Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Court Upholds Home Car Workers Right to Unionize

The right of home based child care and home health care workers to collective bargaining was upheld this week by the Connecticut Appellate Court when a three-judge panel ruled that lawsuits by a pro- corporate group, We the People Connecticut Inc., and by two Republican legislators, were moot.

The lawsuit charged that Gov Malloy overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order allowing the home care workers to organize in 2011. The State legislature passed a law in 2012 affirming the right of the workers to unionize.

For the 4,300 licensed and family, friend, neighbor home based child care providers and the 7,000 home health care providers, the right to form a union has meant a greatly improved quality of life. Both groups of workers negotiated and signed their first contracts this year.

Nearly all of the Care 4 Kids family child care providers are women, mostly in the large cities of the state. The unlicensed family, friends and neighbor providers have been paid $2.23 an hour, a third of Connecticut's 2012 minimum wage. Under their first contract, they won a 29% increase in the first year and will be linked to the actual minimum wage. 
Licensed providers will get an 8.25% increase the first year. These providers receive about $145 a week per child, but have to spend much more on their daycare homes.

Opposition to the right of these workers to unionize came from the right-wing Americans for Prosperity and the Yankee Institute, but the workers convinced the Legislature to vote in favor of the right to collective bargaining.

Nationally, the Harris V Quinn lawsuit brought by the Right to Work Foundation currently before the U.S. Supreme Court could devastate unions by outlawing agency shop for home care and other workers.
The Connecticut ruling came days after Gov Malloy won the Democratic nomination for re-election, while Republicans nominated Tom Foley for governor.

Home care workers remember that under a Republican Governor they had been unable to win the right to collective bargaining.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson said that Governor Malloy's executive order was lawful and appropriate

Thursday, May 15, 2014

CT Communist Party adopts Economic Bill of Rights

Special to the People's World  May 16 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn.-Messages from labor and community leaders, participation by young people, and adoption of a Connecticut Economic Bill of Rights highlighted the lively and powerful convention of the Connecticut district of the Communist Party on May Day weekend.

"It's time to turn up the heat," said Rev. Scott Marks, recognizing the YCL and New Elm City Dream youth group who have been marching to end violence with the theme "Jobs for Youth - Jobs for All." The demands that the youth have brought forward have been adopted as top priorities by the New Haven Board of Alders on which union members and their allies hold a super majority.

Jennifer Graham and Jackie Marks, high school students representing New Elm City Dream on the mayor's planning committee to rebuild the Q House youth center, got loud applause when they explained, "We wanted to bring the violence down. We marched and campaigned for the Q House."

Local 34 Unite Here president Laurie Kennington, Alderwoman Evette Hamilton and Hartford City Council Minority Leader (Working Families Party) Larry Deutsch also appreciated the Communist Party for always being there for working people.

The multi-racial and multi-generational gathering took stock of the last four years and discussed how to win living wage jobs and other gains to improve the lives of working people, unemployed and youth.

"People are talking everywhere about how the system is broken. They're looking for answers," said Joelle Fishman, who chairs the Communist Party in Connecticut. "They see in the Communist Party an organization that is part of the working class, part of them. It's a big responsibility."

She said Connecticut has bucked national trends in elections because of labor's grassroots organizing on issues and fielding union members as candidates. This has resulted in the ability to expand the right of workers to organize, take major steps towards protecting the rights and safety of immigrants, and increased protections on the job. It has also made the state a target of extreme right-wing organizations that are spending huge sums to try and recapture the governor's seat and Congress in November's elections.

Participants cheered as the story was told of how 4,300 low-wage women home child care workers, mostly African American and Latino, won the right to collective bargaining at the state legislature. Once Governor Malloy signed the bill into law, the workers chose SEIU to represent them and successfully negotiated their first union contract.

