Any mechanic will tell you, don’t put gas in the engine until the engine is fixed. Connecticut’s economic engine is still broken, so why the rush to put “gas” in it, in the form of a $15 minimum wage, when it still needs fixing? I am all for a proper minimum wage that should be a peg of a local minimum to approximately 50 percent of the local median wage. That is where other advanced comparable OECD nations are currently. But jumping to $15 per hour would constrict economic growth.
There is not much consensus among our gubernatorial candidates this election cycle, but one topic that appears to have generated genuine agreement is that Connecticut needs to do more to ensure our state has the talent it needs for the economy to thrive. It seems every day we read about manufacturers that have thousands of unfilled jobs due to the lack of skilled workers. We have a burgeoning start-up community that is straining to keep growing companies here because they cannot find enough software engineers at their fingertips. State leaders warn all sectors are at risk without a more skilled and robust cyber security workforce in place. The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth finds the largest disparity in workforce supply and demand is among healthcare practitioners.
Despite misleading claims by opponents, including CBIA, the Connecticut Retirement Security Program (CRSP) is not a state-run retirement plan. In fact it is a private sector solution to a growing retirement savings crisis. Employees who invest in these voluntary and privately-run portable Roth IRA plans face no more risk than any other IRA investor, which includes me and, I am sure, many CBIA staff and business owners.
Despite what’s being touted by advocates, including AARP, as a solution to a growing retirement readiness problem, the state’s controversial retirement mandate is not the answer. It’s important that residents understand the financial risks it will impart upon many Connecticut workers.
After the disappointing Janus Supreme Court decision that eliminated the “fair share” laws that fund teachers unions like mine, thousands of educators from across the country marched through the streets of Pittsburgh to show support for their unions. After a year of blows to the teaching profession — a U.S. Department of Education that focuses less on protecting students and more on its own destruction, federal and state budget cuts, and the heavy, ever-looming threat of violence in the classroom — my heart warmed when I saw my colleagues resisting after yet another attempt to undermine our collective bargaining rights and disregard our voices. Teachers are willing to speak up on behalf unions. But unions will in turn have to show they understand teachers’ most pressing concerns and are ready to speak up for them.
I am a proud union member from a union family, and a lifetime member of the United Auto Workers union. In the mid- to late 80s I remember walking picket lines with my father and the union workers at Colt Firearms as they endured one of the longest strikes in Connecticut history. Today we are still reaping the benefits of the sacrifices that were made by so many union members willing to stand together united for a just cause.
We — as in everyone who lives and works in our state — have a problem. We will never, ever, be able to generate enough revenue to cover the cash demanded by our unfunded union liabilities. It doesn’t make a difference how we got here. Pointing fingers and demonizing each other does nothing. It’s our fault; we are here and it is up to us to fix it.
On Tuesday night —ironically on May Day— Democratic Senators Joan Hartley and Gayle Slossberg voted with Senate Republicans to kill the Fair Workweek bill: SB 318 “A Bill to Stabilize Working Families by Limiting On-Call Shift Scheduling.” Coming a mere week before Connecticut’s legislature adjourns on May 9, this vote all but guarantees that families experiencing the instability that comes with “just-in-time” work scheduling practices will not see any relief.
Unions are one of the best ways for working women and men to end sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. That is because when working people come together in union, they negotiate a contract with just cause language, and a grievance and arbitration process for dealing with conflict with the employer. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, it has become painfully clear that management and people in positions of power have long been able to sexually harass and abuse women with little to no chance of facing any consequences. That’s why I was stunned to see a recent op-ed [Employers are the key to developing workplace harassment solutions] that suggested employers and management were key to solving the problem of sexual harassment.
Where do our rights to free speech start and end? Specifically, where does free speech at work start and end? If one particular bill was to become law in Connecticut, the answer to that question would become much more difficult. There is a bill before the General Assembly that would restrict employers’ speech rights. It also runs afoul of federal labor law.
Workplace deaths and injuries that are as common as they are horrific should be the long-gone legacy of a 19th century textile mill. But they remain a terrifying reality today. Every day, 150 American workers die from on-the-job accidents and illnesses, while thousands more are injured. This is a travesty.
The workplace is shifting, and it’s clear that what has been tolerated in the past will no longer be acceptable. That’s a good thing. Everyone deserves to work in an environment where they feel safe, and employers must be part of the solution. As it stands now, Connecticut is a leader in creating safe workplaces. Our sexual harassment prevention training laws are some of the most stringent in the nation, and we should all be proud of that.
I am writing to counter recent arguments that Connecticut’s economic woes mean that we can’t afford to pass ‘compassionate’ bills like House Bill 5387, AN ACT CONCERNING PAID FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE, despite strong bipartisan support inside the legislature and outside in the real world. Frankly, I am surprised by the lack of vision shown by opponents of the bill. How can we move forward and build our economy without creative solutions? The House passed HB 5386 last week by a vote of 142-4 and I would urge the Senate to move quickly to send it to the governor’s desk.
Equal Pay Day arrived for women this week. According to gender rights advocates, a woman must add to her 2017 income almost three and a half months of work in 2018 to make as much as a white man made in 2017. In other words, a woman in Connecticut only makes 79 percent of what a white man makes in income. Black and Latina women are even more disadvantaged. Black women make only 58 percent, and Latina women come in last at 47 percent. For some inexplicable reason black men don’t seem to be counted.
With the many and varied issues the state of Connecticut currently faces, our legislature can ill afford wasting time on any issue that will not contribute to immediate fiscal relief or long-term fiscal health. The new report issued by the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth outlines a number of critical issues that demand action, all intended to improve the state’s fiscal standing. Unfortunately, the report also includes suggested changes to collective bargaining for public employees: changes far more likely to distract from larger problems than to result in significant savings to the state.