February 6, 2013
Assistant Directing Business Rep, IAM District. 91
30 Year Leader of the Labor Movement
This year, when the subject came up of nominations to our Labor Honor Roll, every Machinist on this council had one name that came to mind. That name was James Michael Parent.
Our beloved Brother Parent has had a long and distinguished record of achievement in our union. Jim joined the IAM in 1968. He was elected to a full time labor rep position in 1982. In 1997, Jim moved up to the position of Directing Business Rep of the IAM District 91. In 2002, he became the Assistant Directing Business Rep, working side by side with Directing Business Rep Everett Corey to keep the Machinists of Connecticut working with decent wages and benefits.
Since 1995, Jim served as chief negotiator for all of Ct. UTC contract negotiations. Jim was a shrewd negotiator who fought for some of the most advanced, strongest contract language in the country and because of that language; Jim was able to help secure two historic court wins to keep machinist jobs in this state. Jim had a unique approach to negotiations; he disarmed UTC with humor and his infectious charm. But make no mistake Jim knew when to stand his ground on our most important issues.
Brother Parent served for many years as a member of the Ct. Employment and Training Commission and as a member of the Ct. AFL-CIO Executive Board. In 1997, Jim received the Ct. AFL-CIO’s Leadership award. Jim served as the President of the Ct. State Council of Machinists since 1991 until his retirement, when he passed the gavel of that council on to Brother John Harrity.
Brother Parent is a Vietnam Veteran. He married his childhood sweetheart Bet, who has been by his side promoting the ideals of the labor movement for the last 40 years. They raised two children, Laurie and Michael. Now in retirement, Jim and Bet enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.
Although Jim retired from his duties as Assistant Directing Business Rep, he is still working for the labor movement. If you turned around and looked at the crowd during political rallies during this last election cycle, there was Jim and Bet holding signs and wearing t-shirts for candidates who support workers in Ct.
Every Machinist on this council has known Jim Parent as a mentor and a great friend. Jim, because of your unbelievable leadership and incredible work on behalf of the labor movement, we take great pride in honoring your lifetime of dedication to the workers of Ct. by inducting you, James Michael Parent, onto the Greater Hartford Central Labor Council’s Labor Honor Roll.
Executive Vice President, Greater Hartford Central Labor Council
Advocate for public employees and developing union women leaders
Following are Greater Hartford Central Labor Council Vice President Marsha McCurdy’s remarks honoring Helene Shay:
Tonight we recognize Helene for her legacy that continues to unfold. She just can’t stop being a prime example of diligent champion of worker’s rights, role model for labor leadership and an advocate for many women who owe her thanks for paving the way.
In true Helene Shay fashion, I could only catch up with her between calls while phone banking on Election Day at AFCSME Council 4. I'll admit though, this was an easy interview. I only asked Helene a few questions and boy did she have a lot to share. I guess that would be true for anyone who could provide me with a 4-page labor resume (in a 10 point font) dating going back almost 50 years. As we spoke anecdotes came to mind very quickly. She spoke of marathon meetings shrouded by cigarette smoke. Names (and histories) of other recipients like Kip Lockhart came up. She used expressions like "fight to the death" and "fire in the belly." She talked about Colt and workshops with Bill O'Brien.
Believe it or not, she started out not even having collective bargaining rights in 1968 when she worked with the state, but of course, she fought for those rights until '77 when they unionized under the Social Workers union. Perhaps that laid the foundation for her career in the labor movement (though the foundation could've been laid as she comes from a family of 16 - 4 sisters 11 brothers - Helene being the 4th oldest). Maybe she was just used to having a lot of brothers and sisters around! But I digress. She went from the State to AFSCME Council 4 and then worked for the International. Yes, that means almost 50 years working for and with unions.
Her membership to the Greater Hartford Labor Council (back on New Park Ave.) started 1982, she soon became VP, Assistant Secretary/Treasurer, Recording Secretary, then Executive VP, retiring in 2004. Obviously dedicated to the labor movement, I saw her face light up when talking about her work with Coalition of Labor Union Women. From 1978 she plowed through the ranks as Hartford chapter President, CT State VP, she served on the National Executive Board and was even honored as CLUW's Woman of the Year in 1989. (She even tried to recruit me during the interview to attend more meetings).
Her pride also rests with serving on her Town's Zoning Board of Appeals as the voice for her neighbors. There she's been rightfully accused of giving a different point of view - one that represents more than just an individual. But I'm sure that's no surprise. Another great source of pride, her hometown of Waterbury - or Wer-ter-bury as she calls it. She'll tell you that her accent has come up in more than one conversation to break the ice.
In just as much in demand now as she was while working full time, her phone rang during the interview. Coincidentally, it was just as she scratched her head wondering why she keeps getting dates mixed up as to when she retired from various boards and councils. Almost in unison we agreed that it's probably because it seems as though she hasn't retired yet. Retirement for her means spending time with her 4 children and 7 grandchildren, traveling to Wisconsin to do work with Al Franken, serving as an Alternate Labor Arbitrator with the state and a being a Commissioner on the CT Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. Many people shrug at keeping such a full plate – especially in retirement, but Helene revels in it.