Monterey >> When Leonard O’Neill was a 13-year-old boy in Connecticut, he took a bullet just below his heart that collapsed a lung and hit his liver.
He and a neighbor kid had been shooting targets in the woods when the other boy mistakenly thought the chamber was empty, pointed the gun at O’Neill, and pulled the trigger.
The accident brought him close to death, the son of Irish immigrants even receiving his last rites, as a consequence.
O’Neill would survive the ordeal and subsequently have a long and arduous recovery.
But O’Neill remembers realizing then, for the first time, how important it was to him and his family to have insurance through his father’s union at work. And that realization would be the seed that germinated his life’s work for more than four decades.
O’Neill, 65, of Pacific Grove, is retiring after 40 years of being a leader with the Hotel Workers Union.
Unite Here Local 483 represents an average of 1,300 members in jobs that include housekeepers, cooks, bellmen, servers, bartenders, front desk agents, dishwashers, and others at more than three dozen hotels, restaurants, and golf courses in the Monterey Bay area.
Under O’Neill’s leadership, it has secured contracts that garner medical, dental, and vision benefits, while fostering the respect and dignity on the job that is so important to workers.
“After 40 years, it’s time for the younger members to come into their own,” said O’Neill. “The union’s in good shape. I don’t want to be one of those guys that hangs onto the job.”
Since 2013, O’Neill has been in a mentor/co-leadership role with Hector…
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