State of theUnion Spring, 2014
Reclaiming the Promise at the Capitol in 2014
or this year’s “short session” of the General Assembly, elected leaders of AFT Connecticut adopted an ambitious program of public policy initiatives important to our members, our families, and our communities. We committed to support proposals in collaboration with allies in the labor movement and stakeholders in public education, healthcare, and state government to improve the lives of Connecticut’s working families. Even before the legislature convened in February, we began organizing informal discussions with state legislators on the initiatives we planned to take on. Lawmakers need to hear firsthand what matters to teachers, school support staff, nurses and healthcare workers, higher education faculty, public service professionals, and retirees. In addition to regional meetings across the state, we organized our annual legislative conference at the Capitol in Hartford. The February 22 event brought together over 100 members of AFT-affiliated unions, AFT Connecticut leadership and staff, and state political and legislative leaders. (continued on page 4)
Members at L+M Hospital Stand Strong for Patient Care, Win for their Community
Members of the Joint “Light Brigade” for Locals 5049 and 5051 Picketing Outside L+M Hospital Last Fall
fter four difficult months, in February leaders of two AFT local unions representing nurses and caregivers at Lawrence + Memorial (L+M) Hospital reached a comprehensive settlement with their employer. Securing new contracts for nearly 800 nurses and healthcare techs marked the end of a very difficult four month period that included a four-day strike and illegal lockout. We Are #NotWisconsin
At the heart of the dispute was a complaint over health service transfers before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in response to our members’ advocacy for their patients. In addition to settling the matter, leaders reached a landmark agreement with their employer, the non-profit Lawrence + Memorial Corporation (LMC), (continued on page 7)
Relief for Frustration Over Teacher Evaluations
Community is the New Density
Teachers Unite with Parents in Hartford Rising!
ast fall, AFT Connecticut and leaders of the Hartford inequality, and lack of a quality public education for all its Federation of Teachers began organizing a citywide students. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of then-President coalition to bring labor and community organizations, Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the “war on poverty,” but political and civic leaders together. The inspiration was a series Hartford has actually fallen behind in many areas measuring of successful efforts to mobilize parents and residents in progress. response to city and school officials’ threats to hand-over [Editor’s note: video of highlights of the January 20 rally is control of neighborhood schools to outsiders. online at our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/aftconn]. Parents and teachers first united last October to turn back Following the rally, AFT Connecticut launched a website an attempt to hand a community school in Hartford’s North and coordinated a comprehensive community canvass to End to a charter outfit with a questionable record. An even engage residents in creating a new vision for Hartford. The larger coalition, including members of the Hartford Federation purpose was to create a framework for holding civic and of Paraprofessionals, rose up in November to beat back a business leaders, as well as politicians and elected officials hastily concocted scheme to privatize yet another North End. accountable to meet basic needs and uphold inalienable rights. Hartford Rising! was born. In January the new coalition announced it would build on these successes and take on an even more ambitious effort to break the bonds of poverty on Connecticut’s Capitol City. At a rally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, leaders of Hartford Rising! pledged they would draft and adopt a “Community Bill of Rights.” The social compact would address a wide range of issues, including high unemployment, disparities in Members of the Hartford Fed. of Teachers and Fed. of Paras Joined Community Activists on civil rights, income MLK Day to Announce Plans to Overcome Poverty in the Capitol City
AFT Connecticut Annual Business Convention The “First Call” for the 67th Annual Business Convention, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 17, was officially sounded in mid-February with an announcement sent to the presidents of affiliated local unions. This year’s event commences at 9:30AM at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. Important deadlines, an agenda, delegate and alternate credential forms, and pertinent language from the AFT CT Constitution and other related documents are online at our website at www.aftct.org. Editor’s Note: Beginning with this edition, State of the Union will be issued on a quarterly basis to provide a summary and analysis of key issues over the preceding three month period. Breaking news, event announcements, and urgent actions impacting AFT Connecticut and its affiliated unions are posted online at our website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Melodie Peters President STATE OF THE UNION is published on an irregular basis up to four times a year by AFT Connecticut, 35 Marshall Road, Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Phone: 860/257-9782 www.aftct.org 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 Jean Morningstar Second Vice President Ed Leavy Secretary/Treasurer Matt O’Connor Communications Coordinator
We Are #NotWisconsin
