A Tribute to Dennis O'Neil

Council 4 Legislative and Political Coordinator Brian Anderson remembers his colleague Dennis O'Neil:

Dennis O’Neil advocated for a better paycheck, pension and health care for all of the members of Council 4 AFSCME for more than twenty years.

Not only that, but Dennis fought to help all of Connecticut’s working families enter the middle class and access the American Dream. He did so not only as Council 4’s political director, but also as an aide to Congressman Toby Moffett and as the national political director of Freeze Voter in the 1980s.

Dennis had the glib tongue of an Irish poet. He could curse a blue streak when he saw injustice. He probably could have made a fortune as a salesman, but his heart and passion led him to the labor movement.

Dennis was known for wading into angry crowds to stand up for allies, as he did during the state income tax public hearings and the tea party onslaught during the Obamacare fight. He disarmed opponents with a quick wit and kindness.

Dennis was a driving force in passing the state income tax, which led to greater tax fairness and a better vehicle to fund public services. He was a founder of the Connecticut Working Families Party and pushed it when some of his dearest friends in the labor movement thought it was a waste of time.

Denny was right. The WFP has become a pillar of Connecticut progressive politics.

While working for Congressman Moffett, Denny helped to reunite refugee families of Solidarity union members who were exiled from Poland by a Soviet puppet government. He helped persecuted Iranian families to escape the dictatorship of the Ayatollahs and find freedom in America.

Denny was deeply involved in the environmental, anti-war and civil rights movements. In his free time he followed the Red Sox through thick and thin, repeatedly showing his strong quality of loyalty.

As an underweight college undergrad walk on for Holy Cross, he tackled Syracuse All-American running back Larry Csonka. He paid for that in terms of pain, being dragged by the future NFL Hall of Famer for some distance, but he was proud of it.

Denny embodied the words of John Steinbeck's unforgettable hero Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath:

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a [strike breaker] beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there."