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HARTFORD (04/21/2006) -- The Connecticut Conference Board of Directors has announced a resolution committing the Conference to changing venues for its meetings when a site is in the midst of a "just and significant labor dispute." The announcement comes just before a major rally on Saturday, April 22, at the Connecticut Convention Center at the Adriaen's Landing development in Hartford, where those gathered plan to protest the Waterford Group's attempts to prevent union organization at the new Convention Center and hotel.
A significant element in the situation at Adriaen's Landing is the Waterford Group's refusal to sign a "labor peace" agreement. A Hartford living wage city ordinance requires developers that receive city tax breaks, loans, or other allotments to sign such an agreement, and further specifies minimum hourly wages and guidelines for labor organizing. The Waterford Group has declared their belief that the law does not apply to them. Both the City of Hartford and Connecticut's Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, have issued opinions that it does.
The City of Hartford has announced that the Waterford Group has until the end of April to comply, at which time it will begin to cancel the tax abatements that were part of development plan for Adriaen's Landing.
Conference Minister Davida Foy Crabtree, in a message to Conference clergy, expressed concern about the Waterford Group's actions in regard to labor organizing. She noted the retention of a law firm with a reputation for discouraging union organizing in its clients' workforces. The Group has also initiated a union election request under conditions that allow the employer to identify and isolate employee organizers.
Dr. Crabtree said, "The UCC has long been concerned with the rights and responsibilities of workers to negotiate for acceptable working conditions and for appropriate compensation through representatives of their choosing. In our commitment to advocate for justice, we have often stood in solidarity with those who do not have a seat at the table where decisions are made that determine their future."
The Board's resolution was passed at their meeting on March 23 after extensive and earnest discussion. It refers to the Conference's 1987 resolution "Response to Economic Injustice in Connecticut," and the denomination's continuing concern for life in a nation "of great prosperity and abiding poverty."
The resolution could well affect the venue of the Conference's 2006 Fall Annual Meeting, which is scheduled to be held at the Connecticut Convention Center. In addition, the 2007 General Synod of the United Church of Christ is also scheduled to be held at Adriaen's Landing. Both the Board and Dr. Crabtree expressed their hope that the labor dispute can be resolved to permit both events to be held at the site without disruption or injustice to the workers.
The Board resolution reads:
Whereas the United Church of Christ has a long history of concern and care for the right of workers to organize and for economic justice for all people, affirming in 1997 through the action of General Synod XXI, "the responsibility of workers to organize for collective bargaining with employers regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions, and the responsibility of employers to create and maintain a climate conducive to the workers’ autonomous decision to organize," and
Whereas the Connecticut Conference through its Annual Meetings likewise has expressed its deep concern for our life "in a state of great prosperity and abiding poverty" (Response to Economic Injustice in Connecticut, 1987), for "focused attention on the issues of poverty and wealth in these times by exploring Biblical teaching regarding our responsibility to the poor and the responsible acquisition and use of wealth" (Christians, Riches and Poverty in Our Times, 1999),
Now therefore be it resolved that the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ commits itself to the principle that the Conference and its meetings will not be held at venues where there is a just and significant labor dispute and the Board believes moving to another venue is an appropriate response; and
Be it further resolved that the Board of Directors expresses its urgent and strong hope that the labor dispute with the Marriott Hotel and the Convention Center in Hartford will be resolved within the next several weeks so that our Fall Annual Meeting with its 750 delegates and visitors may proceed as scheduled on October 20-21, 2006, and so that the 50th Anniversary General Synod may be hosted in Hartford without labor unrest and injustice for workers; and
Be it further resolved, the Board of Directors specifically affirms the Conference Minister communicating this principle and the Board's action to all appropriate parties in the current labor dispute, including the national United Church of Christ, at such time as is appropriate as negotiations proceed.
Adopted unanimously by the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Conference on March 23, 2006.