Rally at Connecticut State Capitol demands ‘Equity Can’t Wait’
People's World

HARTFORD, Conn. – After months of testifying at public hearings and sharing personal stories with legislators showing the emergency need to fund living wages and human needs post pandemic, nearly 2,000 rallied at the State Capitol under the banner “Equity Can’t Wait.”

As the rally called on lawmakers to pass a moral budget, inside the Capitol building lawmakers huddled over ongoing budget negotiations as a June 7 deadline looms.

Organized by Recovery For All, a statewide coalition of 70 labor, community, and faith organizations with a long-term mission to eliminate systemic inequalities, the May 17 rally challenged the priorities of Gov. Lamont and legislators who say their hands are tied by the constitutional spending cap and bond lock “guardrails” they agreed to keep in place when the session began.

“We cannot allow the spending cap to leave people suffering and block us from building a more equitable Connecticut for all,” said Recovery for All leader Puya Gerami.

Speakers called for a budget intercept, or declaration of an emergency, to circumvent the spending cap at a time when the state enjoys a multi-billion-dollar budget surplus, a $3.3 billion rainy day fund, and the potential to tax the rich.  Connecticut, the most unequal state in the country, is home to 12 billionaires who seized $15 billion in new wealth during the pandemic, while the majority of people are struggling.

Some signs read “Emergency – Scrap the Spending Cap,” “Fund Our Needs,” and “Tax the Rich.”

“Guardrails are supposed to keep you from falling overboard,” said Sen Gary Winfield, who came outside to join the rally.  “This budget that we’ve been playing with lets a lot of us fall overboard, doesn’t it?” he said.

Always the right time

“Let me tell you something,” Winfield continued.  “It has always been the time to make sure that we all pay our fair share. It’s always time to take care of the people who take care of us. When you fight and when we fight, we all win,” he said to shouts of approval.

People’s World

Long-term caregivers announced at the rally that they were being forced to go on strike on May 24 because of drastic underfunding and understaffing.  Funded by Medicaid and paid through the state at $17 an hour, these workers, many women of color, are unable to make ends meet.  The low wage has left many working extra jobs, some sleeping in cars unable to pay skyrocketing rents, and unable to afford health coverage.

“We still have too many long term care workers living in their cars, motels, couch surfing, carrying thousands upon thousands of dollars of medical debt, facing evictions because their rent has doubled, so we’re a long way from utilizing the historic surplus toward meeting human needs,” said Rob Baril, President of SEIU 1199NE health care workers union.

The caregivers were cheered in solidarity by the teachers, students, health care workers, immigrant youth, tenants, members of public and private sector unions, clergy, and community members who had traveled to Hartford by car, bus, and van to demand that the emergency needs of Connecticut workers, especially low wage workers, workers of color and essential workers are heard and met.

The strength of the coalition has been mutual support for the demands of each organization. The Recovery for All equity agenda includes fully and equitably funding pre-K-12 public schools, teachers, paraeducators; public colleges and universities; investing in long-term care and child care; expanding Husky to all residents regardless of immigration status; restoring and expanding the public sector safety net and worker protections like paid sick leave, the minimum wage, and predictive scheduling.

The governor’s proposed funding for the next two-year budget cycle is down from previous years for regional state universities, community colleges, and the University of Connecticut and its health center. “There are billions and billions of dollars that can and should be used to fund our future,” declared Leslie Blatteau, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers to loud applause.

Leaders with the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) warn that if the proposed budget passes, the lack of funding will cause massive layoffs and increased tuition. Among the largest groups at the rally were teacher unions and higher education workers like the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges (4C’s) who are calling for an end to tuition hikes, greater access to developmental education, and increased funding for community colleges.

Acknowledging the large turnout at the start of the rally Gerami said, “To be honest with you folks, I think it really starts from a place of anger. I know for a fact that in this crowd there are home care workers, there are group home workers, people who give care to the elderly, with disabilities. These workers are stringing together two, three jobs, barely making ends meet. These are the people who take care of our kids and they don’t have health care for their own families,” he said to prolonged applause.

The rally concluded with the crowd circling the Capitol building affirming that the escalating demand for a moral budget cannot be ignored as the movement for equity continues to grow.  Calls and lobbying in the next two weeks are directed at Governor Lamont, Senate leader Martin Looey and House leader Matt Ritter.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is an active member of many local economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the national CPUSA Political Action Commission, she plays an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights, and peace. Joelle Fishman preside el Partido Comunista de Connecticut USA. Es miembro activo de muchas organizaciones locales de derechos económicos y justicia social. Como presidenta de la Comisión Nacional de Acción Política del CPUSA, desempeña un papel activo en la amplia alianza laboral y popular y continúa movilizándose por la atención médica, los derechos de los trabajadores y la paz.

Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera writes from Connecticut.