In Memoriam: Lois O'Connor, 1928-2018

We mourn the loss of former Council 4 President Lois O'Connor, a true stalwart in the struggle for labor, civil and women's rights. Lois passed away July 9 at the age of 90.

As a state clerical employee, Lois fought for the right of state employees to organize and bargain collectively. She served as the first president of AFSCME Local 478 (New Haven-area state clericals) and was a leader on the Council 4 Executive Board, the Connecticut Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union (CLUW), the Connecticut AFL-CIO and countless other organizations dedicated to the advancement of workers’, civil and labor rights.

“Lois was the reason I became active in the labor movement,” said Council 4 Staff Representative Roberta Price, a former state clerical employee and past president of AFSCME Local 610 (Eastern Connecticut-area state clericals). “She was my mentor and my inspiration.”

Former Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano described Lois “as the Lilly Ledbetter of Connecticut,” and with good reason.

Whether spearheading the successful campaign to win historic pay equity legislation for state employees, pushing for our union to join a lawsuit against Anthem's Insurance's greed-driven demutualization, rallying for universal health care long before it was popular, or fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare, Lois was always on the front lines of social justice and economic progress.

“Lois was a mentor to many, and I was lucky enough to be under her wing,” said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier. “She raised a family, led her union and fought every day for all of us. Connecticut is a better place because Lois made it better.”

A keen political organizer, Lois understood the importance of legislative and electoral action. She was a steady and reliable presence at the State Capitol and traveled often to Washington, DC to represent the interests of AFSCME members and all workers. She brought labor’s perspective to numerous candidates seeking elective office, and gained the respect of state legislators, U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators.

 “An organizer, advocate, mentor, and friend, Lois was one-of-a-kind. She was a cornerstone in Connecticut’s labor movement - - her passion, tenacity, and engagement earned her the respect and admiration of all those she worked with,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, CT-03.  

“Lois broke the mold, advocating for women and working families long before women were recognized in the labor movement,” DeLauro continued. “She leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come. I was honored to call her my friend and, like so many others, will miss her deeply.”

Lois was elected to serve as the first female President of Council 4 in 1999. She also served on the Board of the Council 4 Retirees Chapter and the Connecticut Chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

In 2010, the state ARA honored Lois with the Kevin Lynch Award for her activism and advocacy. As usual, she was selfless and forward-looking. “We don't just concentrate on senior issues," she said. "We still worry about the futures of our children and our grandchildren.”

Rest in peace, Sister O’Connor. Keep raising hell wherever you go.

Click here to read Lois O’Connor’s obituary. If you want to honor her memory, please make donations to the Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven or the Connecticut Special Olympics.