Labor History Association Expands Reach, Focus
To Cover Labor History, Issues Statewide,
Focus on Academics, Activism
NEW HAVEN -- The state's only labor history association is expanding its reach to cover labor history and developments throughout the state and is broadening its focus to include activism as well as academics.
The 32-year-old Greater New Haven Labor History Association, was founded to collect and preserve the history of Greater New Haven's working people and their unions, said LHA President Steve Kass. But, with the offshoring of the nation's manufacturing infrastructure and subsequent decline of union membership across the state and the nation, it was time to refocus and expand the goals of the group.
Composed of students, active and retired educators and union officers and members, the refocused LHA identifies the lessons of labor history and applies them to today's labor movement.
"With the decline of unions and union membership, it's becoming more and more apparent that the lessons of labor history are being forgotten," he said. "All across the state and the nation, the same strategies and tactics that were used in the 1930s to break unions, say, in Middletown, CT are being used to break unions today. The same union avoidance tactics, the same anti-union strategies and tactics that were used successfully then are being used successfully today."
"In view of growing income inequality and the high public approval rate of unions, we are taking our activities statewide to help ensure that the lessons of labor history aren't forgotten, and that labor's losses of the past are not repeated," he said.
While only 10 percent of the workforce is unionized, he said, some 64 percent of the public looks favorably upon unions, according to a recent Gallup poll. https://news.gallup.com/poll/265916/labor-day-turns-125-union-approval-near-year-high.aspx. These are the people who will benefit the most from LHA help.
The announcement comes in the wake of recent events that have taken the group beyond the Greater New Haven area. In 2015, after a five-year struggle, LHA members secured passage of a bill mandating that the state Department of Education make a curriculum available in labor history and law, including organized labor, the collective bargaining process, and existing legal protections in the workplace. https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Publications/CT-Labor-and-Working-Class-History/Business-and-the-Labor-Movement-in-Connecticut-History. Connecticut is the third state to enact such legislation.
In recent years, the group has presented its Augusta Lewis Troop award for meritorious service to the labor movement to labor advocates from across the state. These include former State Sens. Ed Gomes of Bridgeport and Edith Prague of Columbia, current State Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague, and Atty. Dan Livingston of Hartford, chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agents Coalition (SEBAC).
LHA’s scope is pan-union, covering the history and news of unions and union organizations in the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, and IWW. Through its activities, the LHA serves as another channel for their views. To ensure that their interests are best served, unions and union-related organizations are offered an institutional membership in the LHA that gives them a seat on its Board of Directors.
Board members and general members are encouraged to initiate projects related to the mission of the group, from researching labor unrest in Connecticut’s Northeast Corner to “walking the line” with strikers throughout the state.
LHA maintains a Facebook newsletter " LHA: Educate! Organize" that is the largest aggregator of union news in Connecticut and one of the largest sources of Connecticut labor history information. Its Twitter page “Mobilize” keeps followers abreast of breaking labor news.
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LHA Treasurer Sees Unions
As Pandemic Recovery Hope
In a recent New Haven Register op-ed, LHA Treasurer Marc DeGregorio lauded unions central to pandemic recovery. "Unions seem to be the answer to so many problems highlighted this year (that) I feel it's high time in America to see this happen and get citizens educated to the value of forming and keeping a union," he said. "A wise union president of mine said, 'If you don't have collective bargaining, you have collective begging.' The time has come to end the begging and make better lives". To see full article, click on: Letter: Organized labor is a pro-life movement (nhregister.com)