NORWALK, Conn. – Harry Rilling’s union endorsements have now reached a status unseen in decades, a Norwalk Department of Public Works employee said Thursday after being part of a crowd hollering and applauding on the steps of the old City Hall.
DPW employees were joined by Norwalk firefighters, Norwalk police officers and one member of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers to seal the deal of overwhelming city union support for Rilling’s Democratic candidacy to be Norwalk’s next mayor.
“I have been here 36½ years and I have never seen the fire, the police and DPW pulling together as one,” said DPW employee Rommel LaChapelle. “Never. Never. This is the first time in history they have all gotten together as one brotherhood. I have never seen it.”
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2405 President Milt Giddeons referred to it as “brothers in blue, brothers in red and brothers in green.”
“Norwalk needs a mayor that understands the department heads report to him not the other way around,” he said. “That person is Harry Rilling.”
John Altieri, NFT executive secretary and past president, said teachers are behind Rilling through the American Federation of Teachers.
“We can’t endorse ourselves, but what we did was, AFT Connecticut can endorse,” he said. “So they have made an endorsement for Harry Rilling through us.”
That’s been done for state legislators and U.S. Congressmen in the past, he said, but this is one of the first times it’s been done for mayor.
“The teachers are really in a bad way,” he said. “We are not respected by the present mayor or the Common Council or definitely not by the Board of Ed. There is no one for us to talk to. We are not involved in anything. They cut us out of everything. We know Harry will be the type that will encompass everybody. He’ll treat us with civility, which we don’t have right now.”
Director of Policy and Planning at Council 4 AFSCME Peter Thor said Rilling has the statewide endorsement of Council 4, representing 32,000 members. That includes Norwalk’s custodians and maintenance employees Local 1042 and Norwalk’s cafeteria workers Local 1748.
“Unions are very effective at getting the vote out,” Thor said. “Because we have an effective communication system for members.”
Rilling thanked them with a rallying speech.
“I wasn’t surprised when I met with the individuals in your unions – not once did you ever ask for better pay and benefits,” he said. “Not once did you ever ask me to promise you anything. You asked me to be a mayor of the people and of the working class of the city of Norwalk. That was something that was so easy for me to agree to because I have always been a person who respects the individuals.”
One man in the crowd is casting his first vote as an American for Rilling.
Collin Pratt, formerly of Jamaica, said he has lived here for 11 years but just became a citizen recently. He is a Democrat, he said.
“We need a change in the city,” he said. “Everybody I talk to feel like that.”