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State Withdraws Request For Review of Labor Case Dating Back to Rowland Administration

by Christine Stuart | Dec 9, 2013 6:49pm
(19) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Courts, Election 2014, Labor, Legal, Pension

Christine Stuart photo

Attorney General George Jepsen

Attorney General George Jepsen on Monday notified Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and former Gov. John G. Rowland that he had withdrawn a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the unanimous decision of an appeals court in favor of Connecticut’s labor unions.

While state has the ability at any point to decide to refile the petition, Jepsen said he thought withdrawing it now and beginning negotiations with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition will put the state in the best bargaining position to negotiate a settlement.

Earlier this year, an appeals court found that the state, under Rowland’s leadership, was wrong to lay off about 2,800 employees. The damages in the case and exposure to the state could climb into the tens of millions of dollars, but since negotiations haven’t started neither side wants to throw out a number.

Jepsen, a former labor attorney who ran on a ticket against Rowland in 2002, said he tries to “strip away the politics” and think about a case as if he was in private practice trying to get the best outcome for his client.

“This is the time of maximum leverage,” Jepsen said.

If the petition for review was denied three or four months from now, the state would be sitting across the negotiating table from an “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards,” Jepsen said Monday at a press conference.

David Golub, the Stamford attorney who is representing the union coalition, sent a letter to Jepsen on Dec. 2 to tell him “that it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will decide to hear the case or reverse the Second Circuit.”

The U.S. Supreme Court received more than 7,000 petitions during the 2011-12 term and issued 64 signed opinions. Jepsen said the chances that the court would decide to review the case are slim considering the Second Circuit decision was unanimous and the circumstances of the underlying complaint were unique.

A three-judge panel found that it was wrong for Rowland and his budget chief, Marc Ryan, to lay off more than 2,800 state employees because they belonged to a union. Rowland and Ryan are being held personally liable for their decision.

“Defendants have not shown why the state’s fiscal health required firing only union members, rather than implementing membership-neutral layoffs,” Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for the panel in June.

In a statement, Rowland and Ryan, expressed disappointment in Jepsen’s decision to withdraw the petition and weren’t confident a settlement could be reached before the Supreme Court makes a decision to hear the case.

“We are mystified about why the state would now relent on this case at this critical juncture,” the statement reads.

Rowland and Ryan also have filed a petition with the court to review the appeals court decision. They maintain that if the Second Circuit decision stands, it “fundamentally hobbles public sector chief executives at all levels during the collective bargaining process. It will turn the collective bargaining process on its head and so favor unions in negotiations that public sector finances will be critically undermined in the future.”

Attorney Daniel Klau, who represents Rowland and Ryan, declined comment.

In his Dec. 2 letter, Golub maintained that the circumstances and facts were unique to the Rowland administration.

“The plaintiff unions did not challenge the constitutionality of the layoffs in either 2011 or 1991,” Golub wrote. “As you know, the case was decided by the Second Circuit on the basis of a highly-particularized stipulation of facts entered into for tactical reasons by the prior administration and prior counsel.”

Malloy applauded Jepsen’s decision to withdraw the request for review.

“By agreeing to withdraw the appeal for now and pursue negotiations while preserving the right to appeal to the Supreme Court at a later date, the Attorney General is putting Connecticut in a position to get the best possible resolution for Connecticut taxpayers,” Malloy said.

Jepsen said the state has made no request to Rowland to withdraw his petition for review of the decision. Rowland’s request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision is based more on his individual liability, Jepsen said.

At a Monday press conference, Jepsen, who served as head of the Democratic Party for one year during Rowland’s tenure as governor, said the conversation informing Rowland of the state’s decision to withdraw was “very cordial.”

“John Rowland’s a very capable analyst,” Jepsen said, adding that what people have to understand is that if the state does not reach a negotiated settlement, there will be a hearing on damages and what’s decided at that hearing would be a final judgment. The state General Assembly would be asked to approve any settlement over $2.5 million.

During an half-hour press conference, Jepsen maintained that his decision the withdraw the complaint had nothing to do with politics or his relationship with organized labor or gubernatorial politics.

“Dan Malloy didn’t create this mess. It was one of the many messes that he inherited in this state,” Jepsen said.

