As lawmakers gathered at the Capitol Wednesday they were greeted by members of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, whose members have been fighting since last summer for the state to amend the state’s co-called standard wage law.
The standard wage law has not kept pace with the rising cost of health care for the union’s 600 janitors and their families.
Under the law, the janitors who clean state buildings including the Capitol receive benefits equal to 30 percent of their wages. The union says because the state legislature and the governor failed to amend the law last year, more than 350 of its members children and about 100 spouses will be forced onto Husky, the state’s publicly-funded Medicaid program, starting Feb. 1.
The move will cost the state $1.6 million, when it would only cost the state about $500,000 to continue the union’s current benefits, the union says.
But lawmakers are grappling with a $343 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year, along with a projected $6 billion shortfall for fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Supporters of the janitors, including Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy who attended Wednesday’s opening ceremony said by not amending the law “The governor is literally shooting herself in her foot.” He said it will cost the state more money if these workers are forced onto public assistance.
Malloy said he sent a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Dec. 31 encouraging her to step in and do something about the situation, including taking the contractors to court. Malloy said he is concerned about the workers because some are employed at the University of Connecticut campus in Stamford and the Stamford Train Station.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said his caucus has asked the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis to look at the costs. “We’re looking to see if we could save money by subsidizing their health care,” he said.