The UConn Chapter of AAUP posted a member bulletin Monday explaining its leadership’s decisions in the wake of the rejection of the first labor agreement and offering a glimpse into the closed-door negotiating process that has occurred since.
The bulletin said that the collapse of the first negotiated $1.6 billion concession agreement reached between the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition and the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy put leaders in a tough spot.
The fact that coalition rules prevented the deal from being ratified despite a 57 percent majority of members approving it created a “very difficult democratic dilemma,” the statement said.
They weighed the value of SEBAC procedure against the intent of their voting members as they looked for a path forward, it said. An overwhelming 84 percent of the chapter’s members approved the first agreement.
“Should SEBAC’s supermajority procedure be used even when it means that a minority trumps the vote of the majority?” the bulletin said. “Or, since the SEBAC voting rules are only internal rules, adopted more than fifteen years ago by the SEBAC leaders, should those rules be changed to allow ‘majority rule’ to govern the voting in SEBAC allowing the membership at large to decide the result?”
The chapter heard from members falling on both sides of the issue. But at the end of the day member intent won out for UConn-AAUP’s leadership, who voted in favor of changing SEBAC’s bylaws.
“To reject the agreement against the stated preference of 86 percent of our members in order to preserve a disputed voting procedure that gives a small minority a veto seemed unacceptable to us. We view this decision as the best resolution to a difficult situation,” it said.
An overwhelming majority of SEBAC leaders joined them in approving that vote, the bulletin said.
To members unhappy with the decision, the bulletin said the coalition is made up of unions, not members. Its bylaws have always been designed and voted on only by leaders who are elected by the members, the statement said.
Those leaders believed that once a tentative agreement has been reached, a majority rule vote for membership ratification was more democratic than the existing requirements, it said. It also noted that an 80 percent supermajority vote will still be required to enter in to negotiations in the future. That provision will serve as a check against divisive changes, the bulletin said.
When it came time to sit back down at the bargaining table with the Malloy administration, the unions each brought up the issues in the first agreement their members were most concerned about, it said.
But they found the governor’s representatives unwilling to budge and make substantial changes.
“Union leaders fought nearly round the clock for 4 days to achieve changes and clarifications, but, unfortunately, the governor refused to make major changes to the Enhancement Program and in the Early Retirement adjustment,” the statement said.
In the end they arrived at an agreement essentially unchanged from the original. The changes made were modifications to deadlines to account for the passage of time since the original agreement would have gone into place and to recoup money the state has spent on approximately 40,000 raises that began appearing on state employee paychecks at the end of July.
Another clarification served to further distance the agreement’s Health Enhancement Program from the Sustinet program.
The agreements were so similar, the chapter leadership decided to cast an affirmative vote on the clarified deal without a second rank and file vote, the bulletin said.
“Because the latest agreement produced no changes to the earlier proposed agreement that negatively impacted our members, the AAUP Executive Committee saw no compelling reason to vote again on the agreement which was ratified overwhelmingly in June, 86 percent to 14 percent,” the bulletin said.
The statement acknowledged that most other unions will be taking another rank and file vote and suggested that their vote tallies may be different this time around. Some of those units that voted against the first agreement have seen evidence that sentiments among members have changed in light of the more than 3,000 layoffs Malloy has issued, it said.
“Corrected information and layoff notices may have caused some reconsideration by people in units who thought they could get a better deal by voting no, convincing them to vote yes,” the statement said.