Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration was successful Tuesday in getting Connecticut’s Supreme Court to block close to 50 State Police lieutenants and captains from forming a union and negotiating its first labor contract.
The court’s 4-2 decision Tuesday overturns a lower court ruling and a state Labor Board decision. In the majority decision the court found that the lower court applied an “improper” legal standard in sustaining the Labor Board’s decision that lieutenants and captains are not managerial employees.
Union attorneys argued in February that that lieutenants and captains are not managerial employees because they lacked a level of independent judgment. However, the justices concluded that independent judgment isn’t a mandatory part of being a manager.
Despite the court’s decision Tuesday the union says the fight may not be over.
“Nevertheless, the evidence in this case is more than sufficient to entitle these employees to collective bargaining under the statute even with the ruling of the Supreme Court. We look forward to a speedy reconsideration by the Labor Board,” said Robert Krzys, legal counsel for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001.
“If Governor Rell is as committed to public safety as she says she is, she’ll drop these legal maneuverings and encourage the ranks of the department to step up to command positions by allowing them to form a union,“ Lt. Ed Gould, president of the Unions council representing the lieutenants and captains, said.
If they receive a favorable second decision from the Labor Board and Rell or the next governor decides not to appeal then there’s a chance the union may still prevail.
The dispute over the formation of a union dates back to 2006. By 2007 the labor board had certified the election, but the state refused to recognize and negotiate with the union.
In 2007 Attorney General Richard Blumenthal refused to represent Rell’s administration in fighting the Labor Board’s decision in court.
“I announced that I would not represent the State of Connecticut in this appeal as I believe opposition to the unionization of police lieutenants and captains is wrong as a matter of policy,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to the union president.
Rell’s administration decide to continue to fight the Labor Board’s decision and hired the law firm of Kainen, Escalera, and McHale to continue to represent the state in the appeal.
The union anticipates that the dispute over its right to organize will continue until a new governor is named.