Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told his fellow Democrats Monday that they have defied expectations and they will continue to do so, just as he did in his campaign for governor.
The first Democrat to hold the office in two decades, said he was told a year ago that he could not win because he didn’t have enough money to “fight the fight.” Then once he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman won “naysayers said we couldn’t put forth an honest budget.” Then the naysayers went on to say it would never pass the Democratic legislature and that Malloy would never be able to reach agreement with his “fellow state employee unions.“
“Last Friday they proved themselves wrong again,“ Malloy said referring to the tentative $1.6 billion labor agreement awaiting ratification with the 45,000 rank-and-file union members.
“The naysayers never go quietly into the night. Now they’re saying the rank-and-file members of the state unions will not support this agreement. But you know what I think, they’re wrong,“ Malloy said. “We are on the verge of sending a very important and different message to the rest of the United States.”
He said that message is that unions are prepared to be a part of the solution.
“What they’re doing in other states is scapegoating men and women, proud men and women of organized labor,” Malloy said. “But here in Connecticut, we are not doing that.”
“See in Connecticut we are pursuing a road in a different direction than 49 other states,” Malloy said.
As he did so often during the campaign he recalled returning from school and listening to his mother on the phone trying to organize other school nurses into a union. He said his father was blacklisted by the insurance industry when he tried to organize his fellow co-workers at John Hancock.
“I want you to know that because my parents believed as I do that unions are a good thing,” Malloy said. “That when people ban together and organize to protect themselves they can right what is wrong, and when they are divided and fail to do so then you understand how I feel. Let me say this as clearly as I can, I believe in the union movement and the right to organize and to bargain.”
As he made these remarks about the labor movement Malloy was drowned out by the crowd which was on its feet hooting and hollering for the governor as his speech reached a crescendo around the halfway point.
Lori Pelletier, secretary treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said the Malloy administration was always respectful of unions and collective bargaining rights. She said she would have liked to see him increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations more, but he “didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.“
As for ratification of the $1.6 billion concession package, which will have to be approved by 14 of the 15 unions and 80 percent of those voting on changes to the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement, “democracy is messy.”
Asked about whether the rank-and-file members would approve it, Pelletier said it’s a difficult process and there are lots of emotions involved, but some of the online comments regarding the proposal come from a “vocal minority.”
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said the Democratic party is like a big family that sometimes fights amongst itself, but always defends itself when others try to attack it.
Malloy believes the rank-and-file will ratify the agreement, but that may not happen for another three weeks if the voting takes as long as it did in 2009. Meanwhile, Malloy will be forced to find another $400 million in spending cuts in order to close the gap without using the close to $1 billion in surplus built into the $40.11 billion budget over the next two years. Those cuts have not yet been proposed and will likely require legislative approval.