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OP-ED | Union Members Not Interested in ‘Wisconsin Moment’

by Uri Allen and Harry Rodriguez | Jul 3, 2014 9:30am
(34) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, Opinion

A union is its members. Here in Connecticut, our unions are made up of ordinary middle class people like us, who work hard to make Connecticut the great state that it is. We are proud to be part of organizations that advocate on behalf of all working people.

This is why, after working full days and taking care of our children and families, we volunteer our precious free time to impact the issues that affect workers statewide. We knock on doors, talk to our co-workers, and discuss our pensions, healthcare costs, and election results because our livelihoods depend on it.

Elections have consequences, and this year is no different. Connecticut voters have a big decision to make in November. Union members and our families are smart; we know what Connecticut workers stand to lose if we elect the wrong people in November.

A year ago, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley asked, “When is the Wisconsin moment going to come to Connecticut?” He was referring, of course, to Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Assembly that stripped Wisconsin public service workers of most of their collective bargaining rights with the enactment of Act 10.

Here’s how the so-called “Wisconsin moment” played out: Walker’s slash-and-burn policies have led to the loss of 15,500 state and local government jobs. Wisconsin public workers who stayed employed under Act 10 suffered an average pay cut of 8 percent. Think about that. A Wisconsin public worker earning $30,000 per year now earns $2,400 less than she or he did in previous years and can’t do anything about it. How exactly does that help spur economic activity?

Foley’s recent backpedaling from his “Wisconsin moment” remark does not change the fundamental dynamics at all. How is it fair to tell workers to accept pay cuts while the top 1% earn more each year? How is it fair to reward employees for their years of service by slashing their salaries and asking them to do more for less? Is this what we want to happen in Connecticut?

Of course not. That’s why we are involved in politics through our unions — it takes a collective voice to advocate for pro-worker policies that strengthen the middle class and reduce income inequality.

However, our resources are no match for those who consistently outspend unions. They are the ones overrepresented in the political arena.

Meanwhile back in Wisconsin, Scott Walker appears to be driving his state into a ditch with his slash-and-burn approach to workers’ rights and collective bargaining. A recent federal report shows Wisconsin slipped to 37th nationally in new-job creation last year while falling nearly 140,000 jobs short of Walker’s pledge to create 250,000 new private sector jobs.

His so-called labor reforms have cost Wisconsin’s economy nearly a billion dollars a year in local spending. And now he’s battling allegations that he broke state election laws by coordinating fund-raising efforts with conservative groups that supported his decimation of collective bargaining rights.

The last thing we need is a Koch Brothers-funded campaign to transform Connecticut into Walker’s Wisconsin. As rank-and-file union members, we are proud to support candidates who side with working people, who yearn for a Connecticut moment, not a Wisconsin moment.

Because if Connecticut’s workers don’t stand up for each other, who will?

Uri Allen is an associate community services representative at the Connecticut Department of Labor and a member of AFSCME Local 269, representing more than 500 state employees. Harry Rodriguez is a Lawrence + Memorial (L+M) Hospital health unit coordinator and president of AFT Local 5123, which represents more than 800 healthcare workers at the acute care facility.

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(34) Comments

posted by: Linda12 | July 3, 2014  10:15am

We already had our Wisconsin moment in February of 2012, when Dannel fully promoted SB 24 which would have stripped teachers of their due process rights. We fought back. Don’t use a scare tactic to make us all believe our only hope is another four years with a liar.  A democratic legislature would finally fight back under Foley where now they bend over for Malloy. Or better yet, Pelto/Murphy 2014.

CT does need to stand up for each other and against a corporatist faux DINO named Dan.

posted by: BMS | July 3, 2014  12:42pm

Whoever is elected Governor, state employees will again be asked to make concessions. State employees are one third of the budget and any Governor, has to look to them in solving a budget gap as big as the one projected. After the 2011 SEBAC deal, many rank and file state employees have questions about union leadership. At least one union tried to disaffiliate with their union leadership and affiliate with another union. Their attempt was unsuccessful because of a technical ruling of the labor board. The question state employees have to ask is who will hurt me the least and is the union leadership capable of making those judgements.

posted by: Jim in Mfg | July 3, 2014  12:49pm

The Koch Brothers have only 2 votes.  In Connecticut the public unions have more than 100,000 votes and will generally vote in
their own interest.  The public unions in CT have many democratic politicians in their pocket.  Taxpayers are not well represented by a Governor who is the their key negotiator yet states that he is a union servant.

The CEOs in the US are mostly overpaid, but that does not come out of the taxpayers pocket.

