Quill, Mike, 1905-1966

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Much of the Transport Workers of America’s (TWU) history centers around the fiery figure of Mike Quill, President of the TWU from 1935 to 1966. Quill, born in Kilgarven, Ireland in 1905, started with the IRT subway as a ticket taker. With the financial support of the Communist Party, Quill, together with Maurice Forge, Austin Hogan, and Harry Sacher, was able to lead a successful organizing drive among New York City transit workers beginning in 1934. With Quill as President, the TWU organized subway, bus, and taxi workers in New York and improved wages and working conditions. When he was elected to the City Council (1937-1939, 1943-1949), Quill also used that position to fight for the transit workers, even when it meant going against the American Labor Party, his base of support. With the consolidation of New York City’s subway system under one transit authority in 1941, TWU gained more bargaining power. By 1950, their membership grew to over 100,000 transport workers. In the post- World War II period, Quill split with the Communist Party over a fare increase, and he then joined in the CIO effort to eliminate communist-dominated unions from the organization. By the 1950's, the TWU was the exclusive bargaining agent for New York Transit. TWU also expanded during the 1940s and 1950s to establish locals across the country for railroad and airline workers, utility workers, and taxi drivers, among others. The usual pattern of threatened strike and last minute negotiation was upset in 1965 when Quill led the TWU out on a massive strike. In spite of Quill and other TWU leaders being jailed for refusal to abide by a court order, TWU and New York City reached a settlement. Quill died of a heart attack less than three weeks after the settlement.

Shirley Quill, Brooklyn native and the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, became active with leftist and labor organizations in the 1930s while in college. She was a staff member of the Electrical Workers Union in New Jersey during the early 1940s. Quill met her future husband, Michael J. (Mike) Quill, in 1943 while helping with his campaign for New York City Council. She also served as Mike Quill’s legislative secretary after his election to the city council. Their mutual commitment to union organizing and progressive politics led to a friendship and a long relationship. They married in 1961 (both had been previously wed). After Mike Quill’s death Shirley Quill continued to be politically active, particularly in women’s causes and New York City West Side Democratic Party politics; she was also instrumental in putting together the Association of Tenants of Lincoln Towers (the 4,000-apartment complex on the West Side of Manhattan, where she lived until her death), and wrote a biography of Mike Quill, Mike Quill-Himself: A Memoir. She died in 1991.

• Quill, Shirley. Michael Quill, Himself: A Memoir. Greenwich, CT: Devin-Adair, 1985.

• Cerra, Frances. “Tenant Group Put Clout to Work.” The New York Times. December 26, 1982. Accessed June 14, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/26/realestate/tenant-group-puts-clout-to-work.html

• “Shirley Garry Quill, Tenant Organizer, 76.” The New York Times. September 28, 1991. Accessed June 14, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/28/obituaries/shirley-garry-quill-tenant-organizer-76.html

From the guide to the Shirley Quill Transport Workers Union of America Photographs, Bulk, 1941-1966, 1913-1997, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Records, 1920-1968, (bulk 1950-1968) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Transport Workers Union of America: Locals Records, Bulk, 1940-1970, 1931-2008 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Earl Browder Papers, 1879-1990 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Guide to the Louis Weinstock Papers and Photographs, circa 1910-1994 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Maurice Forge Papers, Bulk, 1947-1950, 1936-1986, (Bulk 1947-1950) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Transport Workers Union of America Printed Ephemera Collection, 1920-2009 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Charles Rivers Photographs and Scrapbooks, 1921-1989 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Elinor Ferry Papers, undated Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Gerald O'Reilly Papers, Bulk, 1944-1947, 1934-1988, (Bulk 1944-1947) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Saul Mills Papers, 1935-1989 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Transport Workers Union of America Printed Ephemera Collection, 1920-2009 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Sam Reiss Photographs, circa 1930-1975 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Peter V. Cacchione Papers, Bulk, 1944-1947, 1936-1947 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn James J. Comerford Papers, 1867-1985 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Moving Images Collection, 1920-1969 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf Shirley Quill Transport Workers Union of America Photographs, Bulk, 1941-1966, 1913-1997 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Transport Workers Union of America Records, 1911-2007 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith AFL-CIO. corporateBody
correspondedWith Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters corporateBody
associatedWith Browder, Earl, 1891-1973 person
associatedWith Cacchione, Peter V., 1897-1947 person
associatedWith Comerford, James J., 1901-1988 person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Curran, Joseph Edwin, 1906-1981 person
associatedWith Dubinsky, David, 1892-1982 person
associatedWith Faber, Gustav, 1912- person
associatedWith Ferry, Elinor person
associatedWith Forge, Maurice, 1902-1990 person
associatedWith Gildberg, Arthur person
associatedWith Green, William, 1892-1973 person
associatedWith Guinan, Matthew K. person
associatedWith Haywood, Allan S., 1888-1953 person
associatedWith Hogan, Austin. person
associatedWith King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 person
associatedWith Larkin, Dennis person
associatedWith Meany, George, 1894-1980 person
associatedWith Mills, Saul, 1910-1988 person
associatedWith Murray, Philip, 1886-1952 person
associatedWith O'Dwyer, Paul, 1907- person
associatedWith O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990 person
associatedWith Potofsky, Jacob S. (Jacob Samuel), 1894-1979 person
associatedWith Quill, Shirley, 1918- person
associatedWith Reiss, Sam. person
associatedWith Reuther, Walter, 1908-1970 person
correspondedWith Rivers, Charles, 1904-1993 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Santo, John, 1908- person
associatedWith Spellman, Francis Joseph, Cardinal, 1889-1967 person
associatedWith Tamiment Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Transport Workers Union of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Transport Workers Union of America. Air Transport Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Transport Workers Union of America. Local 100. corporateBody
associatedWith Weinstock, Louis, 1903-1994 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1905-09-18

Death 1966-01-28

Male

English

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