Labor Dispute Over Election Is Headed To Court
Officials with the United Public Service Employees Union said Thursday that they will be appealing the 2-to-1 Connecticut Board of Labor Relations decision that they say denies 6,200 state employees the right to join a union of their choice.
“The two board members who voted to deny worker’s rights and instead to protect the rights of the State of Connecticut and the incumbent unions, clearly got it wrong, and we are confident that the courts will ultimately vindicate the rights of Connecticut State Workers,” UPSEU President Kevin E. Boyle, Jr. said Thursday.
The majority of the labor board found that the window of time UPSEU had to file their petition for an election expired when the state legislature ratified the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition contract in 2011. Even though the unions failed to vote in favor of the concession package at that time the legislature approved it , the majority of the labor board decided it had no power to overturn the will of the legislature. The SEBAC unions ended up ratifying the concession package last August.
Patricia Low and Wendella Ault Battey, the two labor board members who authored the majority decision, decided the legislature approved the controversial “Attachment H”—which closed the window for outside unions to come in and hold an election—when it voted to ratify the SEBAC agreement.
“We find that Attachment H existed as part of those tentative agreements when they were submitted to the legislature for approval,” Low wrote in the majority decision.
But Boyle argues the legislature wasn’t paying close enough attention and doubted they read all of the scheduled attachments to the concession deal. He said even when SEBAC unions voted on the agreement, “Attachment H,” which says the current unions can’t change leadership until 2016, was not included.
The incumbent unions argued the language in “Attachment H” is nothing but standard “boilerplate” language found in any labor contract.
“Despite repeated claims and statements by SEBAC unions and state officials that Schedule H was known to workers prior to their August ratification vote, Linda Yelmini, was forced to admit under oath at a Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations hearing, that Schedule “H” wasn’t even written until after state employees voted,” UPSEU Regional Director Ron Suraci said.
The incumbent unions don’t deny that the attachment wasn’t in the written materials provided to state employees, but rather say that it is standard legal language that doesn’t change the SEBAC agreement.
During the last labor board hearing in February, SEBAC lawyer Barry Scheinberg said state law is clear that the petition window closes once workers have a contract.
“Statute provides a contract bar. You can’t have an election when there’s a valid contract. That’s the whole enchilada,” he said.
The majority of the labor board agreed.
But the battle is far from over.
“While disappointed in the decision we were always cognizant of the possibility that the matter would ultimately need to be decided by the courts given the high stakes political ramifications of any decision granting UPSEU elections,“ Boyle said. “Unfortunately we were right. This is far from over.”
The incumbent unions representing some of the bargaining groups aren’t worried about the decision going to court.
“We are confident in the decision by the labor board and we’re gratified that the state board recognized the validty and importance of the SEBAC 2011 agreement,” Ben Phillips, spokesman for CSEA SEIU Local 2001, said Friday.