One thousand union supporters rise across Connecticut for union rights threatened by “Janus vs. AFSCME” Supreme Court case
STAMFORD, Conn. – Chanting “Our union, our choice — don’t let them take away our voice!” well over fifty workers from across the labor movement gathered in front of Government Center in Stamford this afternoon to raise their voices in support of the right to belong to a union. The gathering was one of four held in Connecticut, where close to a thousand workers and allies gathered to oppose the likely outcome of Janus vs. AFSCME. Heard today in oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawsuit threatens to eliminate the automatic collection of dues by public sector unions in an attempt to cripple unions’ abilities to effectively represent their members.
“Instead of making it harder to join together in unions and use our power in numbers, our leaders should be making it easier,” said Alberto Bernardez, Assistant Supervisor of 32BJ SEIU Connecticut and the event MC. “We call on politicians to fight for the good, union jobs that our communities need. And we commit ourselves to our unions, to resist the attempt by rich and powerful corporate interests to limit the freedom and power of working people.”
“Of all the investments I’ve made in my life — in the stock market, wherever — far and away the best I’ve made is regularly paying my union dues,” said Robert Roqueta, a Representative on the Stamford City Council and member of 1199SEIU. “Our contracts help us survive; they put food on our table. We won’t let that go without a fight.”
Throughout the rally, speaker after speaker emphasized the importance of unions and decried the far rightwing “right to work” assault on unions that the Janus case represents. “They’re going after public sector unions now, but they’re going after private sector unions next,” said Jim Lohr, a leader in the of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. “We need a strong public sector to defend everyone’s rights.”
“As a minority and an immigrant, I understand the full extent of what it would mean if my family was not part of a union,” said Michael Hernandez, son of a 32BJ member in Stamford. “Because of my mother’s membership in a union, we are able to count on at least a week every year to spend together as a family. Because of my mother’s membership in a union, my mother has been able to secure her job and enjoy basic rights such as sick days.
“We’ve come a long way because of unions,” said Nina Sherwood, a member of the Stamford Board of Representatives. “But nothing has been handed to us, ever. We’ve had to fight for every right. And now we’re ready to fight for our right to continue to organize.”
“We want to do everything we can to support Connecticut workers with job opportunities, strong wages, health care benefits, and the right to negotiate for fairer working conditions,” said State Representative Caroline Simmons in a statement. “We must stand up for teachers, firefighters and the rights of workers across Connecticut and the country.”
“Protections for workers that have been hard fought for are now in the cross-fire by the powerful, “ said state Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) in a written statment. “Union representation has protected millions of workers from robber barons and corporate behemoths for decades. “A lot of the concerns in this case are already addressed with the simple, one-page op-out form that any union employee can submit. Taking a step backwards will only embolden these entities to attain even more abuse of power in the years to come and we should not allow that to happen.”
“We have the right to belong to a solid, strong union, like we’ve enjoyed until now,” said 32BJ Stamford member Francisco Esquivel. “We cannot accept this step backward in our fundamental rights to organize together, just because of a bad decision by a single judge. We will rise, and we will resist.”
Monday’s action was one of more than 300 similar actions across the nation. Sponsors of the actions in Stamford, Storrs, Hartford and New Haven include: Connecticut AFL-CIO, AFSCME Council 4, AFT Connecticut, SEIU CT State Council, CT Education Association, 1199 SEIU, CT Employee Union Independent, CSU-AAUP, UConn-AAUP, 32BJ SEIU, Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges, UAW Region 9A, UNITE HERE, Western Connecticut Area Labor Federation, Eastern Connecticut Area Labor Federation, CSEA Local 2001, Working Families, United Food & Commercial Workers, Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association, Connecticut State Building & Construction Trades Council
With more than 163,000 members in 11 states and Washington DC, including over 4,500 in Connecticut, 32BJ is the largest building service workers union in the country