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Republican Lawmakers Support Union’s Right To Vote

by Christine Stuart | Feb 2, 2012 2:03pm
(18) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, Legal

Christine Stuart photo

Rep. Chris Coutu and Sen. Joseph Markley

(Updated 3:40 p.m.)It was an odd political pairing. Two Republican lawmakers stood alongside union members Thursday arguing that its members should have the right to vote to switch unions.

The matter currently before the Labor Relations Board pits several State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition unions against the United Public Service Employee Union, which believes they collected enough cards last August to allow for a vote.

It is the first time in this ongoing battle that pits union against union that a lawmaker has voiced their support for UPSEU.

Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, who has been fighting against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive orders which allow personal care attendants and daycare workers to unionize, said his support of the union members in this case is not in conflict with that position.

“I think in both cases the common thread is the fact that the state government, that the administration is pushing a particular agenda in terms of the union,” Markley said. “In this case preventing a group from having the right to choose what union they want to have representing them.”

In the case of the controversial SEBAC agreement, which the legislature voted to ratify before the second vote by the union members, it created a process that did not exist, Markley said.

The same is true for the executive orders. He said he would not have felt same way if it had come through the legislature.

“I would have felt like I had perhaps lost, but I had lost a fair game,” Markley said. “In that case, instead a decision was made outside of the rules, outside of the process to get an end which the administration desired.”

Markley was also one of the 30 senators during a June special session who voted along with his Democratic and Republican colleagues in favor of legislation which would have changed the way state employee pensions are calculated.

“They’re being supported on this particular issue, which is an issue of their right to choose” Markley said.

Rep. Chris Coutu, R-Norwich, tried to make the case that Malloy’s administration is motivated to keep the current union membership with SEBAC because it benefits it politically.

Barbara Resnick, the attorney for UPSEU, said it’s unusual that the state has retained two outside law firms to attend all formal and informal meetings on this issue. The law firms, Shipman & Goodwin, was retained by the Division of Criminal Justice, and Siegel O’Connor was retained by the Judicial branch, neither are executive branch agencies.

Coutu said the state’s use of two outside law firms to help SEBAC fight to remain the only union the state has to deal with just proves that the governor knows he will lose political support, if he doesn’t support them.

“It’s another angle that there is money being lost here for the governor and his team politically,” Coutu said.

He said UPSEU doesn’t use their member dues to fight political games.

What do the members think?

“I find it kind of annoying that we don’t have any Democrats standing up for our right to vote,“ John Vitale, past president of the P-4 Council, said Thursday. “Whatever side you fall on it’s a fundamental right to vote.”

He said there are members he knows who want to stay in their current CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 union, but believe the membership should have the right to vote.

Stephen Anderson, the current P-4 Council president, said the workers at the Capitol press conference today were the same workers who opposed the SEBAC agreement. He they’re still bitter the $1.6 billion concession package passed the second time by a majority of the membership. The package made changes to health and pension benefits.

“It speaks volumes that these individuals along with UPSEU have chosen to align themselves with some of the most notorious, anti-union legislators in the state,” Anderson said.

Attachment H

The current battle at the Labor Relations Board is over “Attachment H” which the state and SEBAC argue doesn’t allow UPSEU to decertify any of the SEBAC unions.

The clause is being used to block employees trying to oust the current unions that represent them. Many employees complained that they never saw the attachment before they voted on the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement.

Resnick said that’s because it wasn’t even finished yet. She said they didn’t know about the agreement so they couldn’t have anticipated they were voting to give away their right to choose which union represents them going forward. She argued the legislature also didn’t know about the agreement when it voted to pre-ratify it.

J. William Gagne, an attorney representing one of the SEBAC unions, has said he doesn’t believe the Labor Relations Board has the power to overturn the will of the General Assembly which accepted the agreement, including the Attachment H.

“The legislature could pass a statute saying there’s no more Labor Board and that’s the end of it,” Gagne has said.

