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Henry D. O’Connell (President,  CTLC)

Henry D. O’Connell is one of Rochester’s labor leaders who doesn’t mince words in advancing any claims which he believes beneficial to Organized Labor. The sting of his fiery tongue has been felt by many both in and out of the labor movement: but underneath it all is a warm-heartedness that does credit to his aggressive nature and makes him everlasting friends wherever he goes.

Hank — he is Hank to all his friends — began his life’s work while still a youngster in knee pants. There was no college for him except the College of Hard Knocks and he is still attending that institution, learning more and more as each day passes on to take its place in history.

Hank, who is business representative of the Electrical Workers’ Union, Local 86, and president of the Central Trades and Labor Council, did not get his start in the world as an electrician. Indeed, no. After his graduation from the Immaculate Conception school at the age of 14, he went to work as a clothing worker for the firm of L. Black & Company, which has since gone out of business. Hank earned $2 per week and he worked 60 hours for that $2. At the end of a year and a half he asked for a raise, was refused and then and there he went in search of his second job.

He soon found it. Phil and Francis X. Yeoman needed a driver for one of their teams about that time and offered the job to Hank. This job lasted a year when he received a chance to work for the Wells Fargo Express Company. From 6:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night including every other Sunday Hank worked at this job for $55 a month, not week. It was tough going but Hank stuck to it until he received a yearning to go into the electrical business. During the time Hank first went to work he seldom saw the sun and he was getting tired of the dark. As a clothing worker on his first job Hank went weeks and weeks without getting into the sun light. He awoke in the morning while still dark, returned at night after the sun had set hours before and went to bed by the aid of a gas light.

So when he was 18 years of age he entered the electrical trade. For a year he worked as an apprentice during 1907 when the Electrical Workers were on strike. Wages at that time were not what they are now and $6 a week seemed fairly good to a lad who was learning a new trade.

On May 5, 1908 Hank finished his apprenticeship and joined the Electrical Workers’ Union. From that time on his domineering spirit advanced him rapidly. In 1911 he was elected a delegate to the Building Trades Council and the Central Trades and Labor Council. In 1917 he became business agent and the manner in which he handled disputes between the employers and employees during the war years made him an important figure in the industrial life of the city at that time.

During the time he has been business agent the Electricians of the city have made wonderful progress toward bettering working conditions through Hank’s efforts. He was so successful in his new office that it wasn’t long before he was drafted into state work, being elected president of the State body of Electrical Workers about five or six years ago. He held that office up to a year ago, when he ran for the office of President of the Central Trades and Labor Council of Rochester.

His first contest ended in a defeat by a margin of three votes. A year later, however, last January, he ran again and was elected.

Hank also has been interested in politics. He was candidate for City Councilman two years ago but met with defeat. His activities, however, led to the election of Harry C. Goodwin but at the last campaign Hank led a movement against Mr. Goodwin because of the latter’s outspoken criticisms against labor. Hank and the entire Central Trades and Labor Council threw their support to four Republican candidates and to Glen W. Simpson, independent candidate. Councilmen Hamilton and Guzzetta were elected with the aid of Labor, while their other candidates were defeated by very narrow margins.

Henry D. O’Connell is a native Rochesterian, being born in this city on February 1, 1889. He is married and has five children, the oldest of which is a senior in high school. He resides at 225 Kenwood Avenue.