onnecticut union members in April came to Middletown to hear firsthand from Wisconsin public service professionals who lived through an assault on their rights that began three years ago. 750 rank-and-file members and leaders of public and private sector unions learned how life in a state with a history of progressive, pro-worker policies has dramatically changed. We heard from a public school teacher, a transportation department construction inspector, a registered nurse, and a union staff representative, all from the Badger State. They described how in 2011 a newly elected governor and a new anti-worker majority in the Wisconsin legislature rammed through Act 10, despite unprecedented protests at the State Capitol. With the stroke of a pen, their collective bargaining rights were stripped and the pay, benefits, and working conditions for state, municipal, and local school district employees have quickly degraded since. We also heard dire warnings to act now to prevent the “Wisconsin moment” some politicians are threatening in Connecticut. Additionally, we heard from Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive SecretaryTreasurer Lori Pelletier and Teresa Younger, the Executive Director of Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. Both put the fight for a better quality of life for all working people into the broader context of the labor movement’s historic role as leading for positive change. [Editor’s note: additional photos of members and speakers at the April 5 forum are online at our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aftct]. Several members of AFT affiliated local unions appear in a video we produced with highlights of the event. Retired West Haven Fed. of Teachers member Mary Moninger-Elia, A&R Union 2nd Vice-President Patrick Fairbanks, and Backus Fed. of Nurses member Michelle Hayes each share their perspective. Menasha Fed. of Teachers Past Pres. Stephanie [Editor’s note: video of highlights of the April 5 forum is online at our Kellnhauser Told Connecticut Union Members YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/aftconn]. to Agree to Back a Candidate for Governor
Relief for Frustration Over Teacher Evaluations
n January, UConn’s Neag School of Education released a long-awaited report on implementation of SEED, the state’s model educator evaluation and support system. Their findings helped ramp up ongoing discussions with the State Department of Education and local school district officials on the many issues with implementation it identified. Even before the report’s release, AFT Connecticut was working with a coalition of public education professionals, the governor, the legislature, and the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to make needed improvements. [Editor’s note: Neag’s SEED report and our public comments on its findings are online at our website at www.aftct.org]. Over the course of the following four months, we successfully negotiated changes to the program’s guidelines to create a more valid, reliable, and fair system. In April, PEAC recommended “de-linking” evaluations from a single student test score and instead focusing on “growth over time.” Additionally, a new process for resolving disputes with district administrators over evaluations was proposed and the definition of “performance” in the context of ratings was clarified. At the same time, some were seeking similar results through new legislation. AFT Connecticut and union leaders in our PreK-12 Council remained committed to the PEAC process as the most effective and efficient vehicle for change. The State Board of Education was set to review and adopt these recommendations in early May, just ahead of the General Assembly’s adjournment. The reality is that this outcome was achieved far more quickly than if it had been left up to lawmakers. [Editor’s note: Membership Updates sent by email to West Haven Fed. of Teachers Pres. Patti Fusco and AFT PreK-12 Council union members on changes to teacher Connecticut Pres. Melodie Peters Told Lawmakers Evaluation evaluation guidelines are online at our website at www.aftct.org]. Guideline Changes Were Being Negotiated through PEAC STATE OF THE UNION
Reclaiming the Promise at the State Capitol... (continued from page 1)
Legislative Lineup Members of the AFT Connecticut Legislative-Political Action Committee (LPAC) proposed a series of policy priorities on which to focus our collective efforts and energies. Taken together, they represent a package that if passed into law would have a positive impact on each of our constituencies and our labor federation as a whole. More importantly, these initiatives are consistent with AFT Connecticut’s mission of championing fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. Examples include: A bill raised in the legislature’s Education Committee would change the name of the “Special Master” assigned by the State Department of Education to assist struggling local school districts. We support the proposed and more appropriate term, “District Turnaround Specialist,” and have recommended additional measures to help improve the outcome in schools in need of Teacher and WFT such intervention. We based our Member Tom Drewry proposals on the largely negative Testified to Lawmakers on results with a “Special Master” experienced by our members in the “Special Master” Issues Windham Federation of Teachers over the past three years. The Education Committee also raised legislation that would establish a task force to study paraprofessional staffing levels in Connecticut’s public schools. Among other areas, the proposal sought to assess staffing requirements contained in individualized education programs (IEPs) and compliance among local districts. While the bill did not move forward, the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee is expected Hartford Fed. of Paraprofessionals to take a similar Members Wanda Adgers and study, thanks in part Jacqueline Samuels Urged to AFT Connecticut’s Lawmakers Address Staffing advocacy and the testimony of local
4 STATE OF THE UNION
union members in our PSRP Council.
