Union Organizers Honored by State Communist Party

'Fierce warriors in the forefront demanding workers' and immigrant rights'

Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman
Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman
December 18, 2018

The Connecticut Communist Party honored a pair of union organizers, including an official who nearly captured the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, at its annual awards ceremony.

The party presented the People's World Amistad Awards to Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman in recognition of her upstart challenge against establishment Democrat, as well as longtime union official Shellye Davis. The party described the honorees as "fierce warriors in the forefront demanding workers' and immigrant rights, social justice, peace and equality for a better and sustainable world" in an announcement. The award ceremony was held at a Methodist Church in New Haven on Dec. 8 to mark the 99th anniversary of the Communist Party USA.

Bermúdez Zimmerman made headlines in 2018 when she launched a long shot campaign to challenge Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont's lieutenant governor, former Connecticut secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz. Bermúdez Zimmerman, who is married to Connecticut SEIU state council associate director Stacey Zimmerman, took a leave of absence from her work as organizing director of the SEIU Local 2001 for the campaign. Her insurgent run garnered intense media interest as the state's first Puerto Rican candidate for lieutenant governor and was hailed as a "fresh face" in Connecticut's political scene. Despite being out fundraised by Bysiewicz, Zimmerman managed to capture 37 percent of votes in the the August Democratic primary. Lamont and Bysiewicz narrowly won the November election.

The state party also recognized the efforts of Shellye Davis, president of the AFL-CIO affiliated Greater Hartford Central Labor Coalition and a longtime official with the American Federation of Teachers, was also honored for her long history of labor activism. The announcement hailed her work as "leader for the rights of public sector union members and the people they serve, especially the youth."

The Amistad Awards have often recognized union officials for their work in the Constitution State. The Yankee Institute, a pro-free market think tank in Connecticut, pointed out the recurring recognition granted to high ranking union officials, including the 2017 award to Davis's predecessor, Peggy Buchanan, and the 2016 awards to two other union officials with SEIU and the American Federation of Teachers. The shared interests between the state Communist Party and local labor officials was a cause for concern for the institute, given the success of labor-endorsed candidates in the 2018 midterms.

"The award comes little more than a month after SEIU and other unions made a hard and largely successful push to back candidates in the Connecticut 2018 gubernatorial and legislative elections through canvassing, independent expenditures, disbursements and communications with their members," the Yankee Institute said in its blog post.

Some unions have embraced the awards. The state chapter of the AFT posted notice of the 2015 awards ceremony on its website, despite the fact that no AFT officials were among the recipients that year.

Several phone calls placed to numbers associated with Zimmerman about the communist award ceremony went unanswered. Neither Davis nor the Coalition returned a phone message seeking comment.