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Making Our Collective Voice “Heard in the Voting Booth”

Angie Parkinson teaches high school students social studies at Bacon Academy in Colchester and successfully ran as a first-time political candidate in her hometown of East Hartford. While she has long been a labor activist, she said of the unique experience that “none of this is natural to me.”
 
Parkinson, a member of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Colchester Federation of Teachers, felt compelled “to step up” and seek a seat on her town council. “You push through it because you care about the things we’re standing up for,” she added.
 
Click here to watch Parkinson and other union member candidates share the importance of showing that “labor is your neighbor.”
 
The seeds of her November 5 victory were three years earlier planted when Parkinson became involved in our Legislative/Political Action Committee (LPAC), which she now serves as vice chair. She then began preparing for her own run as a member of the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s “Path to Power” class of 2017.
 
The program recruits and trains union members to run for elected political office at all levels, from municipal assessment boards to both chambers of the state legislature. Local, regional and state affiliates — like AFT Connecticut — are engaged in identifying those interested in serving and then mobilizing volunteers to support their candidacies.
 
Click here for photos of Parkinson “getting out the vote” with fellow union members ahead of Election Day.
Lisa Conant (left, in photo above) is a grants and contracts specialist in the University of Connecticut (UConn)’s Office of the Vice President for Research and won re-election to Coventry’s town council. She credited the strong showing at the polls for herself and fellow union candidates in part to the community’s labor family.
 
“I believe it definitely made a difference,” said Conant, a member of our affiliated UConn Professional Employees Association (UCPEA). She added that our state federation’s internal electoral communication efforts were “tremendously helpful in reaching even more voters in town and reinforcing our message.”
 
Click here for the mailer announcing AFT Connecticut’s endorsed Coventry municipal candidates.
 
The help Conant referenced could be seen in Coventry’s final Election Day results. She and two additional labor candidates for town council — including Jonathan Hand (right in photo), a member of our affiliated Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union — were all swept into office.
 
“I couldn’t be more grateful for each one of my union brothers and sisters who made their voices heard in the voting booth,” she added.
 
Click here for an additional photo of Conant, Hand and fellow candidates outside a local polling place on Election Day.
 
For state federation leaders, the 2019 municipal elections were an important part of broader efforts to reverse a decade of damage wrought by politicians hostile to working people.
 
“Last year, when labor got out the vote, labor made a difference,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “We were able to restore a pro-worker majority in the state Senate,” she said, adding that foundation “made so many gains possible in this latest legislative session.” 
 
Click here for our report-back on electoral victories in 2018.
 
That success also helped inspire much of the momentum for municipal candidates to campaign on issues important to working families — and win. Hochadel is already looking ahead to 2020 to tap that power for elections that will determine the direction of our state and country for years to come.
 
“In America, the richest one percent are taking more and more, leaving less and less for working people,” she said. “Getting engaged in politics is an important way for union members to reverse that cycle,” added Hochadel, who also serves as a vice president on AFT’s national executive board.
 
Click here for reporting on labor candidates’ growing successes at the polls across the country.
 
The stakes for working people — and all Americans— in next year’s elections couldn’t be higher. To that end, our national union is asking members to share the issues most important to them and demanding answers from the candidates for president of the United States.
 
AFT has organized live town halls across the country for teachers, school support staff, nurses and health professionals, higher education faculty and public employees to be heard. They have also launched a brief online survey on the most important issues in the daily lives of our members, families and communities to address in the 2020 campaign.
 
Click here to complete the “AFT Votes” survey and be heard on our national union’s endorsement process.
 
 
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