“United we stand,
Divided we fall”
Six words that every unionised worker in Bermuda, no matter which union they belong to, knows by heart.
Indeed, this is the mantra that the working class of this island has lived on a daily basis in all matters of life — workplace, family, community.
Some 53 years ago, workers at Belco decided that because of unfair and racist working conditions, they would take a united stance and seek to join the Bermuda Industrial Union under the leadership of Ottiwell Simmons.
The management at the time took a stance that Belco was not going to be unionised, and set the stage for anything but an amicable setting.
What ensued was nothing short of a violent, pitched battle between the workers and Bermuda police officers.
When the smoke cleared, there were physical injuries sustained by both the workers and police officers.
One of those who took on the police and their batons was a young man from the Pond Hill area. Eyewitness accounts have him with a face bloodied by this confrontation. He was subsequently charged in court and sent to jail for one year.
To some they saw he and others as troublemakers who deserved to be incarcerated.
To others, specifically the working-class people of this island, they saw him as a hero.
As fate would have it, some 53 years later there would be major industrial action at Belco once again. And once again the workers and the people of Bermuda rallied together under the mantra of “United we stand, divided we fall”.
Fortunately, this time there was no need for the police to be involved or for blood to be shed.
Through it all the workers, many of whom were descendants of those who were on the front lines in 1965, were given encouragement from those who had endured the worst of the worst in industrial relations.
Sure enough, the hero of 1965 played his role, this time in the background as a mentor to those who had downed tools in 2018.
You see, there has never been a day that this gentleman did not remind his family and his community that we must always be united to succeed. Whether it be through sportsmanship, helping a neighbour to build their home or having a stern talk with any given young person that was in need of it, he knew how to command respect without raising a hand.
There are literally hundreds of families from Pembroke and Devonshire that have a roof over their head because he selflessly gave of his time to assist in the construction.
There are literally hundreds of young Bermudian men that owe their lifelong careers at Belco to this man for standing up and taking a beating for the workers.
I know this because, my family and I fall into both of these categories. Without him and others such as him, many would not have the standard of living that we now enjoy.
This giant of a man was our neighbour from Pond Hill and then on Hermitage Road. Our families are intertwined in more ways than imaginable. So today I dedicate my words to our neighbour, our mentor, our hero.
As importantly, thank you his devoted wife, Aunt Marion, a great softball player, for helping Uncle Kenny stick to the wicket to take his final wicket. United we stand.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org