“Stand up. Rise up. Lift up. No justice, no peace.”
That was the rallying cry of more than 350 union workers on the steps of the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford today. CEA leaders were joined by labor leaders from across the state and legislators in speaking out to protect the rights and freedom of workers to negotiate together and fight for decent and equitable pay, affordable health care, quality schools, and vibrant communities.
Workers held simultaneous rallies in three other cities across Connecticut—New Haven, Stamford, and Storrs—as oral arguments were heard in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus vs. AFSCME case which threatens to take away worker’s collective rights and freedoms of the middle class.
“Janus is an attack on all working people, on our teachers, on our children, on our students, on our caregivers, and skilled labor,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “There would be no middle class without the unions, and make no mistake about it, the Janus case is not only an attack on unions it is an attack on the middle class. And when we are attacked, we stand together. We stand together strong and we fight back.”
“We are here as union members to make things better,” said AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier. “It’s up to us now so we are taking this fight to the streets whether in Hartford, Stamford, New Haven or UConn today to make sure the people across the street at the State Capitol and all across Connecticut understand that we will not sit idly by while corporate America tries to beat us down.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Rep. Matt Ritter, Rep. Mike D’Agostino, and Rep. Matt Lesser told the crowd to keep up the fight and that no matter what happens with Janus, they support middle class workers.
“Everywhere we turn, our values are under attack,” said Aresimowicz. “Now more than ever we need to collectively stand together.”
He quoted his colleague Rep. Matt Ritter, who said on the house floor that “collective bargaining is a part of the fabric of the state of Connecticut and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
“Collective bargaining lifts people up,” said Ritter. “Be heard, stand up, be loud, be visible, and be seen. Be here all the way to November and together we will work on lifting everyone up, not just bringing everyone down.”
“Janus is a battle in a much larger war,” said Rep. D’Agostino, who held up a bill he said republicans introduced to reduce the cost of labor in Connecticut. He said the bill is funded by those who support the Janus case with a goal of making Connecticut the next Wisconsin.
“No matter what happens with Janus, we are going to have your back,” said Lesser.
“We owe thanks to our state workers and our middle class. Thank you for everything you do… teaching our children, for protecting us, for fixing and repairing our roads, and caring for our sick,” said D’Agostino.
Several workers spoke out against attacks on unions and the importance of standing together and fighting for what is fair.
“Being in my union is important because there are those who want to destroy our collective power and make it harder for workers to get ahead,” said Jose Fuentes, an SEIU 1199NE member and employee at the Department of Children and Families.
“Every single hard-working union member will be hurt by Janus and we can’t let that happen,” said 22-year-old Richard Grimes, a member of the Fight for $15 who works at Burger King. “Unions have worked well for decades and are the best thing that ever happened in the United States of America.”
“Keep up the fight,” said D’Agostino. “Organize, organize, organize, and get out and vote in November. This is a battle in a larger war we can and must win.”
Unions participating in today’s rallies across the state 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.