Highlighting that and other Connecticut "firsts" including paid sick days, raising the minimum wage, same day and on-line voter registration, drivers license and in-state tuition for immigrants, and a Futures Commission study for economic conversion, Fishman decried the fact that Connecticut is also first in income inequality. She called for immediate steps to make Connecticut first in ending inequality, such as taxing the incomes of the top 1% at a higher rate equal to the rate the 99% pay.

Delegates old and new embraced a culture of organizing has led to steady growth of the Communist Party and YCL. After hearing presentations from the North Main club in Hartford which is known for holding the civilian review board accountable for police conduct, and the Newhall club in New Haven which is organizing door-to-door on the issue of jobs, the convention broke down into small groups to discuss how the work of their clubs makes a difference in their communities and why the Communist Party is needed to give people a voice and a vision.

"We wake up the neighborhood to act when there's a problem," said one group emphasizing use of the People's World in the community to get out the news from a working-class point of view.
"You are active in your community, which is what you should be doing," said national vice chair Libero Della Piana, who added that the national convention will provide a venue to share experiences from around the country and to hear from international guests. Placing the struggles in a bigger perspective, he warned of the dangers of extreme right-wing voter suppression and big spending to try and gain control of Congress and state offices in 2014.

The convention adopted a Connecticut Economic Bill of Rights that proclaims a living wage job with the right to a union, housing, health care, education and a peaceful, sustainable environment are basic human rights. While stating "fully ending inequality needs socialism," the document details immediate local and national demands to tax the rich and move money from military spending to infrastructure repair and people's needs.
The convention also adopted a resolution encouraging voter education and participation in voter registration and voter turnout efforts for November's election. A delegation of 25 was elected to represent the state at the 30th national convention in Chicago next month.

"The Connecticut YCL youth are incredible," said Lisa Bergmann who co-chaired the convention and is an organizer for the YCL nationally. They march, they chair meetings and recruit new youth to join them. They are making a qualitative difference in the lives of youth in Connecticut and inspiring the whole movement."

Following the convention, a People's World May Day tribute to Pete Seeger and Amiri Baraka was held upstairs in the sanctuary of the First and Summerfield Methodist Church, site of countless union rallies and mobilizations. The public event featured folk music, rhythm and blues, spoken word, Latin American New Song and a slide show of May Day Around the World.


Public Retirement Plan Advances

The ‘Retirement for All CT’ Coalition declared victory last week as the Connecticut General Assembly voted to invest $400,000 to lay the groundwork for the creation of a state-level public retirement plan, open to all private sector workers.
The funds mark the largest ever state-level investment in the creation of such a plan, with the ultimate goal of providing retirement security to the 740,000+ Connecticut workers currently not covered by an employer-based retirement savings plan — without imposing any additional cost on employers. 
This is an incredible moment as Connecticut has just catapulted into the national lead on this critical issue for working families,” said Sal Luciano, Executive Director of Council 4 AFSCME, the state’s largest public employee union.
 By laying the groundwork for a public retirement savings option for all private-sector workers, Connecticut is making a serious, first-in-the-nation investment with the aim of developing an optimal plan for our state that will ensure the greatest possible return on workers’ savings. This is progressive leadership at its finest, responding to the voices of the thousands across the state who have spoken up and urged their elected officials to address the retirement crisis.”
The Connecticut Retirement Security Board will include employees, employers, and investment experts, and is charged with developing a state-administered Public Retirement Plan by 2018.
Bette Marafino, President of the Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans said, "The Connecticut Retirement Security Board will be tasked with developing the most effective way for our state to move forward in expanding access to low-cost, quality retirement savings vehicles for Connecticut’s workers. We’ve been saying all along that retirement shouldn’t be a gamble. And with this proposal, thankfully, it no longer will be.”

Retirement for All CT supporters include: Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans, Council 4 AFSCME, Connecticut AFL-CIO, Connecticut Working Families, SEIU Connecticut, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA), CT National Organization for Women (CT-NOW), United Auto Workers (UAW), CT chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and CSEA.