Hundreds of immigrants, long-term health care workers, teachers and students from across the state surrounded the steps of the state Capitol Monday evening — a sea of red, green, blue and purple union shirts — chanting “Governor Lamont, do your job,” as a demand for the state to invest in workers and communities.
The Tax Day rally, hosted by the coalition Recovery for All, called for Connecticut legislators to address systemic racial and economic inequality through changes to the tax structure and investment in struggling communities.
State Reps. Anne Hughes, Geraldo Reyes, Bobby Gibson and Sen. John Fonfara joined the crowd of workers calling for the state to address historical disparities they said were exacerbated by the pandemic, but have long existed.
“There’s a debate going on inside that building behind me, it’s a debate involving two very different perspectives. One is the view that Connecticut’s economy is like a wound-spring, it’s going to bounce back very soon and we’ll be back to where we were. For too many families in the state, being back to where they were, has never been that good,” Fonfara said.
He acknowledged the Lamont administration’s plan to invest in education, mental and public health, criminal justice and workforce development over the next two years, using approximately $2.5 billion in American Rescue funds.
“But, that administration would have you believe these needs have been created by COVID-19, but we know they existed long before COVID and will exist long after COVID has passed.”
Workers gathered with their respected unions, including SEIU 1199, the American Federation of Teachers, Unidad Latina en Acción and Domestic Workers Group and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to call for change in the state’s tax system.
“We’re immigrants but we’re also people in this state, paying taxes, working for everyone, working for our kids, our parents, our schools, our hospitals,” Adriana Rodriguez, a member of the Domestic Workers Group said.
“No organization has the obligation to help us, but the government does. … If we get sick, they just say ‘don’t come to work’ but we have to if we don’t want to lose our jobs. … Domestic workers just want to be recognized and protected. We want sick days, pregnancy leave, we want medical security.”
Just last Thursday SEIU 1199, the union that represents nursing home, group home and long term care takers, saw a small win after reaching a deal with Lamont to avoid a planned strike. For almost over a year, the union had advocated for what they call the “Long-term Care Takers Bill of Rights,” which demanded a pathway to $20 an hour, medical insurance and retirement.
The governor and union negotiators came to an agreement to raise pay, over the next four years, for certified nursing assistants that start from $12 to $20, and licensed practical nurses would see a pay increase starting at $30 per hour. Part of the agreement also provided pension and additional funds for health insurance and wellness programs to the health care workers.
Members still plan to strike on June 7 if the contract is not ratified.
Jennifer Brown, a SEIU 1199 union member, said she’s had to work three jobs to stay afloat, and that even now, there’s still work to be done.
“Imagine 25 years I’ve given up of my life, I got about five or 10 more because I’m 55, and I can’t retire at 60. I can’t retire at 65. I have to keep on marching,” Brown said. “[Lamont] has to do the right thing. Recovery for all.”
The crowd broke out into “Recovery for all,” chants as more speakers took the microphone and made their demands for a little over an hour.
“You [Lamont] can invest in communities, particularly communities of color that have been disinvested in for decades,” Fonfara said. “In skill development, in housing and neighborhood infrastructure, so that families do better. As they do better, they won’t have to move away. You can invest in people who work hard and are important although their paychecks say otherwise. You can invest in growing an economy so that our young don’t have to leave the state to have their dreams become reality.”
Original Article from The Hartford Courant