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“We’re Going to Turn the Halls of Power into Union Halls” – Richard Trumka, Former AFL-CIO President

As absentee ballot shenanigans in Bridgeport occupy the front page, the AFL-CIO — one of the state’s largest labor unions — is quietly interviewing candidates who endorse a range of social justice initiatives and benefits that primarily serve their union’s interests rather than the broader voting constituency. 

But could these endorsements come with a quid pro quo arrangement? 

As revealed by the 2023 Municipal Candidate Questionnaire from the Eastern Connecticut Area Labor Federation, the AFL-CIO is asking candidates whether they would publicly denounce and actively resist the introduction of private school vouchers in their community. The reward: the candidates who comply will receive the union’s endorsement.  

However, the union fails to ignore that substantial evidence exists suggesting that private school voucher programs yield favorable outcomes for students. It seems self-serving for the union to obstruct access to the highest quality education available, prioritizing its own interests. 

Meanwhile, union leaders are not hiding their true colors regarding social justice objectives as evidenced by the Sept. 15 speech by Leslie Blatteau, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, to the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention. During her address, she suggested that the union should begin utilizing the collective bargaining process as a means to indirectly enact changes unrelated to their job responsibilities. Blatteau cited a recent example where the Boston teachers’ union successfully included housing provisions for homeless students in their teacher’s contract. 

Yet dominating the scales of electoral outcomes has long been the intention of union bosses for more than a century in American politics. As Richard Trumka, former AFL-CIO president, once said: “We’re going to turn the halls of power into union halls.”  

Unions are widely recognized not only for their financial support of pro-labor candidates but, more significantly, for their substantial contribution of volunteer hours to aid in the election of their preferred candidates. 

The AFL-CIO confirmed this during a 2018 Facebook Live event titled “Path to Power.” At the event, the political director for Sheet Metal Workers Local 100 in the Washington D.C. Area disclosed that every local union affiliate in the United States has a dedicated group of individuals actively volunteering on political campaigns. He further revealed that his own local union contributes more than $100,000 worth of both manpower and financial support. 

Overall, the union has an apparent lack of interest in tackling Connecticut’s real issues like, for example, the regressive inequitable property tax problem. According to a 2020 study released by Yankee Institute and the Tax Foundation, Connecticuts property tax rate is among the highest in the country and has continued to grow even as property values declined, surpassing the rates of neighboring states. 

A property tax cap simply restricts the yearly increase in property taxes imposed by local governments and school districts. This can provide stability for homeowners, particularly those on fixed incomes or confronting financial challenges. Moreover, it can promote homeownership by enhancing affordability for individuals and families looking to purchase and maintain their homes. 

Prior to his transition from the legislative branch to the executive, Comptroller Sean Scallon (D) put forward a variation of a property tax cap during the 2021 legislative session. His rationale stemmed from the belief that Connecticut’s heavy reliance on an outdated and inequitable tax system was problematic. Scanlon emphasized that the state’s dependency on property taxes was a systemic issue. 

But the AFL-CIO has been heavily opposed to a municipal property tax cap in Connecticut or other such reforms in other states.  

Before New York instituted their own property tax cap, the AFL-CIO came out in strong opposition. According to a 2011 statement issued by New York AFL-CIO president Denis Hughes limiting the growth of government will be a “vast reduction in quality of life resulting from these dramatic cuts worth a tax cap that doesn’t guarantee tangible savings.” Put another way, making life affordable for Connecticut residents takes a back seat to AFL-CIO coffers. 

Candidates will do what they need to do to secure a victory, but it falls on the constituents to determine what aligns best with their needs and community interests. To make informed decisions, voters should scrutinize not only candidates’ statements but also who endorses them. Local elections have a direct impact on daily life, with elected officials directly shaping decisions pertaining to schools, public safety, zoning and more. These decisions have an immediate and tangible impact on the quality of life for individuals and their families. 

Let Connecticut Work! Conference — Get Your Tickets Before They Sell Out!  

Thur. (Oct. 5) 10:00am – 2:00pm  

The Hartford Club – 46 Prospect St. Hartford  

The Let Connecticut Work! conference is the perfect time for small and medium-sized business owners to network with state and fellow business leaders and discuss ways our state can become more hospitable to its businesses.  

 The event will include lunch and a keynote address from The Hon. Themis Klarides — former House Minority Leader in the
Connecticut General Assembly. Also speaking will be The Hon. Mark Boughton — Commissioner of the Connecticut Department
of Revenue Services.  

 Click HERE to register 

This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters 

Prof. Jeff Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian discuss their recent report on Connecticut’s public pension fund having one of the worst investment track records of any state in the nation. 

Read the full report HERE 

Click HERE to listen 

Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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