Newsmaker Awards honor Connecticut activists

NEW HAVEN – It was an overflow crowd with inspiring presentations and music at the People’s Center in New Haven, CT on April 25 for the People’s World/Mundo Popular Newsmaker Awards presented to three organizations on the front lines in the struggle for good jobs. With unemployment at a crisis levels,  the event was organized as “A Call to United Action to Create Jobs for All with Equality and Peace.”

Kit Salazar-Smith, vice president of the Waterbury Labor Council, chaired the afternoon event.  The crowd was welcomed by Joelle Fishman, Chair of the Connecticut Community Party USA, whose state convention, geared to the struggle for jobs and the 2010 elections, preceded the event.

The newsmaker awards went to IAM Local 1746-A in Cheshire Connecticut for a decades-long campaign to win and enforce contract language that holds Pratt & Whtiney (UTC) accountable and stops the loss of jobs.  The award was also presented in solidarity with the ongoing struggle to keep good jobs in Connecticut.  UTC is the largest private employer in Connecticut and Pratt & Whitney is their largest division. 

In accepting the award, local president Wayne McCarthy described the union’s courageous fight which resulted in a court order preventing the giant multi-national corporation from moving jobs overseas during the life of the contract.

The Greater Hartford Labor Council received their award for their broad outreach and involvement of organized workers and the community in the 2008 elections and in the struggles to win a pro- worker agenda for health care, job creation and workers’ rights.

Hartford and Youngstown, Ohio are tied as the cities with the most concentrated poverty in the United States.  Over half of Hartford residents live on incomes below the self sufficiency standard.  Peggy Buchanan, Labor Council president, expressed appreciation for the award and announced that the Hartford Labor Council is opening a street front headquarters which they hope will be as warm and welcoming and part of the people’s struggles as the Peoples Center.

The Asociaciion de trabajadores de New Haven is an organization or immigrants that represents unorganized workers in their struggles against extreme exploitation.  The award was presented to recognize their work in organizing immigrant workers to defend their rights on the job and for mobilizing immigrant workers to participate in the March for America for immigration reform and economic justice on March 21, 2010 in Washington DC.   Nearly 1,000 people from New Haven traveled on 16 buses to Washington for the giant demonstration.

John Jairo Lugo accepted the award with three immigrant workers who had their pay withheld while working on a farm.  They took their case to the Labor Department and won a partial victory.  The exploitation they and others have experienced, along with outrage at the new anti-immigrant law in Arizona, is propelling what is expected to be a large march for immigrant rights and jobs for all on Saturday, May 1 in New Haven.  Marchers will gather at Front St and Grand Ave and march downtown to the federal building for a rally.

After the presentations Kit Salazar-Smith lead a panel discussion with the awardees who were asked to describe their struggles, suggest ways to build and enlarge the movement, and give their ideas about getting new people to get involved and take leadership.

The audience was also entertained and inspired by the music of Frank Panzarella,  the poetry of Boub Bidon and Latin songs by the dynamic quartet Beto Castillo, Jeff Fuller, Richard Hill, and Marco Castillo. The program was followed by a delicious homemade dinner, a fund appeal for the People’s World and a calendar for a call to action. 

The call to action calendar included a large number of events taking place on May Day week including CT AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day, a March for Good Jobs and Corporate Responsibility in New Haven, and the AFL-CIO March on Wall St. with Richard Trumka, the immigrant rights march on May 1 and a Peace Train to New York City on Sunday May 2 where the International Peace March and Festival will be held at United Nations.

Photo: Tom Connolly


Tom Connolly
Tom Connolly

Tom Connolly is a retiree labor and social justice activist writing from Connecticut.