JPE Union Member Sara Basford Told Legislators an FOI Law Loophole Allows Abuse and Harassment by Clients We supported a bill in the 2013 legislative session that would have exempted certain documents in Judicial Branch probation officers’ personnel files from Freedom of Information (FOI) disclosure. AFT Connecticut moved the Government Administration and Elections Committee to raise similar legislation this session and launched a strong grassroots advocacy effort led by members of our Judicial Professionals Employees Union (JPE). In addition to lining up a bipartisan slate of lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill, we garnered the support of the Connecticut FOI Commission for the concept. In early April, we won an early victory toward the bill becoming law with a unanimous vote for passage in the House of Representatives. [Editor’s note: photos of JPE Union members lobbying lawmakers at the Capitol in February are online at our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aftct]. One of the most important public policy issues this year is to appropriately address unfinished work from the end of last year’s legislative session; conversion of Connecticut’s community hospitals. At issue is the lack of oversight needed to preserve access to quality care and protect local economies in a bill passed in the final hours of the 2013 session. While Governor Dannel Malloy acted swiftly to veto the legislation, Registered Nurse and Rockville Hospital Nurses the likelihood of similar bad policy coming out of the General Union President Sharon Assembly this year remains a serious Thompson Testified on Community Access Issues concern.Take-overs, mergers, and conversions of non-profit hospitals is
an emerging reality and requires new rules that protect patients and caregivers. AFT Connecticut and leaders of local unions in our Healthcare Council are educating lawmakers of the risks and consequences of failure to require greater transparency in the process.
Bill restricting for-profit hospita l conversions advances March 25, 2014
Reaching a legislative solution has proven difficult, despite early success with passage of a bill raised in the Public Health Committee that includes important patient care and community access protections. AFT Connecticut is continuing to work with a coalition of labor and community organizations to assure any new legislation upholds several key principles. Our goal remains holding health management corporations that purchase or takeover acute care facilities accountable to local communities.
State Representative Elizabeth Ritter (Top, Left) Listens to AFT Union Members at the Waterford LPAC Meeting [Editor’s note: photos of LPAC regional meetings were “liveTweeted” online at our Twitter page at www.Twitter.com/AFTCT].
Regional Meetings Scores of AFT local union members turned-out for meetings organized through our LPAC with lawmakers throughout the month of February. In Waterford, New Haven, Meriden, and West Hartford, legislators listened to their constituents’ concerns on a range of issues. Many discussed the impact of so-called “education reforms” in their classrooms. Others urged more transparency and oversight of non-profit hospitals taken over by healthcare corporations. Still others talked about the importance of a state budget that preserves vital public services that residents depend on.
Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman Pledged to Continue a Collaborative Partnership with AFT Connecticut
On February 22, more than a hundred public education professionals, healthcare workers, state employees, higher education faculty, and retirees gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. They came to discuss and learn more about AFT Connecticut’s priorities for the 2014 session of the General Assembly and their impact on union members and all working families. State Attorney General George Jepsen was the first guest speaker to address members, and several elected officials followed. Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman’s comments focused on the importance of working people getting involved in the legislative process. State Comptroller Kevin Lembo discussed revenue issues, and vice-chair of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, State Representative Mae Flexer, State Representative Matthew Lesser (Top, Right) Hears from and State Senate President Donald Williams took on the budget. AFT Union Members at the LPAC Meeting in Meriden (continued on page 6) STATE OF THE UNION
Reclaiming the Promise at the State Capitol... (continued from page 5) Vice-chair of the Public Health Committee, State Senator Terry Gerratana, also attended and led an in-depth discussion on legislation governing take-overs, mergers and conversions of non-profit hospitals. She took several questions and credited AFT Connecticut and our affiliated locals’ members for their grassroots advocacy on the issue.
State Senator Terry Gerratana Thanked AFT for Supporting Efforts to Put the Brakes on Community Hospital Take-Overs
CT AFL-CIO Ex. Sec.-Treasurer Lori Pelletier Praised Members of Our L+M Hospital Unions for their Community Organizing Efforts
powerful special interests behind so-called “education reform” efforts. Their presentation focused on the role of the corporatefunded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in pushing an anti-worker and pro-privatization agenda in statehouses across the country. AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters closed the conference by reminding members that they have taken on an important responsibility to inform their colleagues about our collective legislative agenda. She urged that they organize their fellow union members to get active and get involved in making sure our AFT Connecticut President Melodie state’s elected officials Peters Closed the Conference with a Call value our input and to Action address our concerns. [Editor’s note: additional photos of members and speakers at the conference are online at our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aftct]. One of the most effective -- and easiest -- ways members can participate in AFT Connecticut’s coordinated grassroots lobbying efforts is by signing-up online to receive “action alerts” by email. Doing so allows our legislative department to send occasional messages on important state and local legislative initiatives sent with a link to an online tool for contacting elected officials. [Editor’s note: access to the “action alerts” sign-up page is online at our website at www.aftct.org].
