By ERNIE GOTTA
A “People’s Recovery” plan was rolled out at a press conference by the Bargaining for the Common Good coalition on Monday afternoon, Jan. 4. The coalition consists of a number of unions and community groups and has support from local politicians. The plan is centered around increasing taxes on Connecticut’s wealthiest residents to preserve vital services coming out of the COVID crisis. The focus would be on a household’s yearly income of $1 million or more and corporations that annually gross more than $100 million.
“We’re here calling for the help of the legislature to tip the scales in the direction of justice by moving towards greater tax equity,” said Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 New England. He continued, “Education, health care, housing livable wages, a fair retirement—those things should be a condition of birth, as opposed to something that are available only to the privileged few. And our state’s budget, our state’s tax dollars, can move in that direction.”
Governor Ned Lamont, himself a wealthy elite living in the most expensive area of the state, is opposed to this initiative. Tensions are only increasing, since the state’s labor unions that helped elect Lamont are now facing a major austerity drive by the governor’s administration. Lamont is seeking to shrink the unionized public sector workforce by “streamlining” operations as workers begin to retire.
The governor has hired friends in the notorious anti-worker Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to make recommendations. BCG has most recently advocated for the privatization of the U.S. Postal Service.
Following the press conference, members of the CT Workers Crisis Response (CWCR) handed out hundreds of leaflets on Monday night outside of Stop and Shop grocery stores in Hartford and Stamford. CWCR has now held four informational picket lines in four Connecticut cities over the past month to raise the issues of hazard pay and safer working conditions during the COVID crisis.
Daniel Piper, a union teacher and CWCR member who helped organize the Hartford action, said, “We know the workers and their union are fighting to regain hazard pay, PPE, and in general safer conditions at work. Safer conditions also mean prioritizing their access to the vaccine. Essential workers deserve more. Stop and Shop is a multi-billion-dollar corporation that can easily afford to take care of their workers. They have not done enough.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has held ongoing negotiations with Stop and Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delaize, since the start of the COVID crisis. Small gains have been made as the union and supporters have helped loosen the pockets of the company.
On Monday morning, prior to the action, UFCW Local 371 posted on Facebook, “After negotiating with UFCW leadership, Stop and Shop has agreed to pay out an additional $300 for FT and $150 for PT employees for hazard pay. While we believe you deserve more than that for the work you have done for your communities, we appreciate the company’s ongoing willingness to bargain over the issue of hazard pay. ”
In Stamford, Stop and Shop workers made a point to express their appreciation for CWCR’s show of solidarity. One worker emphatically told picketers, “You’re damned right we deserve more. We worked through this pandemic, and the company’s bonus of $300 is disrespectful!”
Photo: Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 New England, speaks. / Stop and Shop picket line in Stamford, Conn. (General Strike Graphics)