No Rubber-Stamping Endorsements

AFSCME Local 269 President Xavier Gordon argues against endorsing Sharon Palmer.

As Council 4 begins its 2016 candidate endorsement process, it’s helpful to rewind to this past June’s Connecticut AFL-CIO Political Convention for a reminder of what our union stands for, and fights for.

One of the few contentious debates on endorsements centered around the AFL-CIO’s recommendation of former state Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer of Waterford for the 38th House District, a seat held by Rep. Kathleen McCarthy. Palmer is a Democrat who retired from the DOL in December, and McCarthy is a Republican who finished her first term.

Last summer, following the governor’s directive, Palmer laid off nearly 100 front-line DOL workers, almost all of them members of Local 269 of our P-2 Social & Human Services Bargaining Unit, and closed several local job centers that help the unemployed. Palmer.

So when it came time for 300-plus rank-and-file AFL-CIO delegates to vote on Palmer’s endorsement, AFSCME members made their voice heard in opposition.

“She turned her back on us and the state of Connecticut,” Local 269 President Xavier Gordon told the delegates at the endorsement convention.

Local 269 Secretary Stephen Wierbicki said Palmer could have made better choices than weakening an agency whose mission is to protect working people.

“Sharon Palmer laid off frontline workers who helped people who were unemployed,” he said. 

Despite the vocal opposition of Council 4 delegates, both state and municipal, the AFL-CIO endorsed Palmer, along with several other candidates, for General Assembly. But AFSCME delivered a strong message nonetheless about the importance of supporting candidates who support us -- and opposing those who don't.

“I could not have been prouder,” said Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano. “AFSCME delegates stood in unity. We made it clear to candidates that our political support should never be taken for granted.”

Or, as Gordon put it,  “I don’t care who [the candidate] is. You need to fight for us. You need to stand for us.”