New York, NY — Dan Kane Sr. has been a member of the union since 1962, and today is as active as ever. He now serves as
Eastern Regional vice-president with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and has been in that position for 13 years. He has been a member of his Local for 56 years, originally Local 111, which merged into Local 202 in 2012. He was principal officer at 111 from 1971 through 2012, was on the board as recording secretary in 1968, a shop steward previous to that.
As a worker, he began as a communication technician with an international communications company, Western Union Cables. “We maintained circuits between the United States and European countries, and South America,” he says.
His achievements are many. As a principal officer, he administered affairs of the union and negotiated multiple labor agreements, in what he says was an “activist local.” A particular challenge was representing international communications workers, and dealing with multi-national companies, in France, Ireland, and England, building “good relations internationally.” “It came to fruition,” he says, “during a 96-day strike, with 700 workers in 1984. The company MCI was the fastest growing company of its size in the history of American business according to the Wall Street Journal. MCI, a notoriously anti-union company, bought Western Union Cable which ultimately led to a labor strike. We prevailed, however. They were trying to eliminate the union and we are still there – that shop still exists 33 years later. Now they are gone, but we are not.”
Other work included working on international solidarity, helping labor unions facilitate solidarity with Irish trade unions and others, such as British coal miners. “The British Mine strike under Margaret Thatcher was the biggest strike post-WW II,” he says. “Thatcher really attacked that union.” Back then, Kane Sr.’s union hosted a committee to help coal miners with their British cause, promoting knowledge about the situation, doing fundraising, and encouraging unity and links with coal miners here, who were struggling under Reagan’s attacks.
These days, front and center in Kane Sr.’s mind is concern about the erosion of what he deems “civil rights” for workers. “It’s a question of not enough being said about the rights of workers to join unions,” he says. “It’s the suppression of those rights by threats of firing.” He says that people are not organizing, despite statistics showing that 50% of workers would join a union if they weren’t intimidated. “They are not joining, not because they don’t want to, but because it’s tremendously difficult to have to put your job on the line.” For Kane Sr., this is effectually an attack on our freedoms, and our democracy itself. We used to look at other countries and say, if a country didn’t have a free labor movement, it’s not a democracy.” Now he sees that happening here. “I think we should be saying that upfront,” he adds. “How can we say we have a free labor movement when we can’t freely join it.”
Kane Sr. speaks passionately and shows no signs of slowing down. He, along with his wife Stacey, takes care of three dogs and live in Oceangrove, NJ, and is a father to three children, Dan Jr., President of Teamsters Local 202,Walter, a Labor attorney and former Teamster, and James, Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 522.