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Friday, January 16, 2015

Catholic Labor Education On The Great Lakes:
Fr. John Boland and the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

From the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries religion, particularly the American Catholic Church, actively participated with unions to correct injustices at the work place and to Christianize the social order. Buffalo’s labor priest Father John Boland viewed the Church and organized labor as partners: “the Church not only favors trade unions,” he stated, “but demands that they be formed. It demands that they be formed and operated along Christian lines.”[1]

It was the vision of Fr. Boland, other Catholics, who believed that this could be accomplished primarily through Catholic labor education. However, adapting the American Catholic Church to that purpose required the reorientation of the clergy and the bold infusion of the laity into the cause of labor and education. There was a prevalent need for labor leaders who were trained in the application of morality and ethics in the workplace. They would not divorce daily life from religion but invariably seek principled solutions.

An educated Catholic worker epitomized an advanced worker who recognized sane corrective actions to labor challenges. As the nation’s economic conditions oscillated for wage earners a response to this situation was required by the American Catholic Church. But who would emerge as the leaders in this movement and what form would it take? This paper will illustrate how American Catholicism formatted a paradigm to this quest that was both traditional and yet resonated with American innovative qualities. That mission incorporated education and the enhanced role of the laity. This mission began effectively in Buffalo, New York with Fr. John Boland and the Catholic labor college.

Labor Turmoil

With a new century, Buffalo was poised to be an international epicenter of modern industry. Harnessing the water power of Niagara Falls, only thirty miles from the city, implied cheap electricity to operate factories and the need for more workers. The population of the city in 1870 was recorded at 117,714. By 1900, that number increased to 352,387 and the city ranked as the eighth largest in the nation.[2] As a center for shipping, industrial production and agricultural distribution, Buffalo was in position to become one of the largest cities in America.[3]

The account of Buffalo’s success as an industrial and commercial center also included the narrative of worker unrest and the fight for organized labor. As a burgeoning railroad center labor strikes among railroad workers were often marked by violence. The railroad strike of 1877, to protest pay reductions, produced extensive rioting, property damage and the intervention of the militia to maintain order. A similar strike occurred in August 1892 over wages and working conditions. At first, there was public sympathy for the railroad workers and the Catholic Church supported the laborers in their “just cause” for better wages.[4] But when violence and destruction arose, the newspapers denounced the strikers claiming that “the whole strike principle is wrong.”[5]

The city, as a major port for grain storage and milling, witnessed several incidents of worker strife at the docks and mills. The most notable happened from April-June 1899 when the grain shovellers struck for a reduction in hours, increased wages and recognition of their union.[6] The militia responded; violence erupted and strikers were killed. With the intervention of Buffalo’s pro-labor prelate, Bishop James Quigley, a settlement was finally negotiated and the strike ended.[7] Work stoppages became rare but tensions remained at the docks for the next several years.[8]

Buffalo became a principal international producer of steel when the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company relocated from Scranton, Pennsylvania to the shores of Lake Erie. The company claimed reduced production costs as the primary reason for the move. However, labor turmoil in Pennsylvania motivated the owners’ to leave.[9] Strikes over wages, hours and conditions followed the steel industry to Buffalo and were ingrained in the narrative of union-management relations until the steel industry permanently ceased operations there in 2001.[10] Probably the most egregious event took place in September 1919 when company guards fired on the local police and striking steel workers killing one and wounding several.[11]

Organized Labor and the Local Clergy

Efforts to unionize laborers in the Buffalo area commenced with the printers, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, tanners and tailors in the 1820’s but those associations were not viable. The local court in 1824, found the tailors’ union guilty of conspiracy.[12] Strikes were common during the next few decades over wages and working conditions. Some of the labor unrest, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed violence, deaths and the use of the state militia or company police to end the conflicts.

The laborers’ problems became a matter of consternation for many of the local clergy who realized that traditional religion was failing the working class. Methodist minister Dr. Thomas Slicer, a Social Gospel reformer, advocated for the formation of unions.[13] Dr. Henry Adams, of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, preached in support of workers when he stated that the churches must “turn their eyes from heaven and worry instead about the evils on earth.”[14]

For Buffalo’s Catholic Church, support for the working class was heralded on August 16, 1888, when the Vatican issued its statement on labor and unions in America. Rome did not specifically identify any union but granted conditional approval for Catholics to join such associations provided they did not operate in secrecy nor promote socialism.[15] Catholics were now free to join unions without fear of excommunication. Pope Leo’s pronouncement of Rerum Novarum in 1891, further linked the Church to the workers’ as the document promoted the dignity of the worker and the right to organize.[16] These events helped move the Catholic Church in Buffalo to the forefront of support for workers and organized labor. Eventually this developed into labor education for the worker.

Organized Labor and The Diocese of Buffalo

The city’s religious demographics shifted due to the influx of immigrants. A predominately Protestant town in the ante-bellum era, Buffalo contained an overwhelming Catholic majority by the end of the 1800’s.[17] Laborers in the area who were primarily Catholic, viewed local government and corporate management as entities against the worker. However, they considered the Church as their friend who guided and assisted the worker.[18]

The collaboration of Church and labor in Buffalo started with Bishop James Quigley (1896-1903) who became directly involved in resolving the grain scoopers’ strike in 1899.[19] The Bishop, like those of his time, opposed any form of Communism or Socialism and sought to keep it out of organized labor. Quigley reaffirmed that the Church “does not condemn labor unions” but only those unions that were “imbued with the poisonous doctrines” of socialism. The prelate recommended that employers and employees study Leo’s encyclical on the labor question as a method to secure the “material, spiritual and religious interests of the working man.”[20] Quigley’s suggestion for Catholic employer-employee “study groups” was the first such known mention of labor education in Buffalo.

Buffalo’s Forgotten Labor Priests

The history of the American Catholic Church, from approximately the time of Rerum Novarum, showed an increased involvement of clergy in the labor movement and the beginning of the labor priest tradition.[21] Buffalo also had its own labor priests who worked with unions and laborers in both the AFL and CIO. They were integral in the local Church’s support of workers’ rights. In the 1930’s and 1940’s Fr. William Kelley directed the educational program of local unions affiliated with the AFL. Fr. Charles Maxwell served as spiritual director and organizer for both the Textile Workers’ Organizing Committee and the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee which were CIO affiliates.[22]

In the 1950’s Buffalo’s Msgr. Stanley Kulpinski, a highly regarded labor priest, was a powerful force against Communist sympathizers in organized labor. Much of his work to combat these negative influences was accomplished through clandestine meetings with local unionists who were searching for ways and means to rid their unions of Communists.[23] The Monsignor also denounced union racketeering and corrupt labor leaders such as James Hoffa and David Beck who promoted a “philosophy that holds that labor is a commodity, something to be sold in the marketplace for a price.”[24] Kulpinski was highly respected among local labor and management in this battle.[25] Because the Monsignor was known as a pro-labor and anti-corruption labor priest he was often asked to supervise votes at the various locals. [26]

Fr. John Boland

The most prominent labor priest in western New York, and possibly the state, was Fr. John Boland. In the Buffalo area he actively supported workers picketing with them and often preached and wrote in defense of organized labor.[27] Due to the priest’s experience with labor relations and mediation, New York’s Senator Wagner advised Boland that President Roosevelt had appointed the priest to be the first chairman of the New York State Labor Relations Board.[28] After the Second World War, Boland was sent to Japan where he assisted many unions in their attempts to halt communist infiltration of organized labor. Throughout his life Boland remained active as a labor mediator and educator but regarded education, particularly the education of the worker, to be his primary mission.[29]

Fr. Boland’s interest in labor issues and the treatment of workers germinated when as a young boy, he delivered his father’s lunch at the Erie Canal docks. Boland’s father was a grain scooper and active in organizing the workers into Local 51 of the International Longshoremen’s union. As a witness to the antagonistic labor-management environment, the strikes, violence and hazardous working conditions, Boland was determined to secure an education and become a priest. He resolved to focus his ministry on labor with a personal dictum of “go to the workingman.”[30]

Born in Buffalo in 1888 of Irish immigrant parents, Boland was ordained at Rome in 1911 and served in various positions within the Diocese of Buffalo. Boland’s priestly career as a pastor, a judge on the marriage tribunal and director of the local Catholic hospital association illustrated his profound spiritual and professional development.[31] These pastoral and administrative skills prove invaluable in his service as an innovative labor priest.

