Archive for April, 2014

Political Roundup: Jonathan Pelto Reportedly Considering Run for Governor / Fire Safety in Hartford

April 24, 2014

This column appears in the April 24 – May 1 edition of the Hartford News…  Safe Work Environment Act Update: A group of CT corrections officers who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit will hold a press conference on Saturday, May 3rd, 10:00 am on the steps of the State Capitol. Stay tuned…

 

Last week Neil Vigdor of the Hearst Media Group reported that former legislator and blogger Jonathan Pelto is considering a run for governor. Pelto did not deny the possibility. http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/04/18/saw-internet-must-true/ Hopefully Pelto will enter the race as a third-party candidate. As I have said repeatedly (and will continue to say), Gov. Dannel Malloy vs. likely Republican challenger Tom Foley is a false choice. We need a candidate who will truly represent the interests of the working class, the poor and other vulnerable populations. Malloy is the personification of the Democrats’ habit of taking liberals / progressives for granted, using the specter of the big, bad Republicans as leverage. That’s the way it will be in every election. There never will be a “safe” time for a third-party candidate to emerge. We need an alternative to the 1 1/2 party system. Now…  

 

Last week members of the Community Party and the Occupy movement spoke at the regular Hartford City Council meeting about fire safety in low income housing. In January a fire on Bedford Street took the lives of four-year-old Shantay Drake and her mother, Susan Therrien. Initial media reports quoted Hartford Fire Department Captain James McLoughlin, who said that firefighters were delayed getting to Shantay’s mother due to security bars on the windows. It was not until CP interviewed McLoughlin for this column that his version of events changed. McLoughlin said his own report was “not accurate”; that the security bars did not hinder firefighters. McLoughlin abruptly cut off the interview when I asked him if he would support an ordinance which would make security bars with a quick release device mandatory. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/the-bedford-street-fire-tragedy-an-interview-with-hfd-captain-james-mcloughlin/  

 

The Philadelphia Fire Department issued a report in 2007 which found that security bars can trap residents in their homes during a fire, in addition to delaying firefighters’ rescue efforts. The PFD report recommends that any building which has security bars should have two windows equipped with bars that have a quick release device that can be opened from the inside. City council staff members told us that public housing such as the Westbrook Village and Bowles Park housing projects have bars with the quick release device, but when we talked to tenants in these buildings they indicated otherwise. At the very least, public housing tenants need to be educated about fire safety and how to utilize the equipment in their homes.

 

CP has been pushing for an ordinance that would make the quick release device mandatory in all Hartford homes (city or privately owned) with security bars. Ordinance language that we obtained from city council staff does not specifically refer to security bars; a CP investigation found that several buildings in North Hartford currently have security bars without the quick release device, including the site of the Bedford Street fire. We were told that City Council President Shawn Wooden is now working on strengthening the current ordinance; we will be following up with him in the near future. We also plan to examine the state law regarding security bars. Stay tuned for updates. This week we’ll share the PFD report on security bars. Please share this report with your family, friends and loved ones, especially anyone you know who is currently residing in a home with security bars.     www.phila.gov/fire/pdfs/Security_Bars_and_Lo.pdf     

                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

                                                                                                                           *****

 

 

                                           CITY  OF  PHILADELPHIA        FIRE  DEPARTMENT 240 SPRING GARDEN STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19123-2991

 

 

                                                 LLOYD AYERS  FIRE COMMISSIONER       (215) 686-1300                       FAX (215) 922-3952  

 

 

 

SECURITY BARS AND FIRE SAFETY 10/22/07 

Fire safety needs to be considered when planning to install security devices in your home.  It is dangerous to install security bars on windows without consideration for escape during a fire.  Due to the fear of crime, some Philadelphians are taking measures to secure their homes against illegal entry.  Unfortunately, these security actions are often taken without consideration for life safety in the event of a fire.  Security bars and double-keyed dead bolts installed without  knowledge of their effects during a fire have too often resulted in occupants being trapped inside a burning home, and have also delayed the rescue efforts of firefighters. 

Rooms used for sleeping below the fourth floor in a one- or two-family residence, apartment building, hotel or personal care home are required, by the Philadelphia Fire Code, to have at least one window that can serve as an Emergency Escape Window, unless the room has access to two exits or the building is sprinklered.  The emergency escape window should open easily, be wide enough to allow escape, and may only have security bars if they are equipped with a quick-release latch that can be easily opened in darkness without a key, special knowledge, or excessive force (see page 2).  In addition, doors locked on the inside should be capable of being opened easily without having to insert a key into the lock (a thumb latch is acceptable) or require special knowledge or excessive force to open the door (see page 3).    Every household should have a smoke detector on each floor and a fire evacuation plan that includes alerting occupants, evacuation to a pre-determined location outside and calling the Fire Department. 

IF A FIRE STARTED IN YOUR HOME, WOULD YOUR FAMILY KNOW HOW TO ESCAPE? 

Follow these simple rules in planning escape routes: 1. Identify emergency exits. 2. Make sure everyone in your household can operate locked or barred windows and doors. 3. Where bedroom windows have security bars, make certain that the bars on at least one window open from the inside by a quick release device. 4. Hold home fire drills (twice annually is recommended) to ensure everyone in your household knows how to escape during a fire.  

 

 

                                                                                                                                   *****

 

                                                                                  ACTION ALERT: STOP RACIAL PROFILING IN CONNECTICUT!

