Thursday, October 30, 2008

Key Facts about the Ballot Question
on a Constitutional Convention

from the CT Vote No Coalition:

Haga clic aquí para español

  • The question on the ballot will read: “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the State?” It doesn’t say anything about who goes to the convention or what will be proposed.
  • State legislators appoint the delegates to the convention. Average citizens have no say in who goes. The politicians in Hartford will appoint lobbyists, special interests and party operatives – not regular citizens and taxpayers.
  • Convention delegates can propose anything, without limits. Voters have no say in what is proposed at the convention. They will do what’s in their best interest,not the public interest.
  • The group pushing for the convention is a political organization dedicated to banning marriage for gay people and outlawing abortion. They will use the convention to take away people’s rights.
  • In other states, big businesses like health insurance companies and tobacco companies have used this process to get special tax breaks, overturn environmental laws and take away workers’ rights and benefits.
  • The state constitution has been amended 30 times since 1970 – without holding a convention. We can make changes to the constitution without holding a taxpayer-funded convention.

  • Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other experts on the state constitution have come out against the convention.

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain Links to Anti-Union Casino No Surprise to Workers

by Paul Neal

When scores of dealers and their supporters rallied at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Casino last May for their right to representation by United Auto Workers Region 9A, which they had voted for overwhelmingly, passersby were quick to honk in support.

A year earlier, Sen. John McCain enjoyed a gambling weekend at Foxwoods with lobbyists Scott Reed and Rick Davis, in seeming conflict of interest with his role as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Davis is now McCain’s campaign manager.

Casino management ties to McCain, exposed last month in The New York Times, come as no surprise. McCain is an ardent foe of workers’ right to organize.

Foxwoods’ management is refusing to recognize the dealers’ union vote on the grounds that the casino, located on Mashantucket Pequot sovereign territory, should be exempt from National Labor Relations Board rulings.

Because the casino is a corporate entity at which nearly all workers and customers are not tribe members, a court ruled that the casino workers are covered by the NLRB.

Commenting on the ruling last year, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called that ruling a “historic victory” that “opens a new era for working men and women at tribal casinos in Connecticut and across the country.

“While we respect the principles of tribal sovereignty, this ruling guarantees that basic rights deserve respect, no matter who the employee,” Blumenthal said.

This week, casino management responded by filing an appeal of the NLRB order to negotiate a contract, and announced the layoff of 700 workers.

This billion dollar casino is the world’s largest, and Connecticut’s biggest private employer. The dealers’ union web site is in eight languages, indicating the diversity of the workforce.

Since the union election Foxwoods has been stalling for time, trying to create an atmosphere which causes dealers to quit or be fired. The management has also seen fit to award across-the-board raises to virtually every other occupation in the casino complex while dealers’ salaries have remained stagnant.

Dealers recruited from the original casino to work in the new MGM tower are required to serve a three-month probationary period which allows Foxwoods to fire them at will with no recourse for reinstatement at either casino. The net result of these firings is one less union dealer for Foxwoods to contend with.

Dealers have been required to meet certain physical characteristics in order to be considered for work in the MGM tower. Men are required to remove all facial hair and have a physique that can adorn the cover of GQ Magazine and women must have the proportions of a Barbie Doll.

As irritating as these requirements might seem, the issue that caused the Foxwoods dealers and the UAW to set up informational picket lines last May is the fact that Foxwoods separated Foxwoods and MGM dealers tips (tokes). “One casino, one union, one toke, no smoke” was the most popular chant, also addressing the demand for a smoke-free work environment. The UAW and the dealers feel that this is yet another attempt by Foxwoods to divide and destroy the solidarity of the dealers after their legally awarded election victory.

The May support rally was attended by local, state and national politicians and union officers including Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen; UAW Region 9A Director Bob Madore and state Attorney General Blumenthal, as well as members of other unions and organizations. Of course, the real honored guests were the Foxwoods dealers themselves.

McCain’s ties to the gambling industry raise the stakes of the presidential election for the dealers as their struggle for a union contract continues.

From the People's Weekly World

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Courtney-Sullivan Debate

Joe Courtney’s debate on Tuesday evening was clearly a success. Before the debate opened at the Garde Arts Center the street outside was well attended with Courtney supporters. His opponent’s supporters were lost in the crowd since they were in such small numbers. Courtney, not the best speaker, nevertheless easily parried the criticisms of his opponent, Sean Sullivan, and used his opponent’s critiques as an opening to expand on his own message. At one point Sullivan recycled the Reagan, Palin response of “there you go again Congressman” to one of Courtney’s statements. The first time may have worked for Reagan but the third time at the Garde Arts Center brought derisive laughter from the audience, not at the comment but at the commentator.
-- Mulligan

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Haven Upholds Its Stand for Immigrant Rights

New Haven, Conn., has been picketed, sued and targeted with massive hate mail by national anti-immigrant organizations since last year when the Elm City Resident Card was launched. Available to any resident regardless of immigration status, the photo ID includes access to city parks, libraries and other programs.

