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John D. O'Flynn

Thirty-six years attendance record! That’s how long John D. O’Flynn, chairman of the Card & Label League, has been attending bi-monthly meetings of the Central Trades and Labor Council continuously as a delegate, except for the year 1906-07. He claims to be the longest attending delegate, with the exception of Emanuel Koveleski.

O’Flynn, native born in 1883, attended St. Bridget’s School. He first worked as bundle boy for Burke, Fitzsimmons, Home & Company during school vacations. Then he operated an elevator in the Jenkinson flats on Spring Street. He entered his chosen field in 1899, when he became a plumber’s helper.

From that day to this he has been an ardent unionist. He credits Emanuel Koveleski for giving him his start in the movement and says he is still learning from him. O’Flynn’s background of training in labor principles, however, had a great deal to do with his initial interest in unionism and the fight he still participates in to uphold those principles.

He was appointed a delegate to the Central Trades meetings November, 1903, and has rarely missed a meeting since then except when ill or out of town. During the war he worked at the Forge plant, after which he joined Renner & Henry Company, for whom he worked for 16 years. Just after the war he served as president of the building trades council. When Bill Reed, president of the Central Trades and Labor Council, died, O’Flynn as vice-president fulfilled his unexpired term and acted as president of that body for five years, from 1925 to 1930. For the past four years he has chairmaned the Card and Label League, and has acted as labor representative for the WPA since 1936.

The union man who doesn’t consider the labor movement his hobby and his life work is rare ... and John O’Flynn is no exception to the rule. He prides himself on the years he has devoted to it and claims it is his whole life.

Speaking of the present struggle between unions, craft versus industrial, O’Flynn points out that one cause is the lack of early training in labor principles among organized and unorganized workers today.

“We of the labor movement are making sacrifices for unorganized workers,” he says, “and labor legislation for better working conditions, shorter hours, and bigger pay has come from the money and effort expended by organized labor.”

He indicates, also, that the established unions, with their proven sound ideas, have set a precedent for the building of industrial unions, but a more thorough knowledge of these ideas is necessary on the part of all workers if labor is to achieve greater strength through unity.

John O’Flynn’s father, a former railroad worker, is 82 years old. He has a brother, Jimmy, a retired policeman, and a sister. The father of four daughters and two sons, O’Flynn is also a grandfather.