Some abuses of the public trust via excessive public employee benefits:
- a 67 year old politically connected lawyer/legislator, works 3 years as a judge and get 100k+ pension. 
-State cops can retire after 20years and some spike their pensions such that they pension exceeded their base salary. 
-The Mayor of East Haven is crying about the withholding a “disability” pension when he is able to work.
-Sandra Kee Borges began receiving a 85k pension at the age of 42 and now is again working for the City of Hartford.
-CT Teachers put in about the same % into their retirement as private workers ( 6 to 7%) yet can retire 10years earlier with a pension that is about 2 times the 2014 Maximum Full retirement age benefit of $ 31704/year. 

Connecticut’s financial future will be more like a Detroit moment when taxpayers are unable or unwilling to sustain those overly generous public benefits.

posted by: Han Solo | July 3, 2014  1:12pm

1. The Scott Walker investigation is a media driven lie.  The investigation was suspended!
2.  The Koch brothers spend less money in politics that George Soros or any of the Unions in our country.
3.  It would help the CT job situation if we were a right-to-work state!

posted by: GuilfordResident | July 3, 2014  1:29pm

I’m voting for whoever will lower my taxes and work to repeal SB1160.

posted by: GBear423 | July 3, 2014  1:38pm

GBear423

Sorry Harry and Uri, but the only thing I care about is how many State Employees are essential to carry out the work Connecticut absolutely needs.  ALL State employees are owed a fair SALARY with comparable benefits.
Comparable meaning the same offered to private sector in same earnings bracket. I am certain State employees enjoy that and more.

If Wisconsin is still functioning (it is still open yes?) then I would say that the State didn’t need those 15,500 employees. Wow… that is a lot of money those Wisconsinites were paying out. Now they are paying debts, bringing budgets and pension funds into the black.  meanwhile those people will find work. Its an eventuality.  Nobody is entitled to a job, we go and seek them out and bust our keesters to keep em.

posted by: UConnHoop | July 3, 2014  2:07pm

Well said Jim in Mfg.  Unfortunately the state I was born and continue to live will be a shell of itself if Malloy and the Dems continue to rule.

posted by: Bulldog1 | July 3, 2014  3:49pm

I really doubt that a Democratic General Assembly will fight back too hard against a Foley.  They didn’t when Johnny Rotten was governor nor did they bloody Rell’s nose much either.  If Malloy wins he at least has to deal with those who put him in office.  Foley doesn’t have to making teachers, State and Municipal employees, students and poor people easy targets.  So be careful what you wish for when trying to get back at Malloy.

Having been in the room at SEBAC ‘11 the issue with the members who tried to disaffiliate was that they wanted to give up NOTHING.  The HEP and the 3% payment for retirement health care saved health benefits and retirement health care, at least for the time being.  Will the Gov be back (whomever it is)?  Absolutely so get ready for another wild ride.  Jim in MFG points out some of the issues so don’t be surprised, especially if Foley wins.

posted by: state_employee | July 3, 2014  6:34pm

I liked this article.  It affirms my support of Jonathan Pelto, who unlike other politicians, will not be bought.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 3, 2014  7:02pm

Nailed it Jim!!! Nailed it!!!

Your examples are fanastic choices. Someone want to argue with any of them?

posted by: RogueReporterCT | July 3, 2014  7:19pm

RogueReporterCT

Words cannot express how disappointed I am with the unions in this state, particularly those that represent teachers. The fallacy argument that the unions use, “What if a Republican should win?” gives short shrift to the blue legislature that safeguards the interests of a blue state. Meanwhile, the Democrat incumbent governor has bullied the membership of the unions mercilessly. What the Democrat voters of this state want is a Democrat governor that acts like a Democrat. Were that to happen, no one would be talking about razor thin margins and spoilers. The unions have their chance this year to send out a message that is larger than just one election year, and they are wimping out. What they should be doing is thumping Malloy and letting the world know why.

And while I have this soapbox, I just want to say that although this tops the list of CT disappointments this year, it is by no means the only one. The attitudes I am getting feel like some kind of weird blowback from ‘06, like, don’t bother trying to make a difference. You just end up with Lieberman no matter how you do the math. Or even from 2000, like, who cares how the majority feels?

So the revolutionary state is now looking anything but, down there in the bottom 10% of every index anyone can think of. Somehow the state income tax/property tax formula managed to kill off the middle class. I’m serious: kill it. CT has a large underclass on public assistance. Then there’s the poor, which means just one or two jobs per household. The middle class just means two to four jobs per household—just one pink slip away from joining the ranks of the poor. And the unions have just sat there fiddling while the whole thing has happened over the course of years for all the world to see.

