Anson Smith is on the Board of Directors for the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, which is transforming itself into a labor activist group applying the lessons of labor history to today’s labor movement. As new generations enter the workforce, they’re being hit with the same old anti-labor propaganda that has been debunked by previous generations of workers. But they don’t realize the arguments have been debunked.
Anson comes from a union family out of Fall River, MA, a one-time manufacturing power house. His father was a Teamster and his mother was a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), now part of Unite-Here. During his working career, he was a member of the Rhode Island Education Association, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the International Typographical Union (ITU), the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges (4Cs) and an independent newspaper reporter’s union. If there was a union where he worked, he joined it. If there wasn’t, he worked to bring one in.
The longer he worked, the more committed to unionism he became. He was fleeced out of tens of thousands of dollars that he earned and saw many others fleeced in the same way. He saw people railroaded out of jobs and saw people’s valid complaints fall upon deaf ears at labor boards. Hourly employees were misclassified as salaried. Their time sheets were forged or altered. They were pressured into working overtime for no pay. They were forced to work for less than minimum wage.
When he saw the opportunity to something about this, he took advantage of it. At his last job, at Housatonic Community College, he immediately joined the 4Cs and, a short time later, was elected delegate to the state assembly. When a grievance officer position was created at the local chapters, he was elected to Housatonic’s. That’s where the rubber hits the road in union work. That’s where you can save jobs. He later ran for Political Action Committee Chairman and was elected. That position has a seat on the union’s executive board.
During this time, he decided to return to school for master’s degree. The subject: labor history. His thesis dealt with the growth of mass-media, anti-labor propaganda and awarded him a master’s degree five years ago.
When he retired in July, 2015, he joined the 4Cs as part-time public relations coordinator. He immediately started an image-building program to counter the negative image of state employees being fostered by the such right-right-wing mouthpieces as the Hartford Courant and Manchester Inquirer editorial writers and the Koch-aligned Yankee Institute. Also, through social and traditional media, he began debunking right-wing propaganda appearing in the media. As the union began tightening its belt in anticipation of Janus v AFSCME, funds for the coordinator’s position dried up. When the Janus decision was handed down, and the Trump Administration ramped up its anti-labor activity, he decided to ramp up his involvement in pro-Labor activities as a volunteer. He joined Council 400, became involved with the Legislative Affairs Committee, and offered to help the union any way he could.
Thank you Anson for your decades of fighting for the rights of working people!