The SEBAC unions have maintained that Attachment H is standard legal language, which doesn’t allow any of the SEBAC membership to go after each others’ members.

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(18) Comments

posted by: Mansfield1 | February 2, 2012  3:23pm

So tell:  “We don’t use members money for political purposes.”  Where exactly do these guys think there salaries and benefits come from other than the political process?  The tooth fairy?

And its interesting to see Coutu and Markley hanging out with an mobbed up outfit like UPSEU.

And the smirk on Markley’s face, come on?

posted by: MPS | February 2, 2012  4:40pm

There is absolutely no doubt that Attachment H was not part of the SEBAC Agreement that was circulated throughout the ratification process. Consequently, the existance of the document, after the fact, has exacerbated the perceived notion of deceitful conduct by those who advocated for the agreement under the then financial circumstances of Connecticut. Unfortunately, for those of us who provided the information at face value, it has created a regrettable proposition at the work site.

posted by: Noteworthy | February 2, 2012  4:54pm

So it is clear the union tanked their own workers in order to protect their ability to get their hands on their dues. What a bunch of SEBAC thugs.

posted by: sharewhut | February 2, 2012  6:30pm

Waiting for the Catch-22 here:
“The SEBAC unions have maintained that Attachment H is standard legal language, which doesn’t allow any of the SEBAC membership to go after each others’ members.”
Okay, this statement doesn’t say anything about current non-SEBAC unions going after SEBAC members (which is in effect applying to become part of SEBAC). I’m sure the ‘logic’ will be that if outside union is approved they will become part of SEBAC so they can’t go after members before they become part of SEBAC because once they’re part they can’t they can’t…
So much in this whole scam that wasn’t presented for the vote but ‘was really in there, just not in writing’ like Att. H. Having NP-4 vote under duress on wage terms with contract expired and supposedly being negotiated and using that to derail the de-certification efforts.
Undisclosed health changes- using myself as an example, but many are encountering- I have a condition necessitating physical/occupational therapy. Previously approval was for what therapist felt necessary and approved on periodic treatment/progress notes. Now, through an outside company treatment is approved for 3 per month at a time (I go 2 or 3 times per week) causing my PT ( a small,family owned practice)to be continually request authorization (which, based on medical needs has never been denied) creating unnecessary paperwork,time and ultimately expense. I’m one of several state employee patients at this practice they’re having to go through this with- and there are countless in same boat statewide. Not cutting claim costs, costing the state money to pay the outside vendor, and increasing costs for the providers. But it’s supposedly saving somewhere!?
Changes to prescription plan that even the administrator can’t understand find or find in writing anywhere Many are finding that drugs that have for years been 90 day supply at $25 are now $35 for a 30 day supply. Nothing in any public version of plan I can find even contains $35 copays, plan admin customer service can’t find it- even runs it through and it’s approved for 90 days but gets rejected at pharmacy level. Like a dog chasing it’s tail, they can’t figure it out and it keeps popping up for a lot of people.
Look for more with the creation of the ‘Joint healthcare cost containment committee, voted on with no preset rules or apparent constraints. ‘We’ agreed to it in the vote, so ‘we’ preapproved whatever they come up with.

posted by: Michael | February 2, 2012  7:13pm

Those 2 Republican legislators don’t really give a good darn about union members. They are just there to make waves, to have fun, and their words are tongue-in-check.

posted by: perturbed | February 2, 2012  9:05pm

perturbed

On what moral grounds are the SEBAC union bosses basing their fight to prevent a democratic vote by the rank-and-file?

That’s not a rhetorical question.

On what moral grounds are the SEBAC union bosses basing their fight to prevent a democratic vote by the rank-and-file?

The mere fact that the union bosses are spending time and money (money paid to them by their members) to keep their members from exercising a basic right of choice is reason enough to vote them out. (And anyone that fails to recognize that can fall back on the fact that they locked us out of the negotiations, sacrificed our benefits for their own political ends, and rigged the game to make sure they got their way.)

