I met Ralph at the Newspaper Guild headquarters around the first days of the strikes when all hell broke loose, when the scabs came in from the buses. The Chicago Tribune were the owners of the Daily News and they brought in busloads of scabs; holed them up in hotels in 42 street next to the Daily News building and when the moment was right for them to create an incident, they moved the scabs in to the Brooklyn production facility and ah, violence erupted to say the least.

Within a day or two after that we were in the newspaper guild headquarters picking up bundles of The Real News—which was produced with the striking Daily News editorial staff, Lauren Draper, Bill Farrell, my brother—and handing them out as an alternative strike newspaper.

And I had seen Ralph’s work in various union halls. The Central Labor Council had the Bread & Roses poster up there. Cornell’s Labor School on 25th street had a print also, and I didn’t realize that he was still amongst us.

And when I saw him on the other side of the room talking to Tom Robbins and Jerry Capeci, getting information on what was going on, just investigating the strike, seeing if he was going to devote how much his energy to this and I asked, “Who’s the old guy?" and they said “that’s Ralph Fasanella” and I had seen him in other documentaries on baseball and art and the Sunday night fundraisers on PBS and what have you and I didn’t know he was still amongst us.

And I went over and introduced myself and he put his arm around me and said, “Show me around.” He came to the picket line, first on 42 St and then he called his wife and said he was going to come over to Brooklyn.

The police had a ring around the building, had horses, and you could see him light up when he saw the workers on one side, being blocked off, we couldn’t get into the plant, we had to get a court injunction, the ACLU had to file an injunction to get us the right to picket in front of the building and the police were more or less escorting the scabs right past us. This is the front of the building on Pacific Street. It’s now mixed use real estate. The Tribune Company parlayed that into several millions of dollars but that’s another story.

We were on the other side of the barricade and we had a little fire going on and Ralph just, first thing he did was bum a cigarette. I can say that now. His wife’s not here, God rest her soul. He had emphysema, and he couldn’t wait to connect, and you can see him light up and just talking to the people on the picket line and just being energized. He just got a grasp of it.

He explored it, I don’t know, like an actor studying for a part, like just getting into it, and you could see him transform into what was going on and just being a striker, just really feeling the injury that we felt, being replaced, you know, and having police protection for the other side.

He came down to the picket line a couple of nights a week and walked the line on 42nd street. Everywhere there was an event, we had rallies every weekend and Ralph was there and he had his notepad.

After we got back in to the building, Ralph came to the press room. He came inside the building, saw the way the presses were laid out and once the scabs were gone, we resumed work, he would sit down in the morning and he would draw all day, from 8 o’clock in the morning, until four thirty, five o’clock—he had to get out by the time the night shift came and the presses started to run, too much noise and it was dangerous for him to be around.

But he created so many drawings that lead to this painting and he just, you felt like he was in it from the very beginning and he felt what it meant to be “permanently replaced” were the words of the day.

It changed my life meeting him. He was a special friend. I took a lot of heat from the strikers for not being on the line at all hours of the night, and Ralph was sympathetic to my plight.

We were trying o build coalitions with unions and get support for the strike and Ralph, he showed me the painting and said, there you are, you’ll always be in the picket line with them.

He welcomed me into his family; he was the salt of the earth. When he would go into classroom and he would tell the kids “go make a revolution.” When I saw him do that, it was great. He was nobody’s fool, he could sit back and play possum. If someone was being belligerent with him, he would say “mister, you don’t know what you’re talking about, go read a freaking book.” I’m cleaning it, but friend of the working man: Ralph Fasanella, absolutely.
—Larry Farrell, Daily News pressman
Share your recollections about Ralph Fasanella—if you knew him—OR if you knew his paintings. His art set the tone in many a workplace, classroom and union office—what did it mean to you? We invite you to share a personal story about the artist and/or about the art. Send your submission to Include a photo of yourself if possible. Submissions may be featured in this online exhibition; all will be archived at the American Folk Art Museum.