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David Lang

Over half a century in the labor movement is the record held by David Lang, president of the Coopers’ Union, Local 24, who was the first delegate elected to the Central Trades and Labor Council.

First initiated into the Knights of Labor in 1889 at the age of sixteen, Mr. Lang claims the distinction of having served more years in the local labor movement than any other living person.

Dave Lang “just naturally fell” into the coopering trade. His father ran a large shop employing 27 coopers, and young David made his first barrel when he was but eleven years old.

Short, powerfully built, he is very outspoken and never leaves any doubt as to his opinion on a subject. At the age of sixty-five, he is active as men twenty years his junior.

Once a professional baseball player, Lang played for Albany in the old State League and was drafted by the New York Giants. However, he decided against playing with them because he could make more money in a cooper shop. Lang declares that he would rather see a baseball game than eat.

During the controversy between the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor, Lang with the aid of Jacob J. Warney organized Local 24 of the Coopers International Union. He has served continuously as an officer of the Coopers’ Union, Local 24, since its origination and was an auditor for the International Union for four years.

Lang has been a delegate to the Boston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, St. Paul, Louisville and Cleveland conventions of the Coopers Union.

As an organizer for the International Union he was called upon to assist the president of the union in the famous stockyard strike in Chicago and the steel strike in Pittsburgh.

Recalling the time when the Central Trades and Labor Council meetings were held in the old City Hall, Lang asserted that when a bitter controversy took place on the floor, one of the members of the opposition would blow on one of the gas lights and they would all go out.

Referring to the present split in the labor movement, he said: “There must be peace sooner or later or the CIO will absorb the AFL. The attitude of the AFL today is the same as the attitude taken by the old Knights of Labor when the AFL started to take over craft unions and the result will be the same.

Lang indicated his opinion was that the controversy between the CIO and the AFL would be settled. “It’s got to come,” he said.

Reporting on the attitude of the 1939 Cleveland convention of the Coopers’ International Union, Lang declared the delegates believed some sort of a peace agreement between the CIO and the AFL should take place.

He also indicated that the Coopers were no longer a craft union, but were considered an industrial union. He cited the steel barrel and the advent of modern machinery for the decline in the cooperage business. However, he claimed, the steel barrel is on the way out as it has proved inferior to the wooden container.

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