Thursday, February 25, 2010

Working Together for Justice - Feb 27 & 28

A call to action to defend and expand affirmative action to achieve opportunity for young people, good jobs in communities hardest hit by the economic crisis, and economic security for our country will be highlighted at the 36th Annual African American History Month Celebration hosted by the People's World in Connecticut.

Featuring remarks by Dr. Gerald Horne and recognition of the New Haven Firebirds, the events to be held in Hartford and New Haven are organized around the theme "Working Together for Justice."

The first event, in Hartford, will be held at La Paloma Sabanera, 405 Capitol Avenue on Saturday, February 27 at 6 p.m. The second event, in New Haven, will be held at the Peoples Center, 37 Howe Street, at 4 p.m.

Special guest speaker Gerald Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His research has addressed issues of racism in a variety of relations involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations and war. A life long civil rights activist, he is author of more than two dozen books and 100 scholarly articles including the book “Reversing Discrimination – The Case for Affirmative Action.” He is a contributing editor to Political Affairs (

A highlight of the events will be recognition of the New Haven Firebirds
, the organization of African American firefighters, for their ongoing efforts to overturn discriminatory hiring and promotion practices. Remarks will be made by Gary Tinney, president, Ron Benson,past president, and George Sweeney, who in 1958 was the first African American firefighter hired in New Haven.

At the New Haven event prizes will be awarded for the High School Arts and Writing Competition. Music, drumming, and poetry for Haiti will be presented by Baub Bidon, Jeff Fuller, Ras Mo Moses and Richard Hill. Children's posters drawn on Martin Luther King's birthday at the Peabody Museum will be on display.

The Firebirds formed in 1973 to challenge hiring and promotion practices in the New Haven Fire Department. They filed four successful lawsuits over 25 years to correct various methods of "willful discrimination."

Their cause came to national attention last year, when the City of New Haven threw out the results of a test for promotions which did not reflect the diversity of the force. A group of 20 white firefighters including one Hispanic sued the City, demanding their promotions. A panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals including Judge Sonia Sotomayor, upheld the decision to disregard the test. The New Haven 20 then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which sided in their favor. The case was used by Republicans to try and block the appointment of Sotomayor.

The significance of the case goes far beyond firefighters, calling into question all the gains of the civil rights period, and relating to the disproportionately high unemployment rate of African American and Latino workers in the economic crisis.

A New Haven Grassroots Unity Statement, issued by the New Haven Peoples Center, will be circulated. The statement reads in part: " The needs of all city workers and residents require the selection of qualified recruits and leaders in our fire, police and all city departments that reflect our diversity. The consequences of unthoughtful tests hurt everyone across race, gender and neighborhood lines. A better promotion process will assist, enable and benefit all those who choose to participate, and our community as a while. We will not let such tests break the hard-fought unity of our diverse city. We call for a through review of all hiring practices to assure they contribute to that mandate."

A light supper buffet will be served at both events. A contribution of $5 (or what you can afford) is requested. A collection will be taken for the People's World fund drive. For information call 203-624-8664.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Intro to Marxism in Today's Economy

You are Invited.....

Want a better understanding of the economic crisis
and the way out? How does capitalism work?
What is socialism all about?

Introduction to Marxism in Today's Economy

Discussion leader: Art Perlo

Four or five sessions each held in two sections
(one on Sat and one on Thurs) every other week

Sat Mar 6
9 am to 11 am

Thurs Mar 11
7 pm to 9 pm

to be held at:
New Haven Peoples Center
37 Howe Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Please sign up by Thurs Mar 4.
Call 203-624-8664 and indicate
which section you will attend
(Sat or Thurs).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fat Cat March Protests Lack of Health Care for All

[Click on photo for a full screen]

