Interviewees

Immordino, Robert

Description:

Robert Immordino’s parents, immigrants from Sicily, moved to the United States in the early 1900s and raised their family in Trenton, New Jersey. During his youth, he witnessed his father struggle through difficult working conditions to provide for his family. Also during this time, Robert was taken out of school and required to work. These experiences eventually led him to become active in various workers' unions throughout his life.

Fifteen-year-old Robert first worked at Jay’s Bombers, a Trenton-based company that sold bathroom accessories. Later, while studying at night school, he read the book 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, which spurred his activism. He found out that the authors ran an organization called Consumer’s Research in Washington, New Jersey, and quickly joined the organization. As he states, "I was then going to save the world for the consumer." Into the late 1930s, Immordino became involved with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1938 and organized a strike at his father’s factory to improve working conditions there.

When World War II broke out in Europe, Robert followed the situation closely due to his family ties in Italy. He became part of The American Committee Against the War on Fascism to further express his distaste for the situation caused by Hitler and Mussolini across the sea.

When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Robert had been recently married and was heavily involved in the CIO and the Electrical Workers Union at General Electric's facilities. There, he became aware of how the war affected the US economy and the organization of new unions due to changing production needs.

After being drafted, Immordino considered himself lucky when he was being trained in the US Navy--since he could type, he was able to become a yeoman. Due to his skill, he stayed in boot camp for much longer and was able to go to radar school. His time there paid off because, when he went into action in the Pacific in the Philippines and Okinawa, he mostly served away from direct combat on invasion command ships. Yet, Japanese kamikazes posed a constant threat.

He also discusses his experiences surviving a typhoon and working with Nisei (Japanese Americans) on his ship in his interview. After V-J Day, Robert served in the occupation of China and aimed to make the most of his experience there. He spent his free time touring cities like Tsingtao and Tientsin and speaking with Russian expatriates there.

After the war, Immordino was very anxious to get back to work. He notes that he felt that working with the unions was his calling. He once again became involved with unions at General Electric. In 1961, his work at GE ended after he was injured in an electrical accident. He then worked for his hometown of Lawrence Township, New Jersey, as the city assessor. He participated in frequent civic volunteer activity, helping to document and publicize the town's history. He was instrumental in bringing a library branch to Lawrence Township.

 

The Rutgers Oral History Archives received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. In the 2020-2021 cycle, this grant assisted the ROHA staff in making this oral history available to you for your use.