George Meany was the creator of the U.S. labor movement. Born in New York City on August 16, 1894, Meany was a union plumber by trade, and proud of it. During his lifetime, this plumber became one of the most accomplished men in the world. Few ever did, or will, make such constructive contributions to the quality of life, living, and working in this country.
During the Meany years, the AFL-CIO became an effective, driving champion of the rights of the oppressed and the needy. He was an outspoken defender of individual freedom. The AFL-CIO he headed was the driving force behind national policies for social change, and improved employment conditions in America attest to the success of those efforts.
George Meany made notable contributions to the growth of American unions. He played a vital and commanding role in the merger of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the American Federation of Labor. This was his signal achievement, and by acclamation, a grateful merged labor movement named him president of the newly-created AFL-CIO. As his successor Lane Kirkland said: “The merger was not a climax, but just a beginning of George Meany’s greatest years of service.” This is attested by the fact that the 13th AFL-CIO convention named Meany president emeritus for life.
George Meany was proud of the Labor Studies Center, the site of the George Meany Memorial Archives. In the sunset of his life, he spent many Sunday afternoons, often accompanied by members of his family, strolling the campus of the Center. Meany died on January 10, 1980 at the age of 85 and is buried at Gate of Heavens in Silver Spring, Maryland.