Saturday, December 19, 2015


This week the Connecticut Working Families party honored 15 workers for the work they do in helping achieve equality, fairness and respect.
It also awarded special awards to three remarkable leaders who stand out in special ways.
Wildaliz Bermudez received the Merilee Milstein Award to Organizing, Activism & Leadership. She is a newly elected Hartford Councilwoman who fights for improvements in Hartford's schools, for a cleaner environment, and for Universal Healthcare in CT. She has advocated as a community organizer in New Haven and Hartford with the poor, the immigrants, and people of color.
State Senator Marilyn Moore received the Progressive Political Leadership Award. She is a lifelong community activist and now a CT State Senator. She is an advocate for health equality, living wage, the hungry, and the quality of life for all of Connecticut's residents.
AFT CT President Jan Hochadel received the Brian Petronella Labor Leader Award. She is an engineer by training, who returned to school and became a physics teacher in the CT State Vocational/Technical School System. She was teacher of the year in 2006-2007. She became an activist in her union which represents the 1600 teachers of the system (SVFT), eventually becoming it's president. She is a national leader in the Vocational/Technical school movement which is now being recognized as an important and desirable career path for students. This past summer she was elected as President of the 30,000 members of AFT Connecticut, and represents members in education, healthcare, and public service. She is an emerging national leader in the labor movement.
It was an honor to hear them all speak and afterwards to have the chance to speak with Wildaliz and Marilyn. they are inspiring.

Jan is my friend. We met in 2014 at our national AFT convention. She was considering a run for AFT CT president and was told she should meet me to hear about healthcare issues in Connecticut. In 2011 I had been involved in the successful organizing drive of Backus Hospital and was elected president of the Local. She asked if we could meet sometime back in Connecticut and we did, sitting for 4 1/2 hours talking about healthcare, but more about my experiences in organizing Backus and her experiences in mobilizations of public sector workers in right to work states. Although our backgrounds and our activism history are different, we were united in our outlook of the world and the labor movement.  We see all things from the perspective of organizing, not servicing.

I had never been conscious that I viewed the world this way until I met her.

We continued to meet and eventually she asked me to join as her running mate.  It was an easy "yes" for me.
At some point I was telling a mutual friend about our 4 1/2 hour meeting and saying it had felt like only 10 minutes and she said, OMG, Jan described it to her in the same way.
Jan is a remarkable leader and an incredible hard worker.
She has the ability to see and plan the big picture, to develop the details and metrics for success, and then to carry it out and get others to carry it out with her.
I wanted to tell her that she can't do it all herself, in an effort to get her to concentrate on the picture from 30,000 feet. The problem is, she is the one person I know who CAN do it all.
Her work can be incredibly stressful at times and come with decisions that effect so many people and yet she will tell you it is the best job in the world.
The truth is, I have the best job in the world, because I get to work with my friend and be a part of her journey.

No comments: