Dear Member,

Subject: Important Update on UFCW Free College Program Status

Since 2016, the UFCW has been committed to helping our members and their families build a better life through our continuing education programs. We started this with our Free College program and were able to expand our offerings to include GED classes, foreign language classes, and workforce essentials classes, all at no cost to our members. 

Unfortunately, we were made aware that Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) has been ordered to suspend the Free College program immediately because the Department of Education believes it violates Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. 

EGCC disputes these charges, and you can read their response as well as answers to frequently asked questions here: https://egcc.edu/press-release/.

Students who were enrolled in the program by July 18 will be able to attend the Fall 2022 semester and the college is working on an alternative plan for students who enrolled after that date.

This program not only offered free college to UFCW members but to thousands of other union members. We firmly believe that all union members deserve the opportunity to better their lives through education. That is why we are working with both ECGG and the Department of Education to get answers to all the questions raised by this decision and to figure out a solution moving forward.

We will be in touch with more information as we receive it. Your access to our other educational programs, such as Free Foreign Language, Free GED, and Workforce Essentials, are not affected.

Thank you for all you do to support our union family and yours.

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CT budget includes pandemic pay for private sector workers. Here’s who would be eligible

A range of private sector workers from grocery store employees to emergency personnel would receive pandemic pay under a one-year, $24.2 billion state budget plan that passed the House by a vote of 95-52 early Tuesday morning.

Essential workers who were included under phase 1a and 1b of the federal vaccine rollout would be eligible for the one-time payments ranging from $200 to $1,000. Federal, state and municipal employees are excluded.

The money is a way to recognize workers “who have really not seen anything relative to an increase in pay or an increase in support for what they did during COVID,” said Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the legislative Appropriations Committee. Since the early days of the pandemic, front-line workers have lobbied the General Assembly for hazard pay for risking their health and safety to keep vital services going. But the $30 million included in the budget is well below what labor advocates were seeking.

A $750 million proposal from the legislative Labor and Public Employees Committee would’ve provided $2,000 to full-time workers and $1,000 to part-timers in the private and public sectors.

Under the budget plan, a full-time worker who makes less than $100,000 would be eligible for $1,000. A full-time employee whose income is between $130,000 and $149,999 would get $200. Part-timers would get $500. Qualifying workers would have to apply to receive the payments, which would go out after Oct. 1.

“I’m just concerned that $30 million in a budget so large is not enough to cover all of the workers who would be deserving of this pandemic pay,” Rep. Joe Polletta, R-Watertown, said during the House debate.

The payments for private sector workers were included in the budget at the request of Osten and fellow appropriations co-chair, Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven. The request follows recent legislative approval of new contracts for 43,000 state employees that include raises and bonuses.

Some lawmakers equated the bonuses — $2,500 this spring and $1,000 after July 1 — to hazard pay for state workers. Gov. Ned Lamont has said the bonuses are a way to recognize state employees for their work throughout the pandemic.

The governor’s budget secretary, Jeff Beckham, during a news conference at the state Capitol Monday left open the possibility of state workers receiving hazard pay on top of the bonuses.

“We have some monies available for it and so we would have to negotiate what that would look like,” Beckham said.

From the CTinsider

julia.bergman@hearstmediact.com

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