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The Greater New York Industrial Union was organized in 1938. As with all city central labor bodies, its objects were by united action to protect, maintain and advance the interests of the affiliated unions and membership in this territory, to extend unionism on the basis of industrial organization, to secure legislation in the interests of working people and cooperate with the state and national CIO. The Council was composed of delegates from affiliated local unions in the City of New York and vicinity.

Its official organization was founded July 24, 1940 at a special congress of representatives of CIO affiliates held at the Hotel Mc Alpin. Allan S. Haywood, National Director of the CIO and former President of the New York State CIO presided. Joseph Curran, President of the National Maritime Union and Saul Kills, a member of the American Newspaper Guild were unanimously elected first president and secretary-treasurer, respectively. By June 1942, the Council represented 500,000 members of some 250 CIO locals in greater New York.

By 1948, communism in labor unions was a serious issue. A special subcommittee of the House of Representatives of Congress was appointed to investigate communist infiltration in labor unions and several New York City CIO unions were investigated, among them the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America and the Teachers Union of the City of New York, United Public Workers of America and Department Store Employees Union.

The City Council planned a mass picketing demonstration to protest the House investigation and to promote Henry Wallace as a candidate for President on a third party ticket. This split the New York Council in two. Several right wing unions withdrew, protesting the use of an economic weapon for purely political purposes and the Council's refusal to follow the National CIO policy which opposed Wallace's third party and supported the European Recovery Program.

CIO President Philip Murray appointed a three man board in October to hear charges against the Council's officers, and the Board reported to Mr. Murray that the Council had been following a pro-communist line. The report was given to the National CIO Executive Board, which revoked the Charter of the Council at the annual meeting in November.

The New York State organization was made responsible for closing the offices and liquidating the funds of the Council.