A call to honor workers’ freedom

This Labor Day holiday, many of my fellow correctional officers and other front-line prison employees will be working. We’re OK with that; it’s what we signed up for when we decided to walk the most dangerous beat around.

As Connecticut public employees, we also know we won’t be seeing raises any time soon and that we’ll be paying more into our health care and pensions. We’re OK with that, too, because we voted to make $1.57 billion in concessions − $17,500 per unionized state employee – to help the state close a $5 billion deficit.

What we’re not OK with is the fact that while we have sacrificed, a bunch of CEOs and those who are already rich have seen their salaries and wealth skyrocket. This is no accident. Across the country, and in Connecticut, big corporations and the wealthy – along with the politicians who do their bidding – have rigged our economy and our political system against working people.

We need to confront this rigged system head on. It’ll take a lot to fix it – and we can start by protecting and strengthening the freedom of American workers to form unions. Today, despite unprecedented attacks from so-called “right-to-work-for-less” legislation and other political scams, people in unions continue to win rights, benefits, and protections not only for themselves, but also for all working people in and outside of the workplace.

I speak from experience as a unionized state correctional officer. When law enforcement and public safety workers belong to strong unions, we are better able to fight for staffing levels, equipment, and training that save lives within state prisons and the communities that house us.

Unions fight for real freedoms like having a decent living that results from hard work, having the time to take a loved one to the doctor or to attend a parent-teacher conference, and having the ability to retire with dignity.

The CEOs and billionaires who have spent their money and influence rigging our economy will stop at nothing to take away the freedoms we have fought for and won. Now they want to use the courts to rig the rules against working people even further in a case they are pushing before the United States Supreme Court called Janus v. AFSCME.

The wealthy and powerful forces behind Janus are ruthlessly pursuing a destructive objective. They want to keep driving down wages, killing jobs, defunding our public services, silencing our voice at the ballot box, and crippling the fundamental values we celebrate Labor Day (and every day.)

I am proud to have served my country for nine years, including combat deployment to Afghanistan. I know that freedom is not given, it is fought for, and it must be protected – including the freedom of working people to join together in unions, which makes our communities and the middle class better, stronger and more prosperous.

Matthew Quigley is a state correctional officer and chief steward for AFSCME Local 1565.

 

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