Demanding a Voice in Reopening Safely

Six federations, councils and unions that together represent over 60,000 employees in regional and local districts across Connecticut joined together to develop the "non-negotiable" health and safety standards. The document was last week presented to state and district officials ahead of this week’s public announcement and petition launch.
 
Click here for the document with the 13 principles for putting safety first.
 
“Formally engaging school support staff early and throughout the entire planning process is critical for reopening safely,” paraeducator Shellye Davis on Monday told reporters at a virtual press conference. "State and district-level education policies and directives are only effective when developed 'with us,' not done 'to us,'" she added.
 
Davis, AFT Connecticut's vice president for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRP) and co-president of her local union, was one of seven activists speaking at the event. Framing the importance of the coalition's advocacy, the paraeducator at Hartford’s Expeditionary Learning Academy at Moylan School (ELAMS) add that ”our members must be part of the solution."
 
Click here to watch and share video of the full press conference.
 
Adoption of the principles followed months of meetings among labor leaders, capped by a final four weeks of intensive membership engagement to amplify rank-and-file voices. Efforts included comprehensive surveys of affiliated PreK-12 and PSRP unions to inform, clarify and back-up the demands ultimately presented to state officials.
 
Click here for a report on our teachers' poll featuring toppling results.
 
Click here for findings from our survey of school support personnel.
 
Car caravan rallies organized in late July followed the launch of the internal polls, ultimately turning-out thousands of activists in more than two dozen communities. The governor's office preemptively responded by inviting leaders of both the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and our state federation to a private discussion.
 
Click here for press coverage of the coordinated demonstrations.
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Stacy Vocasek (center in photo, above), a steward in our EASTCONN Federation of Teachers, attended the July 30 meeting. She called the opportunity to join colleagues from around the state and share fears, needs, and hopes with Governor Ned Lamont "an important step towards safely reopening."
 
"With so much at stake, it is imperative that the decision makers listen to and truly hear the voices of educators," added Vocasek. "We are the ones who are in classrooms with students every single day. If anyone knows how to make school safe, it's us," the English teacher at EASTCONN's Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT) Magnet High School, added.
 
Click here for additional photos from the meeting. 
 
In reaction to the advocacy of labor leaders and rank-and-file activists, the governor a week later announced significant additional resources for regional and local districts to reopen safely.
 
Click here for reporting on the additional funding direct to school districts.