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Building the Foundation for a Better Future

State federation leaders more than a year ago laid the groundwork for the 2018 political program, which was rooted in “listening to our members,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel (second from left, standing, in photo above).
 
“We are made up of a diverse membership, from educators to healthcare workers to public safety officers,” she said. “There are times when this diversity makes consensus difficult. Yet we all share values based on fairness and respect for the working people who make Connecticut our home,” added Hochadel.
 
Click here for our previous report on the launch of the General Election phase of the program.
 
Integral to a member-driven approach to politics was training for local union leaders. That included sending members like Marta Shepard to New Mexico in May for a five-day “boot camp” that ultimately prepared her to “help make history.”
 
She credited the experience with providing the “skills and confidence I needed to succeed” as a member political organizer (MPO). Shepard, a steward with our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Hartford Federation of Paraeducators, along with six additional union activists, were in early September recruited for the position.
 
The team during their eight weeks as MPOs focused primarily on recruiting members to volunteer for the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s “Labor 2018” activities. Shepard added that working alongside fellow activists who “shared the same hope, values and vision of a better tomorrow” was both a “positive and rewarding experience.”
 
Click here for photos of Shepard and other labor activists in September at a voter registration event.
 
For fellow first-time MPO Brian Malota, the experience of colleagues proved invaluable to helping him tackle his assignments. He credited Danbury Nurses Union, Unit 47 retiree Mary Consoli as “a gem” for identifying and recruiting additional volunteers for “phonebanking” and canvassing union households in the area.
 
“It was a great feeling knowing someone so dedicated had my back,” said Malota, a member of our State Vocational Federation of Teachers. He added that the experience of collaborating and engaging with members of other locals gave him “valuable insights into others’ views of politics and unionism.”
 
“This was a real opportunity to get outside my comfort zone,” said Malota, whose previous experience focused on participating in “Get Out the Vote” activities. “It was even more fulfilling to turn-out others and multiply my efforts,” he added.
 
Click here for photos of Malota, Consoli and other activists engaged in Election Day activities.
 
That multiplier effect resulted in success for candidates in the General Election endorsed by AFT Connecticut’s executive committee. As of the publication of this report, 72 won their respective races for Congress, the state legislature or statewide office. Active or retired union members on the ballot fared even better; 82 percent on Tuesday emerged victorious, further demonstrating the viability of our “labor is your neighbor” message.
 
Click here for public comments on the election results from Connecticut AFL-CIO leaders, including Hochadel.
 
In addition to the improved representation for working families among state and federal lawmakers, Election Day 2018 also proved to be a triumph for candidates who ran as “problem-solvers.” 
 
At the top of the ticket, Ned Lamont was chosen by the voters to lead Connecticut as governor for the next four years on a commonsense platform of public investment. Affiliated union members backed his candidacy in large part to seize the opportunity to reverse three years of failed austerity budget policies that have damaged our state’s quality of life.
 
Click here for press reporting on Lamont’s victory.
 
Among the 25 endorsed union members who won their races was Jahana Hayes, who will serve as U.S. House Representative for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District. She was among an unprecedented wave of educators on Tuesday elected across the country to local, state and federal offices and whose victories promise to help elevate PreK-12 issues.
 
Click here for national reporting on the trend of teachers’ wins at the ballot box. 
 
Union activists, through their volunteer efforts, helped significantly alter the make-up of the Connecticut General Assembly for the next two years. Their thousands of phone calls, text messages and visits to labor households pushed candidates over the top who campaigned on respecting working peoples’ rights and freedoms.
 
Governor-elect Lamont and lawmakers are no doubt already contemplating solutions to the stubborn fiscal challenges still plaguing our state ahead of the 2019 legislative session, which convenes January 9. That presents an important — and urgent — opportunity for members of AFT Connecticut’s Legislative/Political Action Committee (LPAC) to build on the success of “Labor 2018” to build a better future.
 
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