His eventual appointment, as a vice president, to the National Catholic Industrial Conference and professor of labor relations at Fordham University brought him into contact with members of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists. His relationship with the ACTU altered the course of Catholic labor education in the nation as Boland developed a core curriculum of labor courses that were implemented nationally.

The Association of Catholic Trade Unionists

The establishment of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU) began without fanfare but with much passion. In 1936 Martin Wersing, president of the Utility Workers’ Union of New York city, inadvertently read a discarded copy of the Catholic Worker on the subway. An article on the Christian labor program, authored by John Cort, prompted Wersing to attend informal study sessions on the social encyclicals at the Catholic Worker house on Mott Street.[32] Wersing and Ed Squitieri, who ultimately were instrumental in the formation of the ACTU, were acquaintances of a laborer who was fired for union activity and could not find another job. This man “finally went mad from despair and hung himself in the bathroom of a five room tenement flat, leaving a sickly wife and five small children.”[33] Dazed by this incident, Wersing ruminated on how best to implement Christian principles on the labor front where Catholics could insert justice and human rights into organized labor and industry. 

The ACTU was not establishing dual unions or “Catholic unions to compete with unions.” The purpose of the ACTU was to bring Catholic working men and women a knowledge of the social encyclicals. This was to be accomplished by: “A) Enrollment in this Association all Catholic trade unionists; B) Promoting unionization among unorganized Catholic workers and C) Applying Catholic doctrines to the problems of the trade union movement.”[34]

The group developed three specific components as a delivery system of bringing the mission of the ACTU into the American labor movement. The Association specified that its work was educational, organizational and legal.[35] Through instruction and training the Actists’ platform, and the doctrines of the social encyclicals, could be conveyed to American Catholics and American workers who were neglectful of them. Therefore the most important segment of the ACTU, by their own admission, was education.[36]

Chapters of the ACTU formed throughout the country lasting from the 1930’s to the 1960’s.[37] However some bishops while supporting labor education did not actively seek a local chapter for their diocese. Many clergy and hierarchy, while supportive of laborers, mistakenly perceived the ACTU as closely allied with the CIO and Communists. The reality was that the ACTU attacked Communist insurgency in unions, especially the CIO and was not sympathetic to Communism.[38]

An Independent Buffalo Diocesan Labor College 

Although Bishop Duffy was an ardent promoter of the ACTU on a national level he preferred that the diocese fully sponsor his local labor college not the ACTU. Yet laity and clergy from the Buffalo labor school attended ACTU conventions. Bishop Duffy praised the ACTU in 1938. He cited the need for labor education among the workers and lauded the efforts of the ACTU whose purpose was to “foster and spread in the American labor movement sound trade unionism built on Catholic principles.”

Duffy maintained that if a Catholic philosophy of worker associations was properly channeled by “such organizations as the ACTU” unionism can be a “powerful aid for the workers’ welfare.” He added that it was his “fervent hope that organizations similar to the ACTU” formed in every industrial parish in the nation.[39]

Foundations of the Buffalo Labor College

Buffalo’s position as an industrialized and union city, was ideally suited to host a regional meeting of the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems in November 1927.[40] This symposium on industrial problems, held in various industrialized cities, brought together union officers and corporation executives, economists and others versed in Catholic social thought to discuss resolutions to labor-management issues.[41] A second conference convened at Buffalo in December 1934.[42] This conference was crucial to Buffalo’s labor priest, Father John Boland, as it was the genesis of the Diocesan Labor College. Boland was a featured speaker at the conference. There he listened as others spoke about the social encyclicals as a catalyst to implement labor reform through education.[43]

Linna E. Bresette, a laywoman and the field secretary of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference who sponsored the symposium, described the conference as a method for “translating the word and principles of Catholic social teaching into living knowledge of how the teaching is to be applied to the United States.”[44] At the conclusion of the conference, Bresette advised Fr. Boland to commence a Study Club to examine the problems of wages and working conditions.[45] He acted on the laywoman’s advice and formed a Study Club which eventual evolved into the Diocesan Labor College several years later.[46] Because of Bresette’s impetus, Fr. Boland titled her as “foundress of the labor school.”[47]

The Buffalo Catholic Study Club assembled weekly to discuss pertinent topics on labor, the resolution of labor problems and the Church’s role in these matters.[48] Boland was moderator to one of these clubs designated as the “Institute For Social and Economic Problems” that met monthly. These groups, which met at various parishes, read and studied the social encyclicals, Fr. John Ryan’s A Living Wage and examined Communism, Fascism, the Medieval guild system and trade unionism.[49]

However, the priest realized that the Study Clubs were insufficient to fulfill the needs of the workers and attendees. Workers were improperly trained in a solid foundation of industrial relations or how to execute those elements of the Wagner Act, and other components of New Deal legislation, that were vital to their employment. Fr. Boland maintained that knowledge and leadership in this matter should come from worker schools.[50]

In 1937, Boland commenced a personnel management course at the University of Buffalo. Eventually some of that curriculum transferred into the educational agenda of the ACTU which he developed later that year.[51] Boland wanted to replicate an educational platform like the ACTU’s in Buffalo in order to combat worker ignorance and indifference.[52] In the Summer of 1939, he requested permission from Buffalo’s Bishop John Duffy to establish an educational institution to teach laborers how to utilize the social encyclicals in the work place and to study subjects pertinent to their employment.

Organizing the Labor School

The Bishop promptly approved the school and named Boland as the director.[53] Bishop John Duffy regarded the laborer with utmost esteem. Previously, the bishop was an active member of the International Boilermakers Union having worked as a boiler maker in Elizabeth and Bayonne, New Jersey. “I speak of the laboring man not from an academic professorial chair but from practical experience,” he declared. Duffy, with some pride, stated “I heated rivets in the middle of August and know the hours and the efforts demanded of the laborer to earn his inadequate wage.”[54] Hereafter, Buffalo’s endeavor at labor education received unwavering hierarchical backing throughout its tenure.

Boland appointed the laity to leadership positions of the Study Club. They were to organize the labor school and form an executive committee. It was his intention that the labor school be the work of the lay apostolate. The Christian Brothers offered the use of their high school, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, as the initial site for the labor college.[55] Wanting to attract the greatest number of students, no formal education was required and similar to the ACTU, no fee was charged. Enrollment was “open to anyone who is interested in Catholic social teachings and in social, economic and industrial problems.”[56] Publicity for the labor school was conducted through talks by the Study Club to Catholic groups, advertising in the diocesan newspaper, through flyers distributed at union meetings and Fr. Boland’s request to his confrères to promote the school to their parishioners.[57] Courses and lectures were scheduled for Monday evenings from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM conducted over two semesters.[58]

The primary function of the labor school, initially, was to promulgate the principles of economic and social justice as stated in the social encyclicals. The courses were to teach the worker to seek economic solutions to the problems of the time and train the laborer for intelligent and conscientious leadership.[59] The school was to serve both labor and management although in the early years laborers comprised the majority of the students. Many years later, individuals from management attended the school.[60]

Boland selected the term “labor college” instead of labor school as he considered it to be an institution of higher education in labor problems. The original plan of Fr. Boland and the executive committee, was to train lay teachers at the “college” who could then present a less extensive version of the program at parishes. The graduates from the parishes would advance to the labor college however, this arrangement never materialized. Although throughout its tenure the official title remained Diocesan Labor College.[61]