(HARTFORD - February 16, 2010) – Despite the lingering snow and a late afternoon cold setting in, dozens of health care advocates arrived at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Hartford today, vowing to continue on in the fight for health care for all. Tom Swan of Connecticut Citizens Action Group (CCAG) addressed the gathering, recalling the difficult path of health care reform legislation to date. He suggested that the next several weeks would be critical to passing legislation that transformed health care in the United States, while the outcome of the health care battle would have a significant political impact on job creation, global warming and other major issues of concern.
With flags and signs in hand, the group proceeded to march two blocks down Church Street. By 5:45 PM, the crowd of roughly fifty people – some carrying pitchforks and others with blazing torches – were rallying in front of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association's building, home to much of Connecticut's corporate resistance to meaningful health care reform. The CBIA protest included a skit in which Mr. Fat Cat, a wealthy insurance company defender, was chased away by protesters angry at the growing numbers of uninsured, denial of health care, and rapidly escalating premiums.

The march and rally were sponsored by CCAG and Health Care for America Now (HCAN). There are plans for more actions in the coming weeks.


Mark you calendars. On Wednesday, Feburary 24 join the Virtual March for Real Health Care Reform. MoveOn, labor and community organizations are sponsoring the virtual march and asking all to call their senators. There will the one million calls and hundreds of people will be in Washington to lobby for meaningful health care reform now!

Be sure to call your senators on the day of the march:
Senator Dodd -- (202) 224-2823
Senator Lieberman -- (202) 224-4041
To reach our goal of sending one million messages to Congress, we need your help. Can you invite your friends to join in? Many Thanks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fat Cat Tues - March for the Change we Voted for

Next Tuesday, February 16, CCAG and HCAN will stand up for the change we voted for. Join our Fat Cat Tuesday March in Hartford against the opponents of reform!

[Fat Cats] In 2008, our country voted for change. We wanted health care reform because we know over 42,000 people die in America every year for lack of health care, and over 50% of our personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills. We wanted financial reforms that would stop greedy financial institutions from plunging us into the Second Great Depression. We wanted the wars of occupation to end and to rebuild our own country’s infrastructure. We wanted good jobs at good wages and action on climate change for our children and grandchildren. Collectively, we knocked on doors; made phone calls; cajoled our family, friends and neighbors and literally pulled strangers out of their homes to vote for change.

Members of Congress John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Chris Murphy teaming up with Senator Chris Dodd have worked hard to deliver the change we voted for. Unfortunately, health insurance companies, financial institutions, the US Chamber of Commerce and other big corporate interests are sabotaging our reform efforts and stopping the change we worked so hard for.

On Fat Tuesday (Tuesday, February 16) we will march against the opponents of change in downtown Hartford. We will gather at 5:00 PM at Christ Church Cathedral, 45 Church Street, Hartford (corner of Main and Church Streets across from the old G. Fox Building) for a short program and begin our march at 5:30 PM. Please join us to tell the health insurance companies and the corporate interests to stop opposing the change America needs!

For more information or (860) 995-3389.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Machinists Stop Pratt & Whitney from Moving Jobs

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Emotions ran high at the International Association of Machinists Local 1746 union hall Saturday morning as union leaders announced details of a court victory blocking Pratt and Whitney from moving work and equipment affecting 1,000 jobs.

While workers know their fight is not over, tears of joy filled the hall, located across the street from the main P&W plant, owned by United Technologies. The precedent-setting nature of the decision and the fact that 83,000 jobs have been lost in Connecticut in the last two years added to the significance of the moment.

The company violated its contract with the union by preparing to move operations to Georgia, Singapore and Japan without making a good faith effort to find other solutions, according to U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall. In an 85-page decision she issued a permanent injunction on the company's restructuring plan during the term of the collective bargaining agreement, which expires on Dec. 10, 2010.

The Machinists union has waged countless battles for job security over several decades, and won model language requiring the company to make every reasonable effort to preserve the work in Connecticut, and to explore alternatives with union representatives.

