The following statement was released by Stacey-Lee Williams, Executive Director of Citizens Uprooting Racism In Bermuda (CURB)…

CURB extends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ottiwell Simmons for his lifetime commitment to the workers of Bermuda.

From the earliest days of the Bermuda Workers Association to the formation of the Bermuda Industrial Union in 1947, the fight for equality, equity and racial justice was at the forefront of the early labour movement.  The courageous leaders of the movement found themselves confronted by government-sponsored racism and systemic racial injustices.

Into this fight in 1962 stepped a young man named Ottiwell Simmons, recently appointed Chief Negotiator for the BIU.  As he later described it, the union had to deal with pervasive racism and victimisation such as: workers being evicted by anti-BIU landlords, workers being fired arbitrarily and workers coming home to discover their lights had been turned off summarily. 

The labour movement became Ottiwell Simmons’ lifetime commitment and passion, where his innate charisma and outstanding skills put the BIU on the international map and gained him recognition and appointments to executive positions in various overseas bodies.  In Bermuda, the labour movement was much maligned and Ottiwell Simmons suffered verbal abuse, often in person, in the press and later online.

The BIU and Ottiwell Simmons, along with many others, were fighting for greater equality in the Bermuda workforce, as such their fight was inextricably linked with racial justice work. CURB mourns the loss of a giant of a man, one who stepped forward during Bermuda’s crisis of inequality, and who despite backlash and abuse, rose above the fray and continued to fight for the rights, opportunities, and access of the workers; rights which many of us take for granted today.