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James Gallagher

Passed On: August 2, 1990

James W. Gallagher, 42, a social worker who as a union organizer in the 1980s helped make the Communications Workers of America a dominant labor union in New Jersey, died of a heart attack Thursday while visiting a friend in Langhorne.

Mr. Gallagher was born in Easton, Pa., and was a 1965 graduate of Easton High School. He had lived in Trenton since his graduation from Rider College, Lawrenceville, N.J., in 1969 and for the last several years had been a resident of the tightknit blue-collar Trenton neighborhood known as Chambersburg.

He began his career as a social worker for the Mercer County Board of Social Services and later was a social worker for New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family in Mercer.

In 1979, Mr. Gallagher helped lead a 4 1/2-day strike of state workers fighting for higher wages. The associations that at the time bargained for state employees did not back them in the strike.

In 1980, he took a leave of absence from his social work job to help form the State Worker Organizing Committee and was instrumental in the CWA's successfully organizing 32,000 state workers.

"He worked Mercer County, conducting meetings and encouraging people to vote for CWA," said Linda Arcolia, a secretary at CWA who knew him for 12 years. "We won the election statewide and Mercer County went for CWA."

In 1981, Mr. Gallagher was elected founding president of CWA Local 1039, which now represents more than 3,600 state workers in human services.

Today, the CWA is the largest AFL-CIO union in New Jersey.

In 1987, after serving two terms as president of Local 1039, Mr. Gallagher

went to work as a staff representative for CWA Local 1033, which represents more than 6,000 state workers in such departments as the Treasurer's Office, the Attorney General's Office, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, and civilian employees of the State Police in Mercer County. He was employed by CWA Local 1033 at the time of his death. Mr. Gallagher was also vice president for public workers, Mercer County AFL-CIO, from 1987 until his death.

He was chairman of the CWA Mercer County Political Action Committee and political action committee liaison for CWA Local 1033. Mr. Gallagher was a member of the Luke Dillon Brigade, Northern Irish Aid. He was also chairman of Mercer County Labor for Jesse Jackson in 1988.

He was the son of the late James T. Gallagher.

He is survived by his mother, Lorraine Kromer Gallagher, and a sister, Patricia Gallagher, both of Easton.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today at James J. Palmeri Funeral Home, Route 611 and Alpha Avenue, Martins Creek, Pa. A viewing will begin at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Forks Church Cemetery in Easton.

CWA Local 1033 has established the James W. Gallagher Scholarship Fund, which will award annual scholarships as a tribute to Mr. Gallagher's lifelong pursuit of social and economic justice. Memorial contributions to the fund can be sent in care of CWA Local l033, 321 W. State St., Trenton 08618.