Connecticut AFL-CIO gears up to build worker power
Rev. Scott Marks, director of New Haven Rising, addresses the CT AFL-CIO convention at the Omni New Haven Hotel on Thursday June 27, 2024.

NEW HAVEN, Conn – Delegates to the 15th Biennial Political Convention of the Connecticut AFL-CIO were united in their determination to organize and defeat Trump and MAGA candidates at every level in this November’s election. Meeting at the Omni Hotel in New Haven for two days, the themes of the elections and racial and economic justice filled the agenda.

“Voting rights, reproductive rights, access to affordable health care, Medicare, Social Security are all on the ballot this November,” warned AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond as the convention opened. “It’s not who you like, personalities, names. This election is about us workers and our shared values,” declared Redmond.

To loud applause Redmond recounted the battles underway to “get the workers’ share of the record profits generated” by big corporations during the pandemic. “This election is about us and what type of future our children will inherit,” he concluded. “We have the ability to build momentum and get well across the finish line to build a better and more effective movement.”

Telling the story of his family, sharecroppers from Mississippi, who came to Chicago in search of a better life. Redmond described how his mother took three buses to work, in the hope that her son would have a better life than she had.

He highlighted the impact of good union jobs, which allowed his father to build economic stability for their family. “These jobs made a significant difference for individuals with limited opportunities, enabling them to own homes, save for retirement, and provide a solid foundation for their children,” he said.

Redmond emphasized the importance of endorsing a candidate who prioritizes working people, calling for accountability by delegates and members during the election period.

“We have to lay out the serious contrast in this election as we did in 2020 and 2022, and give our members facts to encourage voters,” said Redmond calling for an all-out effort to “show the nation what grassroots power looks like.”

“There is no power that can defeat the power of a united labor movement,” he declared. “Organized labor’s work will determine the outcome of this election.”

The convention launched the Labor 2024 campaign plan to mobilize members by visiting them and their families at their homes to discuss the issues. The goal, said political director Joelyn Leon, is to “build a movement that transcends these elections for years to come.”

A focus of the convention was the work of the Racial and Economic Justice Committee, including speakers and panels discussing the necessity to tackle racism and strengthen the unity of the labor movement in order to win progress for everyone.

New Haven Rising, a community affiliate of Unite Here, which has been instrumental in electing a majority pro-worker Board of Alders in New Haven since 2011, shared their stories. At the evening fundraiser hosted on their behalf, following a welcome by director Rev. Scott Marks, statewide elected officials credited the work of New Haven Rising to making New Haven key to winning any state-wide election in Connecticut.

The next day Mike Booth, Vice President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), gave the closing remarks. He detailed through history major strikes lost because of the use of militia by the government, and strikes that were won with the support of elected officials.

“Corporations don’t give back, we have to take it,” he said to applause as he described historic wage increases won during the 2023 Stand Up Strike against the Big Three auto companies. “What is won at the bargaining table can be taken away at the voting booth,” he warned. “November’s elections from school board to President will impact our lives.”

The convention opened with a welcome from New Haven Alder Brian Wingate, area vice president of the Greater New Haven Central Labor Chapter, who highlighted the benefits of union jobs in Black and brown communities. Union workers from Unite Here Local 217 at the Omni New Haven Hotel announced their ongoing contract negotiations to preserve wages and benefits, calling for solidarity from fellow union members across the state.

President Ed Hawthorne and Secretary-Treasurer Shelley Davis presented reports emphasizing solidarity, the need to be in the forefront for racial and economic justice, and supporting candidates who advocate for workers’ rights.

Redmond, who delivered the keynote address, was welcomed as the highest-ranking African-American officer, elected as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO in 2022. His extensive experience with the United Steelworkers (USW) included working with union locals, leadership training, and contract negotiations.

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Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is an active member of many local economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the national CPUSA Political Action Commission, she plays an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights, and peace. Joelle Fishman preside el Partido Comunista de Connecticut USA. Es miembro activo de muchas organizaciones locales de derechos económicos y justicia social. Como presidenta de la Comisión Nacional de Acción Política del CPUSA, desempeña un papel activo en la amplia alianza laboral y popular y continúa movilizándose por la atención médica, los derechos de los trabajadores y la paz.

Jahmal Henderson
Jahmal Henderson

Jahmal Henderson is a community organizer at Newhallville in New Haven, Connecticut. He is also a graphic art designer.