Union Members Call for Investment in Public Services to Bridge Racial & Economic Gap in Connecticut

State employees and union leaders spoke out during a virtual press conference March 1 demanding government investment in public services to help bridge the racial and economic gap in Connecticut.

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) gathered employees from various state agencies, union leaders and state legislators to call on Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders of both parties to publicly commit to protecting and expanding — not shrinking and privatizing — state services.

With the expected wave of retirements approaching in June, state union leaders want to prevent a gap in public services, especially within departments with employees who are already stretched thin.

Council 4 is a member of SEBAC.

Participants in the SEBAC racial justice press conference, held virtually March 1, 2022

SEBAC’s legislative priorities include filling the thousands of current job vacancies in state agencies, automatically refilling positions that will open due to retirements and increasing funding for programs and services, which build equity for working families.

Colleen Carter, steward for AFSCME Local 704 and Computer Operator 2 with Department of Administrative Services, said that working for the state has kept her and her fellow clerical workers in the middle class.

“State employment plays a role in reducing income inequality for people of color compared to the private sector,” she said. “Data shows that for Blacks and Hispanics, state employment is an important anchor for community well-being.”

Carter added that Connecticut has much more room to grow and improve. Leaders can establish a training fund for career development to diversify higher paid state jobs, and enact a zero-tolerance policy protecting employees who speak out about discrimination, she said.

Council 4 AFSCME Executive Director Jody Barr said that racial inequality in the workplace impacts everyone.

“It's clear to all of us that racial equality is economic equality, and that racial equality is social equality,” Barr said. “We're here to make sure that the state of Connecticut understands this.”

Other speakers at the press conference included Senator Gary Winfield, Representative Robyn Porter and Dr. Stephen Pitts, University of California-Berkeley professor and academic researcher.