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Speaking Out for Essential Workers Who Risked it All

Lawmakers on the legislature’s joint Labor and Public Employees committee on March 11 heard testimony on several proposed new laws impacting essential workers. Two in particular address several AFT Connecticut priority policies and were the focus of written and verbal testimony delivered by 12 members of affiliated local unions. 
The first would strengthen workers compensation claims resulting from COVID-19 exposure on the job during the current public health emergency. The proposed legislation builds on the executive order last spring Governor Ned Lamont issued after months of intensive advocacy by the state’s labor movement.
 
Natchaug Hospital Unions United member and registered nurse Scott Mesloh, RN, at a press conference before the public hearing shared his experience struggling with the virus’ lingering effects. Like many of his colleagues across the state over the past year, he contracted COVID-19 on the job — yet has been repeatedly denied access to vital aid.
 
Click here to watch Mesloh and other frontline workers share their stories at the news briefing.  
 
Frontline workers from a variety of industries and fields in both the public and private sector over the next 11 hours appeared virtually to testify in favor of the proposal. They also spoke in favor of additional legislation offering solutions for a variety of pandemic-related challenges, including:
  • hazard pay;
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) relief; 
  • protective equipment stockpiles;
  • safe staffing requirements; 
  • sick leave; &
  • unemployment benefits.
Click here for the latest draft of the “omnibus” pandemic bill introduced by the committee.
 
Among the 12 members of affiliated locals to testify was Judicial Professional Employees Union (JPE) member and adult probation officer Melissa chin-Hing (second from right in top row in photo, above). She urged lawmakers to recognize the courage and commitment she and other essential state employees faced over the past year by supporting the bill’s hazard pay provision. 
 
“No monetary amount on earth is worth the trade off of our physical health, our mental well-being, or our ‘peace of mind,'” chin-Hing said. “Probation has been here throughout the pandemic, performing our jobs and putting ourselves at high risk of transmission of this deadly disease,” she added.
 
Closing out the marathon hearing was Danbury Nurses Union, Unit 47 member and registered nurse Brittany Manley, RN (second from left in top row in photo, above). Sharing how her colleagues on the frontline of the crisis “are so incredibly tired,” she made a heartfelt appeal to lawmakers to “consider fighting for us.”
 
Click here to watch Manley’s full testimony to the committee. 
 
The committee yesterday voted to approve both measures, sending them on for further action in the state House and Senate. Now is the time for union members to engage with their home district’s legislators and urge they vote “YES” for essential workers who risked it all to keep their communities safe.
 
Click here for your state representative and senator’s contact information.
 
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