October 2010 - From 1951 until 1970, Hamden firefighters worked a 56-hour work week, consisting of four 10-hour days followed by two days off, then four 14-hour nights followed by two days off. Forty years ago, on Tuesday, October 6, 1970, the Hamden Fire Department implemented a new 42-hour work week. It was not achieved easily.
In February 1967, the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association formally requested a 42-hour work week from the Town. When ongoing attempts by the Association to discuss the proposal with Town officials proved disappointing, State Senator Pat Barbato, on behalf of the firefighters, submitted a special act before the Cities and Borroughs Committee of the General Assembly that would allow the matter to be decided by Hamden voters in a November 1967 referendum.
On April 25, 1967, Senator Barbato's bill was approved by the Committee.Town officials knew that if the bill passed, the resulting mandated referendum in November would also pass and the new 42-hour work week would have to go into effect immediately.So, before the bill could be voted on by the General Assembly, the Town agreed to the 42-hour work week for Hamden firefighters. In return, the Sick Benefit Association agreed to a three-year phase-in that the firefighters had proposed to the Town originally.
From The New Haven Register (Thursday, June 15, 1967): "Frederick Knudsen, president of the firemen's association, said his group agreed to the three-year period, which had been their original plan. However, the mayor's [John DeNicola, Sr.] reluctance to agree to the plan forced the firemen to take the bill before the State Legislature." But despite the settlement between the Town and the firefighters, the referendum bill went forward in the General Assembly - and it passed. Now, by law, the referendum on a 42-hour work week would have to be voted on by Hamden voters in November 1967, and a positive outcome would mean immediate implementation of the new schedule.
With the Town and the Sick Benefit Association both agreeing on a 42-hour work week with a three-year phase-in, the question now was "How do you turn off a referendum?" According to a New Haven Register article dated July 20, 1967, the Association's attorney Herman Bershtein opined that the solution was in the U.S. Constitution. He stated that Article One, Section10 of the Constitution reads that no law shall be passed that impairs the obligations of a contract. "Bershtein maintains that a contract exists inasmuch as the town and the firemen have signed an agreement on a 42-hour work week." Regardless, the referendum went forward.
On November 7, 1967, the voters of Hamden elected their second Mayor, William Adams. By a three-to-one margin they also approved the referendum to give Hamden firefighters a 42-hour work week.
January 1968 - L-R: Chief V. Paul Leddy; Carmen Amarante; Joseph Greco, town attorney; Mayor William Adams; Fred Knudsen; Luke Tobin; and John Tramontano. Both sides working out the details of the 42-hour work week.
Mayor Adams took office on January 1, 1968. Within two weeks, the Adams administration and the members Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association finalized the agreement to implement the 42-hour work week with a phase-in period. During the phase-in period, the Town built two new fire stations, hired the necessary additional personnel and purchased two pumpers and one ladder truck.
In 1967, there were four officers and 20 firefighters on each of the three platoons. By July 1970, the Town had hired 40 more firefighters, bringing the total to four officers and 24 firefighters on each of four platoons. The increased manpower and shortened work week can be attributed to the efforts of the members of the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association, led by Fred Knudsen, Carmen Amarante, Luke Tobin and John Tramontano.
The 42-hour work week went into effect on Tuesday, October 6, 1970 at 8 a.m.
Pasquale "Pat" Barbato
Pasquale "Pat" Barbato Was a Friend to Hamden Firefighters
When Pasquale "Pat" Barbato was a state senator in the late 1960s, he played a major role in successful efforts by Hamden firefighters to get the Town to agree to a 42-hour work week.
In February 1967, the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association formally requested a 42-hour work week from the Town. When the Town officials spurned efforts by the Association to discuss the proposal, State Senator Pat Barbato submitted a special act before the Cities and Borroughs Committee of the General Assembly that would allow the matter to be decided by Hamden voters in a November 1967 referendum. Mr. Barbato's efforts led directly to the adoption of the 42-hour work week for Hamden firefighters.
Mr. Barbato passed away in May 2010 and was survived by his wife, Helyn Callahan Ramelli Barbato, stepson Raymond Ramelli (HFD-retired), and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Check out this scan of the act that mandated a referendum for the 42-hour work week
Courtesy of Harold Mangler
Tuesday, October 6, 1970 Hamden Firefighters Begin a 42-Hour Work Week
CLICK to enlarge
The advent of the 42-hour work week, the addition of a second truck company, and the new paid Company 9 all resulted in a significant increase in fire department personnel from 1968 to 1970. A total of forty new positions were created. Four new firefighter positions were added to each of the three exisiting platoons, and a new fourth platoon of 28 officers and firefighters was activated on October 6, 1970.