NEW BRITAIN—Gov. Dannel P. Malloy lent his voice on Sunday to front-line American Red Cross workers who have been on the job without a contract for two years. The rally comes as he is negotiating with some of AFSCME Council 4’s state employee bargaining groups for $2 billion in concessions over the next two years.
The dichotomy seems obvious, but Malloy does not see it exactly that way.
“But for other elements of this union I’m also fighting to make sure that they don’t get laid off,” Malloy said, referring to the state employee unions. “This is all a balancing act. That‘s what a very tough economy does to you.“
As for the Red Cross workers, “They do good work. It’s an unbelievable service and they deserve a contract,” Malloy said.
“Get a fair and honest and decent contract that awards people for their hard work. That, simply put, is why I’m here,” Malloy said as he rallied alongside Red Cross workers outside AFSCME’s headquarters.
Before leaving, Malloy embraced Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, and kissed Lori Pelletier, secretary-treasurer for the AFL-CIO, who seemed to be a little surprised by the gesture.
Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4 and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said the Red Cross workers asked Malloy to come. He walked the picket line with them on the campaign trail and they wanted him here today.
“We have to take what we can get, when we can get it,” Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, said.
He said he appreciates Malloy’s support of Red Cross workers and understands their role in keeping the blood supply clean and viable.
But as far as the negotiations with state employees are concerned, “We need Governor Malloy to do some of things that candidate Malloy said he would do,” Luciano said.
He said that candidate Malloy said he would reduce the non-union layers of supervision in state government, but he has not done that yet. A gesture like that would enhance “our own members’ appetite for concessions,” Luciano said. “We’re not giving up hope. But that would go a long way.”
Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat from Berlin who also is a service representative for AFSCME Council 4, said he hasn’t liked everything he’s heard Malloy say, and there are probably times the unions have made Malloy feel uncomfortable.
“The labor movement in Connecticut worked like it hadn’t in any recent history to get Dan Malloy elected,” Aresimowicz said. “Part of that deal was he told us he would respect the jobs we did and we would have a seat at the table.
“Now he still has the respect for the jobs we do,“ Aresimowicz said. “He says it quite frequently and the respect at the table is still being decided.”
Malloy held firm on the May 6 deadline he set for the completion of budget negotiations, which means he would have to have an agreement with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition in two weeks at the latest, if not sooner.
Luciano said that unlike Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Malloy supports collective bargaining rights, which Red Cross workers say is an issue in their negotiations.
Christine Holschlag, a registered nurse and president of AFSCME Local 3145, said that during the last bargaining session the workers proposed a two-year wage freeze and “massive concessions” to their health insurance, but the offer was rejected by Red Cross management.
The rally Sunday was supposed to precede a negotiating session, but Red Cross negotiators canceled, citing a “circus-like” atmosphere.
Donna M. Morrissey, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said the union should “put aside public posturing” if it wants to sit down at the negotiating table. She said negotiators had no interest in being a backdrop to a press conference. She said Red Cross workers deserve a contract, but it seems AFSCME is “more interested in rallies and press conferences rather than meeting at the table.”
Holschlag said the Red Cross has proposed many concessions, however, “the main sticking point throughout the negations has been their demand for us to give up our right to collectively bargain.”
Luciano said it’s no surprise Gov. Walker worked for the American Red Cross based on his stance against organized labor. Walker worked in the marketing and fundraising department of the Red Cross from 1990-94.