Governor Ned Lamont in mid March officially declared the outbreak a public health emergency to bolster coordinated efforts aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus. That paved the way for critical steps needed to assure working people facing serious health and financial risks would receive the assistance they need.
They have included executive orders directing the state’s utility regulatory agency to suspend service shut-offs for non-payment and enable furloughed workers to more easily access unemployment benefits. The governor in late March additionally established an expansive “stay home, stay safe” policy to prevent the spread in crowded workplaces ranging from dine-in restaurants to public schools.
for early reporting on educators’ initial distance learning efforts featuring a local union leader.
“Connecticut’s elected leaders deserve credit for their responsiveness, especially when compared to the chaos coming from the White House,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “At the same time, the pandemic has exposed pre-existing conditions in our safety net that have allowed too many working people to slip through.”
“We have an obligation to demand better for the countless families unfairly bearing that burden,” added Hochadel, who also serves as the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s executive vice president. “Being union means never being alone — and right now we have to extend that principle to all our neighbors.”
The labor federation, which includes AFT Connecticut and represents over 200,000 working people across the state, has for the past three weeks mobilized members to advance pro-worker public policies. They include demands for the governor and the General Assembly to:
- Ensure the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund is solvent by adding additional funds;
- Supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare, public safety and law enforcement personnel;
- Expand the current paid sick day law by providing workers additional leave during a declared state of emergency;
- Protect workers who use paid sick time to take care of themselves or others from discipline or termination; &
- Expand childcare opportunities and provide support for healthcare workers to ensure they can return to work.
for the full list of the labor movement’s legislative proposals for working families.
“Staying safe and staying home doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for ourselves and our communities,” said Ally Sexton, an attorney in the state’s transportation department. “This crisis is a unique opportunity to have our elected officials’ nearly undivided attention — they’re expecting to hear from their constituents.”
Legislative leaders responded to the state of emergency declaration by closing facilities at the Capitol and suspending all public hearings, committee meetings and chamber sessions through April 23. The governor’s latest directive extending school closures until May 20 will likely delay any action until a special session in late spring or the summer.
“Now is the time to deliver a strong, united message to our lawmakers,” added Sexton, who chairs AFT Connecticut’s legislative/political action committee (LPAC). “Their first order of business when they return to the Capitol must be to lift up working families.”
to send a brief message to your state Representative and Senator urging action.
Evidence of the need for our advocacy can be found in the latest coronavirus relief package passed in late March by Congress. The national AFL-CIO and constituent unions across the country — including AFT — led coordinated efforts to ensure the law was not merely another bailout for large corporations.
Members made phone calls and sent e-mail demanding access for working people to paid leave and sick days, unemployment insurance, medical testing and treatment at no cost. The resulting Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act came much closer to living up to the promise of its name thanks to organized labor’s push for better choices.
for national reporting on passage of the latest federal relief bill.
Our state labor movement’s proposals represent a similar comprehensive response for working people dealing with the fallout of the pandemic. Bold action is needed, so contact your legislators today to help ensure they prioritize the health and economic security for all when they return to Hartford.
Editors note: includes contributions by David Dal Zin, CT AFL-CIO.