When P&W announced last July that it would close its airfoil unit in East Hartford and a repair plant in Cheshire, a 45-day "meet and confer" process began. Even after $80 million in wage cuts and other savings were offered by the workers, and after $100 million over five years was offered by the State of Connecticut, the company still refused to consider any alternative to moving the work out of state.

In September, IAM District 26 filed a lawsuit to halt the company's plans, arguing that P&W and United Technologies had obviously made up their mind prior to negotiations.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Chris Dodd, had submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the union's position. He argued in court that enforcement of the contract was of overriding importance to the people of Connecticut.

"We have a big job ahead of us now, securing these jobs in the next contract," said Jim Parent, IAM District 26 assistant directing business representative. "We're ready for a fight, if that's what it takes."

Congratulating the union for making the legal challenge, Congressman John Larsen (CT-01) said, "I strongly urge Pratt & Whitney not to appeal this decision, but to work with the union, the congressional delegation and the state to help keep these jobs in Connecticut for the long term."

On Saturday morning, labor and community leaders, friends and supporters gathered with the union members to learn of the decision and celebrate the outcome. Elected officials agreed that the decision sets a legal precedent that will help workers for years to come.

In 1999 the IAM won a similar suit to save parts repair work in the East Hartford plant. In a dramatic result, trucks on their way to Texas had to turn around and replace the equipment in the East Hartford plant, where the work continues today.

The September lawsuit was filed at the same time that the Connecticut AFL-CIO was in convention. Bringing its case to the convention floor, the union argued for support for enforcement of labor standards in trade agreements, including the TRADE Act now before Congress.

IAM leader Bill Shortell said this latest attempt to take a third of the remaining workforce out of the state and country by a profitable company receiving government contracts shows the need for "legislative tools ...The multinationals have no nation. The Trade Act must be passed. Corporations must be controlled," he said.

-- Joelle Fishman
People's World reprint

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coalition Critical of Gov. Rell's Budget Proposal Delivered Today


Better Choices for Connecticut , a statewide coalition advocating for revenue solutions, criticized Governor Rell and her latest budget proposal for failing to make the tough decisions that will make Connecticut more fiscally sound. By using one-time money to plug the hole in fiscal year 2011 and not including revenues as part of the solution, she is simply creating a larger budget deficit for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 that will have devastating effects on middle- and low-income families. The coalition urged the Governor and legislators to take a more balanced approach to dealing with the budget deficit by including revenue increases as part of the solution, warning that proposals which focus on service cuts will only further damage the economy and make the state less fiscally sound.

“Rather than relying on spending cuts that hurt our families, damage the state’s economy and greatly impede our ability to invest in the future, we need a more balanced approach that addresses the state's revenue problem with a revenue solution,” said Maggie Adair, Deputy Director at the Connecticut Association for Human Services. “There’s a cruel irony here. People’s needs are going up dramatically as the resources the state has to meet those needs are falling. More then ever, people need quality health care, good jobs, and education. So we have to fill that gap between people’s growing needs and what it takes to meet them.”

The Governor’s proposed adjustments to the second year of the biennial budget, which begins on July 1st, contains several cuts that negatively impact middle- and low-income families, including:

· Dramatic cuts to Care 4 Kids child care subsidy funding for working parents
· Impose co-pays on individuals for medical services under Medicaid
· Remove Medicaid coverage for over-the-counter drugs
· Reduce funding by 25% for the Human Services Infrastructure Community Action Program which impacts energy assistance and child care
· Suspend funding to expand elderly transportation
· Reduce funding for Housing/Homeless services
· Eliminate vision care and non-emergency medical transportation for CT’s poorest individuals
· Eliminate summer youth employment

“Rell’s budget address was most notable for what she left out.” said Brian Petronella, co-chair of Connecticut Working Families Party and president of UFCW local 371. “She didn't mention how her budget actually closes the deficit. It's balanced on cuts to vital public services which are a lifeline for working families and our state’s most vulnerable citizens. The only responsible way to get us out of this economic crisis without causing even more suffering is a balanced approach, including raising taxes on very wealthy households and closing gaping corporate tax loopholes.”

