The holiday season is a time for reflection and hope for our families, whether at home or in our union. This year is a particularly poignant one – unions (and labor in general) have had some significant wins in Connecticut. At the same time, we look forward to the 2020 elections, which will mean a great deal for workers and their families.
Looking back at 2019, we should all be proud of what we accomplished. We inaugurated Ned Lamont and celebrated our 2018 victories in the legislature that put solid majorities of labor-friendly candidates back in the State Capitol. The work we did in 2018 resulted in big wins for the labor movement, not the least of which were passage of a $15 minimum wage bill and paid family medical leave.
In CSEA, our Childcare members fought for and won a contract that resulted in licensed providers receiving 2.5% increases in each year of their contract, while also fighting for legislation to increase the minimum wage. The combination of these efforts helps to grow wages for the entire family childcare industry.
Our work throughout the legislative session in 2019 also resulted in a stronger, more effective State Contracting Standards Board, and for once, a state budget debate that was not a full-frontal attack on our members and their families.
Our bus drivers in Shelton reminded us of how strong we are when we stick together and take on the boss when they authorized a strike and won their new contract just hours before the strike would have begun.
We welcomed new members to our union. We brought Avon’s Nutritional Service Workers into CSEA; Deputy Wardens in our prisons became members of our Corrections Supervisors Council, State School Principals joined our P3B bargaining unit, and we welcomed drivers with Ambassador Wheelchair Services into CSEA.
In April, our members supported striking Stop and Shop workers, and we saw unprecedented support throughout our state in helping those workers win a fair contract and go back to work after an 11-day strike at 92 stores in Connecticut.
There were also some notable changes at CSEA – one of those was the retirement of Mike Nortz, who served as our Director of Administration and worked at CSEA for 32 years. Mike worked tirelessly on our behalf throughout his entire career. We all will miss him a great deal, and Mike, we hope you are enjoying your first holiday season in retirement! With Mike’s departure, Bernadette Conway and Jason Webster (who have been around CSEA for quite a while too) picked up Mike’s roles in the administration and operations functions in our union. Thank you, Bernadette and Jason, for stepping up and taking on these new roles!
We continued our hard work on behalf of our more than 11,000 strong retiree council, Council 400. For starters, CSEA welcomed a new staff member, Drew Phelan, who is serving as our Retiree Organizer. Drew hit the ground running. Whether developing strategies to recruit new members, disseminating healthcare information to members, or internal organizing, Drew is having a significant impact in Council 400.
Council 400 members are involved in all aspects of our union, whether fighting at the legislature for better wages and benefits for our active members, or lobbying to protect social security, pensions and healthcare for retirees. Our Council 400 members are always fighting on our behalf.
Next year is a mid-term state budget year, and the Lamont administration will undoubtedly make transportation a big focus. Wherever the session leads, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections require that we mobilize our members to ensure pro-worker candidates are elected when we go to the ballot box in November.
CSEA is in the process of finalizing our legislative agenda, which will at least include a pay equity bill for para-educators and an insourcing initiative for our state members. Our union also recognizes that public services have been underfunded for a long time, and staffing and budgeting for the public sector will continue to be a priority for us. Furthermore, all of CSEA’s state contracts (those covering wages and working conditions) expire in June of 2021, and negotiations will begin in the fall of 2020.
I know our members will step up and support our work in both the legislative session and in the 2020 elections, but I can’t stress enough that in 2020 we need to do more than usual. I think we all have noticed the attacks on workers in recent years – from the Janus decision to the weakening of the National Labor Relations Board, to budgetary decisions that hurt workers. We need to rise up against these efforts, and the best way to do this is with our vote.
I want to conclude by recognizing and thanking all our staff and member leaders for the work they do every day on our behalf. Over the last couple of years, we have seen significant changes both inside and outside of our union. These changes have made organizing new members more important than ever, and the Janus case has made the work of our staff, stewards, and officers more challenging. But last year’s work, some of which is highlighted here, proves that CSEA staff and leaders have risen to the occasion.
To our members and staff – I wish all of you a happy holiday season and best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!