“To me Louis Weinstock was an example of the true spirit of the US Labor Movement – his interest was never in power or money. Rather his work was always devoted to helping working men and women build their lives.”
~ Sander Feinberg
Rose and Louis c.1983 for Louis’s 80th Birthday Louis Weinstock Papers New York University
About Louis Weinstock
When I was a teenager, I came to know one of my grandfather’s best friends, Louis Weinstock.
I had long talks with Louis. For some reason, Louis took an interest in me, likely because of my involvement in progressive politics in the 1960s, although we would always disagree about the role of the Soviet Union in world affairs!
The short biography on the NYU website will give you the highlights of the life of this remarkable individual. He was a Hungarian, like my grandfather, and had emigrated in 1923 to the US. In 1925, he joined the Painter’s Union in New York City where he was known as a leader for decades. He joined with other labor pioneers to create Social Security and unemployment insurance.
To me he was an example of the true spirit of the US Labor Movement – his interest was never in power or money. Rather his work was always devoted to helping working men and women build their lives, take care of their families and survive in a very difficult economic environment.
The US Labor Movement
With the lies and distortions of history perpetrated by right-wing forces, and alas, the real corruption within some of the larger unions, most people seem to have forgotten the bravery of those who fought for:
- child labor laws
- safe working conditions
- the eight-hour work day
- fair pay
- Social Security
- unemployment insurance
- minimum wages
- health and life insurance benefits.
Weinstock with painters on a job; Folder 4 – 1940s?
These are all things we now take for granted. Business owners from the 1900s to the 1950s used violence and intimidation to fight legal activities to organize workers and create legislation to protect us all. So we owe many thanks to these brave individuals including Louis Weinstock.
NYU Labor Archives
In 2009, I found out that the Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives of New York University had received a collection of papers and photographs from the Weinstock family. I wrote to the curator and asked permission to view the photos and make copies of them. Not only did I want to learn more about Louis, I also had the idea that I might find an unknown (to our family) photo of my grandfather, Carl Schwartz.
On June 17, 2010, Amethyst and I went to the impressive library building at NYU. Donning white gloves, we went through the folders of photos. I found some amazing visual records of labor history including pictures of pre and post-World War II marches and May Day parades as well as personal photos of Louis and his wife Rose. One of the great treasures for me personally was finding the group photo to the right which includes not only Louis and Rose Weinstock but also my grandparents.
Back row: Rose Weinstock, Hugo Gellert, Louis Weinstock, Julia Schwartz
Middle of front row: Carl Schwartz, Max Bachner
[Photograph by Gabriel D. Hackett]; Folder 4 – 1940s?
The photos you see here were taken by my standing over the original which was placed on a desk and taking a digital photo, in some cases as Amethyst held it in place. So there are some issues with reflections on some photos. With the help of Erika Gottfried, the Curator of the collection, and her staff, who completed the identifying of the photos, I was given permission to share them with you here. Anyone, historian or layperson, who can add additional identification of any of the faces in the photos, please email me. The picture at the top of the page is how I remember Rose and Louis when I saw them in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. We spoke on the phone a few more times before Louis’ death in 1994.
Louis Brief Bio
“Louis Weinstock was born in Hungary in 1903 and emigrated to the United States in 1923. He settled in New York City and in 1925 joined the Painters’ Union, Local 499. Weinstock became one of the leaders of the “Rank and File” movement in District Council 9 of the International Painters and Paperhangers. Weinstock fought for Social Security and initiated the drive for unemployment insurance. Weinstock also led the Rank-and-File painters caucus in a fight against corruption in the union. Weinstock defeated the corrupt leadership of the infamous Lepke-Gurrah racketeer gang and was elected to the office of Secretary-Treasurer. In 1951, Weinstock was charged with conspiring to violate the Smith Act while teaching a trade union class; he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in jail. Weinstock retired from the union in 1963 and died in 1994 from heart failure.” Source: NYU Abstract
About the Photos
All the photos on this page are from the Louis Weinstock Photographs Collection, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University. Permission to use them in any way must be obtained from the curator of the collections. I cannot give you permission to use them! You will note that three photos are marked with the original publication name since they are not personal photos.
If you are interested in using any of these photos please write down the photo number and its caption and contact:
Curator of Nonprint Collections
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
70 Washington Square – Room 10-03
New York University New York, NY 10012
Captions explaining each photo appear when viewed in slideshow. Click any photo to enlarge and begin slideshow.
Related Links from Sander’s Book