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More than a dozen members of the local Machinist Union rallied outside Pratt & Whitney's Cheshire engine repair center to show their displeasure in former state senator Sam Caligiuri.
Caligiuri, who lost his bid for the 5th district Congressional seaty, was not at the rally on Oct. 29. Workers with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 26, gathered outside of the Pratt and Whitney facility last week to chastise Caligiuri's lack of support for the workers. According to Wayne McCarthy, president of the local IAM, he repeatedly reached out to Caligiuri while he served as a state senator in the 16th District, which covers parts of Cheshire. McCarthy said that all other elected state officials had a seat at the table, but Caligiuri was the notable exception. The company tried to fire the workers and move the jobs out of state and overseas, and sued the Union for fighting the move. The law firm, Day Pitney LLP, in which Caligiuri is a partner, was hired to represent the company in court. According to McCarthy, Pratt has spent as much as $2 million on legal representation and insinuated that, even if Caligiuri did not actively work on the issue, he still profited from Pratt's efforts to close down the biggest workplace in his district. Now, McCarthy said, it is obvious to him why Caligiuri's voice was missing on this issue.
"We sent e-mails and messages to (Caligiuri), like we did to other people who then got involved," McCarthy said. "We never heard from Caligiuri. Now I guess we know why."
It seemed at the rally that the Union was endorsing Chris Murphy, the incumbent who won a third term in the 5th District this past Tuesday.
McCarthy said Murphy had set up meetings with the union and other officials, as well as other members of the Congressional delegation and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. McCarthy stated the Union heard support from many elected officials, except for Caligiuri, who said "not a word."
"Sam offered no help and no ideas. His silence speaks volumes," McCarthy said. "One would expect more from a State Senator who represents the district where this plant is located."
Lori Pelletier, the secretary-treasurer of the Connecticut American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said that Caligiuri has "made his choice clear." She claimed it was “obvious” that he would rather "side with his buddies in the corporate world" rather than take a stand for working men and women he represents.
"When every other elected official was jumping to help us, because they recognize that whatever your political affiliation, jobs are a bipartisan issue, Sam Caligiuri chose to be silent," Pelletier commented. "He has shown us what he thinks. It's just ridiculous. He is working against us. Where are you and why aren't you helping?"
Tony Whelan, the vice-president of IAM District 26, said that Caligiuri "took millions" in an effort to send jobs overseas. Worried that Caligiuri would be elected on Tuesday Whelan said, "Will you do these same things in Washington, D.C.?"
"What will you do for us when we have no jobs? You had a responsibility to help," Whelan said. "Sam Caligiuri did the right thing for him."
Caligiuri said the issues at Pratt go beyond just the workers in Cheshire and East Hartford, but reflect a trend in the state and nationwide to a certain extent. He said he endorsed a letter in support of keeping the plant open and was “glad to sign it.” However, the bigger issue, he said, was why Pratt wanted to close the plant in the first place.
“Why does the company decide it doesn’t make economic sense to do work in Connecticut?” he said “We, as a state, need to address the competitiveness of companies. Unless we do, we’ll see them leave the state, and in some cases, the country.” Caligiuri did not believe the rally played a role in his defeat Tuesday.