This was how I opened my remarks last month when I accepted the Connecticut Working Families’ Brian Petronella Labor Leader Award at the organization’s annual awards banquet. I took the occasion to both look back at the challenges our movement faced in 2015 and look ahead to the continuing “struggle with the titans” in the new year.
The attacks on public employees have only continued to escalate.
Last month the legislature held a “special session” to close the current and future state budget deficits. Our unions claimed victory because we were able to push back on the attacks on our hard-fought collective bargaining rights and pensions. Sadly, no one was surprised or outraged by these attempts.
Click here for press coverage on the outcome of the special session.
The argument from special interests who want to roll-back public employees’ rights is that they don’t deserve collective bargaining or pensions because other working people have lost theirs.
In the private sector it is even worse.
At Danbury Hospital in November, 2014 the medical techs and therapists organized and became part of the AFT family. But hospital management has refused to bargain in good faith and instead dedicated their efforts to breaking the union. They would rather spend a million dollars to divide their workforce than invest it in fair wages to attract and retain quality employees.
Click here for the latest on efforts to secure a fair contract for these hands-on healers.
And again, these actions are just viewed as business as usual, and not what they really are – an attack on working people.
But at Danbury Hospital and facilities across the state, whose voices are demanding patients before profits? Nurses and health professionals.
Who is publicizing the overcrowded conditions and ridiculous testing demands in our schools? Teachers and school support staff.
Who is insisting that our citizens receive the quality public services they depend on? State employees.
Educators, nurses, higher education faculty, and public service workers are calling for a society that cares more about people than the wealth of the richest 1%. It is a vision radically different from the Republican presidential candidates.
Click here to learn more about the candidates in the 2016 presidential election.
Yes, it would be easy to get discouraged. But today, I am filled with hope and resolve. Unions and progressives do our best work in a time of struggle.
When working people and families stand together on the picket line, like we did two years ago at L&M Hospital in New London, we cannot be defeated. When working people and families take to the streets, as they did this last month to protest Yale-New Haven Hospital’s role in the community’s jobs crisis, we cannot be defeated. When working people and families stand together to elect true progressives such as state Senator Marilyn Moore in Bridgeport and city council member Wildaliz Bermudez in Hartford, we cannot be defeated.
Our collective voices can drown out the money that the top 1% will pay to ensure that their vision of America prevails.
I am constantly reminded that when we engage our members, when we listen to their issues and empower them to act, we change the world.
This year, I resolve to keep the strength that I see in our members. I pledge to stay committed to joining in the fight ahead.
More than 30,000 teachers and school support staff, nurses and healthcare professionals, higher education faculty and state and municipal government employees in nearly 100 local unions across Connecticut.