We need folks to contact the Judiciary Committee and legislators in your district and urge them to support the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act amendments during the legislative session. Call and email committee Chair Sen. Eric Coleman http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Coleman.php and Vice Chair Rep. Matt Ritter http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/ .  Assemblyman Ritter has supported our bill since we first introduced it in 2010. The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD Identify your legislators by providing your info on this page. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp  You can read our bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355

 

 

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Check out CP’s No Sellout blog for the archive of our Hartford News columns. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/  Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.

 

 

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

 

 

 
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Political Roundup: Penn Act Propaganda / DCF Plantation Report

April 17, 2014
This column appears in the April 17 – 24 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update:  Monday members of the Community Party and the Occupy movement addressed the Hartford City Council regarding fire safety in low income housing. Full story next week…
 
 
 
  Definition of spin doctor (n)   1. somebody who imparts favorable bias: somebody whose job is to present to the public the policies, actions, or words of a person or organization in their best possible light
 
synonyms: publicist · PR expert · propagandist · marketing expert · representative    
 
 
 
 
Last week CT News Junkie posted a work of fiction on the state racial profiling issue that would make Stephen King envious. 
 http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/connecticut_makes_significant_progress_on_tracking_racial_profiling/  The article was obviously a response to the Community Party’s Penn Act commentary two weeks ago.  https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/legislators-ctrp3-oppose-trayvon-martin-act-workplace-bullying-report/   The CT News Junkie infomercial on the “significant progress” of the Penn Act, which included a bogus claim of a 95% compliance rate by police departments, is a prime example of what Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman describes as the “access of evil.” http://www.thenation.com/article/access-evil#  Goodman is talking about media outlets getting in bed with the institutions or individuals they’re covering, in order to maintain access to them. Another component of CT News Junkie’s Penn Act coverage is their “journalists” allowing personal feelings to get in the way of reporting the facts. Christine Stuart followed CP on Facebook and Twitter, yet she refused to mention our involvement in the Penn Act issue. We banned her from our pages because of this. Then her husband Doug Hardy started following us on Twitter. Their media blackout remains in effect as they dutifully carry out their masters’ continuous campaign to brainwash the public. Stuart’s report credits the ACLU and the Penn Act advisory board for motorists now receiving a card with information on how to file a complaint. The truth is that the Connecticut General Assembly passed CP’s traffic stop receipt, third party reporting agency and advisory board amendments in 2012. The receipt provision requires patrol officers to give a copy of the traffic stop report to the driver. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355 CT News Junkie did not mention our receipt language in their coverage of the bill’s passage. CNN did.  https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/2012-cnn-report-on-the-community-partys-racial-profiling-bill/635113516538498 This provision was repealed by the legislature last year due to pressure by the police, who wield considerable political influence at the State Capitol. CP and State Representative Matt Ritter pressured lawmakers to restore the receipt language, which resulted in the compromise of motorists receiving a card with instructions on how to file a complaint. Assemblyman Ritter is supporting CP’s ongoing effort to restore the receipt provision. Unfortunately our idea of an advisory board with community representation was hijacked. This body is filled with bureaucrats who answer to Gov. Dannel Malloy. True community representation is nonexistent. 
 
 
 
I support the Drug Free School Zone bill (which would reduce areas of enhanced penalties for drug sales from 1500 to 200 feet from a school) even though I have beef with some of the people behind the legislation, simply because the bill is good public policy. My ego is not big enough to let my personal feelings trump the interests of the Black and Latino community. I don’t want to waste too much space talking about CT News Junkie. I don’t follow the site because although they tout themselves as “alternative media” they don’t cover issues such as Black / Latino unemployment, racial wage / wealth disparity and police containment that impact low income communities of color, which was my beef with them in the first place. I can get that kind of media bias anywhere. Like the corporate outlets, they inflate the importance of a corporate funded, fringe, far-right organization like the Tea Party, while ignoring much larger progressive organizations on the far-left. That’s an elitist agenda. My message to CT News Junkie is simple. If you don’t like our group, leave us alone. Don’t stalk us on social media. We don’t pay attention to you at all, except for when you’re screwing around with an issue we’re involved in. You stay over there, and we’ll stay over here. You’re definitely harming communities of color with your Penn Act propaganda. You’re also disrespecting people like Mary Sanders, who wrote CP’s Trayvon Martin Act bill language, and Rep. Ritter, who has worked tirelessly in support of our bill since he has been in office. We have no problem with Senator Gary Holder-Winfield, who was quoted in the CT News Junkie article and has publicly supported our legislation. News organizations should cover the news, not make it up… 
 
 
 
 
 
This week we’ll share posts from Cornell Lewis’ DCF Plantation blog.   http://dcfplantation.blogspot.com/
 
March 29, 2014
 

                                                                                                                 *****

INCIDENT IN BUILDING # 6 AND NO RESPONSE FROM MANAGEMENT

 
The management at Connecticut Juvenile Training School is highly dysfunctional when it comes to implementation of disciplining employees. In the last year CJTS [ Key Stone Cops type]  management terminated several Youth Service Officers for looking at a computer and not noticing two residents fighting. Now it has come to the attention of this blog site that on March 28, 2014 a similar incident occurred i.e. two residents fighting while a new staff looked at a computer ( was it work related ? ). Sources inside CJTS report a staff was transfixed at a computer screen while two residents fought in a bathroom on a Unit in building # 6. This fight was known because another resident told the staff about it. Staff then called for assistance to help break up the fisticuffs. To make matters worse the new staff wrote this fracas up in a report and placed it in a CJTS data base called Conduit. At this juncture the entire fight has been swept under the rug so to speak.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander” so goes the saying: management did not place this staff on paid administrative leave like three YSOs last year ( for the same type of situation ). I wonder if the YSO in bldg # 6 will be investigated or terminated like those YSOs last year from Unit 4D? How can leadership at CJTS fail to act decisively in this case of a fight in bldg # 6 when they did so last year when a fight took place in 4D? Well, one reason management moved quickly in the 4D incident is because that issue was used as a pretext to attack activist Cornell Lewis for exposing racism / bias at CJTS. Now it appears this new case is being ignored. Situations like the one in bldg # 6 are commonplace at this facility and continues to speak volumes about a management staff that could not manage a dog kennel effectively.

