James McFadden, Labor Chief, Dies at 83

by Douglas Martin

James J. McFadden, New York City’s chief labor negotiator under Mayor Robert F. Wagner, died on Tuesday in Valhalla, N.Y. He was 83.p. The cause was complications of leukemia, his son Peter said. Mr. McFadden lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.p. He was acting labor commissioner for three and a half years from 1963 to 1966, but Mayor Wagner was unwilling to promote him to the full title. Peter McFadden, his son, suggested that the reason was his father’s willingness to oppose unions that supported Mr. Wagner.p. In particular, Mr. McFadden pressed unions to admit members of minorities, and he told The New York Times in an interview in 1963 that “these exclusive unions are getting annoying to all of us.”p. Mr. McFadden found a way to make sure he was paid the full commissioner’s salary after he was promoted from first deputy labor commissioner to acting commissioner. When he resigned in 1966, after John V. Lindsay became mayor, he told The Times that he had written a note to the city treasurer’s office every two weeks requesting the difference between an acting commissioner’s salary of $15,000 a year and that of a full commissioner, $20,000. Every three months, he said, he received a check for the difference.p. When Mayor Wagner was asked in 1963 why he did not promote Mr. McFadden, he said, “I won’t be pressured.”p. The mayor nonetheless gave Mr. McFadden considerable responsibility, making him his chief labor negotiator and assigning him to deal with disputes between unions and private companies in the city. His work ranged from pension reform to developing technical training for minority workers.p. James Joseph McFadden was born in Altoona, Pa., on Dec. 1, 1919. His father, an immigrant from Ireland, worked for the railroad, and the boy developed an appreciation for the experience of workers. The family stretched their finances to send him to Notre Dame, where he majored in political science. p. After graduation, he got a job with the steelworkers’ union, and went on to work for the C.I.O. and the Textile Workers Union. He was also on the staff of the National Labor Relations Board in Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston and, finally, New York.p. Mr. McFadden spent a brief time at law school at Catholic University in Washington, but did not like the law. He met Helen Nieters in Washington and married her. She died in 1993.p. He is survived by his sons, James of Madison, Wis., William of Denver, Patrick of Baltimore, Peter of Cold Spring, N.Y., and Christopher of Yonkers; his daughters Helen Ann Graziano of Mount Laurel, N.J., and Elizabeth McFadden of Yonkers; nine grandchildren; and his sister, Mary Margaret Abrashoff of Altoona.p. Mr. McFadden was an active Democrat, and in 1948 was in charge of arrangements for the final stop in President Harry S. Truman’s famous whistle-stop campaign. He shared an office with Mr. Wagner, who later became mayor and hired him in 1954 to work in the city’s Labor Department.p. After he left municipal government, Mr. McFadden started the Manpower Education Institute, which helped high school dropouts get diplomas, among other things. In 1976, he made a feature-length documentary on the history of the American labor movement, “If You Don’t Come In Sunday, Don’t Come In Monday.”p. The title referred to a common way of discriminating against Catholics that Mr. McFadden remembered watching his father and other railroad workers face back in Pennsylvania.p. p. Copyright – 2003, New York Times

TopicID: 418