With auspicious anticipation, the school opened on October 16, 1939. Bishop Duffy detailed the reasons for the urgent necessity of such an institution. “Probably the most pressing social need in America today is the well informed workingman” asserted the Bishop. He announced that the Diocese of Buffalo was establishing a labor school because: “The purpose of this institution is to make clear the rightful claims of the workingman and to justify on the grounds of reason and moral principles a rightful

position in the face of the industrial situation prevailing in America today.” The bishop urged every workingman of the various unions to “avail themselves of the opportunity to learn the underlying principles and the Christian teaching relative to labor and industry.” With knowledge and moral principles, the Bishop declared, can the workingman better his condition.[62]

The first class totaled seven hundred eighty-four students. It was overwhelming and unexpected.[63] Fifty unions were represented consisting of one hundred occupations of skilled and unskilled labor, predominately Catholic with some non-Catholics. The men out number the women two to one and “several Negros attended regularly.”[64]

Initial Curriculum and the Early Years

The courses mirrored those of the New York chapter of the ACTU, which Boland had formulated, and the faculty provided their services pro bono. Fr. Thomas O’Connor, C.M. and Fr. Francis Hinton, C.M., professors at nearby Niagara University taught Catholic Labor Ethics. The Labor Relations course was conducted by Cyril Kavanagh, regional attorney for the New York State Labor Relations Board. Attorneys Edward Flaherty and Peter Crotty, later Erie County Democratic Chair, lectured on Parliamentary Procedures. American Labor History, Court Practice and Labor Law instruction was taught by Daniel Shortal, regional attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. Brother Dominic from the faculty of St. Joseph’s high school taught Labor Economics.[65]

The preliminary weeks of the labor college were so successful that representatives from labor and some companies requested the addition of a course on Industrial Management. This was added and taught by Dr. Horace Frommelt, formerly from Marquette University and editor of the Buffalo diocesan Catholic paper.[66] The objective was to instruct employers and employees to recognize workers, labor organizations and managers as effective allies in an industrial society as capital and labor were natural partners.[67]

Frommelt’s course stressed that man came before profits and that a living wage must follow. The class, according to Frommelt, was to be a straightforward method for the reconstruction of society by utilizing Christianity “in unions, homes, clubs- as workers, as employers and as citizens.”[68] This particular course proved extremely popular among both workers and employers as an agency and opportunity for analysis of labor-management relations. It became the foundation for the Labor College’s future method for mediation between employer and employee.

Boland knew that ordinary working men and women, and even union leadership, did not possess the skills or at times the courage to speak out on behalf of their rights. The priest identified two particular courses that were vital to Catholic labor education and fundamental to the college’s educational program: public speaking and parliamentary law. Public speaking empowered the weak to speak. These classes required all students to participate as either speaker, critic, chairman or discussion leader.[69] Training workers to speak out for themselves at meetings assured that their voices were heard and not drowned out by rhetoric.[70]

The second mandatory course was in parliamentary law usually conducted by a labor lawyer.[71] The purpose of this class was to train union members in parliamentary procedures so they had the ability to “take the floor.” This strategic maneuver was to quiet Communists, racketeers or corrupt leadership from denying the membership their rights and empower workers to improve their union.[72] Additional courses included labor history and eventually economics. Over the years, the curriculum incorporated subjects such as accounting, union organizing, the right to strike and collective bargaining.[73]

Bishop Duffy awarded Certificates of Attendance to three hundred twenty-five graduates in April 1940.[74] The Labor College was initially successful because it responded to the workers’ need for specific labor education. Boland’s intention was to maintain peaceful labor-management relations utilizing the social encyclicals to instruct laborers about their rights to organize, to a living wage and to be partners with management. He additionally wanted Catholics to be knowledgeable about the social doctrines of their faith.[75]

Fr. Boland’s Labor College garnered considerable local and national attention from the start. Paul Benjamin of the Buffalo Council of Social Agencies requested information from the school’s executive committee on how his graduate students at the University of Buffalo could attend.[76] Several local and national union officials wrote to Boland and Bishop Duffy praising the school’s curriculum.[77]

The Archdiocese of Baltimore contacted Bishop Duffy for information on the college’s program so they can create their own.[78] The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also solicited material on the labor college and a resume of the program was forwarded.[79]

The most intriguing correspondence comes from Fr. William Smith, S.J. who was director of the Jesuit sponsored Crown Heights Labor School. Fr. Smith sent a congratulatory letter to Bishop Duffy on the opening of the Buffalo school. However, he reluctantly admitted that the Crown Heights school was “still in the struggling stage while the Buffalo school seems to have begun with such brilliant success.”[80]

The Labor College entered its second year in a developmental mode. Attendance increased and lay faculty were added. At the opening of the college’s second session, Bishop Duffy addressed the students and faculty encouraging them to “have a molding influence” to Christianize social and moral life at home and at work. The Bishop conveyed how a “prominent industrial leader in Buffalo” was critical of the local Catholic Church for “stepping outside its sphere” in operating the labor school. Duffy considered the industrialist to be something of a “heel” who likely did not comprehend that laborers and employers were the “salt of the world.” The Bishop insisted that the purpose of the school was to “direct interested men and women to learn how to become exponents of a new social life… with justice and human rights as its foundation and basis.”[81]

During the academic year of 1940-1941, Boland added forums and panel discussions to the school’s curriculum. Panelists comprised members of labor, management and the Church such as Joseph Moloney of the Steelworker’s Union and Buffalo’s auxiliary bishop.[82] At the Diocesan Industrial Convocation, Fr. Boland assembled labor advocates such as Fr. Raymond McGowan from the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Philip Murray of the CIO the successor to John L. Lewis, and Edward Flore who represented William Green of the AFL.[83] At the January 1941 forum, both labor and management praised the efforts of the labor college for applying the encyclicals to the labor problem. Forums such as these, continued throughout the years of the Labor College.[84]

Boland’s view was that these panel discussions promoted labor-management unity resulting in better wages and that worker education was the “only solution to fight racketeering and corrupt union officials.”[85] He also resolutely believed that, following the precepts of the social encyclicals, labor-management committees and management councils should form not to “bust the union but for the specific purpose of collective bargaining.”[86] Industrial democracy and therefore industrial harmony were achieved through collective bargaining and the partnership of labor-management.

Decline During the Second World War

            The years of World War Two acutely impacted the Labor College. Key faculty and students were diverted to war effort production or service in the armed forces.  Factory shift work with increased hours resulted in a significant decline in class enrollment and attendance. At the start of the January 1942 semester, two hundred twenty students registered but with a shortened school term only forty-five completed their studies.[87]  During the war years, Boland implemented a system of parish labor schools where fundamental course work was taught.  His proposal was to stir interest in students who could then transfer to the main college.
            Five parishes sponsored schools: four in the city of Buffalo and also at Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, the home town of Bethlehem Steel.  These parish/branch schools conducted classes in industrial ethics, public speaking, parliamentary law and grievance procedures.[88]  The faculty consisted of  laymen and parish priests.  However, the war years harmed and threaten the existence of both the main college and these parish schools.  Attendance at the parish schools averaged three or four students and the main labor college graduated only thirty-seven in 1943.[89]
            With the end of the Second World War, Msgr. Boland inaugurated an annual Labor Day Mass in 1945.[90]  The War Department sent Boland to Japan in 1947 as a consultant to General MacArthur to assist workers and employers in efforts to organize labor there.[91]  His main purpose was to keep Communists out of the unions and he even attempted to start a chapter of the ACTU there.[92]  However, his duties as a pastor, mediator and chairman of the state mediation board resulted in health problems.  In September 1950, Bishop O’Hara replaced Msgr. Boland as director of the Labor College although Boland still remained active with the school as Director Emeritus and he continued to mediated labor disputes.[93]  Msgr. Stanley Kulpinski was appointed as the new director.

