Let me get this straight: We lost another one? How many events at the Connecticut Convention Center do we have to lose before we say enough is enough?
Simply put, the incredible progress we see today in Hartford was made possible by people working together toward a common goal. Large and small businesses, city and state government and the nonprofit community all contributed their time and talents to help move Hartford forward. They also committed their optimism, enthusiasm and cooperation to generate a sense of possibility that had been missing in Hartford for far too long.
Unfortunately, just as we are beginning to see the benefits of this growing momentum in Hartford, some people are threatening to undermine the progress we've made. At the very time Hartford's image is being recast in a more favorable light some labor unions are discouraging potential visitors from spending their time and money in Hartford.
This is undoing the progress we have made and is taking money out of the pockets of hundreds of workers at the convention center and the region - from the person who delivers the flowers in the morning to the people who work so hard in the kitchen. Custodians, food service personnel, parking and security staff and their families (many of whom are Hartford residents) are being affected by this situation.
This disruption extends beyond the walls of the convention center into Hartford's many restaurants, clubs and cultural destinations, all of which are losing business every time an event at the convention center is canceled. Owning and operating a small business in Hartford is hard enough already. This type of negativity is making my job, and the jobs of everyone working at a restaurant, hotel, museum, or tourist attraction that much harder.
Connecticut and Hartford have invested very significant resources in our city to create new jobs and greater tax revenues. With so much on the line, I urge Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Mayor Eddie A. Perez to help resolve this issue quickly and fairly. We need their leadership now more than ever.
The operators of the convention center, the Waterford Group, want employees to decide for themselves if joining a labor union is right for them through a process that is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The Waterford Group has been a huge part of Hartford's rebirth. In the early days, when it was hard to find partners who were willing to share the risk in Hartford's future, the Waterford Group stepped up. It has invested millions upon millions of dollars in our city, creating hundreds of jobs. And let's not forget that, at the request of Mayor Perez, the Waterford Group saved the Hartford Hilton - and its union jobs - when no one else was willing.
I was personally involved in the agreement to build Adriaen's Landing, and I worked hard with many others to ensure that a set number of jobs created at both the convention center and Marriott Hartford Downtown, our city's first new hotel in more than 20 years, were to be held by residents in Hartford. The Waterford Group has met this threshold and treats its employees fairly.
The hard-working men and women at the facility should be allowed to decide for themselves whether joining a union is right for them through a process that provides all of the protections of the National Labor Relations Act. As someone who was a member of a union for more than 20 years, I have an understanding and appreciation for the value of union membership.
For the good of Hartford, its residents, taxpayers and employees of the Connecticut Convention Center, the unnecessary situation at the convention center must come to an end. If a labor union does not like the laws that govern union organizing, their fight is in Washington, not Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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