industry.

Organization, however, is not the simple job it would seem to be from a recital of successes. Dan Kelly has good reason to appreciate the difficulties of his work.

One of his more bitter struggles was in the 1936 Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Company strike. Forty-six drivers tried to get an increase of wages ranging from $14 to $24 a week. The struggle was not in vain, for these workers today have a 40-hour week and 2 weeks vacation with pay, in addition to $32 a week pay rate. Before that strike was settled, however, most of organized labor in the city, including the CIO Amalgamated Clothing Workers, had come to the aid of the drivers.

Another tough fight was waged to organize the bread wagon drivers in 1937. The drivers and bakery workers were opposed by a large national bread company, but the Bakers’ Unions were eventually completely victorious. They now have a three-year contract granting them wages ranging from 65 to 72 cents an hour.

Kelly, educated in Cathedral School, lists as his main hobby, golf. He believes in personal contacts as a means of achievement in the labor movement, dismissing laws as unimportant if the people administering them are not intelligent about their work.