The Catholic Labor Observer

However, Boland was still vital to the local labor environment and the labor college. He established The Catholic Labor Observer in 1945 as the official bi-weekly newspaper for the school. Its initial circulation was eighteen hundred copies and a paid subscription list of twelve hundred.[94] Published in the basement of his rectory, it printed local and national labor articles and was to “supplement the work of the classroom and the pulpit” and it must be “apostolic” which “leads to the saving of souls.”[95] It was as essential publication for Catholics as the official diocesan newspaper did not publish any articles on labor and rarely mentioned the Labor College.[96] As a Catholic paper for the worker, there were often articles in support of efforts to rid communists from the unions and denounce corrupt union officials. 

Boland was the editor with Fr. Kulpinski as associate editor. Thomas Rose, who was the editor of the Buffalo CIO council newspaper, was named as news editor of the Observer.[97] The editors hoped to sell the paper after Sunday Mass at the churches. Unfortunately, publication of the paper was received with ambivalence by many local pastors.[98] The last issue was printed on December 25, 1958.[99]

Branch Schools in the Post War Years

The late 1940’s evolved into a transitional period for the Labor College. Boland sought to reinvigorate the Labor College and requested the assistance of Bishop Joseph Burke. Boland asked the bishop for a letter to the clergy, to be read at Sunday Mass, appealing to their parishioners to attend the labor college.[100] Enrollment increased slightly yet class attendance remained low.[101] But it was labor’s gains during the War, coupled with the Taft-Hartley Act and the infiltration of Communists in the United Electrical Workers Union after the War, that stimulated new interest in Buffalo’s Labor College.

Father Stanley Kulpinski, who taught Ethics at the Labor College, and two laymen Thomas Murphy and John Cassidy commenced classes at St. Agnes Church in Buffalo in 1947.[102] The classes at St. Agnes had a dual purpose: they were to provide worker education but more importantly, enabled Kulpinski to better monitor union conditions at the Westinghouse plant. The facility and the local union were active with communist agitators. [103] This experience subtly altered the course of the Labor College and Kulpinski’s direction of the school for the next several years.

Kulpinski and the executive committee of the Labor College considered the St. Agnes “experiment” as sufficiently successful. This produced the emergence of branch schools in the diocese over the next decade in locations where industry and organized labor were prevalent. The cities of Buffalo, Batavia, Dunkirk, Jamestown, Lockport, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda and Lackawanna became satellite locations of labor education.[104]

The schools remained independent of external influences from unions or business concentrating only on education. While all courses were non-credit, a more relaxed atmosphere prevailed at these branch schools. Kulpinski maintained a simple approach to the discussion, education and resolution of labor problems. Union members, and faculty, referred to it as the “factory floor” approach.[105] This concept fostered increased attendance at the branch schools.

Reconstituting the Labor School

The 1950’s witnessed a shift in the culture of local labor; consequently the Labor College adjusted to those conditions. Due to wartime necessity, women in sizeable numbers entered the work force and this extended to the labor school when Patricia Harding became the first woman instructor teaching public speaking.[106] The lay faculty of the labor schools increased significantly during this time and the position of Executive Secretary remained with the laity. Kulpinski’s pastoral duties required him to turn over more administrative duties to the laity but he remained as the executive director since a priest was canonically required to be in that position. All instructors and teachers were laity with occupations in the unions or on the factory floor. [107] This further solidified the role of the Catholic laity in the operation of the Buffalo labor school.

The post war years exhibit a national prosperity that posed a new threat to unionism as some workers became disinterested in the affairs of their union. Locally, Buffalo was hailed by the Chamber of Commerce as a “workingman’s town” where in 1955 the per capita income of $2500 exceeded the national average by twenty-five percent.[108] As the working class morphed into the middle class, concerns about industrial democracy waned.

This indifference to union membership also infected many Catholics. The Catholic laity according to Charles Halloran, president of the Buffalo Federation of Labor, had become too “apathetic and lacks commitment in exerting the full impact of Catholic social doctrine at the work place.” He encouraged the laity to take an active interest in their unions and the labor schools to “build the tremendous social order envisioned by Catholic social teaching.”[109]

Halloran called on the nation’s eight million unionized Catholics to adopt the principles of the social encyclicals and to Christianize the work place. The result would be “no danger of Communism or any other ‘ism’ gaining control of the American labor movement.”[110] However, other issues dominated the labor landscape.

Kulpinski and the school’s staff realized that worker inertia could result in racketeering, dishonesty and corrupt union leadership. This allowed for a less militant organized labor that might willingly accept a false prosperity in exchange for management manipulation. The labor school’s purpose was to teach workers about their rights and Christian principles where application of those values could bring “peace and justice on the factory floor or in the executive’s business office.”[111] Kulpinski and some members of the executive committee began to reconstitute interest in labor education through personal contact with union officials, laborers and managers.[112]

The result was that attendance slowly but steadily increased. There were two key contributing factors for this. First, corporations began sending their managers and executives to the Labor College in the mid to late 1950’s. As collective bargaining became the norm in union negotiations, management personnel from the larger local corporations such as Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel, Bell Aircraft, General Motors, Ford Motor, Dunlop Tire & Rubber, du Pont, Carborundum Chemicals and Westinghouse enrolled their “white collar” supervisors and executives in the school confident that the labor college was a conduit for industrial harmony.[113]

Furthermore, attendance improved due to the significance that unions placed on the quality of the curriculum at the labor college. Training in ethics and labor relations was essential for union officials in their interaction with membership and management. Unions, especially the United Steel Workers, required their officers and shop stewards to complete the course of study at the labor college. Familiarity with the school’s faculty and program made the labor college an attractive preference. The rank and file innately considered those graduates of the labor school to be both properly trained and trustworthy.[114]

Labor-Management Forums

 Boland’s vision coupled with Kulpinski’s zeal empowered the labor college to achieve success beyond the parameters of an educational institution in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s. After the War, Boland introduced a labor relations counseling service for “individuals, workingmen and plant executives.” It was part of the labor college program and was described as the first of its kind in the state.[115] With the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, labor was again besieged. Some Catholic bishops denounced the Act. Bishop Buddy of San Diego described Taft-Hartley as a “barrier to that mutual cooperation that should be fostered between management and organized labor.”[116]

The emphasis of the Diocesan Labor College was to maintain good relations between labor and management. Within that framework, the concept of the labor relations counseling service became an integral part of Buffalo’s process for settling labor disputes. This service operated under the guidance of the laity not the clergy and was a specialty of the Buffalo Labor College. The classroom for the labor school was more than a site for education, it was the setting for indirect labor-management conflict resolution. The executive committee considered the labor college a success due to a “hunger among labor and management people for the counsel the school supplies.”[117] Sitting side by side were union representatives, employees, managers and strikers who only hours earlier disregarded the other’s rights.

At the labor college, either at the main school or at the branch level, students had access to federal and state mediators, labor lawyers, union officials and company managers where all parties “unofficially” met to attempt a resolution. The New State Department of Labor credited this service at the labor school for creating an atmosphere of impartiality “where everyone removed from the bargaining table can express his own viewpoint.”[118]

At the labor schools lay faculty were often approached by labor, management or both for private consultations and as a labor arbitration setting.[119] The process remained simple and informal in a calm atmosphere and usually involved an informal meeting between the conflicting parties or an unofficial arbitration hearing to rectify any issues.[120] These counseling sessions at the labor college worked as local industry acknowledged it as the source that “headed off many strikes and settled others.” [121]

The Diocesan Labor College Verses Union Corruption

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, the Labor College continued to confront the challenges of corruption and racketeering by union officials. The program of the labor schools, that instructed participants in the principles of the social encyclicals and ethics, was more essential than before. On this matter, both labor and management were in agreement on the value of Catholic labor education.

