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Building Trades Members Turn Out for CT Committee Hearings, Speak Truth to Power

David A. Roche

David A. Roche

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On Tuesday, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee heard public testimony on over 50 proposed bills.  Almost 300 people showed up at Middletown City Hall, causing police to escort the overflow into hallways to wait.  Increasing the threshold for prevailing wages and imposing new limits on unemployment benefits were the prime topics of discussion.

According to the Middletown Press, union members from various construction trades made a strong showing at the hearing, wearing “their pride on their sleeves, on their shirts, on oversized patches on the backs of their jackets, or on emblems on their hats.”  Many of these union workers were there to oppose raising the threshold for the prevailing wage. Doing so would mean fewer projects are subject to the wage protection and thus more workers would be paid less.

David A. Roche, President of the Connecticut Building Trades, was among the more prominent figures in the room.

“Nobody in here is making huge money by being in construction,” with its long periods of enforced idleness and no sick time. “Prevailing wages are the minimum wage for highly skilled construction workers in Connecticut,” Roche said.

“Anyone who proposes to drastically reduce these workers’ wages should remember the record cold and terrible weather of weeks past and thank these workers for their sacrifices during this time,” Roche said.

Roche brought true, blue collar pizzaz to the proceedings and drummed up the threat of electoral retribution.

“You have got to stop picking on the goddamn workers!” Roche thundered.

And then he issued a date-specific warning to the legislators, telling them if, in two years, “you keep attacking us — we’re going to attack you back.”

Ed Reilly, president of the Greater Hartford New Britain Building Council, argued that attacks on the prevailing wage would lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ where out-of-state contractors underbid local contractors and exploit the cheapest workers they can:

“What I’m against is exploiting working men and women. What I am against is exploiting working families,” Reilly said.

“What I am for is for a fair day’s pay, for being able to educate your children, to be able to have a roof over your heads, to have money for medicine and food, and to be able to live a decent life,” Reilly said.

“To increase the threshold is just wrong,” Reilly said.

Another hotly contested labor bill would delay unemployment benefits by a business week.  The last speaker of the night was Christopher Holland, a union operating engineer, who “verbally pummeled” the committee for the proposed changes, according to the Middletown Press:

Holland painted a stark picture of a Connecticut in decline, with dilapidated highway bridges in need of repair and of aging railroads in dire need of improvements.

Holland said he was “sick and tired” of the low and lower middle income residents “being the whipping post” for self-aggrandizing and “grandstanding” legislators.

“You lawmakers waste all sorts of money grandstanding instead of enacting real and meaningful legislation that could help turn the state around.

Instead, Holland said, “the state bleeds the life out of small businesses.”


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