• LOUIS W. (“Bill”) BERNDTSON, JR., February 18, 1934-July 31, 2017
    By Joan Cavanagh, Former Archivist/ Director, Greater New Haven Labor History Association 
    Louis W. Berndtson, Jr., the beloved immediate past president of the Greater New Haven Labor
    History Association, passed away on Monday, July 31 2017 at Yale New Haven Hospital from
    complications of pancreatic cancer.


    Bill received the Association’s Augusta Lewis Troup “Pass It On” Award at our Annual
    Conference and Meeting in May of 2009, and when I presented it to him, I began by saying that
    “Persistence is one of his middle names. So are courage, dedication and fortitude.”
    At the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, we knew all those things and more about
    Bill. A member of the Executive Board from 2000 until his retirement in 2016, for many years he
    played multiple roles with dedication, enthusiasm, and skill: treasurer, web master, “go-to guy”
    for all crises, and self-described “I.T. Geek.”  In 2011, he accepted an additional role, that of
    President, succeeding the late Nicholas Aiello. He provided strong leadership in the Association’s
    work to facilitate production of the labor history mural that now graces the entryway to the
    newly renovated Troup School, and worked with me to co-edit and write an award-winning
    booklet which describes the life of the school’s (and our award’s) namesake.
    He also contributed strongly to the successful efforts of Labor History Association members,
    spearheaded by then-Vice President Steve Kass, to legislate a curriculum of labor and working-
    class history in Connecticut’s public schools. (The bill passed and was signed by Governor
    Dannel Malloy in July 2015.) As a board member and throughout his presidency, Bill contributed
    both leadership and never-ending hands-on toil to every endeavor of our organization.
    Bill’s parents were Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. One of his grandfathers worked at
    Yale’s Sloan Laboratory while his grandmother baked pastries for Charles Seymour’s teas. His
    father, the eldest of six children, left school after fourth grade to help support the family and
    worked for the railway as a brakeman and in a variety of other jobs, holding every office at
    various times in the local of his union, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen.
    Bill grew up in the area known at the time as “Goatville,” the Cottage/ Lawrence Street area of
    New Haven, attended Hooker School and graduated from Commercial (soon to become Wilbur
    Cross) High School. One of his teachers at Cross (a proud member of the American Federation
    of Teachers) declared that he was “too bright” not to go to college, and insisted on driving him to
    what was then Southern Connecticut State Teachers’ College to personally enroll him in 1952.
    He took both general and education courses there but eventually left school, although, as he said
    later, he didn’t actually “quit,” he just took a long sabbatical, returning to get his degree in
    Psychology with a specialization in Mental Health at age 65.
    Bill served in the army in 1956, for a total of 10 months and twelve days. He became a disabled
    veteran in a rather unique way, tearing the cartilage in his knee during Basic Training. Once
    honorably discharged, he held various jobs and, in 1959, went to work as a lab technician at the
    Department of Preventive Medicine (which became Epidemiology and Public Health) at the Yale




  • Medical School. Thus began his career as a hard-working union organizer who never actually got
    to work in a union job.
    “My father [Louis W. Berndtson, Sr.] was an officer in the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen
    Local #936, serving the New York-New Haven and Hartford and Harlem River Lines,” Bill
    wrote. “When there was trouble in the ‘Yard’ or the local, they came looking for ‘Louie.’
    Someone’s in trouble: ‘Get Louie!’ Something’s wrong: ‘Get Louie.’ The phone could ring any
    time of the day or night.
    “Phrases like ‘Pull the pin’(strike), ‘Never let them have more men in the room than you do!’
    (grievance or negotiations): this is what I grew up with. So no surprise when in 1965, with a wife
    and small child at home and no real support from Yale, I decided to go Union.” The effort begun
    with “a few meetings with Vincent Sirabella led to 20 years of organizing and a victory for Local
    34 FUE. [Federation of University Employees.]”
    It was a long and winding road to achieve that victory, and Bill’s efforts led him to leave Yale
    and go to work first for Local 153 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union,
    which discontinued their organizing efforts at Yale due to lack of success. The campaign of the
    United Autoworkers Union, for which Bill later worked, also was short-lived. The rest is history:
    Local 34 of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers finally mounted the ultimately successful drive.
    Bill’s union organizing days had ended by the time that victory was achieved, but his
    commitment to economic and social justice continued. He became active in the Democratic
    Party, and he got a job with the Unemployed Workers Council of the Greater New Haven Central
    Labor Council for about a year after the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United
    States. While much of this job involved “talking people off the ledge,” the organization also held
    job fairs, organized against foreclosures, held public meetings, organized free food distributions
    and offered counseling sessions.
    Eight years ago, when he accepted the Augusta Lewis Troup Award, Bill said that he had begun
    to do the work of organizing because he was trying to raise and care for his own family, but soon
    he became a magnet for all the stories of other workers and their stories became part of his own.
    This was the kind of empathy and insight that guided his life.
    Thank you, Bill Berndtson, for passing it on.
    A memorial service for Bill will be held on Sunday, August 13th at First Congregational
    Church of Stratford, 2301 Main Street, beginning at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family has
    asked that donations be made in his memory to the Greater New Haven Labor History
    Association (GNHLHA, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven CT 06513.)
