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”
   — Friedrich von Schiller

 
 
, April 12, 2014
 

WHITE AND GAY PROTECTED, BLACK OR LATINO AND GAY REJECTED

 
The story you are about to read is a follow up to a previous one about an employee feeling unsafe on Unit 6 Delta. Sources contacted this blog about a situation they feel is unfair, biased and racist. Again let me be clear that the facts are coming from Youth Service Officers working at Connecticut Juvenile Training School and not confirmed by management [ they refuse to speak with staff writers from this blog ]. It is reported that an openly gay white male YSO did not feel safe on Unit 6 D, and to make the point sent e-mail to the Assistant Superintendent at CJTS stating such a fact. Then management in their wisdom transferred the gay YSO to Unit 4 Delta where even a change of scenery did not remove the fear.

If you are a YSO at CJTS, working with difficult and assaultive residents is part of the job, this is told to possible employees up front. Yet this writer wonders why management is going out of their way to protect a YSO who claims to ” feel unsafe around residents and staff ” and ” coming to work daily increases that fear.” For the record there are openly gay YSOs working at CJTS that do not receive special treatment; a black male, black female, and Latina female have worked at CJTS for close to  a decade and endured taunts, etc. from residents but received no solace from white administrators. The openly gay white male is moved to 4 Delta and given protection when he appears for work. Sources indicate that management moved experienced YSOs to Unit 4D to make this white YSO feel safe. Say what?? If we look even more closely at this biased behavior it seems strange how black males [ the big black shiny chest buck syndrome ] are taken from various Units to work on 4D when the white gay YSO is on the property. Why did management take experienced black YSOs from Units 5C and 5D to work with a white male in order to make that person feel safe?  Hell, the gay YSOs of color never were given such honors. In fact a Latina gay female was constantly berated by residents a few years ago and no person in authority offered any help. The poor woman had to take time off work to refocus her damaged psyche.

Well for the record if you are white and gay [ at CJTS ] you are protected, but black or Latino and gay is rejected. The insults to employees of color continue to mount with no end in sight. When will some higher official look into what is going on at this CJTS plantation and correct the problems? Evidently current leadership at CJTS is not doing their job while collecting hefty salaries. In the final analysis there is a definite distinction made between white or employees of color at this plantation: even Stevie Wonder can see something is wrong.

” He who allows oppression shares the crime.”
  – Erasmus Darwin

 
 
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ACTION ALERT: STOP RACIAL PROFILING IN CONNECTICUT!

 
We need folks to contact the Judiciary Committee and legislators in your district and urge them to support the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act amendments during the legislative session. Call and email committee Chair Sen. Eric Coleman http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Coleman.php and Vice Chair Rep. Matt Ritter http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/ .  Assemblyman Ritter has supported our bill since we first introduced it in 2010. The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD Identify your legislators by providing your info on this page. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp  You can read our bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355
 
 
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Check out CP’s No Sellout blog for the archive of our Hartford News columns. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/  Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.
 
 
Resources
 
United for a Fair Economy report on racial economic disparity:
 
 
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report on the extrajudicial killing of Black people:
 
 
Drug Free School Zone bill:
 
 
Cornell Lewis Legal Defense Fund:
 
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                                                 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pedro Segarra, Dan Malloy and Liberal Hypocrisy

April 10, 2014
 
“I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.” ~ Malcolm X
 
This column appears in the April 10 -17 edition of the Hartford News… There are sincere whites who are interested in social justice and view Blacks as equals in the struggle. Then there are some of the whites running around in Hartford. These people believe that they have a halo over their heads. They suck up to those in power and play politics, while calling themselves activists. They view Blacks as pawns who they can use to push their agendas. They “help” Blacks while giving lip service to the bigger socioeconomic issues, such as poverty and racial economic disparity, that would require them to take on the political machine in this city and risk their white privilege. One Hartford blogger boasted on Twitter about petting Mayor Pedro Segarra’s dog, while looking the other way and saying nothing as Segarra single-handedly undermined the city’s Ban the Box ordinance. Ban the Box, the law which is designed to protect formerly incarcerated individuals and others with legal histories from employment discrimination, was violated by Segarra, who unhired Kennard Ray after sensationalized corporate media reports surfaced about Ray’s legal history. The so-called activists and independent journalists who initially supported Ray fell silent after the Hartford Internal Audit Commission released a report which found that Segarra had appointed several staff members without conducting background checks, drug tests or having the staffers fill out a job application. Employers in this city are now free to discriminate against applicants with legal histories and cite the precedent of Segarra making a mockery of Ban the Box. Segarra’s actions are especially egregious because the unemployment rate for young Black males in some areas of Hartford is as high as 50%, while the Latino jobless rate is at Depression-era levels.
 
