New Haven Labor History Association Annual Conference and Meeting June 25: Reviving the Labor Movement

Steve Kass, GNHLHA Executive Board, President

This year’s annual conference and meeting of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA) will honor an organization and an individual with the “Pass It On” awards in addition to having a keynote address on reviving the labor movement.

The honorees are IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services) and Frank R. Annunziato.

1) IRIS started in 1982 and continues to this day to be a vital organization that works in New Haven to resettle refugees and other immigrants from around the world since 1982. IRIS is named after the iris flower, which thrives all over the world and is a symbol of hope and faith.

The numbers and nationalities of clients have fluctuated as the world has changed in the past 34 years. Currently, IRIS addresses the critical needs of hundreds of refugees; about 420 arrived in New Haven and surrounding towns in 2016. Refugees come from a wide range of war-torn countries, including Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

IRIS recognizes that welcoming persecuted people from other countries is both an ancient and universal custom, and part of a long tradition in the United States. In today’s political climate of hatred and mistrust, organizations such as this provide an extremely important beacon of hope to us all. This award also recognizes the historical link between immigration and labor.

2) Frank R. Annunziato’s career and commitment to the labor movement spans almost 50 years. He is an academic (PhD thesis on collective bargaining in education), writer, teacher, workshop leader, activist, labor historian and organizer. He recently retired as the Executive Director of the University of Rhode Island, American Association of University Professors after 17 years. He was the founding president of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association in 1988.

As always, there will be time for refreshments and socializing with our troubadour, Frank Panzarella, serenading us with labor songs. Please join us on Sunday, June 25 from 1:30 – 4 p.m. at the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council, 267 Chapel St.

Changes at the Labor History Association

by Joan Cavanagh, Archivist/Director, GNH Labor History Assoc.

2016 is a year of transition for the Greater New Haven Labor History Association. As of Dec. 31, I will be leaving my position as Archivist/ Director because there is no further funding available to maintain it. LHA will return to its roots as an all-volunteer organization, guided by the efforts of its Executive Board and membership.

To prepare for this change, I am spending this fall organizing our archival holdings (including the historical records of LHA) for transfer to Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UConn in Storrs. They are establishing a Greater New Haven Labor History Association Collection. The materials we have already gathered will thus be preserved in a climate controlled facility and made available to researchers by UConn’s archivists. We encourage individuals, union locals and other relevant organizations to donate their papers, memorabilia and historical documents to the Collection. Contact Laura Katz Smith at laura.katz.smith@uconn.edu or (860) 486-2516 for information about it.

On a personal note: it has been my privilege and joy to work with the Board and the members of the Labor History Association for the past 16 years. We brought LHA into the 21st century along with its mission to collect, preserve, share and celebrate the history, culture and traditions of working people and their unions in our community and beyond.

Moving forward, LHA will help to ensure that current and future generations understand the heritage and struggles of workers through the creation of a labor history curriculum for Connecticut’s public schools as well as by carrying out other projects spearheaded by the Board and our membership. Please, get involved. If you haven’t yet become a member, please do. If you’re already a member, please consider joining the Board or a project committee. And, if you have a special project you’ve always wanted to see the organization undertake, now’s the time! Remember: We Are All Workers! (P.S. Check out the LHA exhibit on Winchester workers, now showing at Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven until Nov. 15, and on line at http://exhibits.winchesterworkers.gnhlha.org.)

For a picture of Joan Cavanagh, director of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, with Craig Gauthier, former president of Local 609 of the International Association of Machinists, visit the link below. They are holding one of the panels of an exhibit on Olin-Winchester labor history, outside Wells Fargo Bank in New Haven visit the link below

: Randall Beach: Winchester exhibit evokes New Haven era of union, community solidarity

Labor History & Related Films Available at Best Video

from the GNH Labor History Association Newsletter, Sep-Oct 2016

Best Video Film and Cultural Center and the GNH Labor History Association have worked together to make labor history films available to educators and the general public in a convenient way. The films, located next to the political documentaries shelf, are available for a small fee at the store at 1842 Whitney Ave., Hamden.

The two small non-profit organizations hope to expand the collection through grants and donations.

Let us know if you can help!

The films include:

  • The Organizer (Italian film with Marcello Mastroianni as an itinerant labor organizer)
  • The Take (Naomi Klein documentary on workers taking over Argentinian factories)
  • The Wobblies (documentary on the International Workers of the World (IWW))
  • Norma Rae (Sally Field as a woman who gets involved in organizing in a textile factory)
  • Matewan (John Sayles movie about a 1920s coal strike)
  • Bread and Roses (Drama starring Adrian Brody about Justice for Janitors campaign in LA)
  • The Molly Maguires (Sean Connery in a drama about Irish-American secret society fighting for justice in the coal mines circa late 19th century)
  • Newsies (musical about striking newsboys)
  • American Dream (documentary about the Hormel strike)
  • Harlan County USA (Oscar-winning drama about violent 1973 coal miners strike in Kentucky)
  • F.I.S.T. (1978 drama starring Sylvester Stallone loosely based on Jimmy Hoffa’s career)
  • Hoffa (Jack Nicholson stars as Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa)
  • The Devil and Miss Jones (1941 screwball comedy about a tycoon who goes underground to foil a union organizing campaign in his store)

    Hank Hoffman from Best Video was instrumental in supporting this collaborative project.

