Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed her own clean contracting bill the Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend, because it contained anti-privatization language demanded by state employee unions.She vetoed a telecom bill strongly supported by the Communications Workers of America, who had argued the legislation would protect their jobs.She vetoed a bill requiring the state to issue an impact statement any time it wanted to lay off its own employees.So how did the Connecticut AFL-CIO receive Rell at its convention today in New Haven?
Politely.Except for the “Privatization Equals Corruption” signs plastered throughout the Omni Hotel ballroom, delegates treated Rell with respect. The governor gave a short speech and predictably did not bring up any of the labor bills she killed. Nor did AFL-CIO President John Olson, who once chaired the state Democratic Party.Rell stayed on safe ground, talking about her administration’s accomplishments and challenges. She received lukewarm applause twice- after saying she believed Connecticut had “the highest skilled workforce,” and after thanking those state employees that volunteered to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.“All of us want better wages and affordable health care,” Rell said, but added, “I must balance those issues with others in the state budget.” After the event, Rell joked with delegates as she posed for a photo. Instead of ‘cheese,’ she said: “Stay within the spending cap!“Asked why anyone in the convention should vote for her- given her track record on labor issues this past session- Rell said, “You might ask them.“She then explained that her veto of the telecom bill was based on an ethical question raised about the legislation. The governor did not address any of the other bills she vetoed. [The telecom bill, backed by SBC and the Communication Workers, would have made it easier for SBC to bring certain products to market. But one of the company’s competitors complained about a possible conflict of interest on the part of one of the negotiators from the Department of Public Utility Control, who denied the charge.] Rell told reporters that her visit to the labor convention was part of her continuing effort to be open and reach out to different groups. Not surprisingly, some delegates were not impressed with Rell’s speech. “With the issues important to us, nothing was touched,” said Tom Conway, a delegate with AFSCME Local 1565, a correction officers’ unit. Asked if he thought it was hypocritical for the governor to come to the convention, Conway shrugged.“She’s campaigning,” he said. “It’s election time.”