Lackawanna was the location of Bethlehem Steel in western New York since the late nineteenth century. Efforts to unionize laborers throughout the decades were met with violence but with the passage of the Wagner Act, unions at the steel mills became commonplace. However, there was always the faint intrusions of corruption into the unions.

The city of Lackawanna presented a natural location for a labor school to combat the potential external interferences in the union. By 1953, a permanent diocesan labor school was established there. This was made possible due to financial support of USW Local 2604 and the use of its union hall.[122] More importantly, USW District Director Joseph Moloney, a graduate of the Labor College, and some of the local unions supported the school throughout its existence. Moloney, like Kulpinski, denounced corrupt union officials as “these thugs who invade the labor movement.”[123] Moloney, and other union officers in Local 2604, cited the labor college’s presence in the steel town, educating workers and offering industrial relations counseling, as a direct reason for a lack of union corruption. While labor strife still existed industrial democracy was prevalent.[124]

The Diocesan Labor College Confronts the Communists   

The most dramatic and enduring impact of the Buffalo Diocesan Labor College on the area was its ability to diffuse Communist manipulation of the United Electrical Workers at the Westinghouse plant. The Diocesan Labor College, through education, publicity and even religious ceremonies, was able to combat the Communists and the UEW. It was viewed as the local “answer to Communism.”[125] The labor college maintained this position as a challenge and threat to the UEW throughout the school’s existence.

The Catholic Labor Observer, as early as 1946, condemned Communists misguiding organized labor.[126] Then in late 1947, some worker’s from the Westinghouse facility in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb, approached their parish priests for advice on how to deal with the Communist agitators in their union at the plant. The priests consulted the Diocesan Labor College for advice on how best to proceed. This eventually proved to be a pivotal moment for the labor school. The situation at the Westinghouse plant alarmed local labor leaders and the Church as openly Communist literature was distributed.[127]

To address this matter, a branch school started at St. Agnes Parish near the Westinghouse facility. The justification for a branch school there was to train Catholic workers about their rights but more importantly, to conduct clandestine meetings with workers who were privately guided on an action plan for disposing the Communist threat at the Westinghouse plant.[128] Over the next several years the labor school graduated an average of ten students annually who were Westinghouse employees.[129]

Yet the best method for stabilizing labor-management relations, and to force subversive elements from the plant floor, came through more Divinely inspired means. As a gesture of good will, the manager of industrial relations at Westinghouse inaugurated religious services, on the plant floor, at Christmas of 1952 for members of all faiths. He requested that Msgr. Kulpinski conduct the Catholic Mass. It proved to be extremely popular so liturgical services for Good Friday and Easter were added. These Masses averaged an attendance of hundreds of employees.[130] Spiritual and temporal sustenance also solidified labor-management cooperation. In June 1956, members from both labor and management suggested a Communion Breakfast to be sponsored by the labor college. The Mass and Communion Breakfast, held at Kulpinski’s parish, became a yearly event.

These events by the Buffalo labor schools contradicted what was happening at Westinghouse plants in various parts of the nation. In 1955, tensions at the Pittsburgh factory ignited into hostility as striking workers fought for better wages and for control of their local. Other Westinghouse facilities in Sharon, Pennsylvania, Trenton, New Jersey and elsewhere endured similar experiences.[131] While there was labor animosity, at various times, the Cheektowaga plant never experienced labor violence.

The direct involvement of the labor school enabled labor and management to gather and discuss their mutual interests and how to cooperate. [132] While not all parties preferred to be part of the discussions, for example some elements of the UEW, a forum was available to initiate conflict resolution. With these factors operating in tandem, dissidents within the unions vanished and harmony was present on the factory floor.[133] These events reinforced what Msgr. Boland previously stated years earlier that “only the Catholic Church has the authority to resolve labor-management issues.”[134]

Adjustments to Industrial Human Resources

The triumphs of the 1950’s were overshadowed by events of the 1960’s. Buffalo began to experience changes, subtle at first, to its industrial base. Technological advances translated into job elimination. While Buffalo was largely a “blue collar town”, increasing numbers of managers and executives occupied positions in industry. Colleges and universities offered a new type of competition to the Diocesan Labor College as institutions of higher learning inaugurated their own industrial relations curricula that conferred academic degrees to their graduates. Unions and corporations moved toward those programs as they were not linked to theology. 

The Diocesan Labor College adjusted to the shifting conditions. The school altered its formal name to the Labor Management College in 1962 to properly reflect the organization of its student base.[135] But there was a fundamental modification to its course structure. The core courses of Industrial Ethics, Parliamentary Procedures, Public Speaking and Labor History remained in addition to the industrial relations counseling. But additional courses were added that considered the new needs of the workers and management. Subjects titled: Pension and Pension Funds; Steward Training; Grievance Handling; Health and Welfare Benefits; and Job Evaluation were inserted into the syllabus.[136]

The labor college continued instructions on collective bargaining but with a modification. There was now a separate section for employees and another for employers. Employees were tutored in specific areas such as “negotiation strategies” the “pitfalls in wording a contract,” “objectives and attitudes of companies and their unions” and “get protection for your rights into the contract.” The instructors were lawyers, a field examiner from the National Labor Relations Board and union representatives.

Employers were versed on how best to present the company’s objective in contract negotiations with an understanding of “union demands and tactics as essential preparation for getting a ‘sound contract.’” This section focused on strategies for presenting the company’s requirements and successful “bargaining techniques and problems involved” in the eventuality of a strike, conciliation, mediation or arbitration.[137] In addition to the course work, both groups conducted separate simulated contract negotiation sessions.

The industrial base of Buffalo, in the early 1970’s, started an accelerated descent due to technology, competition from foreign imports and relocation of plants to areas with “less oppressive taxes.”[138] Workers, with their demands for a just living wage, were viewed by many as the culprits that forced the corporations to leave western New York. A dwindling workforce combined with escalating unemployed meant less demand for Catholic labor education even though the instruction was free. Interest vacillated during this time.

The labor schools at the parish level quietly ceased operations in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The main branch of the labor college continued into 1975 but after thirty seven years of continuous service the school quietly closed after the Spring term of that year.[139] Msgr. Kulpinski retired from active ministry in 1979 as the diocese’s last labor priest.[140] The concepts of a “labor priest” and “Christianizing the work place” had become something of an anachronism in the labor movement by this time.

Mutuality of Purpose

Although the Buffalo Diocesan Labor College was never formally part of the ACTU, the evidence of its accomplishments as a Catholic labor educational institution were remarkable. Inspired by the advice of a lay woman, the labor college championed for change among laity and labor. During its tenure, the school was a cooperative venture between the laity and clergy but it was the laity that assumed positions as directors and its faculty was overwhelmingly staffed by the laity. The Buffalo Labor College also advanced women to the status of directors on the executive council and as teachers.[141] In the late 1930’s and into the next decade this was a significant move. The faculty, all volunteer and mostly Catholic, were noteworthy union officers, state mediators, judges, labor lawyers and managers from various companies.

Workers saw the labor college as a source of guidance. Labor and eventually management, valued Catholic labor instruction, and the principles of the social encyclicals, as a source to repel Communism and deter corrupt union officials. It was a refuge from labor-management strife where opposing parties could openly discuss their differences and seek resolution.

A review of the school’s graduates over the decades lists a variety of occupations from skilled, unskilled to professional. While the majority of students were listed as laborer, machinist or metal worker job titles also included supervisor, manager, vice president and president. All job levels, from over a hundred companies and sixty-eight unions sent their employees for training and education sometime over thirty-seven years to the Catholic labor schools in the Diocese of Buffalo. Educational levels of the students ranged from high school to college and graduate school. Analysis of the student roster revealed that approximately ninety percent were Catholics, eight percent non-Catholics and usually two percent registered as “no religion.” [142]

The labor college could boast that its graduates included two mayors for Buffalo, several mayors from other cities, some future politicians, numerous judges, lawyers and union officials (some who assume state and national positions).[143] But the most noteworthy graduate was the worker, the laborer, who was sufficiently educated to be a leader who was empowered to Christianize the work place.

