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State of theUnion

January/February 2013

New Leadership at AFT Connecticut


FT Connecticut has new leadership, President Melod ie Peters a nd First Vice President Stephen McKeever. Members on the AFT Connecticut Executive Council voted for Peters and McKeever in October following former President Sharon Palmer’s appointment as Labor Commissioner. “We’re excited about the direction in which our union is headed,” said Peters. “Our state is facing continued economic challenges,” said McKeever. “We will be working to ensure that the vital public services our members provide are continued.

Honoring Newtown


ll of us have been affected in some way by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT on December 14. People from around the world have been demonstrating their support for everyone in our community. From the thousands of messages of condolence posted on our website to the offers from teachers in neighboring towns and states to assist as everyone continues the healing process, we want to thank you for all you are doing.

Our focus right now is to ensure that our members in Newtown have the ongoing support they need. We are coordinating grief counseling and support services with our locals the Newtown Federation of Teachers, Local 1727 and the Newtown Federation of Custodians, Local 3924, the Newtown Federation of Education Personnel, Local 3785, along with the State of Connecticut, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Connecticut Education Association (CEA). Many of you have asked what other support you can provide for our members. We are working closely with our locals to assess their immediate needs and will keep you up to date on additional ways to help. For now, we ask that you continue to keep everyone in Newtown in your thoughts and prayers.

Members Helping Members After Hurricane Sandy


Legislative Liaisons Needed for 2013 Legislative Session


SVFT Pushes for OSHA Training for Students


AFT Connecticut Endorsed Candidates Win Big on Election Day


eventy-seven million dollars. That's how much Linda McMahon spent trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut. Despite the money she spent, McMahon could not buy the election. The same went for Bridgeport, where a proposal to make the Board of Education appointed by the mayor was soundly defeated. Michelle Rhee, head of the anti-teacher organization Students First, and a host of other groups attempted to take away voters' rights to elect their local officials. Rhee and company spent tens of thousands of dollars attempting to buy a primary and a special election. "This was a great night for our union and working families," said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut. "The voters sent a clear message that our votes cannot be bought." From the President of the United States on down to State Representatives, AFT Connecticut endorsed candidates had a reason to celebrate on Tuesday night. Eighty-eight percent of AFT Connecticut endorsed candidates won their races. You can view the complete list of endorsed candidates and winners here. The victories on election night were a direct result of AFT Connecticut members volunteering making phone calls and knocking on doors to get out the vote. Hundreds of AFT Connecticut members participated in labor-tolabor walks around the state in a massive mobilization to energize our voters.

Tim Bowles (Center) with AFT Connecticut members. "Political action is critically important to our success as a union," said Stephen McKeever, vice-president of AFT Connecticut. "The candidates we elect have a direct impact on our work and our lives." Each of the national endorsed candidates won their election on Tuesday. At the state level 15 of 20 (75%) state senate endorsed candidates won and 53 of 58 (91%) state representative endorsed candidates. "We are looking forward to working with our elected officials in the next legislative session," said Peters. "From proper funding of public education and public services to healthcare and higher education we will be working to ensure that we continue to move Connecticut forward." This election added two new AFT Connecticut members to the state legislature, Edwin Vargas (Hartford) and Tim Bowles (Ledyard).

Michigan GOP Rams Through Right-to-Work Legislation


ichigan Gov. Rick Snyder joined Republican legislators Dec. 11 in pushing two anti-worker measures—one for the public sector and one for the private—through both legislative chambers. With a stroke of the pen, Snyder made Michigan—the cradle of the American labor movement—the 24th right-to-work state in the nation. “This ‘right to work’ (for less) law is the last thing Michigan families need,” says AFT president Randi Weingarten. “By ramming this legislation through during a lame-duck session, Gov. Rick Snyder and his Republican accomplices have demonstrated their contempt not only for Michigan’s middle-class families, but also for democracy itself.” The AFT joins with thousands of protesting workers and with unions nationwide in a stand against this disgraceful law.

Melodie Peters President STATE OF THE UNION is published on an irregular basis up to six times a year by AFT Connecticut, 35 Marshall Road, Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Phone: 860/257-9782 Third class postage paid at Hartford, CT

Postmaster: Send address changes to: AFT CONNECTICUT 35 Marshall Road Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Members: To change your address or subscription, call 860/257-9782.

