Spirited May Day Rally raises worker activism and funds

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — International workers’ solidarity was in the air at the People’s Weekly World May Day rally, ‘No Cuts – No Layoffs – Tax the Rich,’ on Sunday, May 5. The jammed hall greeted a powerpoint photo presentation of workers confronting the economic crisis on every continent followed by a panel discussion by Connecticut union leaders.

Tomasina Denny and Willie Tart told of their experience in Washington DC lobbying for the Employee Free Choice Act. As workers at Yale New Haven Hospital they have had first hand experience of willful violation of labor law by a major employer intent on disallowing union representation.

Blair Bertaccini was an election observer in El Salvador last month when the pro-worker FMLN candidates won after years of struggle. Bill Shortell, a labor council president, was one of several union leaders from the US to witness the formation of the first labor confederation in Iraq. Workers from countries around the world gathered for an international conference on the occasion.

A highlight of the afternoon was presentation of Newsmaker Awards. Jerome Hauser, president of UE Local 22-888 public works union in New Haven described how the members came together and decided to forgo an upcoming pay increase in order to make sure that no jobs were eliminated. They won a two year guarantee of no layoffs. Hauser said that as a city worker, he would not be willing to remove furniture to evict a co-worker who had lost his job, emphasizing that we are all a paycheck away from homelessness.

Professor Felipe Flores and his students from the Hispanic Club
at Naugatuck Valley Community College accepted the award for saving a soup kitchen from closing in the dead of winter. He said that no one should need to go to a soup kitchen for food but many people can’t make ends meet these days. The young people won admiration from everyone present for taking a stand, going to the Governor’s office and when there was no response finding volunteers from their own college.

Tom Swan, accepting the award on behalf of Health Care for America Now in Connecticut emphasized that a health care plan will be passed in the next five months and urged participation in the struggle in Washington to achieve a strong public choice component, being vigorously opposed by the insurance industry, Republicans and some Democrats. He warned that the 2010 elections could be recaptured by the extreme right wing if a strong health care bill is not passed and invited those present to come to Washington DC on June 25 for a rally and lobby day. Condolences were sent to John Olsen, president of the CT AFL-CIO and co-chair of HCAN whose father died the day before.

Frank Panzarella got the multi-racial crowd of young and old singing union songs, and over a delicious home made dinner petitions for the Employee Free Choice Act and to tax the rich were signed, and letters were written to Senators Dodd and Lieberman to support a public health care program.

The event and two May Day greetings raised over $3,000 for the People’s Weekly World fund drive. Many subscribers turned in all or part of their annual pledges. Nearly $1500 was raised in the name of stalwart People’s Weekly World distributor Jack Lucas who died last month.