"I first became involved with the Greater New Haven Labor History Association during the summer of 2009 as a student intern inventorying the Local Lodge 609 collection. I really liked the work the group was doing and became more actively involved in the beginning of 2010. At this time I was settling down in New Haven and had become interested in the incredibly rich history of our city.
"I felt as though the way in which labor unions tied in with the history of the city was incredible. I learned that my favorite aspects of history, namely the interactions between people and their past and the power of the narrative, were right in the city in which I lived. New Haven labor history, as I am learning, is both social and geographic. Each of our neighborhoods have vast histories of their own and yet can also be tied together into one comprehensive historical narrative.
"I feel that the Greater New Haven Labor History Association is the group which is best facilitating a comprehensive historical analysis. I am both enthusiastic and proud to contribute to an organization so important to the city I have grown quite attached to."
Nick Aiello of UNITE! talks with Ray Pompano of Local 243. Nina Wolfson sits with Mary Johnson (back of head unmistakable!) Both are Labor History Association Executive Board members and active members also of the New Haven Federation of Teachers’ Retirees Chapter.
Mary Doherty JohnsonMary Doherty Johnson was born on March 29, 1922, in Winsted, CT. Mary attended the New Haven State Teacher’s College and pursued a career as an elementary teacher in New Haven. Mary taught at Troup Middle School in New until her retirement in 1982.
Johnson’s family has been an important part of her life, but an equally
significant part has been her ongoing labor, peace, civil rights and
social justice activism, dating back to the 1950’s. Like many activists, Mary says that the Vietnam War propelled her more deeply into peace work in the 1960’s and 70’s. In the 1980’s, she protested United States intervention in Central America.
activist on both the national and local level, Mary was a member of
Spinsters Opposed to Nuclear Genocide (SONG), a New Haven based women’s
affinity group. Mary joined the New Haven Federation of
Teachers in 1967 and was a member of the Executive Board until her
In 1974, Mary got involved in the national organizing
effort of the United Farm workers' Union, helping to strengthen a New
Haven committee that leafleted, picketed, and passed out information
about the boycott of Gallo wine (made from non-union picked grapes.)
Over the years, Mary has been involved with many other organizations
such as the May Day Celebration Committee; the Coalition to Stop
Trident; the Pledge of Resistance; and the New Haven Coalition Against
the War in the Gulf. She supported the efforts of the Yale labor unions
and was active in the movement to pressure Yale to divest its holdings
from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. In the 1990s, she worked with
a group of citizens who were outraged that the city of New Haven, under
pressure from a downtown redeveloper, removed several key bus stops
from the central downtown area.
continues to be an active member of several groups which address a wide
range of social justice issues, including the Greater New Haven Central
Labor Council, the New Haven Federation of Teachers Retiree Chapter,
the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, the Coalition for
People, the Middle East Crisis Committee, and People Against Injustice.
Mary has worked with Archivist Joan Cavanagh to have a Records Inventory performed for her by the GNHLHA. Learn more about Mary's history or learn about how you can have your historical narrative captured with your own Records Inventory.
Meet Anthony Riccio, GNHLHA member, supporter, and author of the critically acclaimed book "The Italian American Experience in New Haven: Images and Oral Histories", released in 2006.
Kevin LynchMeet Kevin Lynch, a new member of the GNHLHA with a long-standing family history of labor activism with New Haven ties. The Lynch family's involvement with organized labor extends to both Kevin's father Charles and his sons Austin and Brendan.
Kevin's parents were Irish immigrants: Charles was a founding member of New York's Transport Workers' Union, and his wife, Catherine, worked as a seamstress in the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union. In September 1949, on the day which was to be the first day of school for then-five-year-old Kevin, Charles suffered a horrible accident on the job, breaking his back and all four limbs while investigating elevated track. Needless to say, Kevin never made it to school that day. The accident required six years of hospitals and rest homes. To support herself and her three children, Catherine went to work as a seamstress and joined the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), where she stayed until 1964.
Kevin and his wife Denise Lynch were active members of the faculty union at Connecticut State University (AAUP). Kevin served on the Executive board of the AAUP for several terms. If you are a curious historian, you should know that Kevin is passionate about Irish history, from the study of Irish high crosses to the analysis of Greek manuscripts. Kevin was the founding President of the Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans (CTARA).
Kevin's activism with the CTARA was largely inspired by his two sons, Austin and Brendan. Austin attended Yale and upon graduation in 1998, became an organizer for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union (UNITE-HERE). He is now the assistant chief negotiator for Local 11 in Los Angeles. Brendan graduated from Harvard Law the same year that his younger brother graduated from Yale, immediately joined his union of community service attorneys in Philadelphia and has long served as its Treasurer.
Lula White grew up in New Haven and taught here for many years. From her youth, she was an outspoken defender of human rights. She spent the summer of 1961 in the notorious Parchman prison in Mississippi, two cells away from the Electric Chair.
She was one of the Freedom Riders, a group of volunteers who rode interstate buses through the deep South to integrate bus
stations, including waiting rooms, lunch counters and bathrooms. On the very day President Obama was born in August of 1961, hundreds of freedom riders were in jail in Mississippi.
The Freedom Riders were scheduled to go from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. But after suffering brutal violence in Alabama, including the firebombing of one bus, President Kennedy pressured state officials in the South to protect the riders from further mob violenceundefinedby having them escorted out of Alabama and arrested in Mississippi.
The riders refused pay fines or to pay bail to get out of jail. Instead, they put out a call for more riders to come to Jackson and “fill the jails to overflowing.” Outraged by the firebombing, White, who had just graduated from the University of Chicago and was planning to go to graduate school, responded to the call. She hopped a bus for Jackson without telling her parents, mailing a postcard to her father along the way that informed him, “If you want to know where I am this summer, I’m in Mississippi, in jail.”