HARTFORD, Conn. - This state's Working Families Party convened their annual meeting last week with a dispaly of strength.
Connecticut is now the first state in the nation to pass paid sick days legislation into law. As a result of that fight, which Working Families helped to lead, thousands of workers will no longer have to choose between taking time off when sick or losing their job.
The Working Families line has become a notable spot on the Connecticut ballot. While Governor Dannel Malloy won election by 6,000 votes in 2010, there were 26,000 voters who chose to cast their ballot for him on the Working Families line.
While the party has won two seats on the Hartford City Council, its line has primarily been an expression of fusion politics. Working Families cross-endorses candidates on the Democratic line who pledge to actively support their agenda.
The annual meeting, held at the Polish National Home and attended by nearly two hundred activists, labor leaders and elected officials, heard from three 2012 Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate and deliberated a new political agenda.
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who defeated a longstanding Republican to win a seat in the House of Representatives in 2008 and was re-elected in 2010, is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Joseph Lieberman. He is facing challengers State Susan Bysiewicz, formerly Secretary of State, and State Representative William Tong in the Democratic primary next year. All agreed that they would "draw a line in the sand" to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Murphy distinguished himself at the conference by calling for aggressive grassroots organizing to win working families issues. "It's not just about casting a vote," he said. "It's about creating a movement."
The appearance by the candidates at this progressive forum sets a strong tone for the coming election, which is expected to be a major battle. Democratic and Republican primaries are anticipated. tea party Republican Linda McMahon, who was defeated last year by Richard Blumenthal, is making a second try for the seat.
Also addressing the conference was state Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, candidate for the seat being vacated by Chris Murphy in the 5th Congressional District. Donovan, who was a public sector union organizer, actively promoted support in the legislature for a complex concessionary agreement between the governor and state worker unions that avoided any layoffs. "The public is with us," he said, referring to majority support for paid sick days, universal health care and increasing the minimum wage.
Participants considered three bold new policy issues during the half-day conference including the development of a Connecticut Partnership Bank, modeled after the successful Bank of North Dakota; green jobs modeled after the Green Jobs-Green New York project; and development of a state pension fund for those in the private sector currently without a defined pension plan.
The Connecticut AFL-CIO will hold their Constitutional Convention September 14-16. The sessions will include developing their political agenda for Connecticut.
Photo: Working Families Party website.