LOUIS W. (“Bill”) BERNDTSON, JR., February 18, 1934-July 31, 2017By Joan Cavanagh, Former Archivist/ Director, Greater New Haven Labor History Association

  • Louis W. Berndtson, Jr., the beloved immediate past president of the Greater New Haven Labor
    History Association, passed away on Monday, July 31
    st
    , 2017 at Yale New Haven Hospital from
    complications of pancreatic cancer.
    Bill received the Association’s Augusta Lewis Troup “Pass It On” Award at our Annual
    Conference and Meeting in May of 2009, and when I presented it to him, I began by saying that
    “Persistence is one of his middle names. So are courage, dedication and fortitude.”
    At the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, we knew all those things and more about
    Bill. A member of the Executive Board from 2000 until his retirement in 2016, for many years he
    played multiple roles with dedication, enthusiasm, and skill: treasurer, web master, “go-to guy”
    for all crises, and self-described “I.T. Geek.” In 2011, he accepted an additional role, that of
    President, succeeding the late Nicholas Aiello. He provided strong leadership in the Association’s
    work to facilitate production of the labor history mural that now graces the entryway to the
    newly renovated Troup School, and worked with me to co-edit and write an award-winning
    booklet which describes the life of the school’s (and our award’s) namesake.
    He also contributed strongly to the successful efforts of Labor History Association members,
    spearheaded by then-Vice President Steve Kass, to legislate a curriculum of labor and working-
    class history in Connecticut’s public schools. (The bill passed and was signed by Governor
    Dannel Malloy in July 2015.) As a board member and throughout his presidency, Bill contributed
    both leadership and never-ending hands-on toil to every endeavor of our organization.
    Bill’s parents were Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. One of his grandfathers worked at
    Yale’s Sloan Laboratory while his grandmother baked pastries for Charles Seymour’s teas. His
    father, the eldest of six children, left school after fourth grade to help support the family and
    worked for the railway as a brakeman and in a variety of other jobs, holding every office at
    various times in the local of his union, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen.
    Bill grew up in the area known at the time as “Goatville,” the Cottage/ Lawrence Street area of
    New Haven, attended Hooker School and graduated from Commercial (soon to become Wilbur
    Cross) High School. One of his teachers at Cross (a proud member of the American Federation
    of Teachers) declared that he was “too bright” not to go to college, and insisted on driving him to
    what was then Southern Connecticut State Teachers’ College to personally enroll him in 1952.
    He took both general and education courses there but eventually left school, although, as he said
    later, he didn’t actually “quit,” he just took a long sabbatical, returning to get his degree in
    Psychology with a specialization in Mental Health at age 65.
    Bill served in the army in 1956, for a total of 10 months and twelve days. He became a disabled
    veteran in a rather unique way, tearing the cartilage in his knee during Basic Training. Once
    honorably discharged, he held various jobs and, in 1959, went to work as a lab technician at the
    Department of Preventive Medicine (which became Epidemiology and Public Health) at the Yale
  • Medical School. Thus began his career as a hard-working union organizer who never actually got
    to work in a union job.
    “My father [Louis W. Berndtson, Sr.] was an officer in the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen
    Local #936, serving the New York-New Haven and Hartford and Harlem River Lines,” Bill
    wrote. “When there was trouble in the ‘Yard’ or the local, they came looking for ‘Louie.’
    Someone’s in trouble: ‘Get Louie!’ Something’s wrong: ‘Get Louie.’ The phone could ring any
    time of the day or night.
    “Phrases like ‘Pull the pin’(strike), ‘Never let them have more men in the room than you do!’
    (grievance or negotiations): this is what I grew up with. So no surprise when in 1965, with a wife
    and small child at home and no real support from Yale, I decided to go Union.” The effort begun
    with “a few meetings with Vincent Sirabella led to 20 years of organizing and a victory for Local
    34 FUE. [Federation of University Employees.]”
    It was a long and winding road to achieve that victory, and Bill’s efforts led him to leave Yale
    and go to work first for Local 153 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union,
    which discontinued their organizing efforts at Yale due to lack of success. The campaign of the
    United Autoworkers Union, for which Bill later worked, also was short-lived. The rest is history:
    Local 34 of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers finally mounted the ultimately successful drive.
    Bill’s union organizing days had ended by the time that victory was achieved, but his
    commitment to economic and social justice continued. He became active in the Democratic
    Party, and he got a job with the Unemployed Workers Council of the Greater New Haven Central
    Labor Council for about a year after the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United
    States. While much of this job involved “talking people off the ledge,” the organization also held
    job fairs, organized against foreclosures, held public meetings, organized free food distributions
    and offered counseling sessions.
    Eight years ago, when he accepted the Augusta Lewis Troup Award, Bill said that he had begun
    to do the work of organizing because he was trying to raise and care for his own family, but soon
    he became a magnet for all the stories of other workers and their stories became part of his own.
    This was the kind of empathy and insight that guided his life.
    Thank you, Bill Berndtson, for passing it on.
    A memorial service for Bill will be held on Sunday, August 13
    th
    at First Congregational
    Church of Stratford, 2301 Main Street, beginning at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family has
    asked that donations be made in his memory to the Greater New Haven Labor History
    Association (GNHLHA, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven CT 06513.