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(19) Comments

posted by: dano860 | December 10, 2013  8:11am

R&R knew that they were ‘doing wrong’ but at least they confronted the Union! These guys are rolling over for them.
Golub tells Jepsen ‘your going to lose’ and Jepsen says, ‘yup’!
To make a statement that an “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards,” will be sitting across the table at negotiations is crazy. That is a complete roll over to the Unions.
Without a doubt the State needs to reduce its employment rolls, if you have ever had anything to do with any of the agencies you know that very few people recant good experiences.

posted by: LongJohn47 | December 10, 2013  11:28am

Dano—Rowland was clearly wrong and the unanimous Appeals Court ruling makes it almost impossible for SCOTUS to take up this case.

Why is “confronting the Union” so important?  Shouldn’t the objective be “working with the Union” to get the very best services for our taxpayers at the most reasonable cost?

Union members are human beings too, with families, kids in schools, participation in community life of their towns and the state.  Most of them (like people in other walks of life) work hard and take pride in what they do.  How have they become the enemy?

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 10, 2013  11:58am

Long John, “at the most reasonable cost”?  LOL

This issue was not caused by the present union members. When people like FDR and George Meaney say that allowing public sector employees to unionize is a bad idea, people should have listened.

Long John, I have a relative who has been a state worker for 30 years. Or is it 27 years? I dont know because she is off so much with every little health exuse imaginable I dont know how one really counts work time.

Her job is not stressful, she doesnt travel overnight away from family like I do, but when she retires she will do so comfortably while I have to hope and pray that the stock market does what I want it to, to EVER retire. The stress will kill me first I’m sure.

Are they people too? Sure, but many of them have too good of a deal for the work they do. Notice I didnt say “all.”

posted by: Matt W. | December 10, 2013  12:00pm

Matt W.

This is the biggest story that will not make headlines. Jepsen is going to waste millions in settlement $ so that he can establish the precedent that union employees cannot be treated equally with non-union employees. 

LongJohn, the employees were not laid off b/c they were members of the union. The non-union employees accepted the administration’s offer so there was no need to lay them off.  The union employees rejected it and that is what triggered the layoffs.  It wasn’t an attack on unions it was treating everyone equally.

posted by: ABC | December 10, 2013  1:15pm

LongJohn - They have become the enemy because the unions and their political lap-dogs (including the phony CT. RINOs) conspire to soak the taxpayers who are the “human beings” who actually go to work and are forced to support, through payroll withholding robbery, the b.s. “work rules” and extraordinary compensation of people who don’t have to compete for their jobs other than when they filled out their initial job application.

When taxpayers begin to enjoy the same defined pension plan, guaranteed multi-year raises not tied to any kind of performance, a no lay-off guarantee, a full retirement in their 50s, full family healthcare without employee contributions, no qualitative job requirements other than to show up at work, not even a slap on the wrist for breaking the law by fraudulently taking storm relief food dollars, arguing for “work rules” which actually prohibit employees from having after-hours or weekend access to the workplace offices, defrauding the disability claim office for $400K when the employee is perfectly capable of earning a living - and defended by the union in court, and the list goes on and on - thats when we can all join hands and sing “This Land is Your Land”.

This latest roll-over to the public sector labor unions is purely a desperate cynical political ploy in advance of next year’s election. 

Public sector unions need to be abolished before its too late for CT. And we need a Governor with some stones (see: Walker, Christy) and an opposition party worthy of the name.

posted by: Scott2014 | December 10, 2013  2:30pm

While it is true that non-union took a cut back and the unions didn’t caused the layoffs, the problem is the way they went about it. Had they just gone through the standard union layoff process, there would not have been a lawsuit. Rowland/Ryan specifically tried to get at (target) union leadership by dropping entire classes of jobs. Agencies were told what jobs title to layoff, even if the agency want to layoff different jobs based upon their business needs. They were also told that the agency couldn’t save money elsewhere to reduce the number of layoffs. It was VERY clear that this was targeted and a punishment. The Second Circuit decision is unlikely to be over turned if reviewed. It is also very likely that the Supreme Court would not review this case. The State would then be in the worst posible poistion. This is a smart decision by Jepsen.

posted by: Scott2014 | December 10, 2013  2:34pm

Just a follow-up. I agree with the other commentors that the union rules are dumb. You have a right to associate so getting rid of unions is impossible. The next best thing would be to remove the power they have by removing binding arbitration, pensions and healthcare from collective bargaining.