Better Choices for Connecticut urged a balanced approach to dealing with the state’s deficit that includes revenue solutions that will help the state jump-start the economy and create jobs while protecting the vital services Connecticut residents count on. The current state budget cut spending by over three billion dollars – three times more than was raised as new revenue. The result of this unbalanced approach has resulted in cuts to vital public services affecting children, seniors and families, including healthcare, education, and housing; job loss across the state; and a new fiscal crisis with the state’s current budget already over $500 million in the red.

Better Choices for Connecticut supports making the state income tax more progressive. Even after Connecticut ’s recent income tax increase for very high-income households, Connecticut ’s wealthiest families still pay a much lower share of their income in state and local taxes (4.9%) than middle-income families (9.9%) and low-income families (12%). The coalition offers several other revenue options including closing costly tax loopholes, evaluating and reducing unwarranted tax expenditures and delaying a reduction in the gift and estate a tax – a measure passed by the Legislature and then vetoed by Governor Rell in December.

Better Choices for Connecticut is a community coalition working to help Connecticut make better choices on ways to improve the state’s imbalanced revenue system so that it advances opportunity for shared prosperity for all Connecticut residents; preserves services for children, families and the elderly; creates and sustains good jobs; and reinvests in the middle class and our communities. For more information, go to

CT Communist Party Message - NO CUTS, NO LAYOFFS, TAX THE RICH!

The following is a statement of the Connecticut Communist Party delivered to the Governor and the Connecticut state legislators on Feb. 3, 2010.


It was a strong message to Connecticut when the voters of Oregon recently approved taxing the wealthy and big corporations to reduce the brutal impact of this economic crisis on working people and vulnerable groups. In a referendum, Oregon voters imposed an additional tax of 1.8% to 2.0% on the portion of incomes over $250,000, raising the top rate to 11%. Corporate taxes were made more progressive, with bigger corporations subject to a top rate of 7.6%. The measures were passed in order to maintain education, health care, public safety and other services. Fewer than 3% of state residents will see a tax increase.

Why can't Connecticut, the richest state in the United States, do the same?

As Wall Street and the Connecticut's wealthy recover from their own blunders Main Street continues to suffer. The budget crisis is not due to runaway spending -- it is due to a crisis in state revenue. But Connecticut's wealthy pay only 5% on income over $100,000, and 6.5% on income over $1 million. In Connecticut, fewer than 5% of state residents have an income over $250,000. If their tax rate was increased by 2%, close to $1 billion per year would be available to meet state needs. If we matched Oregon's tax-the-rich measure, more than $2 billion per year would come in to close the budget gap.

Gov. Rell has already cut and proposed more deep cuts to programs that help working people, children, elderly and the disabled. We say ENOUGH!!

Not one more dime of service cuts!! Tax the wealthy and big corporations. It is past time that they paid their fair share. The referendum in Oregon shows that when the issue is put fairly to the voters, they will support a reasonable tax on the wealthy to pay for vital state functions.

Connecticut officials should also join with citizens to call upon Congress to pass jobs legislation for aid to states and cities to protect jobs and stop layoffs of public workers and the services they provide.

These are the steps to a true recovery.

Issued by Connecticut Communist Party, USA
Joelle Fishman, Chair

Monday, February 1, 2010

Historic Union Contract Signed at Foxwoods

"We have voted and we now have a contract!" exclaimed a game-table dealer and member of UAW Local 2121 at Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand complex on Friday night. As the totals of the 24-hour vote were announced -- 1053 in favor and 355 against.-- she realized her Local had made history with the first union contract in the country negotiated under tribal law instead of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The two-year contract was won by 2,500 dealers at the largest casino in the country after three years of organizing and 14 months of negotiations.