 
Meanwhile at the State Capitol, Gov. Dannel Malloy, who apparently goes by the name Dan when he’s running for election, took a victory lap after the Connecticut General Assembly passed the minimum wage bill. Malloy was cheered loudly as he signed the bill into law. However the fine print will delay the increase to $10.10 until 2017. Imagine how you would feel if your boss said, “Congratulations, I’m giving you a raise. You just have to wait three years.” The increase, which was insufficient to begin with, will be further watered down by 2017 due to inflation. Liberals of course are hailing the bill’s passage as a great victory. True justice for fast food and low wage workers would be a $15.00 minimum wage indexed to inflation. The day after signing the minimum wage bill, Malloy announced that he is running for reelection. Democratic Party politicians such as Majority Leader Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, the party’s apologists and union “leaders” are now telling state employees to forget 2011, while they dutifully remind workers of Republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s successful war on public employees in the state that is the mecca of unions (I am a state employee). Last Saturday the American Federation of Teachers CT chapter hosted an event featuring Wisconsin public teachers, who talked about how Walker stripped their collective bargaining rights. There has been no mention on their Facebook page about Malloy’s attacks on public school teachers and unions.  https://www.facebook.com/events/1380020898919977/1380970992158301/?comment_id=1380971658824901&notif_t=event_mall_comment 
 
The message is clear; public employees better vote for Malloy so a GOP governor doesn’t take over. AFT CT supports the Hartford and Clark Rising groups. How is AFT CT supposed to hold Malloy accountable for his school privatization campaign while they’re simultaneously acting as agents for Malloy’s re-election campaign?  After CT state workers rejected a union concessions deal in 2011, the Democrats retaliated. The Democratic Party controlled Senate passed a bill which would put limits on state workers’ wages and benefits. House Speaker Chris Donovan threatened state employees with passage of the bill if they voted down the concessions deal again. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Senate-vote-limits-union-salaries-benefits-1448382.php Malloy issued thousands of layoff notices. Petrified state workers ratified the same deal that they had voted down just six weeks earlier. Next door in Massachusetts, the House Democrats passed a bill which would curb the collective bargaining rights of municipal employees.  http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2011/04/27/house_votes_to_limit_bargaining_on_health_care/  Union “leaders” know that they can’t look at rank and file employees with a straight face and encourage them to vote for Malloy. Instead, they’re encouraging workers not to vote for likely Republican challenger Tom Foley.
 
The 2014 gubernatorial election is a false choice. Both Malloy and Foley are union busters; the only difference is degrees. Last year Malloy introduced an anti-teacher, anti-union education bill which was mostly dismantled by the legislature. Malloy is a champion of charter schools, which are a commodity being used in the Wall Street campaign against public employees. The objective of course is to roll back these workers’ gains in wages and benefits. The public sector is also the largest employer of Black people. Malloy is killing unions with a thousand paper cuts, while Foley will certainly use a sledgehammer if he’s elected. Liberal activists do not have the guts to offend Malloy by using political action to push him to the left, because they want the guv to support their pet issues. Liberals’ refusal to hold Segarra, Malloy and the Democrats accountable will only result in worsening conditions for people of color, the working class and vulnerable populations in this city and state. 
 
Safe Work Environment Act Update: Senator Gary Holder-Winfield, the co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, will introduce the Community Party’s Safe Work Environment Act in 2015. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Holder-Winfield.php
 
 
 
 ACTION ALERT: STOP RACIAL PROFILING IN CONNECTICUT!
 
We need folks to contact the Judiciary Committee and legislators in your district and urge them to support the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act amendments during the legislative session. Call and email committee Chair Sen. Eric Coleman http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Coleman.php and Vice Chair Rep. Matt Ritter http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/ .  The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD Identify your legislators by providing your info on this page. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp  You can read our bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355
 
 
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.
 
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
 
 
Resources
 
Fight for 15 website:
 
 

 

Coming in 2017: Safe Work Environment Act

April 6, 2014
 The Safe Work Environment Act would provide workers with more protection than the Healthy Workplace Bill, while eliminating legal barriers that people currently face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. Our legislation eliminates the HWB requirement that an employee must prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Our language would also remove the HWB stipulation that an employee must provide proof of damage to their physical / psychological health. The federal employment discrimination law does not include either of the HWB provisions, which provide massive loopholes for abusive employers. We will also incorporate language from the Nevada workplace bullying bill (see below), which eliminates the burden of having to prove workplace bullying based on race or gender discrimination. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. One bill will not stop workplace bullying, which is a constantly evolving issue. Legislation must evolve with it! The creation of a workplace bullying advisory board will ensure that this issue remains active at the State Capitol EVERY YEAR.
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Safe Work Environment Act and Trayvon Martin Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.
Resources
Connecticut Valley Hospital workplace bullying survey results:
Connecticut Valley Hospital Racism (includes data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests):

