Nicholas Jerard is in his fifth year of employment with the state as a social services program admin manager (SSPAM) in the Department of Developmental Services’ Medicaid unit. He signed-up earlier this year as a full member of our affiliated Managerial and Exempt Employees United (M+E) and currently serves on the organization’s steering committee.
Jerard this past summer volunteered to participate in the mobilization “to be part of the solution to the long standing issues” he and his colleagues face. The state’s managerial and exempt workforce has for the past decade been saddled with rising workloads, frozen salaries and increased healthcare costs — with little or no recourse.
“I know many managers that are discouraged by the current situation,” added Jerard. He said the ConnectiBlitz was an opportunity to “stand up and make a difference” — and encourage his colleagues to join him in the organization.
M+E, formerly known as the Association of Managerial Employees in the Connecticut State Service (AMECSS), had been steadily growing since their members’ 2017 vote to affiliate with our federation. Along with adopting a new name, the steering committee this past summer also approved broadening eligibility requirements to include exempt state employees.
for the announcement of M+E’s membership changes.
As Jerard explained, the larger pool of potential M+E members is a reminder that “none of us are alone in our struggles.”
Joining Jerard for the week-long mobilization were leaders and activists in three affiliated locals representing state employees. Additionally, our national union recruited organizers from Maryland, Illinois, Kansas and Alaska to travel to Connecticut to be part of the effort.
A former member of our Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union prior to his promotion last year, Jerard said the ConnectiBlitz “reconfirmed the power of unions to change the status quo.”
for photos of Jerard and fellow activists training for the mobilization.
Among the Connecticut state employees to participate in the mobilization were several who completed training as part of AFT Connecticut’s Member Organizing Institute (MOI). The program launched last fall and has graduated several teams of labor leaders and activists who have taken part in similar efforts over the past directed at strengthening our movement.
Ana Sifuentes (middle, in photo above) is an imaging services program assistant in the radiology department at UConn Health’s main campus in Farmington, where she has worked for six years. After completing initial training in an earlier MOI-inspired course coordinated by her local union, in 2018 she volunteered to be part of a full cohort.
For Sifuentes, the instruction “helped a great deal,” preparing her for conversations with managerial and exempt state employees aimed at empowering them to “stand as a union.”
for our previous report on the launch of the MOI.
According to Sifuentes, her career path also contributed to her success by demonstrating to fellow public employees “that you are not alone.” As a member of our affiliated University Health Professionals (UHP) union, her background enabled her to “connect and find empathy” among potential new members she organized throughout the ConnectiBlitz.
As managerial and exempt employees in M+E look ahead to their next steps, they do so with aspirations for the upcoming session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Jerard and fellow steering committee members have met with our state federation’s legislative advocates and Public Employees Council leaders to develop policy initiatives that will help them advance their objectives.
When lawmakers return to Hartford in February, they will be keenly aware of AFT Connecticut’s ongoing work to lift up state employees previously denied a voice on the job. The ConnectiBlitz not only helped boost M+E’s membership rolls; it also caught the attention of legislative and political leaders at the Capitol complex.
for a recent press report on the mobilization and wider efforts to unite state employees.