Friday, July 22, 2016

Testimony in Bridgeport Calls for $15 minimum wage

Dozens of low-wage workers demanding Connecticut’s minimum wage be increased to $15 an hour testified at a hearing in Bridgeport called by the Low-Wage Employer Advisory Board.  The 12-member task force was created by the state legislature to study the impact of low wages.

A recent report from Economic Policy Institute shows the wealthiest one percent in Connecticut captured all the state’s income growth from 2009 to 2013. Connecticut has the second-highest income inequality, and Bridgeport has the second-highest among metropolitan areas nationally.

Richard Grimes, a homeless Hartford-area Burger King worker and member of the Fight for $15 said “I work for a multi-billion dollar company yet I make so little I cannot afford a place to live. Each day I have to decide between buying a meal and paying for the bus to get to work. A $15 minimum wage would change my life drastically.”

Raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would lift families out of poverty and boost the economy, bringing billions of dollars to Connecticut.

"Two out of three minimum wage workers are women, including single moms,” said Queen Freelove, a childcare provider in New Haven. "I make it possible for many of those parents to get and keep their jobs.  But many parents can't afford to pay much. No company should be allowed to pay their workers poverty wages."

Wages have stagnated for all workers, but those in lower-paying jobs have been hit the hardest.
State Senator Marilyn Moore, chair of the Human Service committee worked in a low-wage job at Target last summer. “The work is physically and psychologically demanding, and workers — many raising children — not only need but deserve a base of $15 an hour. It would dignify their labor, and ultimately benefit their employers and customers.” 

I have seen firsthand the erosion of the middle class in Bridgeport,” said State Senator Ed Gomes. “We need a minimum wage that can sustain adult workers and help them raise their families toward a brighter future. If low-wage workers have more money to spend in a town like Bridgeport, the ripple effect would benefit the entire economy.”

The Advisory Board is expected to make its recommendations in December.

Stained Glasses at Yale Spark Protest

Many people rallied Tuesday morning in-front of the Superior Court Building on Elm St in support of a former Yale employee Corey Menafee, 38. He was terminated after he broke a controversial window pane with a broom handle while working in the Calhoun College Dining Hall on Yale's campus.

The window pane depicted two African-American slaves picking cotton, which disturbed Menafee when looking at it daily. Calhoun, for whom the College is named, served as the 7th vice president of the United States and was an outspoken and foremost supporter of slavery and the preservation of slavery,

The images led to ongoing fights in the past years between Yale and the facility, alumni, students and community over getting the dining hall and its symbolism to Calhoun's legacy removed and renamed, which Yale is considering now especially after this controversial action took place.

Meanwhile, Menafee's actions were used to force him resign after nine years of employment as a dishwasher on the university's campus. This led to a large debate and support and rally during Menafee's court appearance.

He did not enter a plea to the charges in the June 13th incident of second degree reckless endangerment and first degree criminal mischief which is considered a felony. His court case was continued to July,26.

Many people took to social media expressing mixed views for Corey's choice of action which he soon after apologized for doing. Friends even starting a "Go Fund Me Page For Corey" which has grossed over $19,000 in the few days its been created, toward a $25,000 goal which is sure to be reached.
Social organizations for immigration and equality rights and Yale's political community and student organizations are coming to Corey's aid and supporting him and calling on Yale to "re hire" Corey and move into the 21st century with change.

Yale who agreed to drop charges if Menafee resigns, says it will remove a number of window panes and replace them with new tinted glass and donate the old controversial window panes to its museums.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Miracle at the Q House

On a beautiful bright Saturday morning in the Dixwell community one can see residents,Alders,children,artists,elected officials, contractors and builders all gathered around one of New Haven's oldest landmarks "The Q House", a longtime community center that offered service options to the entire New Haven community. The historic community center was forced unfortunately to close its doors in 2003 due to a lack of funding.

The gathering was greeted by Alder Jeanette Morrison(D-22), whose countless efforts and promise to see a new community center led her on a hard fought campaign to start a "New Q-House" Committee and bring together Gov. Malloy, Mayor Toni Harp, residents, and community groups to make this dream a reality.

Youth from the YCL, New Elm City Dream, and other groups had organized marches for the Q House, and fought to keep Alder Morrison in office to keep the project on track. As a result of their hard work, these youth were invited to sit on the current Q House planning committee.

Morrison explained how the dedicated commitment finally paid off when the state granted the neighborhood 15.5 million dollars to complete the project. The building contractors of the project agreed to offer certain construction jobs to  community residents.

