Vigils for Inequality to be held in cities and towns across Connecticut

Today, Tuesday April 8th, community members, labor and poverty advocates, members of the clergy, and elected officials will gather and hold ‘Vigils for inequality’ in towns and cities across Connecticut. This statewide day of action will highlight growing inequality in Connecticut and demand action to create an economy that works for everyone, not just the rich.

“Connecticut is a leader on economic issues, but there is much more we need to do,” said Lindsay Farrell, Executive Director of Connecticut Working Families. “We were the first in the country to pass a statewide paid sick days law, and the first to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. We are holding these vigils for inequality because it is shameful that in one of the richest states, in the richest country in the world there are still families struggling to get by. We must do more.”

Twenty-four vigils will be held in towns and cities where poverty has increased, according to a recent report from Connecticut Voices for Children. The study, released in January, has illustrated that this crisis is not limited to any particular region or urban center, but affects communities across the state in rural, suburban and urban areas.

The vigils nearest you will take place in Bridgeport at the McDonald’s on 1900 Fairfield Ave. at 6 pm; Fairfield at the McDonald’s on 1835 Black Rock Turnpike at 7 pm; and Stratford at Paradise Green at 5 pm.

“As long as the minimum wage is inconsistent with a living wage, more and more people will have to rely on government assistance to survive,” said Tyson Toller, a certified EMT and former Walmart employee who will be attending the Fairfield rally.

Matt Waggner, who is exploring a run for State Representative and will be attending the Fairfield vigil said, “We have to speak up about income inequality, not just for our neighbors who struggle to make ends meet on less than a living wage, but for successful people who still can’t dream of retiring and young adults who aren’t able to start their careers. The inequality crisis and the jobs crisis are one and the same.”

The vigils were organized by a broad coalition including the Connecticut Working Families Party, Connecticut Citizens Action Group, local chapters of, Service Employees International Union local 32BJ, AFSCME Council 4, and local community organizations.

“Everyone should be concerned with our state’s growing economic inequality,” said Tom Swan, Executive Director of Connecticut Citizens Action Group. “That is why these vigils are so important. We need to continue pushing for policies that move our economy in the right direction.”

Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, with some of the most extreme economic inequality. Bridgeport, Connecticut is one of the most unequal areas of the country, comparable to developing countries in the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.

“Workers are struggling to make ends meet, pay for college, buy a home, and save for retirement,” said Juan Hernandez, Director of 32BJ SEIU in Connecticut, and Co-Chair of the Connecticut Working Families Party State Committee. “Their dire economic situation is a constant reminder that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them. Our economy should work for everyone, not just the rich.”

But the good news is that we can do something to address this widespread problem. The Connecticut Generally Assembly is considering several bills that can help build a fair economy and help alleviate poverty. These include holding large profitable corporations accountable (H.B. 5069), working to find a solution to student debt (H.B. 5241), and creating a public retirement savings plan so that everyone can retire with dignity (S.B. 249).

Support for the Fracking Ban Bill (SB 237)

From the Environment Committee public hearing:

Senator Meyer, Representative Gentile, and distinguished members of the Environment Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony in support of SB 237, An Act Prohibiting the Storage or Disposal of Fracking Waste in Connecticut. I’m glad to see your committee participating in the national dialog about energy usage and the environmental and economic costs associated with hydraulic fracturing.

This issue is not a hypothetical one: natural gas is an important part of the state’s revised energy policy, but it’s important to consider the comprehensive costs associated with this energy source to ensure that Connecticut pursues the best strategy to meet our needs in a sustainable way. Ultimately, I believe that the cheapest energy will also be the best for us, as long as the costs to health, environmental stability, and future treatment and cleanup are not left out of the equation. With so much unknown, even about the contents of the chemicals being utilized, establishing a moratorium on this waste is entirely appropriate.

Advancing on this and the related concepts before you will demonstrate Connecticut’s leadership in fracking policy and lay the groundwork for a future comprehensive strategy in collaboration with neighboring states or at the federal level. This is an approach that has worked productively with greenhouse gases via the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and I hope that we can continue to work with like-minded states to continue towards the goal of a sustainable energy economy. Please support SB 237 for passage in this session.

Testimony on Increasing the Minimum Wage

Dear Senator Osten, Representative Tercyak, and members of the Labor Committee,

My name is Matt Waggner, I live in Fairfield, and I’m here to speak in support of two bills today: SB 32, the proposed minimum wage increase, and HB 5069, “An Act Concerning Low Wage Workers.”
Labor Committee Testimony - February 18, 2014
Increasing the minimum wage will improve the lives of thousands of Connecticut residents, both for those working for the minimum wage and those who work where the pay scale is based on the minimum wage. Further, recent labor market research has found that while increasing the minimum wage does raise earnings, there is no measurable job loss associated with these increases.

While the bill before you will help working Connecticut families make up for lost ground, I hope that you will consider both reversing the long-running erosion in wages for tipped workers, as well as indexing the minimum wage to ensure that lower wage workers can earn their fair share of future gains in the economy. Continue reading

Waggner Begins Campaign for State Legislature

Matt Waggner, Fairfield’s Democratic Registrar of Voters, announced today that he has begun organizing a campaign for State Representative, in the district represented by Kim Fawcett.

Waggner said, “We are getting an overwhelmingly positive response for a candidate that will highlight the needs of those in our community who don’t have a voice or a way to be heard. Even in Fairfield, poverty and inequality are rising, and every day people are growing more frustrated about their ability to change the course. We need to do more to make our economy reflect our values, and I’m ready to help deliver that change.”

Lisa Havey, a local education activist, says that “It’s hard to get people to understand that they have a personal stake in the process, but that’s what Matt does best: he inspires people to make a difference in our community.”

Jack Hennessy, legislator from the neighboring 127th District and Chairman of the Veteran’s Committee, cites Waggner’s record of advocacy as a plus. “I’ve worked with Matt for years, and know that he’ll make things happen for Fairfield from his first day in office.”

Former Selectman and lifelong Fairfield resident Kathleen Howard added that “Matt has shown that he has the energy, participation, and follow-through to be a fine legislator for our town.”

Waggner sees this as expanding on his history of service. As Registrar, Waggner has worked to increase participation among underserved communities in Fairfield such as students, new residents, renters, and persons with disabilities. His past work at the state level includes developing poll-worker training with the Secretary of the State’s Office and service as Chair of the statewide Registrar association’s technology committee.

Waggner, age 33, is a Fairfield native and a graduate of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and California Institute of the Arts. He has served as the Democratic Registrar of Voters for the town of Fairfield for the past 5 years and frequently travels to Hartford to testify in connection with proposed legislation. He was a local organizer in Ned Lamont’s 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate, has been a District Leader on the Democratic Town Committee since 2007, and won the Denise Dougiello Young Turk Award in 2009. Waggner is also a free-lance graphic designer and a partner in a small business.