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Union Leaders Call For More Jobs At Hartford Rally

Melissa Pionzio

May 02, 2011

If not for her husband's union job as a sheet metal worker, Anna Bouzko says her family would be in trouble financially.

Laid off from a position with The Hartford two years ago, the Wethersfield resident is unable to find work and worries that her husband's job, which is through the Local 40 Sheet metal Workers Union, could also be at risk if contracts continue to be given to non-union employees.

"We need jobs, we worry about retirement," said Bouzko. "We don't want to leave the state, we love Connecticut, but if there's no jobs, we may have to leave."

Anna and her husband Anatoli were among hundreds of union workers who streamed into Bushnell Park Sunday, for a labor union rally hosted by the Connecticut Laborer's District Council. Bearing signs and wearing colorful T-shirts with their union's logos, many were accompanied by their spouses and children. Others, like Valrey Johnson, stood with fellow employees and listened solemnly while rally speakers called for solidarity.

PHOTOS: Union Labor Rally In Hartford

"I am here today standing with all the unions for what is right," said Johnson, a mother of three sons in college, whose union has been on strike from their jobs at Park Place Health Center, a Spectrum Healthcare nursing home in Hartford, for more than a year. "We are standing strong, we are not giving up. We are here today at this event to stick together."

Throughout the day, union themed music blared from speakers set up on the park's band shell. The message was similar to the signage and the speakers calling for more jobs, less greed and to stop the war on workers.

Some of the speakers included Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, who called for more workers and jobs as a means to help end blight in the city; AFL-CIO president John Olsen, whose fiery words included the charge that politicians were trying to exterminate the middle class; U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who touted the $1.2 billion contract recently awarded by the U.S. Navy to a local union shipyard and Edward Kennedy Jr., who reminded the crowd of his family's longtime support of union workers.

"My family has stood shoulder to shoulder with our union members," said Kennedy, as he ticked off the number of years his relatives had served the country in political office. "Why? Because my family believes in fairness, we believe in justice, we believe in democracy. Until people are treated with fairness and dignity, there will be no peace in this country."

Matt Accettullo, who works in the mechanical insulation field, is a member of Local 33 Insulator's Union out of Wallingford, said standing among fellow union members Sunday meant a lot, but he worried that Connecticut residents don't really understand what is happening.

"I think we are unfairly targeted. I think the problems with unions have to do with municipalities, with the public sector, not the private sector," he said. "We are unfairly targeted, we don't get paid holidays, sick days, no roll overs."

"Without the union workers, where would the standard be set for the non-union workers? I'm not against non-union workers, everyone has the right to support their family, but we set the standard," he said. "I don't want to make it an us against them, but I think their pay is based on ours. Everyone should know that we are not nearly afforded what the private sector gets and the taxpayer is footing those bills."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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