Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told a group of private and public labor unions Friday that he won the election because of them and it was a close election because of them.
“In fairness, during that campaign I stood up for all of you,” Malloy told the group gathered at the Hartford Hilton. “Under withering attacks and editorials and columns, the reality is in many ways I won this election because of you, and in many ways this election was as close as it was because of you.”
The remarks received a smattering of applause from a group of labor leaders that still aren’t quite sure what to make of the first Democratic governor in 20 years.
Malloy said he wants to have a good relationship with labor, but at least one labor leader told him that he was sending mixed messages by proposing $1 billion in labor concessions per year, asking the legislature to vote on collective bargaining agreements, then showing up at a labor rally in support of the Wisconsin workers.
Lori Pelletier, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said Malloy’s proposal to force the legislature to vote on collective bargaining agreements is an attack on collective bargaining.
Malloy said that proposal wasn’t an attack on the unions it was an attack on the legislature, which has the option to act on collective bargaining agreements, but hasn’t exercised that right in decades.
“That wasn’t seen by me in anyway as an attack on labor, if anything it was an attack on the legislature,” Malloy said.
As for the rally a few weeks ago, “I know I surprised a lot of people the other day by showing up for that rally, but I had no problem doing that because there is a fundamental difference between myself and the people who lead the government in Wisconsin,” Malloy said. “They want to destroy unions, they want to take apart what has been earned over a long period of time.”
“I didn’t drive Connecticut into the ditch,” Malloy said. “And by the way let me also say you didn’t drive Connecticut into the ditch.” The comment received applause from the labor group, which has been hammered in recent weeks on conservative talk radio shows.
Malloy saw fit to remind that group that “you’re a lot better off with me in this room than you would have been under any other circumstances.” He said if his Republican opponent Tom Foley had won the election things would not have been as pleasant as they under his administration.
“If Foley were elected we’d be on the menu, but with Malloy we’re at the table,” Pelletier said after the meeting adjourned.
Malloy asked the group of labor leaders to understand he’s asking all of Connecticut for $1.5 billion in tax increases. And he acknowledged the 45,000 state employees will be paying those taxes too.
“Fair to me isn’t looking for a third of the budget to be solved by the people working for the state,” AFL-CIO President John Olsen told Malloy. “They’re also paying the other third in tax increases because they’re all middle class.”
Asked if Malloy is trying to pit private sector employees who don‘t have defined pension benefits and who far outnumber public sector employees, against each other, Olsen said he didn’t believe so.
“I hear him saying I’ve got a problem,” Olsen said. “I don’t think he’s trying to play anything but a budget numbers game.”
“In some senses I’m asking your public members for even more,” Malloy admitted toward the end of his prepared remarks. He said he understands his budget asks them not only to make concessions, which some have opined are astronomical, in addition to the middle class tax increases.
Sometimes in government and sometimes in labor we have to think about the long haul, Malloy said.
“But that $1.5 billion won’t do it all,” Malloy said of his tax package.
Asked about what she heard Friday, Carmen Boudier, president of the largest union representing health care workers in Connecticut, and a representative of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said Malloy gave her a lot to think about and she’s going to need some time to figure out what it means.
Phyllis Cornfeld of AFT-CT told Malloy she would like to see him cut middle management like the deputy commissioners, instead of threaten the unions with layoffs if they can’t find the $1 billion per year in concessions. Malloy told her he was reducing the governor’s office staff by 15 percent, but would not eliminate 50 percent of the deputy commissioner positions she suggested.
Asked about why he wasn’t going to tax the wealthiest residents in the state more, Malloy explained that he’s benchmarking his taxes against surrounding states. He said he’s aware of the mobility of both employees and employers.
“I’m not stupid folks and I’m not evil,” Malloy said.
He told them there will be consequences if he does not get the concessions he is seeking. Those consequences will likely be the layoffs both sides are hoping to avoid.