Christine Stuart photo
Kurt Westby of 32BJ (Christine Stuart photo)

Janitors who clean the state’s buildings and universities stood on the steps of the state Capitol Thursday with their families to ask the General Assembly to override Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto of a bill that would allow their children to keep their health insurance.

Kurt Westby, who represents the janitors as the 32BJ Connecticut director, said without of the legislation in place 350 children will lose their health insurance Aug. 1. Based on the current wages being paid to the janitorial staff all of the children will qualify for the state’s Husky insurance plan at a cost of $1.6 million per year, he said.

“In short it’s a win-win for the state and its most vulnerable workforce—privatized janitors who have already endured furloughs, endured layoffs, and continue to endure subsistence wages,” Westby said.

Additionally, a reduction in starting wage rates for janitors, which was also part of the bill, is projected to save up to $4.3 million over the next seven years, Westby said. 

“The law mandates that a select group of employees will be paid union contract wages and benefits, instead of the Department of Labor’s determined standard wage rates, and creates two distinct classes of janitors—those hired before July 1, 2009 and those hired after such date,” Rell wrote in her veto message.

She said this means an entire subset of janitors will have their wages and benefits determined by privately conducted union negotiations, instead of a state contract with a private vendor.

“I cannot sanction wages and benefits that are determined completely outside of the state’s control,” Rell concluded.

But some Republican lawmakers disagreed with Rell and voted in favor of the legislation the first time around.

The Senate voted 30 to 6 with strong bipartisan support in favor of the bill and the House voted 112 to 35.

“It’s unfortunate we have to be here because the governor vetoed a bill that would have kept health care,” Speaker of the House Chris Donovan said Thursday at the rally.

Donovan said this was one of the 19 bills the General Assembly will look to override on Monday, July 20 during its veto session.

At the top of the list for the Democratic majority are the two marquee health care reform bills Rell vetoed on July 8.

He said the two health care reform bills were “priorities,” but was unable to say with any certainty how many of Rell’s 19 vetoes the legislature will seek to overturn.

“She picked bills that weren’t even close,” Donovan said confident the legislature would be successful in overturning several of her vetoes.

Once the veto session is convened on Monday, July 20th Donovan said the legislature has until midnight Wednesday to overturn her vetoes.