Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Waterbury Workers Win Contract

Waterbury Hospital union members voted 163-1 to ratify their new collective bargaining agreement on March 6. The patient care attendants, unit clerks, storeroom and maintenance workers are members of New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199/SEIU.

The settlement comes after 14 months of negotiations with the Hospital and the threat of a strike. “I have been employed here since the early 1980’s,” said Brenda Morisette, the lead 1199 delegate who actually participated in the four-month 1986 Hospital strike. “I’ve have never seen such bad management. The Hospital could have had a contract with us months ago, but their giveback demands were outrageous.”

The final agreement includes successorship, which the members consider their most important win. If Vanguard Health Systems buys the Hospital, as it proposes to do, the company is required to assume the union employees and the union contract.

In addition, the workers won two raises of 2% each: this March and in 2015. The contract runs until March 2016. The workers agreed to adopt the paid time off (PTO) system with temporary cuts in hours. All the time accruals are then restored two months before the contract expires.

“We rejected attacks on our union pension and health insurance funds,” said Steve Thornton of 1199. “We defeated other backward demands by the boss, including the loss of overtime pay after 8 hours, and another provision that could cut workers’ hours any time the Hospital’s census dropped.”

“These proposals,” Thornton continued, “were thought up by people who are out of touch with workers’ reality. Negotiating is much harder when the employer’s elite mind-set takes control. We would like to operate from now on with mutual respect, but CEO Darlene Stromstad has not yet earned that respect.”

Rally with Letter Carriers

The Letter Carriers union in Connecticut has called a rally to protest the Postmaster General's plan to cut delivery of mail to five days a week. The rally will be held Sunday, March 24 at noon on the New Haven Green. Rallies will take place in every state in the country.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Womens Day 2013!

Today we celebrate the leadership of women of all generations organizing for equal pay, an end to violence, social justice and peace. 
International Women's Day was adopted by the Second International Women’s Conference, held in Copenhagen in 1910. The date was chosen to commemorate a huge demonstration of New York women garment workers on March 8, 1908 to demand the vote and to build a strong union.

The success of the 1908 demonstration became known internationally. Clara Zetkin, Marxist writer and activist, proposed March 8 become an International Women’s Day each year dedicated to fighting for equal rights for all women in all countries.

In March, 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist fire took the lives of 140 working women and children in New York City. That same year women textile workers of Lawrence, Massachusetts went on strike for "Bread and Roses"  The cause of working women of all races and nationalities and their struggle for equality remains at the center of International Women's Day. In 1975 International Women's Day was adopted by the United Nations. 

The important role women are playing around the country and the world, and in Connecticut, inspires us and gives us confidence that we can succeed in the struggle for women's rights, workers' rights and a more just and equal world.

In Solidarity,
Joelle Fishman, Connecticut CPUSA

Pushing Forward for Jobs and Freedom

The power and excitement of the Pushing Forward for Jobs and Freedom celebration of African American history was fueled by an extraordinary youth march held the week before from the Peoples Center to Kensington Street. Photos of the march shown on a giant screen put youth at the center of the celebration and set the stage for the afternoon

As Prof. Jamie Wilson said in his address, "as this nation fights wars of national aggrandizement, as the gap between the rich and the poor grows, and as the middle class wanes, black people and multiracial alliances will continue to struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the lessons of past struggles will act as guidance."

Wilson discussed those past struggles, centered on anniversaries in 2013 of the emancipation proclamation, the murder of Medgar Evers and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

"It is important," he concluded, "for us to recognize and remember the lesser known and more familiar voices of struggle within the African American experience because, no matter what our hue, our cultural roots and routes may be or become, the history of African Americans has something to teach us all."

The program personified unity of experience and dreams as the multi-racial audience appreciated comments by the New Elm City Dream youth following a video of the march for love, jobs and peace they organized, and then comments by Connecticut Students for a Dream leaders Carolina and Camila Bortolleto whose story of growing up without documents led to their organizing for a path to citizenship for all 11 million immigrants.

Prizes were presented to winners of the high school arts and writing competition. A drum rendition by Brian Jarawa Grey and a medley of songs by Scotticesa Marks added meaning to the 39th annual African American History Month Celebration hosted by the People's World in Connecticut.

Inspired and enthused, the elected officials, union leaders and community activists present enjoyed a delicious home made buffet after the program, sitting in small groups and making new friends.