by Tony Karp
Working for the union
 - In 1959, Local 1199 struck the NYC hospitals.<br>Here, Leon Davis, president of 1199 and others check the headlines. - Local 1199 RWDSU hospital strike - Union - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
In 1959, Local 1199 struck the NYC hospitals.
Here, Leon Davis, president of 1199 and others check the headlines.
Way back in 1958, I was just beginning my career as a photographer. I had my first 35mm camera, a few lenses, and a darkroom set up in an unused room in the house we rented.

We were friends with the Davis family, and Leon "Dave" Davis was the president of RWDSU local 1199. So it was natural that I got some assignments from the union. This is some of my first paid work. The assignments paid $25 and up, depending on how many pictures they used. In 1958, $25 would buy a considerable amount of film and paper, so these assignments kept a budding photographer in supplies.

Over the next year or so, I shot lots of pictures for the union, culminating with pictures of the hospital strike in May of 1959. One of my pictures of the strikers, taken outside the hospital, ran full page on the front page of the New York Post and was awarded a prize for Labor Photo of the Year.

These pictures have a special poignancy for me, recalling some of the great union victories that resulted in better working conditions, fair pay, equal rights, and benefits like health care. It's sad that there is presently a movement, funded by big money, that is trying to turn back the clock on the unions in America.

If you work in a job where there's a forty-hour work week, paid overtime, sick leave, vacations with pay, health care, and fair pay for workers, you can thank a union for making it possible.

The pictures here are from the black and white prints that still remain in my collection.
 - Eleanor Roosevelt speaking at a union meeting, In the background is the actress, Ruby Dee. - Local 1199 RWDSU hospital strike - Union - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Eleanor Roosevelt speaking at a union meeting, In the background is the actress, Ruby Dee.
 - Back in the 1950s, you could still smoke cigars at union meetings. - Local 1199 RWDSU hospital strike - Union - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Back in the 1950s, you could still smoke cigars at union meetings.
 - At a rally in Madison Square Garden, Averell Harriman, governor of New York, and Israeli ambassador Abba Eban - Local 1199 RWDSU hospital strike - Union - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
At a rally in Madison Square Garden, Averell Harriman, governor of New York, and Israeli ambassador Abba Eban
 - Another picture of Eleanor Roosevelt at a union meeting. - Local 1199 RWDSU hospital strike - Union - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Another picture of Eleanor Roosevelt at a union meeting.
 - Adam Clayton Powell Jr, the fiery congressman from Harlem, was a strong supporter of the union and worker's rights. - Local 1199 RWDSU hospital strike - Union - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Adam Clayton Powell Jr, the fiery congressman from Harlem, was a strong supporter of the union and worker's rights.

Some technical notes: The original pictures were shot with miscellaneous Canon rangefinder cameras. The film was most likely Tri-X or Plus-X, developed in UFG. The prints were photographed with a Sony DSC-R1 camera and post processing was done with LightZone 3.
Copyright 1958-2016 Tony & Marilyn Karp