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State Workers Rally For Union Choice

by Christine Stuart | Dec 20, 2011 6:30am
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo

Workers rally outside the Labor Department’s Wethersfield offices

About two dozen state employees rallied Monday outside the Board of Labor Relations to voice their support for a petition that will give them a choice between unions.

“We want the choice to vote,” Bob Reilly, a member of the P-4 CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 bargaining group said Monday as he stood in line to get into the standing room only hearing.

Reilly, an engineer with the Department of Transportation, said back in the day CSEA was a good union, but it lost its way and became more invested in bolstering the union than its members. That’s why he and hundreds of his colleagues signed petition cards with the United Public Service Employees Union—a union that currently doesn’t represent any state employees.

UPSEU does represent about 100 police unions and local bargaining groups in Connecticut, but has a larger presence in neighboring state’s like New York. It has been trying to pick up state employee unions in Connecticut since at least 2005 when it tried to organize some police dispatchers.

Stan Juber, another DOT worker and member of CSEA.SEIU Local 2001, said morale has been at an all time low amongst members of the P-4 bargaining group since the SEBAC concession package was passed back in August.

In addition, the bargaining group is fractured into two groups—those that want a different union and those who don’t.

“They just raised dues again and every day we’re finding out our health care has gotten worse under the new agreement,” John Vitale, another member of the P-4 bargaining unit added.

Vitale, Juber, and Reilly were just a couple of the state employees who are rallying for a change in their union representation. Nearly 6,000 state employees from five unions have signed cards saying they want to have a vote on which union represents them.

Even though 30 percent the union’s membership returned cards, the Board of Labor Relations must decide if they filed the petition during a time that the current unions were without a contract.

Barbara Resnick, an attorney for UPSEU, told the Board of Labor Relations Monday that the cards were handed out between the first and second votes on the SEBAC agreement. She argued the current contracts were expired during that time. In fact, she argued the contracts expired June 30.

But Saranne Murray of Shipman & Goodwin, who represents the Judicial Branch said the General Assembly endorsed the SEBAC agreement June 30th when it passed legislation in special session to endorse the agreement, even though the unions had yet to agree to it. The unions didn’t conclude the second vote until late August and while the legislature reserved the right to return and accept or reject it, it never did. Instead, it allowed it to be adopted automatically after five days.

“In short, we believe the statute governs in this matter,” Murray told the three-member panel of the Labor Relations Board.

She told the board that there was a collective bargaining agreement in effect when the UPSEU petitions were submitted. She said the next time UPSEU is allowed to file a petition will be in August 2015, a year before the contract expires.

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

“I don’t think this board can provide any kind of remedy to the issues that are before us now,” Gagne said.

Christine Stuart iphone photo Brian Doyle, another attorney representing AFT Judicial Professionals, agreed.

“This panel does not have any other option, but to dismiss,” he said.

Resnick, UPSEU’s attorney, argued that the bargaining units filed the petitions between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31 prior to the expiration of the contract. She said she objects to the notion that the window to file closes simply because the General Assembly pre-voted on a matter.

She said the petitions are certainly a matter the Labor Relations Board can decide under the State Employee Relations Act.

The controversial “Attachment H” which says none of the SEBAC unions can go after members of other SEBAC unions only came up in passing at Monday’s hearing, which was continued until Jan. 11. The state and the attorney’s for the current unions rested their case Monday without calling more than one witness. They argued the burden of proof is on UPSEU.

In addition to state employees vying for a change in union leadership, Correction officers like Lisamarie Fontano, president of AFSCME Local 387, attended Monday’s hearing to offer support to her “brothers and sisters” in CSEA/SEIU Local 2001. The petition for the Correctional Captains and Lieutenants was one of the five being discussed Monday.

The National Correctional Employees Union petition for AFSCME’s Correction officers was dismissed last week and Fontano said she just came to offer her support to the captains and lieutenants of CSEA/SEIU Local 2001.

“We’re all in this together. We all work together and we all survive together,” Fontano said.

Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, has characterized UPSEU as a “business group trying to poach existing union members,” from other unions instead of going out to organize its own.

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(7) Comments

posted by: perturbed | December 20, 2011  8:13am

perturbed

It’s noteworthy that the corrupt AFSCME and CSEA/SEIU representatives would be described as “brothers and sisters.” They do indeed resemble a mob family: with a sense of entitlement and immunity, an attitude that they are above the law. On January 11, 2012, it will be interesting to see if they are willing to lie under oath to the Labor Board. (Would that be perjury, or does it not rise to that legal bar?)

