BY SAM RAPPAPORT
Thomas Van Arsdale, a prominent Queens union leader, died on May 20, at the age of 94. Van Arsdale was an active trade unionist throughout his life as a member of Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He held positions as the business manager and treasurer of Local 3 IBEW and served as the president of the New York City Central Labor Council for nearly a decade.
Van Arsdale, who was born in Ozone Park in 1924, came from a family of unionists. Van Arsdale’s grandfather, Harry Van Arsdale Sr., was an electrician and member of the mechanical workers union that would later become Local 3 IBEW. Van Arsdale’s father, Harry Van Arsdale Jr., joined the leadership of Local 3 IBEW at age 28. In 1968, Van Arsdale succeeded his father as the union’s business manager, a position he would hold for 38 years.
“Being the son of Harry Van Arsdale, I don’t think he had a chance to go anywhere but where the heart of the family has been, and that is with the members of Local 3,” current Local 3 business manager Christopher Erikson said of Van Arsdale in a video posted to the union’s website.
Van Arsdale Jr. became the first president of the NYC Labor Council, in 1958, and held that position until his death in 1986. One month after his father’s death, Van Arsdale was elected to succeed his father as the second president of the NYC Labor Council. He remained in this position until 1995.
Following his retirement from Local 3 IBEW in 2007, Van Arsdale was featured in a video that celebrated his work for the union.
“I’m reasonably proud of all the work I’ve done over the years,” Van Arsdale said. “It hasn’t been a perfect answer to every question, but I feel that I’ve given as much as I could to the best of my ability.”
Van Arsdale was buried on May 23 at Mt. St. Mary’s Cemetery in Fresh Meadows.