Chris Powell: They're happy to flee family on Thanksgiving

MANCHESTER, Conn.Thanksgiving, some  Connecticut Democratic state legislators said at a press conference the 
other day, is when Americans should be with their families, and so state law 
should require retailers open on the holiday to pay their employees a punitive 
doubletime and a half. 

The sentiment is lovely but it's a hallucination -- because for every big-box 
retail store employee who wishes that he didn't have to work on Thanksgiving 
there are a thousand people clogging the aisles of his store thrilled to have 
gotten  away from their families, many of them having 
already attended a high-school football game and many others planning to go to 
the movies afterward. 

Who will introduce the legislation requiring the shoppers to stay home so  that the 
retail employees can stay home too? By what necessity does the government get so 
intrusive in people's personal lives? 

General working conditions have been government's domain for decades, but the 
country already has minimum-wage and overtime laws. With more people shopping 
than working in retailing on Thanksgiving, why obstruct democracy? 

Further, why, with a doubletime-and-a-half law, drive up the costs of 
bricks-and-mortar retailing, which pays plenty of state sales and local property 
taxes, and thereby give more advantage to Internet retailing, which doesn't? 

The Thanksgiving doubletime proposal is just more pious pandering to a special 
interest at the expense of the public interest. 

But pandering to special interests pays well in Connecticut politics, as 
suggested by the announcement this week from the Connecticut Education 
Association, the state's biggest teachers union, that it will hire Senate 
President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. as its deputy policy director when he 
leaves office in January. 

"Don is a strong advocate for public education and teachers," CEA President 
Sheila Cohen declared, which was to say that during his 22 years in the General 
Assembly Williams has been a reliable vote for the union. While state law 
forbids Williams from accepting money for lobbying state government until he has 
been out of office for a year, nothing prevents him from advising the union's 
lobbyists until the revolving door is unlocked. 

But if Williams has been a tool of the teachers, most Democratic legislators 
are, and if this ever bothered his constituents, they could have replaced him -- 
at least if newspapers and rival candidates had dared to make the point. 
Further, government in Connecticut is now so pervasive and legislative salaries 
so low that almost any employment undertaken by a legislator may present 
opportunities to exploit his office and increase his incentive to be a tool for 

Still, it's a matter of degree, and since no special interest is bigger than the 
CEA, Williams's new job can't help smelling like a payoff, especially since he 
does not seem to have been eager to pursue a career in private industry -- not 
that there is much private industry left in his part of 
the state, northeastern Connecticut. 

A few months ago Williams applied for the presidency of Quinebaug Valley 
Community College, in Killingly, near his home in Thompson on the Rhode Island 
border. Every cynic in the state was stunned that this  
payoff didn't come through, stunned that the community college board hired 
someone else, someone with a background in education -- though of course even a 
former politician might have a better grasp of the real world than a career 

But at least the Senate Democrats have found a sinecure for Williams. Now they 
have to figure out what to do with state Sen. Andrew Maynard, of Stonington, 
hospitalized incommunicado for months with a serious brain injury two years 
short of his state pension qualification. How much really can be asked of the 

So could any of the big corporations that have received millions in "economic 
development" money from the Democratic state administration just to stick around 
use a deputy policy director? 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.