Sure, state workers are the union bosses’ biggest source of union dues—by far. Sure more members lead to more political clout. I get why the selfish b@$!@*s are fighting our right to vote. What I don’t get is how they justify it.

—perturbed

posted by: perturbed | February 2, 2012  9:07pm

perturbed

On “Attachment H,” this story has me confused.

The “current battle” over Attachment H?

“The SEBAC unions have maintained that Attachment H is standard legal language, which doesn’t allow any of the SEBAC membership to go after each others’ members.”

Reading this article, one would almost get the impression there is still some doubt that Attachment H is illegitimate. How could that be?

In case anyone missed it, ctnewsjunkie reported (Outside Union Optimistic About Labor Petition):

“Subpoenaed computer records indicate the controversial “Attachment H” to the state employee bargaining agreement was not finalized until after union members voted on it, according to a lawyer looking to call a union election.”

Not only that, dozens of eyewitnesses at the January 11, 2012 formal hearing before the Labor Board clearly heard LABOR RELATIONS DIRECTOR LINDA YELMINI ADMIT UNDER OATH THAT “ATTACHMENT H” WAS NOT COMPLETED BEFORE THE VOTE.

With physical evidence supported by the testimony—under oath—of the Labor Relations Director, why is Attachment H even being discussed anymore? It’s already been proven to be a desperate lie.

—perturbed

posted by: perturbed | February 3, 2012  7:45am

perturbed

Looks like the Hartford Courant finally decided to dedicate some ink (or is it only electrons?) to this story:

As State Workers Seek New Unions, Critics Say State Should Stay Out Of The Fight

This article may also generate more confusion, by reporting the SEBAC/Malloy teams bogus claims without providing the facts. For example, related to the headline, the story reports:

“Malloy’s administration and representatives for the state Judicial Branch and state Division of Criminal Justice say there’s nothing unusual about sending attorneys to protect an existing contract.”

The fact—which should have been reported—is that there is absolutely no threat to the existing contract!

That’s a sad excuse for the SEBAC/Malloy team to use for bringing in the hired guns, and a red herring in the hearings at the Labor Board. State employees’ right to choose their own unions has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the SEBAC 2011 agreement. State employees will be bound by that agreement no matter who represents them.

By the way, if anybody ever doubted the fact that the clandestine SEBAC 2011 negotiations were conducted by a single bargaining “team” composed of Malloy officials and SEBAC union lawyers and bosses, just attend one of the upcoming hearings on February 9 or February 15 at the Labor Board’s Wethersfield office. You’ll witness hired lawyers paid by state taxpayer money sitting side by side with SEBAC lawyers paid by state employees dues teaming up against the right for state employees to select their own unions. They practically finish each others sentences!

The SEBAC scoundrels want to keep the state employees’ union dues spigot gushing, and the Malloy administration wants to ensure the SEBAC political machinery will still work for him in the next election. (Someone should clue him in that state employees will never vote for him again. Maybe Malloy’s own henchmen aren’t even honest with him.)

—perturbed

posted by: RJEastHartford | February 3, 2012  6:36pm

Why is this is a story? In light of recent news about an under funded pension account, subsequent credit downgrade and a deficit in the operating budget? Perhaps the story should be that these employees agree that structural changes in pension and healthcare have to be made now, not the tinkering in the margins. The voters and these legislators agree with them. As for the expense of state funds as a referee here, better to begin privatizing a lot of these functions.
Again, something the voters can agree on.

