Connecticut union workers protest budget outside major Democrat event

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HARTFORD – State layoffs and budget cuts sparked protests outside the Connecticut Democratic Party’s fundraising dinner.

Hundreds of protesters, including state employee unions and activists, held signs and chanted outside the Convention Center Thursday night as those going into the event passed by.

The Democracy, Unity and Equality Justice Coalition organized the rally with the goal of bringing home the message that they reject the austerity state budget.

“We’re delivering a message that austerity hurts families, children, communities,” Director of Organizing for the CT Citizen Action Group Ann Pratt said. “It doesn’t make sense to use that you pass an austerity budget while the state is being played by multi-billion dollar insurance companies and hedge funds.”

Several state employee unions boycotted the Connecticut Democrats Progress Dinner. The groups usually attend the event, buying tables which go for $1,850 each.

The event is the party’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“It’s very important it allows us to raise the resources to have the face-to-face, voter-to-voter grassroots conversations that really propel Democrats to victory in November,” CT Democratic Party Spokesperson Leigh Appleby said.

Pratt said being outside instead of inside is the groups' way of letting the state leaders know their decisions are “not okay,” and state workers should not have to bear the burden for budget shortfalls.

“We’re here tonight believing that this will make a difference and understanding that this will be one step in creating that kind of economy, state and democracy that we believe in,” Pratt said.

State Democratic leaders stand by the budget, saying at the event that difficult decisions had to be made to move the state forward out of a financial crisis.

“We certainly have heard the complaints that they have, we understand where they're coming from, but the same time, Democrats have stood side-by-side with labor on a number of very important issues,” Appleby said mentioning minimum wage and earned sick time as examples. “If you're looking for a party that stands up for the values that our friends in the labor movement share, it’s the democratic party.”