Four of its nine bargaining groups voted against the concession deal this July, so this time the union partially responsible for the defeat of the original agreement isn’t taking any chances.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure this deal is approved,” Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, said Tuesday. That means “we’re doing everything we did last time and more.”
In addition to producing this video titled “We’re Voting Yes,” AFSCME disseminated two direct mailings to its members and is making sure its locals are talking to their members at their job sites.
AFSCME Local 391 President Jon T. Pepe said he was able to accomplish more in 15 minutes by talking to Correction officers over the past few days than he was able to do in a month prior to the first vote.
He said that during his tour of Osborn Correctional Institute and MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institute he ran into workers who just didn’t understand the information from the unions last time, and by default voted against the agreement.
“They voted ‘no’ as a defensive mechanism,“ Pepe said Tuesday.
Most of the misinformation centered around the health care changes. Pepe said he was able to put to rest some of their apprehension about the health care package by reassuring them that they get to keep the health care they already have and won’t be paying more for it if they visit their doctor for regular check-ups.
“Most said they already visit their doctor, so it wasn’t an issue after a brief conversation,” Pepe said.
Even though all the information was written down before or explained at informational gatherings, which were voluntary, some workers still didn’t understand what was in the deal, he said.
Before the first vote, he assumed the 1,800 employees in the union would come to him and ask questions or attend one of the informational sessions, but that’s not what happened. He said attendance wasn’t what he expected at the informational sessions and his phone wasn’t ringing off-the-hook.
“Every question they had they were thinking the opposite of what was actually going to happen,” Pepe said.
He said the recent prison closures were not as big of a concern for his members as the health care portion of the agreement.
Meanwhile, other AFSCME bargaining groups like Local 749, which represents a diverse group of Judicial Branch employees who voted down the package the first time, held an informational meeting at 95 Washington St. in Hartford Tuesday afternoon to hear more about the clarified agreement that offers four years of job security to workers.
The Stamford Advocate is reporting that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration decided to allow the unions to hold these meetings during work hours.
“I have been instructed by Ben Barnes for the month of June, 2011, that commissioners may approve limited time off for bargaining unit members to attend meetings intended to educate them on proposed changes to SEBAC or collective bargaining agreements,” Linda Yelmini, director of labor relations, wrote. “Such approvals should be as limited as possible and should not cause significant disruptions to state services. You should report any such approvals to Secretary Barnes’ office. A (payroll) code will be established to record this time so proper records can be maintained.”
The policy was extended through Aug. 18 when the first agreement was defeated.
State employees who oppose the deal for a variety of reasons, including the increase in retirement age or the two-year wage freeze, don’t believe the state or the unions are playing fair when it comes to promoting this deal.
A group of employees that oppose the deal have been having discussions on Facebook. They believe the leaders of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents the 15 unions, have overstepped their bounds first by changing the bylaws, and now by trying to give those that support the agreement an unfair advantage in promoting it.
“Just keeps stacking the deck, or at least trying too, in his favor,” Tommy D’Andrea, wrote in one of the posts.
State employees opposed to the deal have united behind Lisa Herskowitz, the state prosecutor who filed the complaint with the Board of Labor Relations in an attempt to stop the second vote. It’s unclear when a decision will be made on the complaint.
AFSCME begins voting on the agreement Aug. 15. While some of the bargaining units already have voted or allowed their leadership to cast a vote for them, a majority of the voting will take place next week.
In order to receive approval this time, eight of the 15 unions will have to vote in favor along with 50 percent of the voting members. Sources confirmed that it’s not the total number of unions that has supporters worried, it’s the per capita measurement that’s causing concern.
The 15 SEBAC unions’ per capita votes are weighted based on each individual union’s reported membership, which are reflected as a percentage of the total unionized workforce. Summer vacation and other factors, which could keep state employees away from the ballot boxes, are a concern for the unions. Turnout and the percentage of votes cast within each union could have an impact on the final outcome.