The Working Families Party and their allies in organized labor may have been outspent this past legislative session, but they eked out a victory during the special session and vowed to continue to fight for working families next year.
Gathered outside the Legislative Office Building on the eve of a state and federal holiday, a handful of advocates spoke about the significant strides they made toward a paid Family and Medical Leave system.
Catherine Bailey, chair of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave and legal and public policy director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, said the legislature’s decision to hire a consultant and move forward with paid leave puts the state on track to become the fourth in the nation to implement it.
“Do we want to be the kind of society that ignores the hard working residents of Connecticut?” Bailey asked.
In addition to paid leave, legislative language regarding penalties for wage theft was strengthened and a low-wage advisory board was created. Despite these victories, the group gathered outside the Legislative Office Building last week called for further action.
One piece of legislation they supported, but which failed to get a vote, would have required employers to give fair notice to their employees of scheduling.
Jasmine Jackson, of Hamden, worked at a national fast food chain. She fell behind on her student loans and would have been able to enroll in officer training for the Air Force if she was able to catch up. The only way she could do that was if she was working. But her hours were cut and she was eventually terminated after she arrived a half-hour late for a shift the day after Christmas. She said she gave her employer notice that she would be in New York for Christmas and traveling back that day and may not have made it by 5 p.m., but her employer refused to remove her from the schedule.
Jackson said she was terminated by the fast food chain after speaking up about the scheduling issue.
The legislation would have required employers to give employees two weeks advance notice of their schedules.
The group also advocated for the elimination of the tipped minimum wage paid to servers and bartenders.
By eliminating the tipped minimum wage, Connecticut could produce an economic stimulus of $361 million, Danielle Donnelly, policy organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center, said.
She said 70 percent of all restaurant workers are women, and thus such a change would be a step toward pay equity for women.
Christian Castro, a restaurant worker in Hartford, said his ability to earn a living shouldn’t depend on the mood of his customers.
“That means economic instability,” Castro said.
The group also is seeking to expand the paid sick leave program to include more workers. Currently, companies that employ less than 50 people don’t have to offer paid sick leave.
Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, said they’re never going to have the same money as the corporate lobbyists, but “these issues affect almost everybody.”
She said they just have to get people to share their stories so lawmakers are aware of these issues.
As part of that effort, the group delivered glossy, 47-page books to lawmakers that included the stories from workers across the state who would benefit from some of these proposed legislative changes.