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Number of Union Stewards Increases, One Lawmaker Wants Unions to Pay

by CTNewsjunkie Staff | Oct 2, 2013 5:30am
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Equality, Jobs, Labor, State Budget

CTNJ file photo Union stewards should be paid by their union — not the state — when they are doing their jobs representing colleagues in workplace disputes, Republican House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said in a statement Monday.

It’s the second time in two years that Cafero has called upon the state to stop paying the salaries of union stewards while they are representing their colleagues in workplace grievances.

“The practice of paying union stewards nearly $100 million a year for virtually zero benefits for taxpayers has to stop,” Cafero said in a press release. “The number of stewards has grown. If they are performing vital work for their colleagues in state government that is fine — just let the unions pay for it through their dues.”

Cafero, who raised the same issue back in April 2011, said the number of union stewards has increased from 911 to 1,032 over the past two years. The state was paying 911 stewards a combined $93 million a year. Cafero estimates that the number now exceeds $100 million.

In an email, State Labor Relations Director Linda Yelmini said the number of union stewards has indeed increased. However, she said that Cafero’s $100 million estimate assumes that union stewards spend 100 percent of their work time conducting union business.

“This is simply not true,” Yelmini wrote.

Union officials, like AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Lori Pellitier, have said the amount of time these stewards spend on union issues ranges between a half-hour to 10 hours per week.

“My guess is that the amount of time is more than the 30-minute estimate provided by Ms. Pelletier and less than the 100-percent estimate provided by Mr. Cafero,” Yelmini said.

The laws and contracts stipulating how state employees who serve in a union position can use leave for union business were made years ago and would take legislative action or a collective bargaining process to change, she said.

Larry Dorman, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, said state workers have made sacrifices “time and again” to help keep the state’s finances stable. He accused Cafero of trying “stir up a frenzy” against state workers.

“As far as I can see, Rep. Cafero spends his time recycling old press releases to distract from the continued refusal of his party leadership to ask Connecticut’s millionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes,” Dorman said.

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(12) Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | October 2, 2013  6:25am

Why should taxpayers be forced to pay anything for union representation that is used to protect poor performance and litigate nuances in labor contracts? Using the low end of the scale, you’re talking $10 million - on the high side, $100 million. It’s all outrageous. This is what the dues are for - representation. So represent and quit sticking us with the bill. Yeah, I know, that means union funds won’t be able to buy as many Cadillacs as before, but so what?

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | October 2, 2013  12:32pm

Terry D. Cowgill

And while he’s at it, Rep. Cafero should question the practice of having the state collect dues for the unions, too. I can’t see any reason why taxpayer-funded workers should be involved in that.

posted by: ABC | October 2, 2013  2:14pm

Please Mr. Foley, make this a Right to Work state.  If Scott Walker stood his ground, we can too.

posted by: gompers | October 2, 2013  6:24pm

Cowgil as usual is first to attack the one institution that protects the middle class.  They don’t pay anyone to collect state union dues.  It is a computer program.  For all your sucking up you still haven’t gotten that dream corporate p.r. job have you, Terry?

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | October 2, 2013  7:16pm

it was here, then is wasn’t.  censorship sucks.

HST

posted by: perturbed | October 2, 2013  8:07pm

perturbed

So Larry Dorman “accused Cafero of trying ‘stir up a frenzy’ against state workers?”

As much as it sickens me—as a state employee—to agree with that disingenuous union shill, I’m forced to agree with him on this. (I feel dirty already.)

Some folks might understandably be tempted to accuse some news sites of the same thing.

(Of course, web traffic by any means is the real prime objective.)

—perturbed

P.S. @Noteworthy—A huge percentage of our over-sized union dues—over $70/month and rising for many people—is siphoned off to the huge national unions that took over our previously local unions. We get nothing for that. A huge portion of the rest of our dues goes to “organizing,” or the pursuit of new unsuspecting victims on the municipal side or private sector. Some of our unions dues has gone in recent years to legal fees spent keeping us state workers locked in the unions we’re in, so we can’t get out, no matter how they betray us. Still more union dues go to expenses associated with arbitration for those of us so disillusioned that we seek to become fee payers. I can only imagine that some of our union dues might be spent representing us, but I have no first-hand experience with that, and neither do most of the people I work with.

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | October 3, 2013  6:18am

Terry D. Cowgill

Gompers, that’s ridiculous and you know it. I didn’t “attack the one institution that protects the middle class.” I questioned a practice it and the state participate in. I guess the lesson here is never do that because you’ll be accused of being a corporate shill.

So is the deduction of unions dues done at no expense whatsoever to taxpayers? It’s a miracle. Show me how to do that in my own household.

BTW my wife is a dues-paying member of NYSUT. Yes, I hate unions alright.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | October 3, 2013  11:18am

We do not have a responsible leader like Larry Cafero in our state governor’s chair due to the fact that we have a predominance of “social benefit voters in our state”—who swing our elections to political providers like Gov. Malloy.  We have too many voters in Connecticut who are “looking for something for nothing—and they get it!”

posted by: ABC | October 3, 2013  9:44pm

Gompers: State unions protect the middle class?

Correction: State unions and their elected errand boys (and girls) have done their best to destroy CT’s middle class.  Having been taxed on everything from haircuts to Internet purchases, from gasoline, to liquor, to registering a small business, the middle class has been picked apart.  Why? All as a result of the unholy marriage between corrupt politicians and the public sector unions. 

There is nothing “middle” about state workers.  Because they get to enjoy, thanks to the political hacks, above average wages, way above average health benefits, and a pension.  The real middle class, the folks who pay the freight, haven’t had a DB pension option in over two decades yet the protected class at the state seems to hold onto theirs every year.

The arbitration system is stacked against the middle class taxpayer also.  We should do away with binding arbitration (staffed by labor sympathizers see: Weinblatt and State Police contract) and let these workers strike if they want to.  They would soon find out what the rest of us already know about the true labor market. 

When 1 in 70 people in our state are handed outsized pay, benefits, and job security, all paid for by the rest of us, They aren’t “middle class”.  They are the pampered class.

  When will the real middle class wake up?

posted by: Diogenese | October 4, 2013  7:04am

Just curious, does anyone know what the practice is in the private sector?

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | October 4, 2013  9:28am

Terry D. Cowgill

Good question, Diogenese. I don’t think any employer should be involved in the collection of dues. That arrangement should be strictly between the worker and the outside organization.

posted by: RJEastHartford | October 4, 2013  4:36pm

Hate is a pretty strong word, there seems to be no shortage of it today, especially in our political discourse. Union is not a four letter word, especially as America becomes a low wage trap for most workers, we all see it happening. I suggest the following:
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/06/st_essay_china_aerospace/

It is this new paradigm of business that is
strangling Connecticut. Good paying jobs that support all those small businesses and service industry jobs are no longer relevant under this business model.
We all have something to fear. Despite lower taxes, lower costs, it still happens and will continue to happen.