Evidenced by his recent approval ratings, Gov. Dannel Malloy has turned Connecticut into a state of cynics. I used to be one of these cynics, feeling powerless and disillusioned. But I will not let that deter me from the important work ahead to restore faith in our state government.
I moved to Connecticut from Louisiana – where my family is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina – and have worked at RegalCare Nursing Home in Waterbury for 26 years. I love Connecticut. I work hard and adore the seniors I care for every day. But my family is by no means politically connected, and I certainly do not have the means to contribute thousands of dollars to politicians in order to make my opinions count. So I have lived much of my life believing that my voice was not important enough to be heard by politicians, no matter how loud I was or how hard I worked.
This cynicism came to a rolling boil after Gov. Malloy passed his budget this year, which forced the layoffs of thousands of hard-working public employees who provide essential, life-sustaining services to Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, all while handing over tens of millions in taxpayer dollars to the largest hedge fund in the world.
I supported Gov. Malloy as he promised he would “make Connecticut work again.” I cheered him on as he proposed raising the minimum wage, reforming the criminal justice system, putting forward gun-control measures, and enacting paid sick leave. I voted for him in 2010, and then again in 2014. I was excited to watch his leadership continue when he was reelected to another term.
But since then, I’ve seen a different Gov. Malloy. I’ve seen a governor who has lost track of both the progressive ideals he claimed to believe in and the people who he claimed to fight for—people like me who feel powerlessly trapped in a “new economic reality” that only we have to face. I felt abandoned by someone I truly believed in. If I didn’t have a voice before, I felt I surely didn’t now.
But recently that defeatism was challenged by Rev. Dr. William Barber, the President of the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP and the founder of the Moral Mondays movement. Rev. Barber visited Connecticut a few weeks ago and reminded us all that we not only deserve to have our voices heard but that it is our fundamental duty to fight to protect and preserve Connecticut’s quality of life.
“We need to have the courage to have a heart and care for everyone,” he said. When our state passes a budget that does more to help the wealthy few than the downtrodden masses, we must have the courage to stand up to protect Connecticut’s working class. When layoffs strip good people of good jobs and disrupt the progress we have made to ensure a safe and healthy environment for Connecticut residents, we must have the courage to stand up for Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens.
Rev. Barber outlined the injustices that we face in Connecticut and across the United States, and how reviving the heart of American democracy would help solve those problems. “There are far too many who want tax cuts for the wealthy but who also want to raise taxes on the working poor and refuse to pay people a living wage,” he said. This is a heart problem, and when we fight for progressive ideals like $15 minimum wage and funding for public education and healthcare, we are reviving the heart of American democracy.
What Connecticut needs is a righteous awakening – similar to the Moral Mondays Rev. Barber championed in North Carolina – to remind its leaders who they work for and who elected them to office in the first place. In order to do this, we all have to hold politicians accountable for the actions that put our great state on the wrong track. Despite my frustrations, I have faith that Gov. Malloy and his administration can be born again into the progressive movement, but only if we work together to show him the light.
Barbara Franklin is a SEIU 1199 NE member and caregiver at the RegalCare Nursing Home in Waterbury, where she has worked for 26 years.