STATE OF THE UNION is mailed to all AFT Connecticut members as a benefit of membership. Subscription fees are included in dues, $20 per year for non-members. Although advertisements are screened as carefully as possible, acceptance of an advertisement does not imply AFT Connecticut endorsement of the product or service. © AFT CONNECTICUT, AFT, AFL-CIO 2009

Stephen McKeever First Vice President Leo Canty Second Vice President Ed Leavy Secretary/Treasurer Eric Bailey Communications Director

Members Help with Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort


undreds of AFT members and staff took part in a "Day of Action" on Nov. 10 to help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. AFT members from Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania traveled by bus to New York to volunteer with members of the United Federation of Teachers to distribute much-needed supplies, food and clothing to members in affected areas throughout parts of New York. Members from AFT Pennsylvania and the Baltimore Teachers Union were at the United Federation of Teachers headquarters in New York City. They stuffed 30,000 backpacks with school supplies and other necessities. The backpacks will be given to elementary and secondary school students who have been relocated because of the storm. First Book also provided 30,000 books to be distributed to children affected by the storm. In addition to school supplies, the UFT also collected coats, hats and gloves donated by AFT Pennsylvania members. Volunteers from AFT Connecticut and AFT national headquarters in Washington, D.C., were also on hand. They spent the day in the Rockaways and Coney Island, where they distributed items such as toiletries, water

and batteries to members and others in the community. Volunteers also took part in cleaning up beach areas, parks and school yards. A group of volunteer members from upstate New York, who had gotten some help from the UFT and others when Hurricane Irene hit last year, decided to return the favor this weekend. Martin Messner, president of the Schoharie (N.Y.) Teachers Association, who was named an AFT Everyday Hero for his local's efforts to help in the aftermath of Irene, mobilized his members to help rebuild homes on Staten Island. Members of the New York State United Teachers were on Long Island to help at recovery sites as well. In addition, the AFT delivered cleaning supplies, gas cans, batteries, blankets and other items to the AFTaffiliate Health Professionals and Allied Employees in New Jersey. The donated items will be distributed to locals where members have been hit the hardest. AFT Connecticut sent two more busses of volunteers back the following weekend to help with cleaning up debris.

AFTCT Pres. Melodie Peters, Hartford Paras Co-Pres. Shellye Davis and AFTCT Internal Organizer Dan Durant

Chris Sansone, SVFT, Maree Rogers, Hartford Paras, and Andrew Quinn, son of Justine Quinn, A&R.

AFT Connecticut members, officers and staff all came to New York to lend a hand in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. STATE OF THE UNION


2013 Legislative Agenda


FT Connecticut advocates for legislation and a state budget that protect and improve the rights, safety, and quality of life for all of its members. The 2013 session convenes on January 9th and adjourns on June 5th. The following are AFT Connecticut’s unionwide priorities: • Working for a budget that includes adequate funding for state services, PK-16 education, state funded pensions, acute care hospital funding and resources for dementia care, services and research. • Preventing efforts to reduce services by capping taxes

and/or spending at the state or municipal levels. Fighting efforts to privatize state or municipal services, including public education. • Stopping efforts to weaken binding arbitration for state employees, teachers and municipal employees. • Incorporating the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process into academic curriculum standards. Our union will also work on the following legislative issues that affect each constituency group during the 2013 legislative session:

PRE-K-12 COUNCIL • Monitor proposed changes to Public Act 12-116, the Education Reform Law. • Develop an alternative method to assess teachers’ literacy professional development needs in place of administering an annual reading instruction examination. • Clarify master’s degree requirements for professional educator certificates. • Provide resources and other incentives for districts that pursue community school solutions. • Monitor recommendations from the ECS Task Force, High School Graduation Issues Task Force, Red Tape Removal Task Force, Achievement Gap Task Force, the Educator Preparation Advisory Council and the Early Childhood Planning Team. • Advocate for transparency in funding appropriated to Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs). • Require that the Commissioner of Education provide annually to the General Assembly’s Committees on Education and Government Administration & Elections a reporting of: (1) all contracts issued to private sector vendors and RESCs for the purposes of conducting the work of the State Department of Education; and (2) the amount and sources of all private funding used to pay SDE employee salaries and/or benefits. • Advocate for CommPACT schools funding in FY 2014 and FY 2015. • Monitor efforts that would require decisions to layoff teachers be made without regard to seniority. • Block efforts to use public funds to establish private school vouchers or tax credits that divert resources from public education. • Remove barriers to organizing charter schools.

