In December I expect that the Low Wage Board will recommend an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Should that occur, I will not be supporting the board’s decision. Given how the board was legislatively constituted, it is an outcome that should come as no surprise. With the increase to $10.10 in January 2017, Connecticut’s ability to attract and retain businesses will continue to fall and the result of any further increase will result in an explosion in our already unsupportable social service costs.
Labor Day marks the end of summer, of family vacations and long days by the pool. It is a signal that the days of carpooling, Little League and homework are about to commence. While often regarded as a day for one last barbecue, Labor Day is importantly about celebrating the contributions of all working people. … And while Labor Day is a time to reflect on the incredible achievements of workers, we cannot ignore the fact that it comes during a critical election cycle and an unprecedented number of attacks on the rights of working people at the local and state level as well as in the race for President.
On this Labor Day, I have an important discovery to announce. No, it’s not Proxima b, the nearest planet to our solar system. My discovery is this: there is an American working class! And it exists right here in Connecticut. In fact, 62 percent of the population is working class. Because it’s not about income, it’s about power. Most of us have no control over what we do. The corporate elite (under 2 percent) make those decisions for us.
As a graduate teacher in Political Science at Yale, I study how activists, politicians, and philosophers in the world’s two largest democracies—India and the United States—have thought about democratic forms of government. I’m doing a PhD because I think that ideas matter: they move us to question the world we live in and imagine new ways of living together. It’s this spirit that I try to bring to the classrooms where I teach. In the coming days, I will get to participate in a new kind of democracy for me. I’ll get to vote to certify my union Local 33–UNITE HERE, the union of graduate teachers at Yale University.
Does someone have to get hurt before our state stands up for what’s right? UConn Health Center appropriately fired an individual who put the public at risk by getting high while working a job that involves driving a state vehicle and operating motorized equipment. But following an arbitration ruling in support of the employee’s case, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the arbiter’s finding instructing UConn Health to rehire the employee who got high on state time in a state vehicle.
After weeks of embarrassing publicity and political mobilization, Yale University has been forced to rehire Corey Menafee, an African American employee who was fired for smashing a stained glass window at Yale’s Calhoun College that depicted slaves shouldering bales of cotton. For over a year, Calhoun College has been the subject of intense national controversy because it is named after one of America’s foremost defenders of slavery and white supremacy. Menafee’s actions, firing, and now rehiring gave expression, and amplification, to the controversy. But now there’s a new source of controversy…
A 2011 Pew poll reported a higher opinion of socialism than capitalism among those aged 18 to 30. I doubted it, must be a fluke, and paid no attention. Five years later on the New Haven Green, on college campuses, in workplaces and neighborhoods I see this opinion taking positive shape.
If raising the federal minimum wage would hurt businesses, as many aver, then it stands to reason that lowering the federal standard from $7.25 an hour would help. What are we waiting for? How about $5, perchance $3 an hour? That would be a steroid injection for our sluggish economy. Connecticut, which keeps raising its lowest wage, just doesn’t get it.
My business, the Voices of Women of Color, is a grassroots advocacy firm, which provides political and issue-based outreach. The lion’s share of people who are paid by the Voices, either as consultants or part-time employees, are female. They are mostly single mothers doing everything they can to make ends meet. They, too, are impacted by the political decisions at the local and state level, and there are times when business and community issues are at odds. As a woman of color, I am painfully aware of disparities beyond gender. But I am also aware that addressing these disparities requires strategic approaches on many levels, not just through legislation.
This week I am in Connecticut with the state’s Campaign for Paid Family Leave, a coalition of advocates pushing for the passage of a smart system of paid leave. This system is entirely employee-funded. It will offer workers 12 weeks of paid time off to welcome a baby or care for themselves or an ill loved one. It will be paid at 100 percent of a worker’s earnings, which is essential to ensuring that lower-income workers can afford to use the benefit.
As a student at the University of Connecticut, it breaks my heart to see the non-faculty professional employees being disrespected by state political leaders and the news media. It is shameful that some legislators are taking a “victory lap” after members of the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA) decided to withdraw their contract due to a clerical error.