Mike Quill

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Dec 14 12:16:37 MST 1999

The Washington Post, July 22, 1978, Saturday, Final Edition

When New York had to Walk;  Mike Quill, a Man Who Made N.Y. City Walk;  The
Tactics of Michael Quill.

By Joseph P. Mastrangelo

The parking garages had the "Full" signs up early on the second day of the
Metro strike, while motorists sat in loag, still lines hating their cars
and what was happening to them.

The heat seemed to come in quicker than other days and to set in longer
than most.

The air pollution went up about as high as the monument and was then forced
down by the carbon dioxide left over from the day before.

"It was great," said an optimist. "There were no buses around to bother

It was a new angle of the Metro service that commuters hadn't thought
about, but something that a man named Michael J. Quill, president of the
Transport Workers Union in New York City had used many times to wreck the
image of mayors.

They used to call him "Red Mike Quill." His style of fighting was to create
a donnybrook of words and wade through it in his deep Irish brogue, as the
waved his blackthorn cane, bringing mayors to heel and making a city walk
with his "take-it-or-leave-it" bargaining, this Quill the Quintessential

Quill told the mayor and people of New York in September that they would be
walking to parties on New Year's Eve.

The strikes for the most part would be brief slowdowns to give the
commuters a taste of what it was like to hike it.

It was Jan. 1, 1966, when a young mayor named John Lindsay sat behind the
desk at City Hall, the first Republican mayor in 20 years.

His campaign slogan had been: "Big cities can be managed," but Quill had
other ideas. He closed down transportation - subways and buses - for 12 days.

Manhattan became a parking lot with traffic stopped from the Battery to the
Harlem River and sideways from the Hudson to the East River.

Fire trucks couldn't get to fires, ambulances were stalled in traffic, and
some people deserted their cars. Companies converted their delivery trucks
for transporting people to work.

Lindsay appealed to the people, saying. "Please, if you are not essential
to your job, remain at home."

He filled the streets with that request. Who could feel "not-essential" at
his job? People got off the couch and went into the city so neighbors
wouldn't talk. In Washington yesterday, many people weren't feeling too
essential - they took a vacation day instead.

If you used your car while crossing the George Washington Bridge or
entering the Holland Tunnel, the police would stop you, open the doors and
four people would get in from a long line, and you would all sit quietly as
you hoped you weren't with one of New York's "most wanted".

Quill had come from Kilgarven, Ireland, where at the age of 15 he had fired
a shot into a British regiment who were coming to the Quill household, the
IRA headquarters for South Kerry.

Mike ran to the hills and escaped while many were arrested.

Quill, along with eight of his top men in the union were ordered to jail
for contempt on January 4, 1966, saying, about the judge. "May he drop dead
in his black robes . . . I'll rot in jail . . . I won't appeal . . . I
don't give a damn."

He also had a few things to say about Lindsay when he called him a
"pipsqueak" and a "juvenile."

He then collapsed in the warden's office, apparently of a heart attack and
was taken to a hospital.

On January 29, 1966, 17 days after the end of the strike Quill died of a
heart attack at age 60. [This surprises me. I thought he was much older. He
had a shock of white hair.]

The hospital switchboard was jammed with calls, mostly "nasty or obscene."
Such is the fate for a nasty, old infighter whose ghost hovers above
Washington today.

Louis Proyect

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