posted by: justsaying | February 3, 2012  10:11pm

I just want to preface my comments by saying that I am a lifelong registered Democrat, pro-choice, pro heath care reform, pro 1% needs to pay more taxes, and most definitely pro union.  CSEA P-4 has been there for me and my fellow engineers for my entire career.  That said, I’m extremely disappointed with the behavior of CSEA leadership in regards to Attachment H.  I ask our union leadership to stop insulting the intelligence of it’s membership by continuing with their lies regarding this fraudulent document.  There never was an Attachment H presented to the membership prior to the vote on the TA (which by the way I voted for).  In fact, I or anybody else I work with, had ever heard of Attachment H until just prior to the Labor Board hearings (and please don’t insult me by saying I was just oblivious to the attachment…I carefully read every document presented to the membership prior to the vote on the TA and attended every informational meeting held at our building). How can anybody claim we voted to approve something that was never shown to us?  Based on everything I’ve read in regards to this matter, it’s clear to me that those members wishing to hold a vote on whether to keep CSEA or move onto UPSEU have meet the necessary criteria and should be given the opportunity for a vote that is rightfully theirs to take.  CSEA should respect the rights of their membership.
CSEA can either stand proudly on their accomplishments and campaign for a vote of confidence, or they can choose to cower under the lies of Attachment H (or any other legal dodge) and lose the respect of their long time, formerly proud members.

posted by: sharewhut | February 3, 2012  10:54pm

RJ- part of the news worthiness is that the state, aided by people supposedly representing employees, extorted and flat out stole (by changing rules and less than full disclosure)REAL money (despite what you choose to think it IS real money out of our pockets) from state workers both now and down the road. Money which instead saved or used to shore up current situation was rolled right into new spending programs.And in a way is now being used, along with union dues to suppress the right to choose of the people who did the giving.
Obviously, the component units of SEBAC aren’t secure enough that they acted in the interest of the membership to let it be tested. If they were, they’d save all sides a lot of time & money and allow the votes, which if they are doing their jobs to the satisfaction of members, would be a no brainer win for them and discourage future attempts and they could go on fat and happy forever.

posted by: RJEastHartford | February 4, 2012  6:13pm

Interesting, giving up real money? From most news accounts employees still have defined benefit pensions, free or highly subsidized health care in retirement and job protections. Your pockets are filled by other peoples taxes. It seems to me the unions have protected you and other state workers against the wrath of this long recession with the political power you now decry. Take a hard look at what is happening in the private sector. It certainly would be newsworthy if this power is diminished by union members and legislators like these who want to do right by the state and its’ taxpayers. As one of the Republican candidates for President has said “We need to bring these wages and benefits in line with the private sector.” Perhaps middle class residents would like to have their tax burden reduced rather than plowing the money into more spending for employees or anything else.

posted by: waniac | February 4, 2012  10:14pm

Hey Rj , I’ve had enough of the poor private sector BS. Every day, I fight against private sector companies trying to overcharge the state taxpayers. That’s how they make their money. Lowball to get a contact, then overcharge for additional work. You privatization chanters are delusional if you expect any meaningful savings. The money will just be going to someone else. You may not care about the internal union workings stories but some people do. The present compensation system is in place because the state has no political stomach to reward workers with big raises when times are booming,or laying off thousands during bad. Can you imagine what 5,000 layoffs would have done to the local economy?  The unions had the state right where they wanted them. The bad news for state employees is, that the union leaders got what they wanted.

posted by: perturbed | February 5, 2012  12:22am

perturbed

RJEastHartford wrote:

“Take a hard look at what is happening in the private sector.”

“As one of the Republican candidates for President has said ‘We need to bring these wages and benefits in line with the private sector.’”

Are you suggesting, RJEastHartford, that instead of earning 2 to 4 times the average employee’s wages, state commissioners and top level managers should earn 300 times the average employee’s wages—like in the esteemed private sector? And to pay for that outrageous compensation mass layoffs need to take place—and public services slashed accordingly? And the employees on the remaining skeleton crews need to have their wages and benefits cut, because those at the top want raises to make 350 to 400 times the average worker’s pay? And the immediate bottom line rules so completely that the long term viability of the service being provided is no longer important. Maintenance is deferred. Facilities become outdated and inefficient. “Long term” planning extends only as far as the next quarter. Do you really think that model would be good for the state?