On Monday night, after a packed and emotional hearing, the Finance Committee of the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to accept private grant funds raised to continue the ID card. Eloquent testimony by dozens of immigrant workers, city officials, union leaders, clergy, educators, police officers and community activists proved the overwhelming success of the program now used by more than 6,000 people.

Three representatives of the extremist Community Watchdog Project with ties to FAIR (the misleadingly named Federation for American Immigration Reform), Numbers USA and other hate groups, received no support for their claims that immigration is destroying African American workers and the entire economy.

The Elm City Resident Card is premised on the idea that the health and well being of the whole community depends on inclusion and opportunity for all residents of the community. New Haven has received many national awards for this project, which is being duplicated in other cities across the country.

The following testimonies of Art Perry, political director of Local 32 BJ SEIU, and Kenneth R. Brown II of the Center for New Community in Chicago emphasize the power of unity to achieve the needs of immigrants and all workers in our country, and respond to the negative impact of division and hate.

— Joelle Fishman

Testimony of Art Perry, political director Local 32 BJ SEIU:

I am here on behalf of the 85,000 members of Local 32BJ SEIU, including 4,500 members in Connecticut.

Just two years ago, hundreds of janitors here in New Haven organized to be part of Local 32BJ. The vast majority of our new brothers and sisters are Latino immigrants who live in and around New Haven. And like all immigrants, they are here to work hard, support their families and achieve the American dream.

We testified in support of the ID card in May 2007 and we are here tonight in support of the identification card for the City of New Haven again for all of the reasons that we supported it before.

This card will serve as a means of safety and security for New Haven residents, including immigrant workers. The card will improve public safety — cardholders will be more likely to report witnessing a crime or being a victim of a crime, as well as provide identification if required by law enforcement.

In addition, the card will help residents access services, such as the library, parks and other public facilities. It will assist people in opening bank accounts, providing a safe place to keep their money instead of at home or carrying it in public. The card will also serve as means of identification for those who don’t have a driver’s license, such as the elderly.

This card is a good idea for all of New Haven’s residents and it is especially good for immigrant workers and their families, who are anxious to become full participants in their communities. By helping immigrants better integrate into city life and city services, we’ll build a better, safer and more diverse city.

Testimony of Kenneth R. Brown, II, Center for New Community, Chicago, Ill.:

The Center for New Community is a national organization committed to building community, justice and equality. The center is grounded in many faith traditions, respecting all traditions and secular efforts in building community where the dignity and value of all humanity is manifest.

The work of the center includes organizing against hate groups (such as white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups), hate music and the growing anti-immigrant hate movement. A part of this latter effort is an initiative which I am director of called “Which Way Forward: African Americans, Immigrants and Race,” which includes a network of nationwide African American leaders concerned with the dangers that the anti-immigrant movement poses toward the Black community.

We, as a center, encourage the Board of Aldermen to approve funding for the continuation of the Elm City Resident Card program. The card is a major step in the building of a safe, healthy community for all those who call New Haven home, a step for which we commend city leaders. The program’s facilitation of secure financial services for immigrants, better communication with law enforcement personnel, and increased utilization of city services is a boon to the New Haven community which we applaud, and which, no doubt, others this evening can extol more eloquently than I can. I want you, however, to also be aware of the crucial position of leadership the city of New Haven is taking nationally in the effort to build a healthy society for our residents, both immigrant and native-born.

While the debate on immigration rages around us, the need for safe, growing communities is still present, and cannot wait on protracted political battles. In instituting the Elm City Resident Card program, New Haven has demonstrated its understanding of this, and shown its commitment to addressing the needs of all those who contribute to its diverse social fabric. I dare say New Haven is being looked at for leadership in this arena of society. As various municipalities around the country wrestle with how to foster a vibrant community for all their residents, regardless of standing or country of origin, New Haven is showing that there are positive steps a city can take toward cultivating a safe atmosphere for its people. Your continued leadership in this is essential.

A notable point of success of the program is the fact that funds have been raised to support it, thus alleviating much of the burden on municipal funds. We applaud the efforts of the city to do what’s necessary for its residents even in the face of fiscal challenges.

Do not succumb to the hate and the xenophobia manifested by anti-immigrant groups nationally and here in southern Connecticut. As one examines the increasingly virulent attack in this country on foreign-born persons, one must be greatly concerned by its roots in racism, in white supremacy, in the retention of power and privilege for some at the expense of quality of life for all. We don’t have the time this evening to talk about organizations — some of which are recognized hate groups — such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, the Minutemen and other such manifestations of bigotry. If you wish, the Center for New Community can provide further information on such. It’s come to our understanding, however, that there are similar groups here in southern Connecticut whose vitriolic ranting — not only against much of the immigrant population but against city personnel as well — is diametrically opposed to the society-enhancing endeavors of this city. For such thought to, in any way, sway the leaders of New Haven from your goal of providing a healthy atmosphere for all would be a major blow against the building of community.

Continue the leadership you’re providing the country on the creation of safe space and community. Continue, as a city, to be true to your name: let this be, indeed, a new haven — a new place of safety — for all of your residents.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World


It was refreshing to see the immigration issue raised as it has gotten lost in the election debates. Xenophobia is a good framework. It brought to mind that excellent film - The Visitor. Thanks, Len