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 10, 2013  2:47pm

Long John not sure what you do for a living but remember this prediction as I hope we can banter on this board over the next few years.

Walker from Wisconsin will be the Republican nominee because people around this country are sick of the special treatment public sector union people get not just in CT but other states and federal. The poor govt workers during the govt shutdown get their missed pay a few months later, but private sector workers that were laid off dont. Maybe on the planet Mercury that’s fair.

posted by: dano860 | December 10, 2013  3:37pm

LongJohn, Yes they are people, my daughter is a State employee in Massachusetts and she has no choice in belonging to the Union. If she did she might stay but the fact of the matter is that they take her dues and put it toward candidates that she would never support. Their PAC is a waste of time and cash to her and many of her fellow workers. The same holds true in this State, they do not have a say in how their money is directed. Therefore they don’t feel they are being duly represented by the Union.
If they were given the option of belonging or not more would bale than would stay.
JBJ is correct, we need to follow Wisconsin and other ‘right to work’ States so we can bring in some business.
Look at Boeing, the Union rejected their offer and they are now looking for a ‘right to work’ State that will give them a tax break for the 777X manufacturing work. Yes, they are pulling it out of Seattle.
Boeing Seeks Best Tax Package As It Decides Where To Locate Its 777X Factory.
The Wall Street Journal (12/10, Subscription Publication) reports that Boeing is seeking the best set of tax incentives from state governments that are seeking to lure the company’s new plant to construct the 777X. For example, Missouri is offering $150 million annually in incentives to lure the company, while the Washington State Legislature last month approved a package valued at $8.7 billion over 16 years.
We’re giving $115 M to a hedge fund!

posted by: LongJohn47 | December 10, 2013  3:38pm

Scott—it’s difficult to “remove” anything from collective bargaining unless both sides agree—that’s why they call it “collective”.  And arbitration is there because the unions gave up the right to strike.

Joe—I’m retired.  During my career I worked for Fortune 100 companies both here and abroad.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | December 10, 2013  6:37pm

LongJohn, like any entity and as they should, unions pursue what they think is in their best interest, somewhat or substantially modified by the extent of their leaders pursuing their own interest. Probably most commentators wouldn’t begrudge your comment (“Union members are human beings too, with families, kids in schools, participation in community life of their towns and the state.  Most of them (like people in other walks of life) work hard and take pride in what they do.  How have they become the enemy?”). However, much of the frustration and resentment is that, in this state anyway, the Democrat party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the unions (especially the public sector unions), and as a consequence of that the rules of the game are unfairly bent in their favor, to the serious financial detriment of the rest of us, individual taxpayers and businesses.  So “confronting the union” is merely trying to re-balance the scales.  They’ve been aggressive advocates for their interests, and now the taxpayers should do the same.

posted by: Scott2014 | December 10, 2013  9:03pm

Longjohn, “Collective” refers to the state employees collectively bargaining with the state. What you bargain over was granted by the legislature. Bills have been presented to remove pension and healthcare but the democrats will not make the change because they are supported by the unions. This was done successfully in Wisconsin.

posted by: mmal231294 | December 11, 2013  12:10pm

Wow. Just when you think our State leaders could get no closer to the union, they roll over and fornicate for all to see. And I love the “they are not the enemy” crapola. The unions stated purpose is to make as much money for their members as they can. They are taking that money from ME and you! That puts them at the opposite end of the table. I guess if you want to be all P.C. about it you could call them “financial competitors”?!? I’d laugh but this isn’t even funny.

posted by: LongJohn47 | December 11, 2013  12:36pm

Scott—I don’t know the rules in Wisconsin, but here in CT the unions signed agreements with Governor Rowland and Governor Rell that protected their benefits in return for giving up certain rights under collective bargaining. 

That’s called a contract, and both sides had to agree.  And, yes, the Legislature went along both times, so they’re responsible too.

Malloy, when he took over, was in many ways boxed in.  You might not like the deals he made, but there were few alternatives given what his predecessors had done.

I understand that many of you don’t like the agreements and would prefer to strip away many of the benefits.  Elect a different governor and legislature and come to the table ready to negotiate when the agreements expire.  But talking about “confronting the unions” is just so much hot air.

posted by: ABC | December 11, 2013  1:31pm

LongJohn - I for one would love to see strike rights returned in exchange for doing away with binding arbitration.  How is that for a “bargain”?