                                                                               Workplace Bullying Report

This column appears in the February 27 – March 6 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: The AFSCME Council 4 Workplace Bullying Committee has launched a campaign to get lawmakers at the State Capitol to introduce workplace bullying legislation. Stay tuned for details… Earlier this week I contacted Maribel La Luz, Communications Director for Mayor Pedro Segarra, for an update on the Kennard Ray story. Ray was hired in November as Segarra’s new Deputy Chief of Staff. Ray withdrew his application after sensationalized corporate media reports about his legal history. This totally contradicted the spirit of the city’s Ban the Box ordinance, which is designed to prevent employment discrimination against individuals such as Ray. The Hartford Courant reported  that Segarra’s office issued the following statement, “Sadly, we must accept Mr. Kennard Ray’s withdrawal for the position of Deputy Chief of Staff after learning information that was not initially disclosed. Mr. Ray is a qualified individual with solid references from former supervisors and community leaders. However public servants, especially those in leadership positions, must be held to a higher standard.”
Ray had previously worked as political and legislative director for the Connecticut Working Families Party. Lindsey Farrell, director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, criticized the decision. Farrell said, “(Ray) should be judged on the quality of his work and commitment to the community. I think it’s a bad call on their part.”   I contacted La Luz, who told me that Ray’s legal history had nothing to do with him not getting the job and that Segarra had not asked him to withdraw his application. La Luz also denied media reports that Segarra planned to approach the city council about amending Ban the Box and had implemented his own hiring policy in response to the Ray controversy. Following a City Hall rally in support of Ray, I was told by a source that a city council committee led by councilman Larry Deutsch would meet to discuss Ray’s fate. Via email on Tuesday La Luz said, “The Kennard Ray hiring process is done. There is no further action as far as I know.” Deutsch did not respond to an email I sent  to him seeking comment. I’m totally baffled by what in my opinion are the contradictory statements from the Mayor’s Office and the decision not to hire Ray, who has not commented on Segarra.
This week we’ll share posts from the When the Abuser Goes to Work employment blog. http://abusergoestowork.com/  The Workplace Bullying Institute has introduced various versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill in over 20 states, including Connecticut. The Community Party agrees with workplace bullying activists who believe that HWB in its current form would be ineffective in curbing abusive workplace conduct.

                                                                                            ***

                                         Nevada’s Proposed Anti-Bully Law

 Nevada State Sen. Richard Segerblom has proposed amending a Nevada law patterned after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as     amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
Sen. Segerblom wants to provide individuals who can prove they are the victims of a hostile work environment the right to a remedy under the law whether or not they can show illegal discrimination. In other words, he has proposed making the hostile workplace  remedy status-blind.
 Segerblom’s proposed bill defines “abusive conduct” as:
  • Repeated verbal abuse in the form of derogatory  remarks, insults and epithets;
  •  Verbal or physical conduct which is threatening, intimidating, and humiliating; and
  •  The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work product.
Unless the abuse is particularly egregious, abusive conduct must be directed at the employee target on more than one occasion.
It is not difficult for employers to avoid liability under the proposed bill. The bill states that it is an affirmative defense to an action for abusive conduct in a work environment if the employer:
  • Exercised reasonable care to prevent the abusive conduct; and
  •  Promptly corrected the abusive conduct.
If an employer is found to be liable, the employer could be assessed damages, back pay, costs, and attorney’s fees.
Segerblom’s proposed bill provides significantly more protection  to targets of workpladce bullying  than the  Healthy Workplace Bill proposed by the Workplace Bullying Institute.

Original “Healthy Workplace Bill”

SkinnyThis is the original  proposed Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB)  that was drafted by the Professor David C. Yamada of  Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA, and supported by the Workplace Bullying Institute for almost a decade  at a web site called, The Healthy Workplace Bill.  
A new and much better version of the bill was introduced for consideration by  the Massachusetts legislature in 2013. 
Any state that is considering workplace anti-bully legislation should look to Massachusetts or to Nevada, where Nevada State Senator Richard “Tick” Segerblom  proposed a bill that would give workplace bully targets the same protection and rights as any other victim of a hostile work environment. Nevada’s bill was patterned after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin and would essentially provide a status-blind remedy for a hostile work environment.
The original HWB is anemic when compared to  legislation  and regulations adopted in other countries  to address workplace bullying.
For one thing, it  would require a victim to provide evidence of malicious intent to bully.  Malice is defined in the proposed bill as “the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.”  Part of the “art” of  workplace bullying is subtlety. The target may be the victim of a thousand pin pricks that add up to a mortal wound.  Bullies are notorious for showing one face to the target and another to his/her supervisor. It would be very difficult to prove malice in these situations, and this is not a requirement for “hostile workplace” claims under federal discrimination laws unless the plaintiff is seeking the additional remedy of punitive damages. 
It also would require the target to provide proof of tangible  psychological or physical harm to the plaintiff.  This is not required for other victims of a hostile workplace environment.  In fact, the requirement was expressly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1993 sexual harassment case.
The U. S. Supreme Court said in 1993 that the protection of federal law “comes into play before the harassing conduct leads to a nervous breakdown.”  The Court also said:  “Certainly Title VII bars conduct that would seriously affect a reasonable person’s psychological well-being, but the statute is not limited to such conduct. So long as the environment would reasonably be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive … there is no need for it also to be psychologically injurious.” (Harris v. Forklift System,  510 U.S. 17 (1993)).
Any requirement to prove psychological harm would pose a burden for targets who don’t have health care coverage,  the funds to see a therapist or the cultural disposition to seek psychiatric care. According to the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 19.5 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured in 2007.  
An international authority on workplace abuse, Katherine Lippel, says laws in other countries do not have the above restrictions, which would make it far more difficult for a plaintiff  in to prevail in litigation. She says the authors should rethink the bill. Dr. Lippel is the Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law, University of Ottawa, Canada. 
According to Dr. Lippel:  “It is understandable that the difficult context applicable in the United States with regard to rights of workers may favor a more restrictive legislative approach for purposes of political expediency, yet even some authors from the United States have expressed concern with the restrictive conditions proposed in the Healthy Workplace Bill … The actual content of the legislation on workplace bullying, if there is to be legislation, requires reflection.”
Perhaps most troubling about the HWB is the wording of Section 7(b), which limits damages for emotional distress to $25,000 (with no punitive damages)  in  cases where an employer is found to be liable but the target does not suffer an adverse employment action. This  affects targets of bullying who are not demoted or fired. But why?  There is at least one highly publicized case where an alleged target of workplace bullying committed suicide because he thought that he was  going to be demoted or fired. This cap is so low that it would  fail to adequately compensate a target of severe bullying and would not serve as a useful deterrent to employers to halt workplace bullying.
Possibly the above limiting language  reflects a concern by its drafter that employers will fight workplace anti-bullying legislation unless it is sufficiently weak. That hardly seems like a suitable foundation for a bill to address a problem as serious as workplace bullying.
WBI Director Gary Namie and Prof. Yamada declined to comment when asked to explain the reasons for the restrictive provisions of the bill.
 American workers deserve at least the same level of protection as other workers around the world.  The original HWB would leave many targets of workplace bullying with no legal recourse. Advocates should begin from a starting point that all workers have a right to be treated with dignity and respect.
– PGB
_______________

