Event mirrored at online press conference with dozens of speakers
[PHOTOS AVAILALE ON REQUEST]
HARTFORD, Conn. — At noon today, hundreds of cars from across Connecticut formed a caravan at the State House while speakers joined them online in a virtual press conference, to jointly demand “Pandemic Relief for ALL Workers.” The caravan and online event featured dozens of unions, immigrant groups, and religious congregations delivering their urgent message to Governor Lamont and state leaders on May Day, the traditional international holiday for workers, which has more recently come to honor immigrant workers in the United States.Similar caravan protests were held in states across the nation, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a disproportionate toll on essential immigrant workers.
“Immigrant workers are putting their lives on the line, but they are excluded from relief,” said Carmen Lanche, a leader of Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA). “We produce food, clean hospitals, and care for the elderly and sick. If you accept our labor, accept our humanity. Governor Lamont, what about us? Y nosotros que?”
Sal Luciano, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO said: “Essential workers appreciate kind words, but they need action. They need personal protective equipment, they need hazard pay, they need paid leave and workers compensation so they can be cared for when they get sick, and they need to have a voice in any decision to reopen the state economy. Let’s be clear: Viruses don’t discriminate based on immigration status, and our government’s response to COVID-19 shouldn’t either. None of us will be safe until all of us are safe. ”
The support for immigrants was amplified by calls for general support for all essential workers, a group disproportionately represented by women, immigrants, and people of color toiling in many low-paying yet vital positions.
“Just like so many other essential workers, security officers are putting their lives on the line every day to provide their service to the public,” said Keeronie Williams, who until recently provided security at the Hartford Insurance company and is a member of 32BJ SEIU. “We’re on the frontlines just like nurses and doctors, yet many commercial security officers in Hartford often lack PPE, healthcare coverage, or hazardous duty pay.”
“McDonald’s workers at the rest stops are getting sick, and some of us are getting laid off with no warning,” said Rosa Franco, who worked for 13 years at the McDonald’s on the Darien northbound service plaza on I-95. “They’re not protecting us, they’re not giving us sick pay, and many of these workers are single mothers with children at home. I’m asking Governor Lamont to please intervene and support us!”
Pastor Vicki Flippin of New Sanctuary Movement CT said, “There is a spiritual problem when a country bails some people out and leaves some people for dead. Today, our neighbors are workers who have been laid off and don’t know how they’re going to pay the rent and feed their children. Our neighbors are essential workers, stocking shelves and caring for our elders in their homes without basic labor rights. Our neighbors are crammed in unsanitary jails afraid for their lives. Today we are asking: Will Connecticut lead the nation and do justice for all of our people?”
Imani-Sharrif Pennant of Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice called on Governor Lamont to free as many people as possible to stop the spread of COVID in jails and prisons: “Currently there are over 400 inmates and counting who have tested positive for the virus. And yet there still has not been any executive action made by our Governor, despite other states being more proactive about the situation… My mother was an immigrant from a third world country, and I grew up watching her work companionship jobs, with the same workers whose rights you fight for. So we stand here today … in solidarity and in support of one another and the uplift of our standard of living.”
The event was supported by dozens of organizations, including: 32 BJ SEIU; Brazilian Workers Center CT; Connecticut AFL-CIO, CP USA; CT Shoreline Indivisible; CT Workers Crisis Response; Greater Hartford Immigrant Coalition; International Women’s Strike CT; Katal Center for Health, Equity & Justice; Middlesex Immigrant Rights Alliance; Moral Mondays CT; New Haven Legal Assistance; New Haven Peoples Center; New Sanctuary Congregations CT (including many churches and Jewish Voice for Peace); Never Again Action CT; SEIU Healthcare 1199 NE; Stamford Workers May 1st Committee; UAW Region 9A; Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA); UNITE HERE Local 217; Wesleyan Organizing Coalition.