Binding arbitration is just another corrupt way to increase union strength.  In binding arbitration you get big gains in good years and incremental gains in bad years.  Never a big roll back of pay or benefits like the people who pay your freight have to deal with in the productive sector.

But lets face it.  It would never happen because the dirty little secret that the unions and their political shills don’t want us to know, is that the threat of a strike is

If there was a strike among most divisions in the state, you would see about as much fall-out from a work stoppage as we saw from the end-of-the-world aka as “the federal sequestration”.

So what would we see?  Thousands of our unemployed flock to fill state positions.  And it would finally give us the opportunity to recalibrate the balance of compensation to productivity that has gotten so out of whack over the decades thanks to the unholy alliance between public sector labor and their bought-and-paid-for political hacks.

Where is the Republican who will call for the repeal of binding arbitration?

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 11, 2013  2:53pm

Simple question for Long John and others.

Why is it OK for people in the public sector to get better benefits, including retirement, and employment protection than the people in the private sector in similar roles, when it is the private sectors taxes that are confiscated by government that fund the public sector?

If it were the same or similar there would be no discussion.

Let me give you an example of public sector and I’ll take it far away from CT. In the news is a story of a 6 year old boy in Colorado who kissed the hand of a girl classmate who he likes and she likes him. He was suspended from school for sexual harassment. I feel the people that made this decision should lose their jobs today. They wont.

In the private sector if I ran an after school program and that happened, and the girl and her parents had no issues with it, and I went and said you cant come back for awhile Mr 6 year old because you are a sexual harasser, if the day care was mine it would be in financial trouble soon enough from bad press but if I was an employee and made that decision I would be GONE.

Public sector people should probably choose one. Job security for their stupidity or great benefits and retirement if they can last that long.

posted by: LongJohn47 | December 11, 2013  3:17pm

ABC - theoretically I could agree with you, but you’d have to think it through carefully.  State Police on strike?  Not so good. 

Teachers out for a month in January forcing working parents to decide who’s going to stay home with the kids, then finding out that the 180 rule (or whatever the number is) forces classes to continue past the 4th of July, ruining vacations as well?  I don’t think so.

How about the DMV is closed when you need to get that license plate for your new car?  Or ConnDOT stops construction on a major bridge renovation while we wrangle over overtime rules?  I think you would not be happy.

Binding arbitration was seen as a lessor evil to public sector strikes, but maybe it’s structured poorly.  Right now, each side makes its final offer and the arbitrators have to chose one or the other.  No “splitting the baby” allowed. 

This is supposed to force both sides to be as reasonable as possible in fear of losing everything.  Maybe it hasn’t worked so well, but if so perhaps that’s because management hasn’t put the right offers on the table.

So (and again this is theoretical), maybe we should give arbitrators more power to force compromises.  That seems more achievable than completely blowing up the system and having open season for strikes.

posted by: LongJohn47 | December 11, 2013  3:32pm

mmal—I get it that you hate unions, but you still have to talk to them.  It’s a free country, and they have a right to collective bargaining (unless you live in Wisconsin, which you don’t).

Of course they’re trying to maximize benefits for their members.  You would too.

When you buy a car from a dealership, do you get angry that they’re trying to separate you from as much money as possible?

Do you yell at your gas station guy if he’s in a zone with higher prices, which is based solely on the wealth of the area where you live rather than how much the gas cost him?

Did you shake your fist at your insurance company for raising rates last year and the year before and the year before that? 

Yelling at people is not very helpful, even if it makes you feel better.  Every governor has to negotiate agreements with the unions, giving and getting.  No one gets everything they want.

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 11, 2013  4:34pm

How many people after the financial collapse in 2008 have taken a deal where there was no way they could lose their jobs for years unless they did something criminal but the raises they got would be minimal?

I go back to what I said before. Public sector unions should never have happened. If we want good teachers and good cops we’d find a way to pay them so the threat of holding my family hostage so they can strike doesnt play well with me. My kids have had some great teachers that deserve what they get and some horrible teachers that would be fired in the private sector. Why we cant find a happy medium where we pay teachers well but if they mess up they can get fired just like anyone in the private sector can is beyond me.