THE HEALTHY WORKPLACE BILL

Section 1 – Preamble
(a) Findings
The Legislature finds that:
(1) The social and economic well-being of the State is dependent upon healthy and productive employees;
(2) Between 37 and 59 percent of employees directly experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse, and harassment, and this mistreatment is approximately four times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone;
(3) Workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment can inflict serious harm upon targeted employees, including feelings of shame and humiliation, severe anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, impaired immune systems, hypertension, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.
(4) Abusive work environments can have serious consequences for employers, including reduced employee productivity and morale, higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and increases in medical and workers’ compensation claims;
(5) If mistreated employees who have been subjected to abusive treatment at work cannot establish that the behavior was motivated by race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or age, they are unlikely to be protected by the law against such mistreatment;
(6) Legal protection from abusive work environments should not be limited to behavior grounded in protected class status as that provided for under employment discrimination statutes;
and,
(7) Existing workers’ compensation plans and common-law tort actions are inadequate to discourage this behavior or to provide adequate relief to employees who have been harmed by abusive work environments.
(b) Purpose
It is the purpose of this Chapter:
(1) To provide legal relief for employees who have been harmed, psychologically, physically, or economically, by being deliberately subjected to abusive work environments;  (2) To provide legal incentive for employers to prevent and respond to abusive mistreatment of employees at work.
Section 2 – Definitions
(a) Abusive work environment. An abusive work environment exists when the defendant, acting with malice, subjects an employee to abusive conduct so severe that it causes tangible harm to the employee.
(1) Abusive conduct. Abusive conduct is conduct, including acts, omissions, or both, that a reasonable person would find hostile, based on the severity, nature, and frequency of the defendant’s conduct. Abusive conduct may include, but is not limited to: repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets; verbal or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating, or humiliating nature; the sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance; or attempts to exploit a employee’s known psychological or physical vulnerability. A single act normally will not constitute abusive conduct, but an especially severe and egregious act may meet this standard.
(2) Malice. Malice is defined as the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.
(b) Tangible harm. Tangible harm is defined as psychological harm or physical harm.
(1) Psychological harm. Psychological harm is the material impairment of a person’s mental health, as established by competent evidence.
(2) Physical harm. Physical harm is the material impairment of a person’s physical health or bodily integrity, as established by competent evidence.
(c) Adverse employment action. An adverse employment action includes, but is not limited to, a termination, demotion, unfavorable reassignment, failure to promote, disciplinary action, or reduction in compensation.
(d) Constructive discharge. A constructive discharge shall be considered a termination, and, therefore, an adverse employment action within the meaning of this Chapter. A constructive discharge exists where: (1) the employee reasonably believed he or she was subjected to abusive conduct; (2) the employee resigned because of that abusive conduct; and, (3) prior to resigning, the  employee brought to the employer’s attention the existence of the abusive conduct and the employer failed to take reasonable steps to correct the situation.
Section 3 – Unlawful Employment Practices
(a) Abusive Work Environment. It shall be an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter to subject an employee to an abusive work environment as defined by this Chapter.
(b) Retaliation. It shall be an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter to retaliate inany manner against an employee who has opposed any unlawful employment practice under this Chapter, or who has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this Chapter, including, but not limited to, internal complaints and proceedings, arbitration and mediation proceedings, and legal actions.
Section 4 – Employer Liability and Defense
(a) An employer shall be vicariously liable for an unlawful employment practice, as defined by this Chapter, committed by its employee.
(b) Where the alleged unlawful employment practice does not include an adverse employment action, it shall be an affirmative defense for an employer only that:
(1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any actionable behavior; and,
(2) the complainant employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of appropriate preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
Section 5 – Employee Liability and Defense
(a) An employee may be individually liable for an unlawful employment practice as defined by this Chapter.
(b) It shall be an affirmative defense for an employee only that the employee committed an unlawful employment practice as defined in this Chapter at the direction of the employer, under threat of an adverse employment action.
Section 6 – Affirmative Defenses
It shall be an affirmative defense that:
(a) The complaint is based on an adverse employment action reasonably made for poor performance, misconduct, or economic necessity;
(b) The complaint is based on a reasonable performance evaluation; or,
(c) The complaint is based on a defendant’s reasonable investigation about potentially illegal or unethical activity.
Section 7 – Relief
(a) Relief generally. Where a defendant has been found to have committed an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter, the court may enjoin the defendant from engaging in the unlawful employment practice and may order any other relief that is deemed appropriate, including, but not limited to, reinstatement, removal of the offending party from the complainant’s work environment, back pay, front pay, medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
(b) Employer liability. Where an employer has been found to have committed an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter that did not culminate in an adverse employment action, its liability for damages for emotional distress shall not exceed $25,000, and it shall not be subject to punitive damages. This provision does not apply to individually named employee defendants.
Section 8 – Procedures
(a) Private right of action. This Chapter shall be enforced solely by a private right of action.
(b) Time limitations. An action commenced under this Chapter must be commenced no later than one year after the last act that constitutes the alleged unlawful employment practice.
Section 9 – Effect on Other Legal Relationships
The remedies provided for in this Chapter shall be in addition to any remedies provided under any other law, and nothing in this Chapter shall relieve any person from any liability, duty, penalty or punishment provided by any other law, except that if an employee receives workers’ compensation for medical costs for the same injury or illness pursuant to both this Chapter and the workers’ compensation law, or compensation under both this Chapter and that law in cash payments for the same period of time not working as a result of the compensable injury or illness or the unlawful employment practice, the payments of workers’ compensation shall be reimbursed from compensation paid under this Chapter.
                                                                                                                  ***