I don’t know about East Hartford, but in my town we got an up-close look at what happens under those conditions last October. CL&P operates that way.

And as far as “tax burdens” go, we’re all enjoying one of the lowest tax climates in our nation’s history. Hearing all the belly-aching about taxes being too high is getting laughable. You’d think tax rates are at unprecedented highs, when almost the opposite is true. You must either be young, or you have a very poor memory.

Here, let me remind you:

Top marginal income tax rates from 1913 to 2011.

If middle class residents had any sense at all they’d realize it’s not high taxes that’s hurting them, it’s the fact that the top tax rates are too low.

—perturbed

posted by: ... | February 5, 2012  4:00pm

...

I’m sure RJ means the average workforce and small time contractors that are consistent with the small business that fuel a majority of the economy and often receive public works contracts, not a monopolized energy provider.

But of course I favor having a publicly financed option that is readily available in the case of emergency or immediate work to be executed.

Most people take to issue when there is a large group that monopolizes an industry or services, pays its execs/leaders top dollar, and the rest get substandard benefits in comparison. However, while certain measures have been taken to streamline government and make every taxpayer’s dollar invested in public workers as effective as possible, I still believe the state offers higher wages and fairly well paid jobs in order to attract the best skilled workers to support their state any way they can.

posted by: RJEastHartford | February 6, 2012  10:20pm

I am some what surprised perturbed, I thought you are of the Republican persuasion regarding economic policy.
Thanks for the reply.

posted by: perturbed | February 7, 2012  3:30am

perturbed

@jonessAC12—over the long term, state wages are typically out of phase with comparable private sector wages. With four year contracts, and the typical economic cycles, state wages are at times higher (and the benefits seem more attractive) than private equivalents, and at times state wages are lower (and the benefits don’t seem so persuasive). Sure, right now, in the throws of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, state employment appears to enjoy decent wages, and people once again see the value in job security and defined benefit retirement plans.

However, as recently as 2007 starting salaries at our agency couldn’t even attract any nibbles from qualified graduates. Wages were maybe 20% higher on the outside, and a pension seemed inconsequential by comparison. (Who knew they’d ever break their pension promises back then?) Job security? Nobody gave it a thought.

Back in 2007, when we were actually recruiting, state employment interested virtually nobody qualified. Now that there are hundreds of highly qualified candidates clamoring at the door, the state refuses to hire them. Go figure. (And they’re no less needed now than they were in 2007.)

After four years of strong economic recovery (yes, that will certainly happen someday), state wages will once again fall below the private equivalents. And then, I suspect, politicians will end their calls for state wages to be brought into line with the private sector.

Until the next recession.

@RJEastHartford—Someone sent me this quiz a year or so ago:

World’s Smallest Political Quiz

FWIW, I scored “Centrist”.

(Though criticisms of today’s short sighted corporate governance might span the political spectrum.)

—perturbed

posted by: sharewhut | February 7, 2012  10:56pm

RJ-
FWlittleIW-
Like Perturbed I consider myself ‘Centrist-ish’. And you’d be surprised how many state employees fall into this class. I’ve been a registered Repub for 30+ years, and a moderate conservative socially and fiscally (on a scale of 0= ultra lib: free abortions for all and if they won’t give a bonus for each kid to 100= abortion is a capital offense)I’d fall somewhere around 55-60). I can vouch that NP-4 is way more NRA than ACLU.
I’ve always been accepting of the fact that a Repub Gov means I’ll have to fight harder for less at negotiation time but keep more of it. As opposed to a Dem who may give more, but will take even more in taxes for redistribution.
I think that this holds true for agencies like DOC, DPS, DPW (forgive my referring to them pre-condensing) that aren’t dependent on inflated social services spending for survival.
And to see our alleged representatives honing the knives of our alleged ‘allies’ seeking to gut us in a way that Foley would never have been allowed to is painful. This state is unable to perform (well in a reasonable manner) without an adversarial relationship between legislature and Executive branches.