Utilizing a strategy of a central school and parish satellite locations with tuition free courses, the labor college had the capacity to reach an optimum number of workers and managers. A graduate of the college wrote to Bishop Duffy praising the school as “being on the right track” because labor ethics were taught at time when “labor crooks” were “worming their way into labor without any opposition.” For the graduate, the most important aspect of the labor college was to enlighten the individual worker.[144]

Buffalo’s labor college was a success because it materialized at a time when workers desired and needed labor education. As a Catholic institution a sense of trust was already manifest. The educational program was straightforward. The courses were relevant and realistic as the lay instructors had practical experience in the field. Catholic labor education prepared the laity to be leaders for both unions and for the Church. The Labor College trained leaders in labor, and eventually in management, to utilize the social encyclicals on the factory floor ensuring industrial democracy.

About the author: Paul E. Lubienecki, Ph.D., is a historian writing on local western New York history.  Currently, he is completing his manuscript on the history of the Catholic labor schools in Buffalo and their influence on organized labor.

[1]      The Labor Leader, November 7, 1938, p. 1.
[2]   United States Census: 1890, 1900, 1910 and  Buffalo Evening News, August 5, 1935, p. 1.
[3]   Buffalo Express, October 21, 1901, p. 5 and Mark Goodman, High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), p. 131. Buffalo celebrated and promoted its economic and industrial achievements by hosting the international Pan American Exposition in 1901. At this event President McKinley was assassinated by Cleveland resident Leon Czolgosz.
[4]   Catholic Union and Times, August 18, 1892, p. 4.
[5]   Buffalo Courier, August 15, 1892, p. 1, Catholic Union and Times, August 18, 1892, p. 4 and  Boland, “Labor in Buffalo and Along The Frontier,” p. 10.  Archives University of Notre Dame (AUND)- Box 1, Folder: History of Labor in Buffalo.
[6]    Brenda Shelton,  Reformers in Search of Yesterday. Buffalo in the 1890’s, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1976), p. 182-85.
[7]    Catholic Union and Times, May 25, 1899, p. 1.
[8]    Boland, “Labor in Buffalo and Along The Frontier,” p. 9. AUND- Box 1, Folder: History of Labor in Buffalo.
[9]   Goldman, High Hopes, p. 132-140.
[10]    Interview with Mike Malyak and Don Williams August 1, 2012, retired Bethlehem Steel workers each with over thirty years at the mill. They state that labor-management relations were always “rocky and never that great” during their tenure at the mill and in their conversations with “the old timers” who worked there before they did, those workers alluded to a similar experience.
[11]    Buffalo Morning Express, September 21, 1919, p. 5 and  Goodman, High Hopes, p. 207.
[12]    Boland, “Labor in Buffalo and Along The Frontier,” p. 6.  AUND- Box 1, Folder: History of Labor in Buffalo.
[13]   Buffalo Morning Express, August 17, 1890, p. 7.
[14]   Sunday Morning Truth, November 22, 1891, p. 9.
[15]   John Tracey Ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons. Archbishop of Baltimore, 1834-1921, Vols. I, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1952), p. 520-524.  The issue concerns the Knights of Labor and if they constitute a secret society.  Rome finds them to be acceptable particularly since the majority of its members are Catholic.
[16]  Rerum Novarum, paragraphs 49-53.
[17]   In 1847 there were 40,000 inhabitants in the city of Buffalo with approximately 10%  who were Catholic. By 1880, the population of  Buffalo was 155,134. Nearly 70% of that were foreign born or an immediate descendant of a foreigner. The Catholic population in Buffalo was approximately 88,000 or 57% of the total. Percentage of Catholics in relation to total population from 1900 to 2000 for the Diocese of Buffalo averaged from 46%- 54% (1966 was the highest percent).  See: U.S. Census Report, various years; City Directory of Buffalo, New York, various years and Carl Bucki, A Stacked Deck: Frustration and Politics in Buffalo’s Polish Community, Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Cornell University, 1974, p. 9-14; William Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Catholic University of America, 1967, p. 17-19. 
[18]   Catherine Mary Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, New York (1939-1948), Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Canisius College, 1948, p. 7. Collins was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Buffalo Diocesan Labor College and was a personal friend of Msgr. Boland.  Her master’s thesis was based on her actual work with and reminiscences about the Buffalo Labor College.
[19]   Boland, “Labor in Buffalo and Along The Frontier,” p. 8.  AUND- Box 1, Folder: History of Labor in Buffalo. 
[20]   “Socialism’s Insidious Poison,”   Buffalo Volksfreund, February 23, 1902, no pagination.
[21]   Dolan, The American Catholic Experience,  p. 337. Some nationally notable priests were: Fr. John Ryan, Msgr. George Higgins, Fr. Charles Owen Rice, Fr. Francis Haas, Fr. Charles Dietz, Fr. Ray McGowan, Fr. John Cronin. 
[22]   The Labor Leader, September 12, 1938, p. 2; The Labor Leader, November 13, 1939, p. 3 and Ronald Schatz, “American Labor and the Catholic Church, 1919-1950,” International Labor and Working Class History, No, 20, Fall 1981, p. 48.
[23]   Rev. Gerald Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, New York, 1939-1959. Unpublished Mater’s Thesis, Niagara University, 1962, p. 102 and 131-134. Fr. Fortan was on the faculty and later Associate Director of the Diocesan Labor College from 1958-1963. His Master’s Thesis was a compilation of  interviews with Msgr. Boland, Msgr Kulpinski, various faculty members, students and his own recollections.
[24]   United Steel Workers Local 2604  News, November 18, 1957. Special Collections, Butler Library, Buffalo State College, Folder-Local Unions, USW.
[25]   Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College, p. 80-81.
[26]   United Steel Workers Local 2121 News, September 28, 1962. Kulpinski supervises Local 2121 vote on a wage reduction request by Bethlehem Steel.  Special Collections, Butler Library, Buffalo State College, Folder-Local Unions, USW.
[27]  Obituary of Msgr. Boland. The Magnificat, July 4, 1968, p. 1 & 7.
[28]   “Catholic Priest First Regional Director in Buffalo,” James J. Palermo, Assistant to the Regional Director, Region Three, Buffalo, New York. ABD, Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Boland Articles and Sullivan, Go To The Workingman, v.2, p. 8, AUND: Box 2. Wagner suggested to FDR that he appoint Boland to be the Chairman,  Boland was appointed in 1937 and shuttled between New York city and Buffalo in his capacity as both priest and mediator. He served as  Chairman until 1942.
[29]   Speech to nurses at Sister’s Hospital, Buffalo, NY; October 18, 1920; AUND- Box 1, Folder: Talks and Labor Reports and The Catholic Laborer Observer, August 25, 1949, p. 1.
[30] J. Robert Sullivan, Go To The Workingman. A Biography of  Fr. John P. Boland, Unpublished, 1957, Vol. 1, p. 5-10, AUND: Box 2 and Box 3, Correspondence 1938-1962- Letter of March 9, 1939 to Timothy Lyons.
[31]   Obituary of Msgr. Boland. The Magnificat, July 4, 1968, p. 1 & 7. Boland graduated with a Doctorate in Divinity from Urban College of Propaganda in Rome in 1911.
[32]   Joseph Oberle, CSsR., The Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, (New York: Paulist Press, 1941), p. 2, pamphlet, Special Collections, Christ the King Seminary.
[33]   John Cort, “Catholics in Trade Unions,” Commonweal, Vol. 30, May 5, 1939, p. 34.
[34]   The Catholic Worker, April 1937, p. 6.
[35]   ACTU Cleveland Convention Program Book, 1941, p. 3. AUP, Box 1, Folder 43.
[36]   ACTU National Council Meeting, Director’s Report May 1941, p. 12. AUP, Box 2, FF 5 and John Cort interview (AUND).
[37] For further treatment of the ACTU see  Paul Lubienecki, The American Catholic Diocesan Labor Schools. An Examination of Their Influence on Organized Labor in Buffalo and Cleveland , Dissertation, Case Western Reserve University; Richard Ward. The Role of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists in the American Labor Movement. Dissertation, University of Michigan, 1958; Joseph Oberle,  The Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, (New York: Paulist Press, 1941);Unsigned, “The Catholic Labor College,” America, Vol. 45, August 22, 1931; ACTU National Director’s Report, August 31, 1941, p. 5, Archives University of Pittsburgh, Box 2, FF 6.