PSRP COUNCIL • Adjust membership of the Paraprofessional Advisory Council to empower paraprofessionals and restore its funding to assist school districts in the provision of professional development.


Legislative Liaisons Wanted Legislative liaisons maintain close contact with elected officials in order to educate and to determine their position on a variety of issues. If you are willing to: • Establish and maintain contact with your elected official. Find out the best way they should be contacted. • To help with key legislative issues by contacting your elected officials. (i.e. phone calls, emails, and face-to-face contact • To help with turnout of elected officials at AFT Connecticut’s legislative and political functions. Contact Teri Merisotis at

HEALTHCARE COUNCIL • Require that every school district maintain a staffing ratio of registered school nurses appropriate to the size and acuity of its student population in order to promote a healthy learning environment where students can achieve. • Require that school administrators and superintendents enforce statutory mandates that require children to be vaccinated before they are allowed to attend public school. • Require all healthcare facilities owned or managed by a for-profit entity to report certain information to the Department of Public Health and post that information on the healthcare facility’s website. • Provide healthcare employees the choice of wearing a protective mask or receiving an employer-mandated flu vaccine. • Require hospitals to report nurse staffing levels.

STATE EMPLOYEES COUNCIL • Monitor efforts to create a state Office of Administrative Hearings. • Enact workers’ compensation, disability, discrimination, pension and other protections for employees who work in “sick buildings.” • Protect the disclosure of probation officers' personnel files from probation clients under the Freedom of Information Act.

RETIREE COUNCIL • Restore the state’s full 1/3 contribution to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Premium Account in order to maintain its solvency.

2012 Legislative Conference Saturday, February 2, 2012 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Legislative Office Building 210 Capitol Ave. Room 1D Hartford, CT Breakfast and Lunch provided. Please RSVP to Teri: 860-257-9782 or email STATE OF THE UNION


Dream, Believe, Innovate!

Photo by Eric Bailey


ream, Believe, Innovate! These are the words that inspire the students, educators and administration at Casimir Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden every day. Last year a team of teachers from the Meriden Federation of Teachers and administrators from the district travelled to Massachusetts to tour public and charter schools that were utilizing an extended day program. “We believed the extended day model could work well in our district,” said Erin Benham, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers. “But we needed to see it in action.” That tour proved decisive as the teachers and administrators broke up into teams to tour schools. After comparing notes, they learned which models would and wouldn’t work best in their schools. “Extended day isn’t about ‘one size fits all,’” said Benham. “Some schools extended their time in the morning, others in the afternoon.” In the end, the teams decided extending the class day in the morning would work best for Pulaski. The next step was funding. That’s where the AFT Innovation Fund came in. AFT’s Innovation Fund had been looking to partner with a school on an extended day program. Benham began working with the district on a grant proposal which was approved. “The funding from the AFT Innovation Fund grant was key to this being a success,” said Benham. “We knew for this to work we needed buy in from the teachers as well as the parents.” Two community meetings over the summer left a lot of parents questioning how it would work. But when the open house at the beginning of the year had ninety-eight percent attendance, everyone knew something special was happening at Pulaski. Since then, the attendance rate has been between ninety-six and ninety-eight percent every day.

Meriden teacher Dave Wheeler uses a Smartboard to go over a lesson with his students. The students’ morning kicks off each day at 7:30 am with breakfast for all 525 students followed by an exercise program, developed in partnership with the local YMCA. “I wasn’t sure how well the new system would work,” said Dave Wheeler, who has taught fifth grade at Pulaski for 41 years. “The kids are clearly handling it well and getting as much quality education as a 9-3 school day. I attribute that to the physical activity which is crucial.” “Kids are excited to be here,” said Superintendent Mark Benigni. “You can see it on their faces. They are ready to learn.” Additional funding has since come in from the federal government to continue the extended day at Pulaski and begin the process for expanding it to other schools in the district. “The fact that we have such a good labor-management relationship in our district made this possible,” said Benigni.

Common Core

Workshops These workshops are designed to help teachers on all grade levels implement the Common Core into their classrooms.