Legislators, CTRP3 Oppose Trayvon Martin Act / Workplace Bullying Report

April 3, 2014

This column appears in the April 3 – 10 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: Next week I’ll talk about the Connecticut General Assembly passing the minimum wage bill and the 2014 gubernatorial election…  TRAYVON MARTIN ACT ACTION ALERT: Sources at the State Capitol have informed us that legislators and members of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, which includes Redding police chief Douglas Fuchs, oppose a modified version of the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act traffic stop receipt provision. This amendment would allow motorists to obtain a copy of the traffic stop report (in person, via mail or online) patrol officers must fill out. This report includes the date, time and reason for the stop, how the stop was resolved, the officer’s identifying information and most importantly, a record of the race of the driver. The Department of Justice investigation of the East Haven police revealed that EHPD officers Dennis Spaulding and David Cari falsified their reports, entering Latino drivers as white. Last October Spaulding and Cari were both convicted on federal charges of harassing and brutalizing Latinos. http://www.justice.gov/usao/ct/Press2012/20120124.html  The police have been trying to kill our traffic stop report language for four years. Their story keeps changing; in 2011 the police exploited the state’s budget deficit by claiming that our provision would require the installation of printers in all police cruisers (only carbon paper for the report would have been required). Other excuses were that cops wouldn’t have time to fill out the report after each stop and that taking extra time to complete the form during a stop would “compromise the officers’ safety.” Now their story is that it isn’t “necessary” to include language requiring the police to provide motorists with instructions on how to obtain a copy of the report. CP member Mary Sanders issued the following statement on law enforcement opposition to the amendment. “Addressing racial profiling, the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act, and last year the revised Alvin W. Penn Act which had been on the books over a decade but shamefully unenforced, CT lawmakers who want to encourage unbiased policing have 2 options for at least one of the recommendations submitted … An immediate copy of the mandatory traffic stop report to the motorist, which they say is too much work / costly / whatever but would be best for the public or they could opt to add clear instructions on how to freely get the report copy as part of the CHRO pamphlet which is supposedly given to every stopped motorist. If neither of these is acceptable to law enforcement reps, what are they afraid the public will find out about these reports??? Maybe they fear the officers are filing falsified reports? Maybe they fear there are many less actual reports than occurring stops? Why wouldn’t they want a member of the public to have access to a report written about them? These are the questions to be raised …”  In my opinion another reason for the opposition to this minor proposed change to the current law is that it’s based on CP’s bill language. There is a structured effort at the Capitol to marginalize our grassroots, politically independent group. We are looking into reports that some patrol officers have not been giving the pamphlets to motorists, which makes the traffic stop report provision even more important. Motorists must have access to the report in order to find out if their race was misrepresented. CP will launch an education campaign in the coming months to inform community residents about the changes to the state racial profiling law. Black people in this country are killed every 28 hours by police, security guards and vigilantes such as George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn. http://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/  Traffic stops are one of the primary means of contact that the police have with Blacks.  Contact your legislators and tell them that you want the traffic stop report amendment to become law! Contact information for lawmakers is available at the end of this column. This week we’ll share former Capital Preparatory Magnet School teacher Michael Fryar’s commentary on abusive workplace conduct. Michael is also an attorney; he has joined CP’s campaign against workplace bullying in this state. Senator Gary Holder-Winfield will introduce CP’s Safe Work Environment Act in 2015. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Holder-Winfield.php                                                                                                                  *****                                                                                                                                                                           It’s Time to End Workplace Bullying                                                                                                  By Michael Fryar Bullying – the word brings an image of schoolyard fights, kids demanding lunch money, large kids picking on smaller children.  While a common trope for movies and television shows, it’s an uncomfortable topic when it comes to adults.  “Haven’t we all grown out of that?”  “Adults can stand up for themselves, so why worry about it?”  But we have enacted laws to deal with some types of bullying.  The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) is the watchdog state agency that protects individuals from over 20 defined classes from being harassed, attacked, or demeaned based on such things as race, sex, national origin, or disability. Sexual harassment laws were specifically created to prevent bullying based on a person’s gender.  And employees and management all attend trainings, lectures and have printed materials detailing what is and isn’t, what can and can’t, what should and shouldn’t.  But the core of sexual harassment, and similar laws, is that we believe that people have the right to go to work, do their jobs, and then head home without the stress of people threatening, harassing, or bothering them. But why is it that only a certain portion of the population should enjoy that protection, and then only under certain circumstances? People have the right to go to work and not have to be subjected to the same treatment as they may have witnessed in the schoolyard at the age of 10. It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults will be the victim of bullying in the workplace, while still more will suffer similar effects as witnesses to the bullying.  For-profit companies have come to realize that bullying costs businesses billions of dollars a year in lost wages, hours, and staff turnover.  