Christine Stuart photo

Lawmakers joined state police captains and lieutenants Thursday in calling on Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration to stop blocking their right to unionize with costly court appeals.

This past May, New Britain Superior Court Judge Henry Cohn backed the right of state police captains and lieutenants to organize a union, but a private law firm hired by the state’s Office of Policy and Management has appealed that decision to a higher court.

Lt. Edward Gould, vice president of the CSEA/SEIU Local 2001union, said Thursday that the state should, “put good government ahead of political ideology.”

Christine Stuart photo

The Office of Policy and Management, which hired the law firm Kainen, Escalera and McHale after Attorney General Richard Blumenthal declined to take the case, was unable to comment on Thursday’s press conference because the case is still pending.

Captain Thomas Garbedian said Robert Genuario, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said in June that by allowing police managers to form a union it would divide their loyalties.

According to a Hartford Courant article published shortly after the lower court’s decision upholding their right to organize, Genuario said “the agency does not want police supervisors’ loyalties ‘split between the interest of the [state police] department and the interest of the bargaining unit’.”

However, Garbedian said that argument doesn’t make much sense, since about 95 percent of state employees are union members. He said all his colleagues are looking for is “the right to sit around the table and resolve the issues by working together.”

Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, urged the Rell administration to “do the right thing and sit down and talk to these folks.”

Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, said “who would want to be a lieutenant or captain under these circumstances.”

Gould said there aren’t many master sergeants or sergeants taking the test to get promoted to lieutenant or captain because in some instances it means they’ll be taking a cut in pay. During the last testing period, only 38 of the eligible 170 sergeants and master sergeants showed up to take the written exam, he said.

One of the reasons eligible state police sergeants and master sergeants may not be seeking a promotion to lieutenant or captain is because there is no overtime pay for lieutenants or captains, Garbedian said. He said they do get compensation time, but the compensation time is not time and a half as required by law.

Rep. David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, said Thursday that organizing a union wasn’t their first instinct. He said the captains and lieutenants tried to work their issues out with at least two Department of Public Safety commissioners and it was only out of frustration that they went the extra step to try and unionize.

About 50 captains and lieutenants voted to join CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, which seeks to ensure that the supervisors receive overtime pay rather than compensation, and would give them more leverage against disciplinary actions.

The state through its private law firm has asked the higher court to reconsider three issues on appeal. Click here to read the preliminary statement of the issues.