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Winning on a “Labor is Your Neighbor” Platform

The outcome was the culmination of a coordinated response to the 2016 elections, which saw the loss of pro-worker majorities in both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly. Union leaders determined that to restore balance was by identifying, training and supporting rank-and-file members to run for local office — thereby building a bench for future legislative races.
Mary Fortier (right) is a Judicial Branch caseflow coordinator for complex litigation at the Waterbury Courthouse and won re-election to Bristol’s city council. As an activist and a former leader of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union, she recognizes the positive role organized labor played in her successful run.
“One-on-one conversations with voters have the greatest impact on elections,” said Fortier. “Labor helped get the word out that we all benefit when good stable jobs are protected, not just for the workers, but for all the services they provide,” she added.
In addition to Fortier, the Bristol Central Labor Federation played a significant role in several local wins on November 7, including electing the city’s first-ever female mayor. The organization coordinated comprehensive neighborhood-level canvassing efforts to connect volunteers with local union households on weekends beginning right after Labor Day.
Click here for press reporting on the results of Bristol’s mayoral and council races.
According to Fortier, the outcome has already borne fruit for working people in the city. 
“Our new mayor invited leaders of the city’s unions to her office for a meeting during her first week in office to discuss changing the tone in City Hall,” she said. “She suggested that while there may be some issues based on the state’s budget problems, those issues will not be resolved on the backs of our city workers,” she added.
IB ImageLisa Loomis-Davern (left) teaches English and social justice at Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford and won her race for a seat on the Middletown Board of Education. The member of our affiliated Hartford Federation of Teachers sees her win as a “great growth opportunity for teachers and a win for kids, as well.”
One of the major reasons Loomis-Davern decided to run for office was out of frustration that so many school-related policies are made by those who have no idea what it is like to be in the classroom. “Research shows the single most important factor in students’ academic success is the teacher standing before them,” she said. “We need educators to be on school boards to make sure teachers are being supported,” she added. 
In sixteen years of experience teaching in three local districts, Loomis-Davern has seen “various investments and decisions that I knew as a practitioner would not help kids.”
She also sees serving on a local school board as benefitting fellow educators, saying it helps to “look at educational issues from a different perspective than teachers are used to.” Loomis-Davern believes that perspective can “help teachers have a broader view of district decisions.”
Click here for Loomis-Davern’s op-ed on her candidacy published ahead of Election Day.
IB Image“Whether they won or lost their races, we should be proud of every one of our members who stepped up to run,” said AFT Connecticut First Vice President Jean Morningstar (right). “For years we’ve encouraged grassroots political engagement — from making phone calls to knocking on neighbors’ doors to simply exercising their right to vote. These women and men took it to the next level and put it all on the line to show that ‘labor is your neighbor,'” added Morningstar, the chair of our federation’s Legislative and Political Action Committee (LPAC).
In addition to the LPAC’s traditional role in reviewing endorsement requests, its members have teamed up with labor partners to identify and recruit candidates for local, legislative and statewide office. Working with the Connecticut AFL-CIO and the Connecticut Working Families Party (WFP), in April they achieved an early victory in a special election for a vacant legislative seat. 
The win by Hartford Federation of Teachers leader Joshua Hall helped set the stage for the unprecedented success at the ballot box on November 7. LPAC members plan to tap into the momentum it created for next year’s critically important gubernatorial and legislative elections here in Connecticut.
Click here to watch Morningstar and several member candidates share more on the “labor is your neighbor” effort.

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