“Connecticut needs a governor who walks picket lines, not a governor who busts unions and destroys communities,” proclaimed AFT president Randi Weingarten at a jam-packed labor walk kickoff rally Sunday in New Britain with Governor Dannel Malloy (D).
While Malloy joined striking AFT Connecticut workers at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London last year and helped settle that lockout, his opponent, multi-millionaire Republican Tom Foley, forced workers on strike when he owned TB Woods Sons Inc. in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He replaced 325 members of UAW Local 695 with non-union workers and then sold the company for $40 million leaving an entire community stranded. “We decided to go without the union,” he said.
Across the state hundreds of union volunteers and community activists are knocking on the doors of their co-workers and neighbors to discuss the high stakes of this tossup election and get commitments to vote. When Malloy and Foley ran against each other in 2010, Malloy won by only 6,000 votes.
As one canvasser said, “We don’t want Connecticut workers and communities to be abandoned like our sisters and brothers were in Chambersburg.”
Firing up the volunteers, Liz Schuler, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO declared, “Vote your hopes not your fears.”
Malloy’s response to the economic crisis was opposite to that of Republican governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Indiana’s Mike Pence who shredded collective bargaining rights for public workers, withdrew aid to cities, and starved public education. Both are campaigning with Foley.
There have been issues of contention over the last four years, but the Malloy administration, including Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, a past member of 1199, and Commissioner of Labor Sharon Palmer formerly president of AFT CT, have bucked the national tide and taken some bold steps toward improving the lives of working class people in the state with the largest wealth gap in the nation.
Connecticut was the first state to enact mandatory paid sick days and to raise the minimum wage. In addition, the governor signed an executive order allowing 20,000 home health care and home child care workers to unioninze. They now have won their first contracts and are receiving retroactive pay increases.
An Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers and Circuit Breaker tax relief for seniors were enacted, alternative sentencing and other policies have reduced youth incarceration 44%, state pension funds have been strengthened, a green bank was established, the Dream Act was signed into law, funding for public education and for cities has been increased to avoid layoffs of municipal workers. As well the death penalty was repealed and the strongest gun safety legislation was passed following the Newtown tragedy.
“What we have accomplished in Connecticut makes us a top target,” said Lori Pelletier, executive secretary treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO. She praised the state’s union leaders for working tirelessly since February with an education and voter engagement program to ensure that this state does not have the anti-worker “Wisconsin moment” that Foley said Connecticut needs.
“Tom Foley’s Wisconsin moment? Tax cuts for millionaires and pay cuts for working families. No thanks, Tom,” says Dawn Tyson in AFSCME Council 4’s video “The View from Wisconsin and Connecticut.”
AFSCME president Lee Saunders has also traveled to Connecticut to support Mally and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT5). At a labor walk rally in Meriden he said, “The governor has stood with working families across Connecticut and we will stand with him.” Reflecting the tight race he urged the volunteers, “This is one on one organizing, knocking on doors, making calls, at worksites. If we dedicate ourselves we will make a statement in Connecticut and across the country.”
It has become clear to many that Foley’s concern is for the well-being of the One Percent and not the vast majority of Connecticut residents. His tax returns show that he paid little or no federal and state income taxes in the last three years despite owning a large home, fancy yacht and private jet. He promises voters that he will cut their taxes but says nothing about how services will be maintained.
Foley has been endorsed by extremist right-wing groups including the Family Institute of Connecticut and A Public Voice, Inc. of West Chester, Ohio. Both oppose same sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights. He has also been endorsed by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League the state’s largest gun owners group.
In response to high expectations from labor, Malloy has strengthened his stance for workers’ rights. “You do the hard work and you should be respected and have the right to collectively bargain.” he told Yale’s graduate student teachers and researchers seeking union recognition at a rally of 1500 for good jobs in New Haven last week, adding “This state stands up for working class people.”
Unions are not alone in mobilizing for Malloy’s re-election. The Sierra Club, gun safety organizations who support Malloy’s role in passing the strongest legislation in the country after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and women’s organizations are among those campaigning with the Governor.
In New Haven, the city with the largest Democratic voter turnout, a movement demanding living wage jobs in African American and Latino neighborhoods is asking voters to commit to be “Jobs Voters” on election day by voting for Malloy and for question one, to expand early voting, and question two, which would require developers who receive public funds to hire New Haven residents. The youth group New Elm City Dream spent the summer registering voters and is now going door to door to get out the vote.
Malloy and Wyman, along with the other constitutional officers and Congressional candidates will also appear on the Working Families line.
Like elsewhere across the country, this election is a tossup in the polls. And like elsewhere, voter turnout will decide if Connecticut is to be led by a governor who walks picket lines or busts unions and destroys communities.
Photo: Union volunteers applaud Gov. Dan Malloy before door-knocking in support of the governor. Art Perlo/PW