[38]  The Labor Leader, February 6, 1939, p. 1 and ACTU News, Pittsburgh Chapter, June 25, 1941, p.1.
[39]  The Labor Leader, September 5, 1938, p. 1. After Bishop Duffy’s death in 1944, attempts were made by members of the labor school’s executive committee to merge with the ACTU in 1946. Some even labeled themselves as the Buffalo ACTU.  The national council acknowledged that Buffalo was not a component of the ACTU but viewed it as an associate of the organization with the hope that this “potential chapter” will join in the future. See ACTU, National Director’s Report to the Second  Annual Convention, August 1941. Archives University of Pittsburgh, Box 2, FF6.
[40]  Buffalo Echo, November 3, 1927, p. 10 and November 10, 1927, p. 1.
[41]  Archives Buffalo Diocese (ABD), Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Conference on Industrial Problems.
[42]   Buffalo Times, December 9, 1934, p. 1.
[43]   The Echo, December 6, 1934, p. 1-2; Catholic Labor Observer, April 26, 1951, p. 3;  Sullivan, Go To The Workingman, p. 44-45,  AUND, Box 2 and Boland: “Catholic Industrial Conference on Industrial Problems”, December 18-19, 1934, AUND, Box 2, Folder: Editorials and Speeches.
[44]   The Echo, December 6, 1934, p. 1-2.
[45]    Some of  Bresette’s duties at the NCWC included “unofficial” assistance to dioceses in the formation of labor educational programs.  See The Labor Leader, March 25, 1940, p. 3.
[46]   The Buffalo Courier Express, October 1, 1939, p. 2.
[47]   Catholic Labor Observer, April 26, 1951, p. 3. The Catholic Labor Observer was the official newspaper of the Buffalo Labor College and was published from 1945-1958.  Msgr. Boland was the editor.
[48]   Echo, February 24, 1938, p. 8, May 12, 1938, p. 2 and Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, p. 8.
[49]   Fr. Fortan, who was an assistant director of the Labor College, interviewed Msgr. Boland who provided his recollections of the founding of the Buffalo Labor College.  See Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 8. Also, Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, p. 8.
[50]   The Labor Leader, September 26, 1938, p. 1.
[51]   Buffalo Courier Express, September 24, 1937, p. 12.
[52]   Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, New York , p. 9 and interview of Msgr. Boland in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 9.
[53]   Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 10.
[54]   The Labor Leader,  October 16, 1939, p. 1.
[55]   Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, New York, p. 11.
[56]   ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-“Labor College, Diocese of Buffalo. Resume, October 16-December 31, 1939.” 
[57]   The Union & Echo, October 19, 1939, p. 2 and Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, New York, p. 11 and advertisements for the labor school in different parish bulletins spanning several years, ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Miscellaneous.
[58]   Labor School pamphlet, 1939, ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Pamphlets.
[59]   Labor School pamphlet, 1939, ABD: Diocesan Labor College Box, Folder-Pamphlets.
[60]   Review of course rosters and commencement brochures from 1939-1970. ABD: Diocesan Labor College-Various folders.
[61]   ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder: 1939-1942. See also Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, New York, p. 12 and Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. vi. The titles Labor College and Labor School were used interchangeably. See the Buffalo Catholic Directory, years 1940-1974.
[62]   The Labor Leader, October 16, 1939, p.1 & 4.
[63]   Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 18.
[64]   “Labor College, Diocese of Buffalo. Resume, October 16-December 31, 1939. ABD- Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College.
[65]   Buffalo Courier Express, October 1, 1939, p. 2; The Labor Leader, October 16, 1939, p.1; The Union and Echo, October 19, 1939, p. 2  and Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 18-21.
[66]   The Union and Echo, November 16, 1939, p. 8 and Collins, A Brief History of the  Labor College of Buffalo, New York, p. 12.
[67]  Outline of Course in Industrial Management, 1939-1940. ABD- Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Course Description, 1939-1942.
[68]   Buffalo Evening News, December 12, 1939, p. 8.
[69]  Vincent J. McLaughlin, “A Labor School Takes Inventory, The Commonweal,  Vol. 31, January 12, 1940,  p. 262.
[70]  Interview of Msgr. Boland in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 9.
[71]  The Catholic Worker, August 1937, p. 2.
[72]  Ward, “The Role of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists in the Labor Movement,”  p. 187.
[73]  “Labor College-Diocese of Buffalo, Resume October 16, 1939.” Archives Buffalo Diocese (ABD) Diocesan Labor College 1939 Folder.  Fr. Boland enhanced the NY ACTU curriculum for the Buffalo Labor College which became the model for the Baltimore and Philadelphia labor schools.
[74]   Buffalo Evening News, April 29, 1940, p. 13.  After a strong initial enrollment, over half the students discontinue their studies by the end of the school year. The records suggest that many came to see if this was pertinent for them while others did not want to continue with course work.  See ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folders- Pamphlets; Annual Reports.
[75]   The Catholic Labor Observer, October 10, 1946, p. 1 and The Catholic Laborer Observer, June 28, 1951, p. 1 & 4.
[76]   Letter to Frances Engel, Secretary, October 13, 1939. ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Correspondence, 1939-1942.
[77]   Miscellaneous letters; ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Correspondence, 1939-1942.
[78]   Letter of Fr. Paul Meyer to Bishop Duffy, October 20, 1939. The Archdiocese starts a program titled “School for Catholic Workers” that encompasses Catholic social teaching, worker rights, social legislation such as worker’s compensation and Christian ethics.  ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Correspondence, 1939-1942 and Folder-Pamphlets.
[79]   “Labor College-Diocese of Buffalo. Resume, October 16-December 31, 1939.” ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College.
[80]   Letters of Fr. Smith to Bishop Duffy: October 31, 1939 and November 20, 1939; ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Correspondence, 1939-1942.
[81]   Address by Most Reverend John Duffy, Bishop of Buffalo. Opening Forum of Labor College, October 7, 1940.  AUND: Box 1, Folder-Talks, Labor Reports.
[82]   Union and Echo, February 28, 1941, p. 1.
[83]   Union and Echo, January 10, 1941, p. 3.
[84]    Forum topics reflected the issues of that day and comprised areas such as Conciliation and Arbitration, the Labor Press and the New Federal Education Extension Act. The Catholic Labor Observer, February 12, 1948, p. 1 and Union and Echo, April 3, 1955, p. 7.
[85]   Buffalo Evening News, August 5, 1940, p. 13 and April 17, 1942, p. 10.
[86]   Rev. John P. Boland, Legislation and the Papal Encyclicals, AUND: Box 1, Folder-Talks, Labor Reports.
[87]   Union and Echo, January 30, 1942, p. 1 and March 27, 1942, p. 1.
[88]   Flyer. ABD: Box-Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Pamphlets.
[89]   Union and Echo, February 26, 1943, p. 4  and Fortan’s interview of John Cassidy, executive secretary of the college as found in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 34.
[90]   The Catholic Labor Observer, August 29, 1946, p. 1. The Mass and Labor Day parade at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Buffalo, NY, Msgr. Boland’s church, continues to this day.
[91]    The Labor Leader, July 25, 1947, p. 7.
[92]    Boland letter to Roger (unidentified), February 15, 1947; AUND: Box 4, Folder-Correspondence 1945-1947.
[93]    The Labor Leader, August 31, 1949, p. 3 and The Catholic Labor Observer, January 27, 1955, p. 1.
[94]    Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 97
[95]    The Catholic Labor Observer, October 4, 1945, p.1.
[96]   Review of the official diocesan newspapers during the school’s tenure (The Echo, The Magnificat and the Western New York Catholic) reveals only an occasional mention of the diocesan labor education program or any issues pertaining to labor in general.
