November 2, 2011
President , New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199/SEIU
Long time leader of Connecticut labor movement
Carmen Boudier , president of the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199/SEIU, retired November, 2011 after 44 years of service to the members of the union in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Carmen left Jamaica as a teenager and was employed as a domestic worker when she first arrived in the Hartford area. She got a job as a CNA at St. Mary Home in West Hartford in the late 1960s and was fired for union organizing. She then worked as an ER technician at Mount Sinai Hospital. She led the organizing of both those facilities and many more after that.
She came on staff of 1199 and worked as an organizer. Carmen was then elected the first vice president of the new District 1199 in 1979. She has served as Secretary-Treasurer of the union and then elected as president in 2005.
Carmen has successfully fought to increase the power and raise the living standards of thousands of health care workers, especially employees of nursing homes, hospitals, group homes and state employees. She has been guided by her own experience where workers were treated “like they were a dime a dozen. Before the union, if you didn’t like the way you were treated, the boss would say ‘here’s the door’.” Carmen has led 1199 members against some of the biggest corporations in the country and other opponents like former governor and felon John Rowland.
“We as a union know where we want to go and we are not afraid,” Carmen once told a reporter. “We have no fear and sometimes that gets us into trouble, but sometimes you have to push all the way to the edge to get changes. We left our fear behind long ago.”
Longtime Delegate and Vice President of the Greater Hartford Central Labor Council
Vice President, Hartford Federation of Teachers
Greater Hartford Central Labor Council Emerging Leader Marsha McCurdy paid tribute to Bill Hagan:
You all know that each person nominated and selected to be on the Greater Hartford Honor Roll embodies the values of the labor movement and goes in to the world and exemplifies ideals to a standard that only a few can maintain. Tonight is no different with the two inductees that we name.
What I found fascinating about this year is that people actually approached me to tell me about their story that they had about Bill Hagan. I heard about his leadership, the camaraderie he shared with many of you in the room and his humility in knowing that he can learn from anyone and the obligation he felt to pass along what he knew to the next generation.
Many of you may think that his union experience started in a local shop, but you'd have to go back further than that to find the truth. The fact is that he's one of 14 children and I sur you'll all agree that his first experience with the union was as a child with so many siblings! In that family, he had a number of activists and politicians working on behalf of the people. One brother as a long time County Commissioner, another as a State Senator and his sisters belonged to education unions. Him being a teacher himself, early in the conversation he manage to tell me that "if you're worth your weight in salt, you have to keep learning." Of course that was one of several inspirational quotes in the conversation.
Bill spoke with passion about the Colt strike and while he didn't get arrested, he appreciated the sacrifice that so many people made. You should hear him speak about labor really showing its strength and how people seemed to be so alert, soaking up all the information they could. With pride our brother spoke about perhaps one of his signature initiatives: He was very instrumental with the development of the People For Change party. It was a coalition of people from the labor, African American, Latino and LGBTQ communities. Our brother Steve Thorton even encouraged Bill to run and while the he didn't win that year, they had 400 people out on the street on election day. And in successive years, the party grew from it's marginal success to claiming 3 seats on the City Council - standing up for fair and living wages.
Of course, in speaking about the Labor Council he described how it had always been a fantastic collection of unions - carpenters, machinists and brothers and sisters in the public sector. It was not about making millionaires, but about giving people decent wages. Humbly, he told me that it was a great opportunity to learn from people before him and in fact, he expressed just how honored he is being in the company of our other inductee, Carmen.
I specifically asked him about those moments with Greater Hartford Labor Council that, at the time he may have thought "somebody ought to write this down!" and I think you'll all get a chuckle out of his response. He said "Gosh Marsha, there are too many of those and I think people want to keep this ceremony short!" That being said, here's Peggy, so we can continue with the program.