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Who’s Who » Biographical Sketches (1939) »

Leo Lally

In April, 1938, the Sheet Metal Workers Union, Local 46, had 22 members. Today, that union has approximately 88 members.

Since Leo Lally became business agent of the union in April, 1938, it is logical to conclude that he had a great deal to do with the 300 per cent increase in membership in a little more than a year.

Lally claims that the union was badly run down when he took over. The sheet metal workers lost jobs by neglect, he says. Out of town firms would come in to do jobs in Rochester and wouldn’t hire Rochester union labor. Lally declares that now the out of town concerns doing work in Rochester hire Rochester men or they don’t do the job.

Born in 1893 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he attended school, Lally migrated to Rochester in 1920. He has been a member of his union since 1912. In Rochester he has worked for the Carrier Engineering Company, Flesch & Smith and the William Morey Company.

He recalls an outstanding incident here in 1921 when 200 striking sheet metal workers returned to work at noon, not knowing that the bosses were prepared to grant their demands at 2 o’clock the same day.

The sheet metal workers, whose wages were raised in February of this year from $1.20 to $1.30 an hour, now work a 40-hour, five day week. Their trade includes ventilation, locker work, shelving, roofing, furnace work, skylighting and costigal (perforated) ceilings.

Robert Watt is president of the union, George Swan recording secretary, and Lally is secretary- treasurer as well as business agent. There is an adjustment board, composed of Paul Schmidt, Frank Haag and Robert Watt, which acts as a committee to meet bosses when difficulties and grievances arise between the union and companies.

Although Lally was in a position to be exempt from war service when the United States entered the World War, he enlisted in the navy. He was working in a munitions plant in New Jersey at the time, but he joined the navy because he felt qualified to do repair work on ships.

After serving for two years on the U. S. Ship New Mexico, he emerged with the rating of Chief Carpenter Mate.

He says they don’t give medals in the navy unless you get sunk.

Asked how he felt about another war, he declared, emphatically, “I don’t want any more.”

Speaking of his work, Lally, who has an office in Carpenters’ Hall, said it is interesting and there is lots of it, “but a business agent is like a doctor who never knows when someone is going to get sick, day or night. The job means you’re always on call,” he remarked.

He’s anxious, however, to raise the membership of his union to its highest peak, 200 men or more, and is working hard toward that end.