"Our settlement demonstrates what we have known all along: that tribal sovereignty and employee rights need not be inconsistent." said Bob Madore director of UAW Region 9A "We value the investment and jobs the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe has brought to Connecticut, and we look forward to promoting this exciting resort as a destination of choice for working families and union members across New England," he said.

The agreement was hailed by Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council chairman Rodney Butler as "the first collective bargaining agreement to acknowledge tribal jurisdiction, which was the basis on which both parties expended extraordinary efforts to reach an agreement." He said.the agreement "demonstrates the vibrant and effective legal system of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the ability of tribal systems to administer matters relating to labor organizations."

Speaking for the casino management company, Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, president Michael Speller said the agreement "gives management the operational flexibility and cost controls necessary to remain competitive in the current economic climate." The company has been hit with financial losses after building the MGM Grand in 2008, coinciding with the economic crisis.

The diverse workforce which includes many Asian and Latin American workers, won improved wages and working conditions, and a seniority and grievance system.

"We worked hard to get dealers a fair contract," said Yan Mei Shi, who has worked at the casino for six and a half years. "Dealers deserve job stability and fair treatment on the job, and this agreement is a great advancement."

A big issue was division of tokes (tips), which represent two-thirds of income. The contract stipulates that all tokes will be pooled and divided equally including workers at the new high-end MGM Grand and the larger Foxwoods casino. The average base-rate of pay, $5.90 an hour will increase by 12 percent over two years and the toke-rate, which averages $14.14 an hour, will increase by $1.32.

The UAW considers the health and safety language in the contract "an industry model.". Medical leave for serious illness is extended from six months to a year. A 24-table "smoke-free pit" separated from other gaming areas will be established for dealers with conditions aggravated by secondhand smoke. Air-testing and ventilation systems will be established.

"Such steps go beyond those the state called for in an agreement the tribe reached last year with Gov. M. Jodi Rell," the union said.

The dealers won a seniority system to govern layoffs, and improved opportunities to advance from "flexible" to part-time to full-time status. A new dispute-resolution procedure allows for unresolved employee grievances to be settled by a third-party arbitrator. Under tribal law strikes and lockouts are prohibited.

The UAW also represents casino workers in Atlantic City and Detroit.

-- Joelle Fishman

Foxwoods casino workers vote on first contract

After three years of organizing with the United Auto Workers (UAW), 2,500 casino workers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand complex will vote on their first union contract tomorrow. It is the largest gaming complex in the country.

UAW Local 2121 said the "historic first union contract with Foxwoods" is the first in the country negotiated under tribal law. They hope that it will open possibilities across the country.

The table-game dealers had voted in favor of UAW representation in November 2007, but the company challenged the election on the basis that the casino is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot sovereign nation and not bound by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings. The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the election, but the company was continuing its appeal.
A year later, when the tribe agreed to recognize the UAW as bargaining agent, the workers agreed to negotiate their first contract under tribal law instead of the NLRB.

"This is the first union contract to acknowledge tribal jurisdiction," said a Mashantucket Pequot statement, "which was the basis on which both parties expended extraordinary efforts to reach an agreement." The casino, which opened nearly 20 years ago, has become the largest private employer in the state with over 12,000 workers. It is a multi-racial workforce including many Asian, Haitian and Latino immigrants.

The two year contract includes a 12 percent wage increase and a system of pooling and dividing tips between the casino and MGM Grand, a high end facility opened in May, 2008.

Language for job safety is considered by the UAW to be "an industry model," with prevention for repetitive stress injuries, medical leave extended from six months to a year in the case of serious illness, and a smoke free area for workers and customers. The issue of banning smoking was brought to the state legislature last year by the workers.

The workers also won a seniority clause for job protection and promotion, and a grievance procedure including arbitration.

Denise Gladue, a baccarat dealer with 15 years seniority called the contract "a great victory." She said "This preserves our basic benefits during a tough economy, provides job security and contrct improvements in so many areas. We see this agreement as a win-win for employees and for the future success of the casino."