Lawsuit: Executive Orders ‘Akin to Slavery,’ Administration Questions Legal Theory
(Updated 5:57 p.m.) A constitutional advocacy group filed a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court Thursday arguing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s two executive orders are in “open defiance of the constitution.”
The orders provide a pathway to unionization for personal care attendants and daycare workers who receive funding from state programs. The daycare workers have already voted to allow CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 to represent them in negotiations with the state.
However, We The People of Connecticut, a Waterbury-based constitution advocacy group, feel Malloy overstepped his authority when he set a process in motion that legislature had previously considered and opted not to move forward with.
The group filed a lawsuit calling on the court to rescind the orders. Six personal care attendants and daycare workers are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed by lawyer Deborah Stevenson.
“The defendant now has demonstrated open defiance of the Constitution and the rule law, open defiance of the will and authority of the General Assembly, and an open defiance of the will of the people of the State of Connecticut,” the complaint says of Malloy.
The governor’s Chief Legal Counsel Andrew McDonald said the administration will deal with the lawsuit in court—if they can figure out what it’s alleging.
“We are reviewing the lawsuit, and are trying to separate the flotsam from the jetsam contained in it. If we can discern a recognizable legal theory amid the political hyperbole in it, we will address that theory in court,” he said in a statement.
The lawsuit points to two bills the Senate tabled during last year’s legislative session that would have accomplished the same end as the executive orders. In issuing the orders, the governor exceeded the powers of the Executive Branch and usurped the authority of the legislature, the lawsuit contends.
That action disenfranchised the plaintiffs and denied them their right to participate in the legislative process, it said. The lawsuit also states that the executive orders prevented the plaintiffs from petitioning the legislature for redress.
According to the lawsuit, not all the workers were notified of the union vote but they are now being compelled to be part of a union and considered state employees for collective bargaining purposes.
“... such violation is akin to slavery” and violates the constitution, the lawsuit said.
Ben Phillips, spokesman for CSEA SEIU 2001, said the lawsuit mischaracterizes the issue.
“This is some really unfortunate political grandstanding. To compare an effort by low-income women trying to improve their lives and the Connecticut child care system to slavery is over the top,” he said.
In addition to asking that the orders be declared null and void, the lawsuit also asks the court to issue an injunction to prevent the governor from any unconstitutional action he may be planning in the future.
“Without the injunction, the plaintiffs’ rights to determine their status as an employee of the state or not, the wages and benefits they earn, the kind and amount of regulations that are imposed upon them, and a method to choose their own representatives to collectively bargain for them, are all eviscerated,” the lawsuit read.
Also eviscerated is their right to live in a state governed by three, distinct branches of government, it said.
The lawsuit argues a judge should issue the injunction because it causes Malloy no harm except to force him to act within his own authority.
“That is not harm. That is what is required of the defendant. When no harm can come to the defendant by issuance of an injunction, the injunction must issue,” the lawsuit said.
The group isn’t the only organization planning on suing the governor over this issue. Fergus Cullen, executive director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, said he also intends to file a lawsuit within the next few weeks.