New State Motto: Bad Unions…Shut UP…Go to your corner!

posted by: StillRevolting | July 3, 2014  7:25pm

To dedicated government employees at every level, Thank You. To other unionized workers, read this carefully and ask what it has to do with you at all. Connecticut won’t ever be a right-to-work state. To all shop members anywhere, vote for yourselves and be very afraid of giving Malloy a second term. Teachers, your jobs will simply suck. State employees, you might get stomped in the next budget go-around as, according to Lembo, he has an upcoming budget hole to fill that is about equal to his record setting tax increase. To all, he may or may not choose to break that record to fill it. To the authors, if the best you can do for Wisconsin is 37th in job creation, please consider that CT is nearly dead last in every metric related to economic success. Please also consider who has been at the helm while our fair state has been generating those depressing figures and that many of them are still trending downward. The bottom line is that no one wins if we re-elect Malloy.

posted by: Historian | July 3, 2014  7:53pm

sounds like a couple of jobs that are not needed..next…

posted by: Historian | July 3, 2014  8:23pm

A California judge has ruled teacher tenure systems allows illegally ineffective teaching and are therefore illegal.  Similar cases are being filed in NY and hopefully Ct to stop this systematic union protection of ineffective teaching.

posted by: RogueReporterCT | July 3, 2014  10:31pm

RogueReporterCT

DINO cracks me up. How long has that been a thing?

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | July 4, 2014  12:54am

DrHunterSThompson

Clueless in Connecticut are most commenters. The idea is to get everyone job protection and a pension, not to strip it from those who have because you don’t have.

Stupid is not illegal, but it’s dangerous.

HST

posted by: RJEastHartford | July 4, 2014  9:26am

From SEIU endorsement reporting:

“Tom Foley recently has said it would be irresponsible of a governor to try and break the deal with the unions. But he said some wage agreements will be expiring soon, giving the next governor an opportunity to try and cut state employee costs.” Mr. Foley is running a stealth campaign; members see that their structure to fight against changes such as the monetizing of education is being weakened and slowly dismantled (by the courts, by legislation passed by a new legislature with a different make-up and proposed by a Republican Governor with help from national conservative legal and legislative organizations?). Remember, all seats are up for re-election in the CT Senate. With retirements and an anti-incumbent mood, including union members, the balance of power can shift.
Any tie will be broken by a Republican Lt. Governor (Mr. Walker?, Mr. Mckinny?...read their comments?). The future in the GA is uncertain in this climate, don’t expect Democrats to vote against the public mood “of I don’t have a pension, why should you.” Substitute the word pension, for whatever you like, job security etc. Things do not continue in perpetuity, it is a smart fight of attrition, especially if CT remains mired in the 5th worst business climate in the nation, warranted or not. If you do think things will continue in perpetuity than it is because of the strength of your union. Members have a lot to consider, other than emotion.

posted by: RJEastHartford | July 4, 2014  10:29am

DrHST, I agree with you, that is a campaign that needs to be ramped up. But it is the reason unions have been under attack in both the private and public sectors. Members have to consider the big picture.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 4, 2014  11:04am

The information represented here is false.

“Here’s how the so-called “Wisconsin moment” played out: Walker’s slash-and-burn policies have led to the loss of 15,500 state and local government jobs. Wisconsin public workers who stayed employed under Act 10 suffered an average pay cut of 8 percent. Think about that. A Wisconsin public worker earning $30,000 per year now earns $2,400 less than she or he did in previous years and can’t do anything about it.”

First of all people did not have pay cuts of 8%. Did some have to pay a bit more for heath insurance. Yes they did but their salaries were not cut 8%. In the private sector when our health premiuims go up we dont say we got a pay cut. More people are unemployed in this country today than at any other time in our history than the depression yet you have people whining that they have jbs and pensions but have to pay a little more for that. Give me a break.

15,500 jobs werent “lost”. Thats like saying if we thought we might spend 4% more next year and we decided we could only afford 2% that would be a cut in political lingo. A cut in the real world is when you spend less in the future than you did today. Same with the jobs misrepresentation. Many jobs were not filled after retirement and other attrition. Very few people got pink slips. There “may” be 15,500 less jobs but 15,500 people were not let go or even close. It’s called reducing the bloat.