It is not just the victims who are likely to quit, but the witnesses and bystanders are just as stressed and as likely to move on.  And it is not just fellow employees, but management as well that suffers if they are unable or unwilling to stop the bullying behaviors. It’s easy to see an issue when your bottom line is impacted by the costs associated with turnover, training, morale and sick time all associated with a workplace bully.  But what happens in the public sector where there is no competition, profit, or incentives that force management to deal with bullying? Bullying exists within our state agencies. One does not have to go far to find a worker with a horror story of out of control staff, management unwilling to act, and turnover in departments that leave the bully and associates in charge as valuable, but frustrated, employees leave in a revolving door. I represented a victim of sexual harassment who filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The case proceeded through investigation and up to the point of a hearing.  Despite videotape and eyewitness testimony of the bully’s actions, the department was unwilling to punish the bully and wanted the victim to change positions and work location to accommodate the department.  This is not an uncommon situation.  Management fears the bully more than any potential penalty blaming the victim. This usually works in management’s favor since the victim is likely to quit and leave rather than fight. After all, it’s easier to write a check than it is to confront a bully. Ultimately it took the hearing officer letting the agency know how large a check the department would have to write to finally get them to take action. They transferred (not fired) the harasser to a new location.  And only threats of a retaliation claim could move the department to block the harasser from coming back to the premises after the transfer to finally stop the harassment. Unions are beginning to respond to membership complaints about bullying.  While there is an attempt to address the issue through contract language, there is pushback from management and a lot of the time it becomes identification without teeth.  After all, it is just easier to give the bully what they want rather than address the needs of the victim.  It’s not an uncommon attitude – If the victim were stronger, if the victim stood up,if the victim wasn’t such a wuss, then management and HR wouldn’t be forced to deal with the bully. There is actual resentment on the part of those responsible against the victim for speaking up and demanding protection.And it is this thinking which allows the bully to flourish – the bystanders who watch it happen and, while it may be their job and responsibility to deal with it, as with my client in the CHRO case, it is easier to try to deal with the victim than the aggressor. The idea that the victim must be weak is outrageous. I am a trained combat military police officer (think SWAT with a really large budget), trained to work with a fire team of four soldiers in the most hostile of combat environments.  I am also a litigator who has had to sit across from a parent and explain to them why I was going to fight to terminate their parental rights.  I have been in some bone chillingly hostile situations.  But I was a victim of bullying in the public sector workplace. There is a stark difference between being in a threatening environment when you are part of a team, and an environment where you are isolated and targeted by a bully while those responsible for keeping you safe retaliate against you for seeking an end to the harassment. In combat you are surrounded by people who protect you. A bully isolates and demeans you while management and fellow employees enable the bully by not reacting.  Just like that child who is lying on the ground, under a bully, looking around at the crowd to see no one meet their eyes, no one moving to help, bullying in the workplace has that same emotional impact. You are alone and there is no one who will help. Worse, there are people in responsible positions who will lash out at you rather than take on the bully. And just as that lack of intervention is empowering to the bully in the schoolyard, the adult bully is even more empowered by the awareness of what they can get away with. The adult victim has more to lose than pride in front of peers. The fear of losing a job, an inability to pay bills or provide for a family is profound. The damage to reputation for quitting, for forgoing opportunities, or even the shame at being demeaned in public and those fellow employees who stand around…staring…watching…glad that it is not them, glad that the bully has a target, and angry that the victim would dare look to them for help that would put them at risk for losing everything as well. Time after time management in the public sector has demonstrated an unwillingness or inability to curb bullying behaviors from employees.  This has created hostile, unhealthy environments that only exist because employees need a paycheck until they can get a new job. The time has come for legislation that has been passed to be given teeth. Harsh penalties for bullying behaviors in the public sector need to be enacted, but harsher penalties for management who avoid or retaliate against the victim. It’s not enough that the bully should be deterred. If management reacted appropriately the victim would be protected and the situation avoided.  The true harm comes from the individuals who are responsible for creating a safe environment who stand by and do nothing, or worse, take on the victim rather than the bully. People deserve a safe environment in which to go to work. We all see that when it comes to the protected classes we have created. But why stop there? Aren’t we all deserving of protection?                                                                                                                 

                                                                                  *****

                                         ACTION ALERT: STOP RACIAL PROFILING IN CONNECTICUT!

We need folks to contact the Judiciary Committee and legislators in your district and urge them to support the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act amendments during the legislative session. Call and email committee Chair Sen. Eric Coleman http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Coleman.php and Vice Chair Rep. Matt Ritter http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/ .  The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD Identify your legislators by providing your info on this page. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp  You can read our bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355  Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.   David SamuelsFounderCommunity Party