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Mobilizing to Defend Public Services and the Workforce that Delivers Them

In her keynote address, AFT President Randi Weingarten recounted the ways the White House is trying to undermine basic public services in its proposed federal budget. “This administration is doing things that fly in the face of what the public says it wants,” she told leaders from across the country June 2 in Washington, DC.
Basic water quality, infrastructure improvements and workplace safety are all imperiled by the Trump Administration’s so-called “skinny budget” blueprint. The proposal assumes unrealistic economic growth while slashing about $6 trillion from vital federal programs to pay for tax cuts for the richest one percent and profitable corporations.
The White House’s 2018 budget would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 percent, impairing routine checks of drinking water. It threatens to slash 20 percent of resources to the nation’s labor agency, wiping out Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) worker safety training. 
While the administration’s proposal includes $200 billion promised for infrastructure investment, it would be more than offset by $206 billion in cuts to existing maintenance and repair services. The White House has further threatened to impose an inefficient layer of privatization to drive up additional costs for taxpayers. 
Click here to learn more about President Trump’s “skinny budget.”
Nevertheless, Weingarten added that she feels more optimistic than ever, saying “there is something happening within our membership. There is something happening on the ground, not to take anything for granted anymore, and to do something about it.”
Our own state federation president in a panel discussion that same day shared how members in Connecticut began mobilizing nearly two years before the election of Donald Trump. She shared how resistance to a governor and lawmakers choosing a similar destructive path of austerity over investment has led to unprecedented engagement and organizing.
“Our members get that public service is not an ATM to finance austerity budgets,” Jan Hochadel (holding plaque at right in photo above), told the audience. She added, “we’ve been fighting to redefine it as what it’s actually called: services for the public good.”
Hochadel, who previously taught in the Connecticut Technical High School System, explained how austerity policies over two successive legislative sessions has actually helped drive recent successful organizing efforts. She shared that last fall’s election by assistant attorneys general (AAGs) to form their own union in AFT Connecticut “opened the floodgates.”
“Even managerial employees want to be back in the union because they felt like they had a voice,” she added.
Hochadel’s comments refer to AFT Connecticut’s two-prong approach to empowering more of the state’s workforce with a voice on the job. The first has been to challenge numerous positions misclassified as “management” in order to extend collective bargaining rights to employees previously excluded from the opportunity to negotiate a better future.
Click here for our previous report on successful efforts to organize state managerial staff.
The second has been to grow the ranks of the Association of Managerial Employees in the Connecticut State Service (AMECSS), which recently affiliated with our labor federation. The organization has since 1978 promoted equity and fairness in salaries and workplace rules for state workers classified as “management” and therefore barred by statute from traditional union representation.
“Gaining strength by increasing membership in AMECSS is vital,” said Donna Haley, a program manager in the developmental services department’s Individual and Family Support Division. “Only by coming together can we maintain our benefits and secure protections for when we need them. It’s also how we’ll move elected leaders to treat our pay and our employment on a level equal to our unionized colleagues,” added Haley, the organization’s vice president.
The affiliation with AMECSS and the AAGs’ union election were on the final day of the conference specifically cited in an “Excellence in Organizing Award” presented to AFT Connecticut leaders. More than simply growing the ranks of the state’s labor movement, both have created important opportunities for professional public employees to better advocate for themselves and those they serve.
Click here to see the award.

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