If things were as these authors represented then Walker would not have won his recall election and there would have been no need to bus in union things to intimidate people because the average person has compassion for other people and saw that state and local workers were not going to be screwed over in this but brought more in par with the private sector.

posted by: Fisherman | July 4, 2014  2:26pm

“our resources are no match for those who consistently outspend unions”? WAIT, WHAT??? 

NO GROUP or person (including the Koch Brothers) spends more than ORGANIZED LABOR to get what they want.

That money COMES FROM MY union brothers and sisters; the same ones that Dannel put the boots to 2 years ago… after making us pay RETROACTIVE TAXES.

Yes, Malloy is a DINO; and that’s a fact!

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 4, 2014  2:37pm

shinningstars122

Once again the peanut gallery gets lost in the forest of teaparty narrative rhetoric.

The piece is straight forward and substantiates their points.

Income inequality is the point. Earning a middle class salary should not be considered a crime.

Most of you make the assumption that union workers would be out done by a privatized workers, I think you under estimate the value of the work we actual do.

Sure we need to make government more responsive and efficient and believe me we will work hard to make that happen.

You think some Halliburton subsidiary paying poor wages can do any better?

Plus if we lose you all will lose as the bar will even be lower for what employers will pay and compensate their employees.

So be careful what you wish for.

Maybe you would love a return to the Gilded Age? No holidays of vacation pay? Or what about OT? Yeah lets eliminate that horrible and abused benefit.

As for you Hans Solo.
>>>> Dark money non-profits are a problem in our elections and I have a feeling Scott Walker is not out of the woods yet.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-not-target-of-criminal-probe-into-campaign-coordination/2014/06/26/6cd760f4-fd7e-11e3-932c-0a55b81f48ce_story.html

As for your Koch ” fact” you are completely misleading. The dark money non-profits set up and run by the Kochs paid out $400 million in the 2012 election cycle.
http://billmoyers.com/2014/04/10/nothing-really-
compares-to-the-koch-brothers-political-empire/

As for right-to-work the data suggest mixed results. Yes it does weaken unions but it seems to benefit employers more than workers who will earn less money.

Please note only 7% of the labor force is unionized in our country.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/10/how-right-to-work-laws-could-reshape-michigans-economy/


It is painfully obvious that trickle down economics does not strengthen or grows the middle class.


While all you folks complain about state budgets the federal tax system has been systematically cut down over the last 4 decades thus creating the crisis on the state and local levels we are now experiencing all over the country.

All you cry is cut taxes even more…you need to put alot more thought in than that folks.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 4, 2014  6:08pm

“Income inequality is the point. Earning a middle class salary should not be considered a crime.”

No it shouldnt be a crime but you may want to explore other countries to live in if you are going to harp on income inequality. We have opportunity here not equality.

You see our system and our Constitution says nothing about equal or similar results.

As for government employees let me give you an econ 101 lesson. The money that flows to state employees comes from where? The private sector!!! You see the state of CT doesnt print money so it takes money from the private sector primarily to fund the government. Sure, state employees pay taxes as well (some of them) but when the private sector is going well then more money flows from individuals and companies in the form of taxes and fees. When people arent doing well then less money comes in unless you are the state of CT where they will squeeze more out of you until you want to leave this beautiful state.

If you want to put me in my place tell me how in these tough economic times that state employees have shared in the pain with the private sector bretheren EQUALLY to use your words. I’m listening…

posted by: Chien DeBerger | July 5, 2014  2:23pm

The unions may not be ready for a Wisconsin moment, but the voters of that state were. They had enough as their own tax burden continued to increase and they had nothing to show for it. The only question is, when will Connecticut voters be ready for their moment?

posted by: Christopher55 | July 5, 2014  5:06pm

Amen GuilfordResident, my feelings exactly.

posted by: QuestionMark | July 5, 2014  8:56pm

DrHST: Your idea does not hold water. Private industry gets no job protection but their members must pay for taxpayer-paid job protection and pensions for state employees.

posted by: ABC | July 6, 2014  11:20am

Let me see if I have this right.

I, as a struggling taxpayer and a private sector employee with no job security other than how much I produce, and with take-home pay that has flat-lined for 5 years because of spiraling health insurance deductions, higher federal taxes, a state income tax, higher SSI, - and who is still recovering from a 40% hit to my very much “UN-defined benefit” 401K, and who has a mountain of mortgage debt for my kids’ college tuitions, - I should be happy to pay for above-market compensation, early retirement golden parachutes, full family life-long healthcare, and un-examined job performance for government employees because if I don’t then I would be contributing to the pressure put upon the “middle class”? 

