In the midst of discussions with state employee unions, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will take time out of his Sunday to speak at a rally of front-line Red Cross blood collection workers who have been working without a contract for two years.
Despite asking for $2 billion of savings and concessions from union workers, Malloy still considers himself a supporter of labor.
On the campaign trail Malloy often told a story about how when he came home from school he would hear his mother on the phone organizing her fellow school nurses. But his talk of supporting labor didn’t stop on the campaign trail.
Just one week, after releasing his budget which asked for the unions to help find $2 billion in savings, Malloy attended a rally at the Capitol in support of workers in Wisconsin.
But the messages Malloy has been sending to the unions seems to be mixed.
Earlier this week, Malloy’s budget director sent a memo to all state agency heads with layoff instructions in case the discussions don’t yield the desired savings and concessions.
Asked Thursday if the unions should read anything into the decision, Malloy said, “the calendar marches on and because of contract language we have to be prepared to give notices should we not reach an agreement.”
“I remain hopeful as long as we’re having those discussions,” Malloy said. But that’s as long as those discussions progress toward a May 6 budget deadline that Malloy has set for himself and the legislature.
Malloy continued to refuse to talk specifically about negotiations, it’s one agreement both Malloy and the unions have maintained as they continue to talk.
Asked if any employees, such as state troopers or prison guards would be spared, should he have to layoff employees, Malloy refused to rule out any bargaining group. The state would save about $100 million for every 1,000 layoffs it makes in the first year of the budget.
“I don’t think there’s anything being taken off the table,” Malloy said. “I believe in government being prepared. Obviously these discussion have gone on for a long time. There’s not an agreement yet, I’m hopeful there will be an agreement.”
“I’m not sending any message other than I’m trying to lead an administration that prepares for the possibility, not the eventuality,” Malloy said.
Larry Dorman, spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said he doesn’t think there’s an “anti-union sentiment,” coming either from the legislature or the administration. He said what these discussions demonstrate is the angst the economic downtown has caused.
“Our membership is asking lawmakers to step up and do bold things,” Dorman said referring to proposals to increase income taxes on the wealthiest residents and corporations.
But it’s clear from Malloy’s town hall meetings, he’s unwilling to budge on the framework he’s proposed to eliminate the $3.3 billion deficit. He has said he believes he has the right mix of taxes, spending cuts, and labor concessions.