Christine Stuart photo

A group of more than 30 Connecticut janitors paraded outside the state Capitol Monday afternoon before attempting to have Santa Claus deliver a bucket of coal to Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her role in allowing their families to lose health coverage at the start of the New Year.

The Capitol police refused to allow Santa to deliver the bucket of coal, but they did allow two of the union members to deliver a letter to the governor’s spokesman Chris Cooper, who said he would make sure Rell received it.

The union, which represents 600 janitors, said that because the state legislature and Rell failed to amend the Standard Wage Law, more than 350 of its members will be forced onto Husky, the state’s publicly-funded Medicaid program.

Ironically, this will cost the state $1.6 million, when it would only cost the state $1.2 million to continue the union’s current benefits, Art Perry, political director for SEIU’s 32BJ, said. He those numbers are from the Office of Fiscal Analysis.

“The state’s disregard for these children will ultimately cost Connecticut taxpayers millions of dollars,” Kurt Westby, 32BJ Connecticut director said in a press release.

“It’s very importante,” Flor de Maria Matos, a longtime state cleaner, said as she delivered the letter to Cooper. Outside the Capitol she explained through a translator that her daughter takes medication daily and it would cost $250 per month without health insurance.

She said she is not one of the union members who would qualify for the state Husky program.

The Standard Wage Law mandates that workers like de Maria Matos, who are employed through contractors and not directly by the state, get at least 30 percent above the prevailing wage in benefits. The 30 percent is meant to include health care, pension, sick and vacation days and other forms of insurance, but union officials say the law is often interpreted as a ceiling on benefits instead of a minimum requirement.

The governor is aware that this is related to the Standard Wage Law, which requires legislative action, Cooper said.

In June, Speaker-Elect Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, 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, however, since the workers will not be affected until January 2009, “it could be one of the first things we do next year.”

Click here and here to read out previous reports on this issue.