District 1199, an SEIU local and solid Democratic Party ally, feels legislative leadership betrayed and stonewalled them during recent budget talks. Now they’re picketing Democratic fundraisers, with plans to leaflet House Majority Leader Chris Donovan’s (D-Meriden) event next week. Donovan works as an organizer for another SEIU local and has been a longtime union stalwart. With friends like these…

They thought this was the year. For multiple legislative sessions, nursing home workers’ local District 1199- along with management- lobbied the state to access more federal dollars through a complex reimbursement system, where nursing homes pay a special provider tax in order to receive matching Medicaid dollars.Former Gov. John Rowland resisted the plan. But this year, Gov. M. Jodi Rell agreed to go after the money.Just one problem: In her budget proposal, Rell didn’t allocate all the $118 million for nursing homes, but only $55 million, with the rest earmarked for other services. Democratic leaders appeared at a press conference with union leaders and promised to restore the funds in the final budget, said District 1199 spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff. [Note: After being interviewed, Chernoff later called ctnewsjunkie.com to clarify that all of her comments were intended as her own personal observations, and not the union’s official position. District 1199 apparently has no formal comment for this story.]But when the final budget passed, nursing homes only received the reduced amount, and Chernoff said at least $80-90 million is needed to stabilize the industry. “If there had been a big fight over the budget and we lost, that would have been one thing,” she said. “But it was not just that we didn’t see the results. We didn’t see the fight, either.“Not only that, but legislative leadership refused to meet with union leaders while the budget was being crafted, Chernoff said. “We would have been disappointed, we might have been angry, but that would have been different than this avoidance syndrome,” she said.So last month, union staffers handed out fliers at a House Democratic caucus fundraiser at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. And it is possible they will leaflet an event next week planned by House Majority Leader Chris Donovan (D-Meriden).Donovan works as an organizer for the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges, a separate SEIU local. He’s also been a longtime union backer, having served for several terms as the Labor Committee’s co-chairman before becoming majority leader.Chernoff said the actions against House leadership aren’t intended to be personal, but rather to make them pay attention to nursing home issues and not to take union support for granted.“You can’t help but take it personally,” Donovan responded, adding that some groups are upset with the budget, while others are very happy.“Did we get them a lot more money than they ever had? Yes,” Donovan said. “Is it enough for them? No.“By targeting Democratic leadership, the union plays a delicate game. They risk closing off their leading elected allies when there will always be more budgets to pass and opting out of the legislative system is impossible. However, the union does have leverage because they provide major manpower during elections for Democratic candidates, including those who backed House Speaker Jim Amann (D-Milford) for his leadership post. For example, District 1199 foot soldiers played a major role in state Rep. Douglas McCrory’s (D-Hartford) primary upset over Annette Carter last fall. Carter supported state Rep. Bill Dyson (D-New Haven) against Amann for the speakership.