Additional speakers included Connecticut AFLCIO Executive SecretaryTreasurer Lori Pelletier and AFT Connecticut Lobbyist and Legislative Coordinator Jennifer Berigan. In addition to our priority initiatives, both discussed the broader agenda the state’s wider labor movement was pursuing during the 2014 session. Staff from AFT national’s Research & Strategies Initiatives Members Participate in an Interactive Discussion Exposing ALEC as a Force Seeking to Undermine department also attended and Unions Across the U.S. facilitated discussions on the
6 STATE OF THE UNION
Members at L+M Hospital Stand Strong for Patient Care... (continued from page 1) on future union organizing efforts within their healthcare Patients and their families, unions and their members, network. civic and community leaders and elected officials showed “I’m so proud of my co-workers for tremendous solidarity for the caregivers before, during, and standing together and never giving up after the dispute. Over $115,000.00 in donations were made to a on what we believe in,” said L+M Hos“hardship fund” that AFT Connecticut and our national union pital registered nurse (RN) and AFT set up to provide relief. Political leaders from New London Local 5049 President Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio to Governor Dannel P. Malloy to Lisa D’Abrosca (right). U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal visited the picket line to meet “Our patients, with our nurses and techs. their families, [Editor’s note: video of a commercial thanking the comand our community aired in February on area cable networks is online at our munity are the winners here,” said L+M YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/aftconn]. Hospital sleep lab technician and AFT Local 5051 President Stephanie Johnson (left). The “core principles” at the heart of our members’ agreement with management of the New London acute care facility recognizes the traditional role of caregivers as advocates going forward. [Editor’s note: the joint statement between our local unions and LMC on ratifying their new agreement is available online at our website at www.aftct.org]. Reaching a global settlement, ratifying new contracts, and beginning a new relationship with hospital leadership made possible in large part by the outpouring of Governor Malloy and Members of Locals 5049 and 5051 On Strike Outside L+M support for our members. Hospital Last Fall
Sounding Off on Common Core
FT Connecticut and members of our PreK-12 Council unions long warned of the consequences of inconsistent and ineffective implementation of the new Common Core State Standards adopted in 2010. Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration heard our call and in January began taking concrete steps to relieve the burden on teachers and their students. Following advocacy efforts by our coalition of public education stakeholders, the governor ordered a working group with classroom educators and school administrators to review the impact of the new standards. In March, the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce, which includes six teachers who are members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated unions, began meeting. Their charge is to recommend improvements to the quality and consistency of implementation in order to relieve the strain of transitioning to new standards for all our state’s educators. [Editor’s note: Membership Updates sent by email to PreK-12 Council union members on the Common Core task force are online at our website at www.aftct.org]. At the same time, we have continued working closely with our sisters and New Britain Fed. of Teachers Member brothers in the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and other allies to help Susan Schmidt Urged the Task Force to smooth the rough roll-out. From co-hosting a statewide Parent-Teacher Community forum in January to promoting efforts to recruit and develop classroom trainers, AFT Separate Standards Issues from Evaluations Connecticut is working to get implementation right. STATE OF THE UNION
Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Hartford CT Permit # 4501
Community is the New Density Melodie Peters, AFT Connecticut President
hen the Hartford Board of Education (BOE) in February took up the renewal of their agreement with the controversial Teach for America (TFA), school officials expected little resistance. After all, their vote on the district’s previous contract to recruit fast-tracked, non-certified educators generated no public opposition. But this year was different. That’s because leading up to the vote, the growing Hartford Rising! movement made its voice heard. Public comment and debate among BOE members this time went on for three hours at the meeting where TFA’s renewal was on the agenda. Despite the opposition, the majority of the board voted to renew the contract. But Hartford’s mayor and school officials were forced to acknowledge the community’s opposition to the scheme. They could not ignore efforts to resist the status quo. AFT Connecticut and our Hartford Federation of Teachers launched the Hartford Rising! initiative in order to unite educators and parents to reclaim the promise of public education. Their combined power to affect change is a clear demonstration that the future of our country’s labor movement depends on us recognizing that “community is the new density.”
It’s the same power created when caregivers and patients in Southeast Connecticut came together in the “I Am L+M” campaign to reclaim the promise of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. Nurses and healthcare techs won new contracts and a new agreement on future organizing drives after a sustained, months-long effort to galvanize community and political support. “I Am L+M” was organized by AFT Connecticut and our Lawrence + Memorial local unions to give voice to concerns over the direction the community hospital had been taken. By empowering patients and their families to speak out on such an important issue, our members created a potent alliance to beat the boss -- and beat the odds. Fifty years ago, unions represented 35 percent of American workers and helped drive a post-war economic boom that created the strongest middle-class in the history of the world. Today, that number has dropped to less than 12 percent, while economic inequality in our country as grown to levels not seen since before the Great Depression. The reality is that union members joining forces with the communities where they live and work is an effective way to move forward. We must organize with our natural allies if we are to rebuild the economic and political power of working people and improve the quality of life for all. It’s now easier than ever to get the news and information you need right when you need it from AFT Connecticut! Our website and social media channels make it easy for you to stay informed and get involved in your union.
www.aftct.org 8 STATE OF THE UNION
Get informed. Get involved.
Published on May 12, 2014
The labor federation’s official newsletter is published on a quarterly basis to provide a summary and analysis of key issues over the preced...