The demolition will start this summer and will be completed in the fall. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2017. A passionate prayer was given by Alder Richard Furlow,Ward 27, followed by a lovely rendition of "Lift Every Voice" by Alder Jill Marks, Ward 28, and a moment of silence and homage to Regina Winters one of the first African-American women architects who designed the new Q-House design but suddenly died of cancer.

Introductions of Q House building committee members, remarks from Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and Tyisha Walker, president of the New Haven Board Of Alders, and a tribute to original Q House members were all part of the program. In a passionate speech Mayor Harp said the new facility will have a state of the art library and heath care services, gymnasium, and an African American museum.

The crowd  made it's way to a ceremonial painting on the Q House wall by artist Norman ''KTro" Storm and local community kids, which everyone then proceeded to sign lovely messages on.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Solidarity with workers at Zane's Cycles

Workers and community members lined the street to protest exploitative practices outside Zane’s Cycles at 330 East Main St. in Branford last weekend. Chanting "No Justice, No Bike!" the solidarity protest called on owner Chris Zane to treat workers with dignity and respect.

In September 2015, workers at Zane’s Cycles facility located a 182 Cedar St. in Branford voted overwhelmingly, under federal labor law, to bargain collectively for a workplace contract. The workers elected UFCW Local 919 to represent them in contract negotiations. Since then, Chris Zane has only agreed to meet eight times to negotiate a contract with the workers. That’s only eight negotiating sessions in eight months!!

Among the issues workers want to address, which Zane has refused to reasonably discuss, are the need for:
- A clean, sanitary break room. Workers eat their lunch in the dirty, greasy work area were they assemble thousands of bikes for Zane.
- Adequately heated and cooled working area. Workers say it is often too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer...many have to wear coats while they work in the winter.
- Paid sick days. Workers lose money when they or a family member is sick.
- Paid vacation days. Workers can’t even count on a paid vacation after so much hard work.
- Paid time off to mourn the death of a family member. Zane doesn't pay a worker who has to go to a funeral for their family member.

Chris Zane exploits the workers who make him rich! Because of his behavior Zane’s Cycles has been charged with violating federal labor law. The charges are currently before the National Labor Relations Board.

The Connecticut AFL-CIO issued the following appeal for solidarity with workers at Zane's Cycles:
"Workers at Zane’s Cycles stood up to management and voted to join UFCW Local 919 over nine months ago, but the owner still refuses to bargain in good faith.
"The workers now need your help to get a first contract. Call owner Chris Zane and tell him to stop exploiting his workers!
"Chris Zane engages in bad faith bargaining and unfair labor practices. Tell Chris to sit down with the workers and negotiate in good faith by calling him at 203-483-2620."
DUE Justice Coalition Protests Austerity Budget
A coalition of union, community and civil rights groups that fought hard against an austerity budget in Connecticut, rallied outside the Connecticut Democratic Progress Dinner in Hartford.
"Legislators who supported the recently passed job-killing state budget need to know that the service cuts and layoffs it will cause hurt all working families," said the Democracy, Unity and Equality (DUE) Justice Coalition. Teachers, state workers and other unions rallied alongside community allies to make clear the need for a different approach in state budgets to reflect the values of fairness and equality. The coalition made many suggestions of how the state could gain revenue from large corporations and the top 1% who benefited from the economic recovery.

The legislature and Governor enacted a budget that will cause layoffs of at least 2,500 workers, cutting the services they have provided to the public. " This isn’t just about union jobs,” said AFSCME Council 4 Director Sal Luciano. “It’s about the future of Connecticut.”

Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance
Rallies to End Immigration Raids
In response to reports of planned deportation raids targeting immigrant mothers, children and families who fled violence in Central America after January 2014, the CT Immigrants Rights Alliance (CIRA) rallied in front of the Hartford Federal Building where the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement are located. The rally demanded  an end to raids, an end to all deportations and expansion of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Central American Refugees.

Criminalizing, tracking down and deporting people into violence, poverty and death is wrong, whether it is one of us or a million of us” said Renato Muguerza, a community organizer with CIRA

The rally called on the Obama administration and ICE to create broad relief for refugees from Central America instead of deportation raids against people fleeing extreme violence and poverty. They asked the administration to reopen these cases, give full due process with full access to counsel and grant proper relief.

The rally was followed by a teach-in about how to defend your rights in case of an immigration raid. Similar "Know Your Rights" sessions will be held around the state.