4:30pm - 7:30pm January 14 - Math January 15 - ELA January 23 - Math January 31 - ELA February 12 - ELA 6 STATE OF THE UNION

To register call 860-257-9782

SVFT Pushes for OSHA Training for Students


he Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) remains the best kept secret in the state. Across Connecticut students are being trained by State Vocational Federation of Teachers members in professions that are vital to our state’s economy. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, welders and more are being trained in these schools and CTHSS is moving in the direction of providing business and industry with students that are ready for the real world experiences, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training. Last summer, SVFT educators trained as Outreach Instructors were certified at the AFT Connecticut offices. Their mission is to ensure students graduate OSHA trained. “It was great to participate in a collaborative, comprehensive training program designed by AFT to keep us, and everyone else in our buildings, healthy and safe,” said SVFT Pres. Jan Hochadel. “A select committee of representatives from each school’s internal health and safety committee began meeting and planning a program designed to address concerns both systemwide and in individual buildings. A survey was developed and completed and the results have been instrumental in guiding the committee’s work. This is a program that proves that working together for the common good is not only possible, but also highly productive.” A new safety committee was formed by IBEW, IEC, State and Federal OSHA to set new standards and guidelines, pertaining to making the OSHA training mandatory in the private, state, and union classrooms. SVFT member William Zisk sits on that committee. “We are providing our students with the best training possible,” said Zisk. “Businesses repeatedly comment about the high level of training and certification our students graduate with and we’re proud of that. We are preparing them to be ready to join the workforce and that includes OSHA training.” The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and

health hazards in workplaces. The program also provides information regarding workers’ rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint. Through this program, workers can attend 10-hour or 30-hour classes delivered by OSHA-authorized trainers. The 10-hour class is intended for entry level workers, while the 30-hour class is more appropriate for supervisors or workers with some safety responsibility. Through this training, OSHA helps to ensure that workers are more knowledgeable about workplace hazards and their rights, and contribute to our nation’s productivity.

Ed Desousa (Bullard Havens) and Mike Lorusso (Oliver Wolcott) at the AFT/SVFT/CTHSS OSHA Health and Safety training.


W oSecondary r k sLiteracy hop 4:00pm - 7:00pm February 6

To register call 860-257-9782 AFT Connecticut Scholarship Applications Now Available The 2013 AFT Connecticut Scholarship applications are now available on our website Go to the benefits section and click on scholarships.



Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Hartford CT Permit # 4501

Strength In Numbers Melodie Peters, AFT Connecticut President


ur strength as a union has been repeatedly demonstrated in our ability to get things done. From negotiating contracts, to electing local, state and national leaders, to passing important legislation, it is the actions of our members that determine our success. The 2012 elections gave all of us a reason to be concerned. We knew that union voters can make the difference in elections and we had a lot of races at stake, especially at the national level. Most national and state level polls claimed that the elections would be much closer than the final numbers demonstrated. AFT Connecticut stepped up through phone banks and labor-to-labor walks. Much appreciation and gratitude goes to our members who volunteered on a daily basis to talk about the issues that mattered in this election. In the end, that one-on-one communication proved to be effective as union members turned out in overwhelming numbers to help elect the candidates we endorsed. Now, as we head into the 2013 legislative session,

it is time for us to organize. As you can see from our legislative agenda (Page 5) we have a lot of issues for which we will be advocating. There will be numerous opportunities for members to be active and involved. From testifying at public hearings, to lobbying your state legislators, to becoming a legislative liaison, there are ways to continue making your voice heard in Hartford and Washington, D.C. Connecticut is facing a major deficit once again and we have the opportunity to ensure that the legislature and Governor Malloy take the necessary steps to strengthen our revenue system and end the overreliance on property taxes to fund public education and social services. The fact is that our wealthiest citizens and corporations are not paying their fair share. Steps are being taken to rectify this at the national level and it needs to happen at the state level. The best way to ensure that Connecticut heads down the correct path is by organizing and speaking out to the people we elected. There is strength in numbers and it is time, once again, for us to show our strength.

It’s now easier than ever to get the news and information you need right when you need it from AFT Connecticut! Our website makes it easy for you to stay informed and get involved in your union.

QQ Information about professional development training QQ Exclusive member benefits QQ Much more!

Get informed. Get involved. 8 STATE OF THE UNION

AFT Connecticut January/February 2013 "State of the Union"  
AFT Connecticut January/February 2013 "State of the Union"