Labor Issues The Call For Alternatives To Austerity

Governor Lamont will deliver his first proposed budget to the General Assembly February 20th. In advance of that, union leaders, frontline workers – including an AFSCME Council 4 member – and community allies held a press conference on Feb. 11 urging him to reject years of austerity measures that have devastated working families.

They called on him to take a high road approach to build an economy that works for everyone.

“After years of austerity budgets that have been devastating for Connecticut’s working families, now is the time to invest in vital public services to create an economy that grows and works for everyone,” said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano as he opened the press conference.

Luciano introduced Miles Rapoport, former legislator and Secretary of the State who is now a Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at Harvard University.

Rapoport suggested that Governor Lamont could meet the state’s obligations while simultaneously addressing the adverse impacts of income inequality by modernizing Connecticut’s tax structure, taking a hard look at tax expenditures that benefit corporations and investing in infrastructure.

Rapoport challenged policymakers to resist the temptation to curry favor with affluent interests by continuing to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.

“Everything ought to be on the table, not just how do we cut the budget and how do we extract more money from state employees,” Rapoport said.

Click here for brief video of Rapoport's remarks.

Rapoport introduced three frontline workers shared how low-road austerity budgets are impacting them: a middle school French teacher in Norwalk; Kara Phillips, a nurse with the Department of Correction; and Sotonye Otunba-Payne, a court reporting monitor in New Haven.

Payne, a member of AFSCME Local 749, discussed efforts by her employer, the Judicial Branch, to outsource court transcription, a move that would compromise the integrity of the legal process and lead to the loss of jobs for a predominantly female workforce.

“If our goal is shared prosperity, let’s talk about in-sourcing instead of out-sourcing,” Payne told reporters. “Let’s talk about safeguarding taxpayers’ dollars by making sure that public agencies do not pursue reckless outsourcing without scrutiny, transparency and a commitment to protecting skilled workers.”

Pastor Rodney Wade of the Long Hill Bible Church of Waterbury offered a moral argument for a budget that moves away from austerity and growth.

“If we really care about people, then we will make this budget about the people,’ he declared, further asserting that Connecticut residents would be proud of a budget that includes fair wages, good schools and quality public services.

Take action: Sign our online petition calling on Gov. Lamont and state legislators to invest in workers so we can #ThriveTogetherCT.