Council 4 Members Advocate for Policies to Advance Workers’ Rights And Justice

Council 4 members across a range of sectors have raised their voices in support of policies that would uplift members of their local, the clients they serve, and their communities.

From topics ranging from tax fairness, protecting retirement security and our state’s only public hospital, to expanding PTSI coverage, creating a workers compensation presumption, and ensuring proper funding for state agencies and our municipalities, union members are making a real impact by sharing their stories and experiences as public service workers.

Countless members have taken advantage of testifying in public hearings online, which is a new format introduced this legislative session due to the COVID pandemic. Other members are speaking out by writing and submitting opinion editorials and testifying virtually at their local government meetings.

One of the largest instances of participation was in support of two bills aimed at creating a fairer state tax structure to increase revenue for public services. HB 6187 and SB 821 (Act Concerning the Reformation of Certain Taxes and Tax Equity) would ensure an economic recovery is shared by all and not just the privileged few, who in Connecticut have amassed 3.8 billion since the start of the pandemic. It focuses on curtailing economic inequality and leveling the playing field by making bold investments in essential public services, education, health care, housing, and municipal aid.

Seventeen Council 4 members, including a few staff, submitted testimony or took part in delivering remarks virtually to members of the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee in a hearing that lasted more than 12 hours. Beyond Council 4 members, it was a tremendous showing of advocacy among labor, community organizations, and faith groups organized by Recovery For All CT – a statewide coalition addressing longstanding inequities in the state.

Another issue related to equity is how our state distributes aid to municipalities for untaxable property through PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes). Our largest cities are home to universities, non-profits, and hospitals that provide important services for all residents, however the tax-exempt status of these operations creates a loss of revenue for municipalities.

Several present and former local New Haven Presidents called attention to this issue of increasing payments of PILOT by testifying in support of SB 873 and publishing a joint op-ed. Their activism has led the bill to be passed in both chambers of the General Assembly. It is expected to be signed by Governor Lamont.

On the Board of Education level, credit is due to Local 466, which represents school personnel in Middletown Public Schools. Vice President, Brooke Carta, testified at the Board of Education meeting about their members being excluded from participating in a survey requesting input about returning to in-person learning.

“The members of 466 deserve to have their input heard…if there is a COVID-19 outbreak at schools, we would be impacted by it the same way that teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators would be,” she asserted via virtual testimony. Their local’s fight to have a voice in decisions impacting their working conditions was highlighted in the local press prompting the administration to expand the survey to include all school personnel, including members of Local 466.

As the deadline for passing policies and budgets this year nears, the need for member advocacy and connecting with elected officials will accelerate. But if there is anything to glean from the first few months of 2021 it is that Council 4 members are a powerhouse willing to go great lengths to ensure justice and fairness are less of an aspiration and more a future reality for all in the workplace and beyond.