[97]   The Catholic Labor Observer, October 4, 1945, p. 2.
[98]    Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 97.
[99]    The Catholic Labor Observer, December 25, 1958.  No formal statement was made that this was the last issue.
[100]    Union and Echo, November 17, 1944 p. 1.
[101]    Union and Echo, March 5, 1948, p. 3.
[102]    The Catholic Labor Observer, October 10, 1946, p. 1 and April 8, 1948, p. 3.  St. Agnes Parish was within the city limits of Buffalo but very near Cheektowaga, NY where the Westinghouse facility was located.
[103]  Interviews of Kulpinski, Murphy and Cassidy in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 41-42. Review of archival material neither confirms or disputes this assertion but the author sustains the veracity of this episode as Fortan was directly involved with these individuals. Furthermore, the Westinghouse facility was investigated by the House Un-American Activity Committee in 1953 and 1954 examining Communist infiltration of the union.  See Mark Goodman High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), p. 244.
[104] The Catholic Labor Observer, April 27, 1950, p. 1 April 26, 1956, p. 3 and School Announcement flyers, ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Pamphlets.
[105]  Annual Report, 1956, ABD-Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College and Union and Echo, October 12, 1958, p. 3.
[106]    Harding was secretary to Charles Halloran the President of the Buffalo council of the AFL.  From Kulpinski letter to editor of Everybody’s Daily, Buffalo, NY, January 2, 1954. ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Kulpinski.
[107]   Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 54-55.
[108]   Buffalo Business News, July 1955, p. 17-22.
[109]   The Catholic Labor Observer, September 27, 1956, p. 4.
[110]   The Labor Leader, April 30, 1951, p. 1.
[111]   The Catholic Labor Observer, September-October 1956, p. 1.
[112]   Annual Reports of 1954, 1955, 1956; ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College and Kulpinski interview in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 47.
[113]   New York State Department of Labor, Industrial Bulletin, January 1963: “Success on a Tightrope. Buffalo Diocese Labor School Marks 25th Anniversary, p. 12.” ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College.
[114]   Interview of faculty members John Cassidy and Thomas Murphy, March 1960 in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 79 and Annual Report, 1958, ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College.
[115]   The Catholic Labor Observer, September 26, 1946, p. 1 and October 10, 1946, p.1.
[116]   The Labor Leader, October 18, 1947, p. 3.
[117]    Labor College Report, ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Kulpinski.
[118]    New York State Department of Labor, Industrial Bulletin, January 1963: “Success on a Tightrope. Buffalo Diocese Labor School Marks 25th Anniversary, p. 13.” ABD: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Labor College.
[119]   Labor College Report, ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Kulpinski and Kulpinski interview of November 21, 1959, in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 107.
[120]   The process was confidential and many of the participants remained anonymous. Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 107.
[121]    Edmund Kelley, “Boss and His Union Worker are Classmates in Buffalo School,” Buffalo Evening News Magazine, March 5, 1960, p. 1.
[122]    Labor College Report, ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Kulpinski, and Union and Echo, April 8, 1956, p. 2 and March 24, 1957, p. 6.
[123]    United Steel Workers Local 2604 News, November 18, 1957. Special Collections, Butler Library, Buffalo State College, Folder-Local Unions, USW.
[124]   Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 79-82.
[125]   Buffalo Courier Express, October 2, 1951, p. 11.
[126]   The Catholic Labor Observer, January 24, 1946, p. 3.  The Catholic Laborer Observer often printed editorials denouncing union corruption and communist infiltration in the unions. Archival research indicates that the “agitators” were mostly members of the Communist Party USA although some appeared to be disgruntled employees not affiliated with any particular political “ism” who joined in the labor unrest to protest working conditions or wages.  The Observer published its censure of the UEW in 1951; Msgr. Boland denounced the local UEW elections as “a hideous thing.”  He was vilified by the UEW for his remarks but CIO leaders supported Boland and chastised UEW officials for their comments. See The Labor Leader, August 30, 1951, p. 1 and October 15, 1951, p.1; the section in this chapter on The Catholic Laborer Observer and ADB-Labor College, Kulpinski folder.
[127]   Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 40.
[128]    Interviews of Kulpinski, Murphy and Cassidy in Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 41-42. Review of archival material neither confirms or disputes this assertion but the author sustains the veracity of this episode as Fortan was directly involved with these individuals. Furthermore, the Westinghouse facility was investigated by the House Un-American Activity Committee in 1953 and 1954 examining Communist infiltration of the union.  See Mark Goodman High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), p. 244.
[129]    Enrollment lists: 1955-1970. ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Enrollment folders and Annual Reports.
[130]    The Good Friday Mass of 1954 had 2000 adherents. Letter of James Newman to Kulpinski, April 22, 1954. ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Kulpinski and Folder-Programs, Brochures; Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 114.  By the 1970’s Mass is conducted to accommodate each shift at the Westinghouse  plant. There are no exact numbers of the percentage of Catholics to non-Catholics at the plant but the liturgical services were conducted between shift changes so no time was lost from work and the services would not interfere with regular plant operations or be a hindrance to non-Catholics. Letter of Joseph Funk, Employee Services, Westinghouse to Msgr. Kulpinski, March 11, 1975. ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-Kulpinski.
[131]   See Charles J. McCollester, ed. Fighter with a Heart. The Writings of Charles Owen Rice, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996);  Steve Rosswurm, The CIO’s Left-Led Unions (1992) and Patrick McGreever, Rev. Charles Owen Rice. Apostle of Contradiction (1989). Violence at the Pittsburgh Westinghouse plant was common as it also was in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
[132]    ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folders- Pamphlets; Annual Reports.
[133]    Ed Kelley, “Boss and His Union Workers Are Classmates in Buffalo School,” Buffalo Evening News Magazine, March 5, 1960, p. 1 and Fortan, History of the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo, p. 40-42, 72, 107 and 113-116.
[134]    The Labor Leader, September 26, 1938, p. 1.
[135]    ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folders: Pamphlets and Annual Reports.
[136]    ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folders: Pamphlets; Course Descriptions from 1960-1974.
[137] Labor Management College Course Description and registration form: 1968, 1970, 1972. ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder- Course Descriptions.
[138] Goodman, High Hopes,  p. 273.
[139]   Directories for the diocese list 1977 as the last year of the Diocesan Labor College but examination of the material reveals that the last classes were conducted in 1975.
[140]   Obituary of Msgr. Kulpinski, Western New York Catholic, January, 1986, p. 45.
[141]    Buffalo Courier Express, October 1, 1939, p. 2 and ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-1939-1942.
[142]   Review of enrollment records and annual reports from 1939-1975; ADB: Diocesan Labor College, various folders.
[143]    Review of enrollment records and annual reports from 1939-1975; ADB: Diocesan Labor College, various folders.
[144]    Letter of James Hughes, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, to Bishop Duffy, September 9, 1942. ADB: Diocesan Labor College, Folder-1939-1942.

1 comment:

  1. I would be very interested in speaking with Mr. Lubienecki regarding some family research I am conducting. Fr. John Boland was my great uncle. I can be reached at Thank you!