Labor History Association Annual Conference and Meeting, June 5: Looking Back, Going Forward

by Joan Cavanagh, GNHLHA Archivist/ Director

This year’s annual conference and meeting of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association will honor the organization’s late President, Nicholas Aiello, showcase its 28 year history and give our members and friends an opportunity to brainstorm about the future.

Frank Annunziato, who co-founded LHA with Nick in 1988, will give a presentation about the organization’s mission and its early years, inviting contributions from others who were among its first members. The Director and current Executive Board members, including Bill Berndtson, President, and Steve Kass, Vice President, will talk about LHA’s work during the first 16 years of the 21st century.

Author Anthony Riccio, who interviewed Nick for his books, The Italian American Experience in New Haven and  Farms, Factories and Families will present “Sisters and Sweatshops: The Life of Nick Aiello” and will give this year’s Augusta Lewis Troup Award to Louise Fortin, Nick’s sister and a retired garment worker.

As always, there will be time for refreshments and socializing and our troubadour, Frank Panzarella, will serenade us with labor songs.

If you have memories to share about Nick or the organization’s history, ideas about how we should move forward in this new century, and/or simply want to learn more about LHA, please join us on June 5th to look back at what has been accomplished and to imagine and plan the future of our mission to document and celebrate working class history.

2016 Annual Conference and Meeting: Labor History: Looking Back, Going Forward

Joan Cavenaugh, Archivist/Director, GNH Labor History Association

The theme of this year’s annual conference and meeting on Sunday, June 5, from 1:30 to 4:40 p.m., has a special poignancy given the death of our co-founder and President Emeritus, Nicholas Aiello, last November, as well as the passing of so many of our members in recent years. We will be honoring them and looking back at the history of this organization as we also envision our future.

laborAnthony Riccio’s presentation, “Sisters and Sweatshops: The Life of Nick Aiello,” will be a keynote, with discussion to follow. We urge all who have memories of Nick and stories to share to come prepared to do so!

There will also be a presentation about LHA’s 28 year history, followed by a discussion of its future. This is a crucial time not only to look back at what has been accomplished, but to imagine and begin to plan ways to accomplish the organization’s continuing goals in a social climate that is markedly different than it was in 1988. We need all hands on deck for this discussion session!

This year’s Augusta Lewis Troup award will be presented to Louise Fortin, sister of Nicholas Aiello and a retired garment worker.

The conference will conclude with the annual meeting, where members in good standing will vote on the newest by-laws revisions and for the slate of officers for 2016-2018.

If you have memorabilia from Nick’s life or from the 28 years of the Labor History Association’s work, please contact us ASAP. We’re thinking about possible formats to display such things for posterity.
Visit the conference website at http://www.conference.ctcor.org.

NICHOLAS AIELLO, Dec. 14, 1924-Nov. 5, 2015

by Joan Cavanagh, archivist and director, GNHLHA

nicholas-aielloWith great sadness the Greater New Haven Labor History Association records the death of our co-founder, President Emeritus and inspiration, Nicholas Aiello.

Nick was a long time organizer and business agent for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Local 125. Raised on Wallace Street, he came from a family of Italian-American garment workers. From a family of 14, Nick had seven sisters, all of whom worked in the industry for years. The pre-union conditions were “horrible,” as Nick described in an interview published in Anthony Riccio’s The Italian American Experience in New Haven: Images and Oral Histories, 2006:

“When New York got completely organized, the ‘runaway shops’… ran to New Haven where there were no union shops. And they would open up a storefront. They’d put twenty, thirty machines on the fourth floor and most of the stitching plants were on the fourth floor with no elevator … Then in the 1930s came the Amalgamated and they started organizing drives in the area.”

Nick also brought his passion as a union organizer to other endeavors, as a member of the New Haven Board of Aldermen, as Commissioner for the New Haven Housing Authority and as a leader for the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council.

In 1988, recognizing the importance of keeping labor and working class history alive for present and future generations, Nick co-founded the Greater New Haven Labor History Association with other labor activists. He was active in the organization for the rest of his life.

GNHLHA will honor Nick as part of our 2016 annual conference and meeting. Tentative date: June 5th.

Labor History Association to Give Awards to Rick Wolff and Mike Dennehy at June 7 Annual Conference

by Joan Cavanagh, Archivist/ Director GNHLHA

The Labor History Association will hold its annual conference and meeting on Sunday, June 7, 2015 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Council/Teachers Building, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven CT. The recipients of this year’s Augusta Lewis Troup Preservation Awards are Rick Wolff and the late Mike Dennehy.

Named by The New York Times Magazine as “America’s most prominent Marxist economist,” former long-time New Haven resident, Rick Wolff, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts. Since his move to New York City, he has been an organizer of the Left Forum, broadcasts a program on WBAI (Pacifica Radio), and writes regularly for The Guardian and Truthout.org. He has appeared on a number of high-profile TV interview programs including Bill Moyers, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, Charlie Rose and Glen Beck.

His books include: Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What To Do About It (2009); Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian (2012); and Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (2012).

Mike Dennehy, 55, passed away on April 22, 2014, while attending an arbitration hearing for a member of the Greater CT Area Local 237 of the American Postal Workers Union. He gave 34 years of service to the United States Postal Service and was a union member or officer for all that time. He held numerous offices in his union, from Vice President of the Bridgeport local to his final position as a Vice President of the Greater Connecticut area local in charge of representing associate offices. He was a credit to labor and his profession. Labor History will be presenting his Augusta Lewis Troup award posthumously, to be accepted by family members.

Further details of the conference will follow. For more information, contact joan@laborhistory.org.