Christine Stuart photo
Janitors union protests the loss of health care at the Capitol (Christine Stuart photo )

Lawmakers were welcomed back to the state Capitol Wednesday by a few dozen janitors, who may lose their medical benefits because lawmakers failed to amend the Standard Wage Law at the end of the regular session in May.

The Standard Wage Law, which outlines the wages and benefits for nearly 600 janitors working in state-owned buildings, including the state Capitol, sets an arbitrary 30 percent cap on benefit costs. With the skyrocketing costs of health insurance that 30 percent isn’t enough anymore, the union representing the janitors says.

“Legislators should be embarrassed that their inaction will impact the very workers who clean their offices,” Kurt Westby, director of Connecticut Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, said in a press release.

Christine Stuart photo

Majority Leader Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, who was just one of the legislators greeted by the protest Wednesday said, “The good news is that we have a Standard Wage Law in Connecticut.” He said he understands 30 percent doesn’t quite pay for health benefits today and he would talk to leadership about finding the money to get it done next year.

Donovan said since the workers will not be affected until January 2009, “it could be one of the first things we do next year.”

Raising the benefit pay to help these workers maintain the benefits they have would cost the state between $750,000 to $1 million, Westby said a few weeks ago. He said it’s kind of ironic that if the state chooses not to address this during the special session, it may end up paying out more money because many of the 600 workers who may lose their medical insurance would qualify for the state’s Medicaid program that subsidizes health insurance for low-income families.

Westby estimated that the state would end up paying almost $2 million to subsidize health insurance benefits for the 357 workers that qualify.

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