Stories from Hartford's Grassroots
Steve is a retired organizer with the largest healthcare workers union in Connecticut, District 1199/SEIU, and the Greater Hartford Labor Council. He served on the national steering committee of US Labor Against the War (USLAW), of which District 1199 was a founding member in 2003.
Steve has spent his adult life as an activist and organizer. In high school and college he organized against racism and the Vietnam War and published in the underground press.
In Hartford, Connecticut, where he has lived since 1973, Steve began as a housing rights activist, organizing tenants being displaced by corporate redevelopment, and homeless men into a direct action group. From 1987 to 1993 he helped create and played a key role in People For Change, a third-party that successfully elected City Council members around a pro-union, LGBT-friendly, populist platform.
Steve previously worked with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (now UNITE HERE), organizing and leading strikes primarily with people of color in small manufacturing and the textile industry. His union work began as an elected steward while employed as a day care teacher, where he ran for and won the position of Executive Vice President of AFSCME Local 1716.
He was later hired as an organizer for the 4Cs, the union of community college faculty and professionals, where he built a statewide lobbying effort that increased funding for working people, daycare for families, and mass student rallies.
He is currently a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the National Writers Union (NWU/UAW).
Steve has continued to work with various groups for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice, including the Clamshell Alliance, Anti-Racism Coalition of Connecticut, Irish Northern Aid and the War Resisters League.
Over the past forty years he has trained hundreds of activists in nonviolent direct action in New England, Washington D.C. and Georgia, and more than 2,000 healthcare workers as rank-and-file union leaders. He has helped build solidarity connections with working peoples’ struggles in Havana, Belfast, Managua, Vicenza, and Oslo.
He has researched and written extensively on current political issues and local people’s history, particularly the forgotten stories of workers, for a variety of publications, including Connecticut Explored, the Hartford Courant, the Industrial Worker, Labor Notes, Justice (ILGWU), Hartford Business Journal, Hartford News, The Guardian (U.S.), Z Magazine, CT Mirror, ConnecticutHistory.org, Havana Times, People’s World, LAWCHA On Line, and other publications.
Steve conducts city walking tours, workshops, and lectures in classrooms, churches, bars, union halls, and picket lines.
He is the author of A Shoeleather History of the Wobblies: Stories of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Connecticut (Red Sun Press, 2013), Wicked Hartford (The History Press, 2017), and Good Trouble: A Shoeleather History of Nonviolent Direct Action (Hard Ball Press, 2019).
Steve’s work as a local activist is featured in Social Movements and Activists in the USA by Stephen Valocchi. He maintains the website The Shoeleather History Project (www.shoeleatherhistoryproject.com) which documents and explores progressive organizing from Hartford’s grassroots. He appears in three documentary films: America: From Hitler to MX (1983) about the intersection of nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign and domestic policy, Crossing the American Crises (2011) exploring the 2008 economic collapse and workers’ response, and Bloodletting (2004), about the disparities between the U.S. and Cuban healthcare systems, and in a loud cameo in the feature film The Conventioneers (2005). Steve is a proud father, grandfather and husband.