Our Community at Winchester

Exhibit at UConn, Stevens Gallery, that
“evokes an era of union and community solidarity”

Opening Reception/Talk: 

Monday, April 18 2016, 4-6 pm

Read More >


2016 Annual Conference and Meeting

Sunday, June 5, 1:30-4:30 pm

267 Chapel Street, New Haven

LABOR HISTORY:
LOOKING BACK, MOVING FORWARD

Read More >

In loving memory
Nicholas Aiello
C0-Founder and President Emeritus who passed away on November 5, 2015


A LONG TIME COMING!

Empowering Students to Learn the Lessons 
of Labor History AFT Connecticut

Ceremonial Bill Signing for Public Act 15-17

An Act Concerning a Labor and Free Market Capitalism Curriculum

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Second from the left is GNHLHA Vice President Steve Kass. Forth from left is President Bill Berndtson.

 2015 Annual Meeting 

Revision of GNLHA By-Laws Up For Member Vote at Annual Meeting

Read the proposed changes

Labor History Association to Give Troup Awards to Rick Wolff, Mike Dennehy

June 7, 2015
Annual Conference 
and Meeting

Click here for more information about the conference.

Thanks to the work of our dedicated member, David Cirella, "Our Community at Winchester: An Elm City Story" can now be viewed here in its entirety. Click the image above. Please enjoy and post the link widely!

Our Community at Winchester: An Elm City Story

Our traveling exhibit about workers at the U.S. Repeating Arms Company in New Haven in the 20th century, has moved to the Stetson Branch of the New Haven Free Public Library, 200 Dixwell Avenue, where it will be on display through February 28th. The library is located in the heart of the Dixwell-Newhallville Community, where many of the company's employees and their families lived.

If you haven't yet seen the exhibit, this is an excellent opportunity! There is ample free parking at the back of the library.

For more information, contact joan@laborhistory.org.

Winchester Workers Exhibit showing at
Wells Fargo



Nov. 4, 2014 – Jan. 5, 2015

Wells Fargo Bank Lobby

Corner of Elm and Church Streets
New Haven


Sen. Looney to Join Labor History Association Members to Accept Historic New England Preservation Grant


Check Presentation Event to be held Monday, August 25th at
3 pm in the Atrium of New Haven’s City Hall, 165 Church Street


Here come the Wobblies!


Japanese Trade Unionists Visit New Haven, Join May Day Rally and Take a New Haven Labor History Tour 
Read more

Above: Members of Zenroren view the labor history mural at the Augusta Lewis Troup Middle School in New Haven. Photo: Aaron Goode

Exhibit News

“Our Community at Winchester: An Elm City Story
Now on display at the Council Teachers Building.

“New Haven’s Garment Workers: An Elm City Story”
completes three months on display at the American Labor Museum/ Botto House National Landmark in Haledon, New Jersey.


Read more

Link to full article in the New Haven Register

0


Work and Working People 
in Connecticut
Association for the Study of
Connecticut History
Fall Conference

November 1, 2014

CAPITAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE, HARTFORD

Find out how to register

Learn More >

The Greater New Haven Labor History Association Receives a $1,000 Historic New England 2014 Community Preservation Grant 

The grant will help fund the expansion of its current traveling exhibit, “Our Community at Winchester: An Elm City Story”. 

Read all about it in the New Haven Independent


The check was presented to the organization by Historic New England Executive Vice President Diane Viera on August 25 in New Haven’s City Hall where the exhibit was showing. Pictured above are, left to right: LHA Board members Mary Johnson and Dorothy Johnson; Historic New England Executive Vice President Diane Viera; LHA President Bill Berndtson; Exhibit Curator and LHA Director Joan Cavanagh; State Senator Martin J. Looney; and LHA Board member Lula White.

The photograph was taken by Jeanne Criscola, who designed the exhibit panels.


NEWS FROM

Western Massachusetts
Jobs with Justice

Join Us!


You’re invited to the
2014 Annual Meeting
and Conference

Sunday, April 27th, 2014
1:30–4:30 pm 


__________________________________


Labor History in the Schools gathers momentum in CT
Click here to learn more>>  
Sign Me Up for Labor History in the Schools Updates!






GNHLHA members moved forward with a legislative initiative in 2012, called Labor History in the Schools, with endorsement by John Olsen and the CT AFL-CIO Executive Board. The bill came close to being brought to the floor in 2013 and will be coming up again in 2014. Stayed tuned!

GNHLHA in the News
New Haven Register, Jim Shelton, Register Staff
April 10, 2011




Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 •  info@laborhistory.org •

* * *
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