Is that essentially the argument?

posted by: perturbed | July 6, 2014  11:11pm

perturbed

Jim in Mfg wrote:

“The CEOs in the US are mostly overpaid, but that does not come out of the taxpayers pocket.”

Really?

Do you actually believe that?

Is that because you believe the astronomical compensation US CEOs are given does not require higher prices for goods and services and/or lower wages and fewer jobs for the working class?

Or is that because you believe nobody who pays higher prices for goods and services or endures lower wages, so the CEOs can earn a few hundred more times the average worker’s pay, actually pays any taxes?

Of course the higher prices for goods and services and lower wages results in money coming out of taxpayers’ pockets, even if it’s not in the form of taxes.

And that doesn’t even count the actual higher tax rates required to offset corporate welfare. (Or don’t you think the $115 Million CT tried to give away to the largest hedge fund company in the world, with a CEO who’s net worth is measured in billions of dollars, would have to be offset by higher taxes for other people?) The New York Times estimates CT spends at least $860 Million each year on “incentive programs” (aka corporate welfare). That seems like real taxpayer money to me…

—perturbed

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 7, 2014  6:06am

shinningstars122

>>>>You see our system and our Constitution says nothing about equal or similar results.

Joe you are too much. The Constitution said noting about corporations being permanent either.

Joe if you think “opportunity” is what for profit companies think is fair well I guess you think the system is perfect and operating at its most optimal for the American people.

You are so far down the Koch brother rabbit hole you ignore the realty of how far things have gone backwards.

Your knee jerk answer is always taxes.

LMAO if you even considered what tax rates post WW II were and how WELL the American working class PROSPERED and rich people still got rich, very rich,  I mean honestly you are your own worst enemy dude.

Economic 101 buddy America has become a consumer driven ecoonmy. If wages are flat and   folks like you and me don’t have extra money to spend on materialistic things well the economy does not grow..it does but just not at the rate that Wall Street prefers.

But regardless they and the corporations have done even better during this time than you or I.

You think that is fair and right?

As corporate profits continue to soar after the great recession and companies legally hide billions off US earned profits off shore, you still chose to live in a world of denial and complacency with a system that is as equally corrupt as it it is amoral.

As long as working class folks like you keep accepting that corporatism is the all ending glorious truth…well keep chasing that hallow carrot buddy.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 7, 2014  8:09am

a)I honestly couldnt tell you the first names of the Koch Brothers. I hear more about them from people like you looking to find scapegoat for your failed policies and beliefs than I do from anything conservative related I get.

b) econ 100 you must have missed. In post WW2 we were a manufacturing economy and we built an interstate highway system. Those jobs are gone to that “giant sucking sound"as Ross Perot talked about. Tax rates were higher but so were easy loopholes and also everything inflation adjusted was dirt cheap. Let me ask you this? What happened where women started to work full time jobs leaving kids at home or day care? It wasnt womens lib. It was economic reality. People got to keep less of what they made and things got alot more expensive.

c) Keep worshipping with Barack and Hilary at the alter of Saul Alkinsky. You also want to follow someone that dedicates their book to Satan.

posted by: justsayin | July 7, 2014  9:11am

So self interest and self preservation are there only motive, sounds like a union. How many jobs have unions driven out of the state and country, many, many. That is why private union is down to <10% it does not make good economic sense.

posted by: ASTANVET | July 7, 2014  12:09pm

Jeez, y’all are just plain mean to other people under the blanket of anonymity.  These ‘Jerry Springer’ debates are only missing a “oooooohhhhhh” from the audience.  They are not substantive or enlightened… but you sure feel smug for putting that guy in his place… you must be wicked smart.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 7, 2014  12:56pm

By the way, in many cases profits arent soaring. Companies are buying back their stock to inflate profits. If profits were really soaring they would be hiring and not slashing costs.

posted by: QuestionMark | July 7, 2014  1:52pm

Unions are only good for politicians like Gov. Dannel Malloy, who uses them as a political ploy for votes. They are bad for state taxpayers however, as they systematically rise the cost of government: HIGHER TAXES.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 7, 2014  4:26pm

I think unions both public and private sector are Ok as long as they dont create situations that are out of whack with the rest of the people that pay their salaries etc.

For example I do think that some pro sports unions battle for things that are so out of whack with the real world that I kind of get disgusted. I dont dismiss public sector unions totally but get disgusted based on what some of their members do and get that would never fly in the private sector. There are many hard working people and I dont begrudge them but when the union goes into action to protect someone gaming the system or that should be fired then the whole union gets tarred and feathered with that ridiculousness.