As a members of several unions that prevented state workers’ true representation during the clandestine SEBAC/Malloy contract negotiations, my “brothers and sisters” and I—the rank-and-file, not the elite union bosses—are desperate to escape their domination. Developments yesterday, by a trusted account, were very, very encouraging. Though the state and the union bosses have united, forming a bank of nearly a dozen lawyers to fend off one or two attorneys representing state workers wishing merely to vote on joining a different union, their numbers only make their pathetic arguments seem all the more silly.

Aside from a couple of truly hopeless defenses (some spurious claim that UPSEU didn’t meet a 6-month test, and the claim that the month-long open window period for petitions that began on August 1, 2011, in accordance with state regulations, had magically closed by the mid-August vote that resulted in a contract extension), their central argument hinges on the existence of a portion of the agreement—Attachment H—that does not exist. Rather, it did not exist, until after the agreement was ratified.

Their defense is so empty, they were afraid to even call any witnesses, claiming the burden of proof is on the unions seeking a democratic vote by the membership, not on those seeking to block it. Apparently, Resnick had to remind them that if it were not for the SEBAC/Malloy team’s objections, the vote would have been approved by the Labor Board and it would have already taken place. If they object, Resnick reasoned, the burden is on them to at least present some kind of an argument as to why they object. It’s tough to find any flaws in that reasoning.

The UPSEU attorney, on the other hand, was reported to present several convincing arguments in favor of allowing a vote. Yes, she noted that the regulated window period for filing petitions—the entire month of August—couldn’t be closed retroactively, and that Attachment H did not exist at the time the agreement was ratified. (There are only roughly 50,000 state employees that can attest to never having seen Attachment H before the vote. How on earth these people can make this astounding, Orwellian claim and keep from bursting out in laughter is beyond me. It only highlights their grim determination to keep our union dues flowing, and their absolute corruption.) But Resnick’s most direct appeal for justice addressed the intent of the regulations. The regulations allowing petitions for members seeking to change unions were developed in the interest of balancing labor rights with the need for stability. The one-month August window period has typically happened once every 4 years. If the SEBAC/Malloy team’s (hollow) objections are allowed to stand, the contract extension produced by SEBAC 2011 would effectively lock in place the power of the existing union bosses for an unchallenged period of 8 years, from 2007 to 2015. This clearly violates the spirit of the labor regulations.

This is all very encouraging, as it now seems unimaginable the Labor Board could side with the union bosses on this one.

—perturbed

posted by: Sadie | December 20, 2011  12:28pm

First, I would like to address an article in today’s New Haven Register, by Mary O’Leary, in which a stipulation was signed that the workers approved “Attachment H”.  Whoever signed that stipulation is a downright liar.  I voted on the SEBAC agreement and Attachment H was not party of the TA, I voted on.  In fact, it was added after the fact.  I will swear to it, on the record and in front of God.
Although, I agree that UPSEU is not the union for us, I do believe we have the right to vote on which union we want to represent us.  The contract was open, case closed.

posted by: perturbed | December 21, 2011  6:27am

perturbed

Every state employee knows “ATTACHMENT H” is a lie.
.
.
.
Every involved Malloy official knows “ATTACHMENT H” is a lie.
.
.
.
Every union boss knows “ATTACHMENT H” is a lie.
.
.
.
WILL ANY ONE OF THEM BE WILLING TO LIE UNDER OATH, TO COMMIT PERJURY?
.
.
.
Knowing tens of thousands of us are aware their claim is patently false, will any union boss be willing to commit perjury to maintain their member numbers and union dues?

Will any Malloy official be willing to commit perjury to maintain political support from their union boss buddies?

Is any SEBAC lawyer willing to commit perjury?

(Does anybody still question why we are so desperate to get out from under their corrupt rule?)

—perturbed

posted by: logical1 | December 21, 2011  6:45am

I certainly hope that any vote would include the choice to not be in a union at all.

posted by: newview | December 21, 2011  7:32pm

“WILL ANY ONE OF THEM BE WILLING TO LIE UNDER OATH, TO COMMIT PERJURY?”

You really .....really….don’t want to know.

posted by: perturbed | December 21, 2011  10:35pm

perturbed

@newview—I know, I know. One can hope for some small shred of decency in those crooked b^$*&@ds, no? Alright, never mind. Just like the mob, their only twisted code of honor is among themselves: the union bosses and the union bosses’ lawyers.

But the Labor Board, what about them? They seem like an intelligent, discerning group. If they were to accept such a bald-faced lie, that would make them complicit in the crime. Are they willing to become criminals also?

Is this whole process really that corrupt? On the face of it, the SEBAC/Malloy team has absolutely no shot—none!—at a ruling in their favor. How on earth could the Labor Board abdicate their responsibility so completely?

I’m still holding out hope in them…

—perturbed

posted by: perturbed | January 12, 2012  7:39am

perturbed

Well…? Did the union bosses perjure themselves yesterday?

Did anybody even cover this?

—perturbed