The Ongoing Saga Of Bristol’s 53

BRISTOL – While reading about the swearing in, today, of the newly elected leaders of the Hamden school cafeteria workers in Hamden, CT  ( AFSCME Local 1303-275 ), it was difficult not to draw comparisons between how far apart, how so very different, the Hamden AFSCME local is from Bristol’s. And how different a tale of two cities can be.  Unions, clearly, are in decline. Still serving as the last bulwark between the unbridled power and greed of the increasingly powerful oligarchies of Corporate America and the overbearing influence they wield over the dis-assemblage of our once vibrant democracy and what represents it, I believe it’s more important than ever to examine the anatomy of a failure in leadership and governance. If only to serve as a cautionary tale in the hopes of preventing further decline.

1. If not for the lax and, at best, sporadic ” support ” from Bristol’s so called union leadership, the above phenomena  should have been a scene in Bristol, as well. And not what we have now: 53 Women wondering whether one more predatory Corporate creature, this city has such a fondness for, will take a way their current jobs only to rehire them at subsistence wages. Less than the paltry hourly currently being paid in exchange for some of the most demanding, grueling work anywhere around.

2. 53 Food Service Professionals with no budget, no contract and, very likely, no jobs as there once were…..but that was years ago when benefits were still alive and well as they are for every other member of the same union local they belong to.

3. From the very first day the saber rattling of privatization appeared on the landscape, union leadership from across every board and trade should and could have mobilized with constancy and an unyielding fervor whereby any BOE member would’ve been ashamed to show his or her face anywhere in town. This is one of those infrequent games in life where the stakes are that high that doing anything else less falls way too short.

Doubting the possibility? Not surprising. In Bristol, it’s just never been tried.

4. Whether in the court of public opinion via unrelenting rallies and appearances at every BOE meeting, they, the leadership including Bristol’s Democratic Party, let these women down. And then the unions have the temerity–not once looking inward–to ask themselves why membership is in decline.

5. Yes, the Republican controlled BOE is currently running with that self immolating torch of less government. Yet does that preclude us from forgetting who helped them along the way? Recall the then stellar visionary move by DTC leadership that dredged up from the depths, a mayoralty candidate, who just seconds before, was one of those beaming, rosy cheeked Republicans who– now this is for real–shepherded the notion of selling out these women for, what’s apparently becoming clearer, the BOE’s very own exceptional flair for financial ineptitude.

6. And as Bristol’s Democratic Town Council continues to drone on in it’s usual miasma of process, how is it possible that they couldn’t, at the same time ( like chewing a stick of gum ), possibly let their natural and faltering constituency know somewhere, somehow, someone is a aware of their plight? Local state reps, senators, city council people included. It’s just not enough to pound the table for these women in the privacy of party gatherings or fund raisers. BUT EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME. They, these 53, deserve nothing less, whether they be Republican or Democrat.

7. And though these 53 women seem to have been thrown under the proverbial bus in the hopes that the BOE would be too preoccupied with them to pay any much attention to the Paraprofessionals, Custodial Workers and, lastly, Grounds and Building, the surviving local members might want to rethink that notion of a false security. Sporting higher wages and benefits AND all belonging to the very same local that already offered up one sacrifice, the Cafeteria Professionals are “peanuts” compared to them. If the past 60 years since Taft Hartley hasn’t taught us anything at all, all we have to do is just take note at what’s happened to any number of our friends and family in just the past 10 years. And now that they’ve become emboldened, the Oligarchical juggernaut will just chop off the next wink link while cowering the others into burying their heads in the sand. And then another. And then one more time. Until there are no heads left to bury, not a one.

Yet with little encouragement, these 53 ( STILL ) Public Employees continue to fight the long odds, mostly on their own. And maybe as important is the the gift they give their children and grandchildren as they teach them how important and precious this democracy, just hanging on by it’s fingernails, is worth fighting for.

Frank Kramer
Author: The Roundup
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