As they headed into 95 Washington Street to vote on a $1.6 billion concession package, Judicial Branch employees were handed green cards by a rival union trying to get them to switch their affiliation.
Larry Pacifico, a member of the United Public Service Employees Union of New York, said he has nothing against Connecticut unions, but he’s very happy with his tenure at UPSEU. He said when you need them they’re there for you—a complaint voiced by some state employees who invited the rival union to the state.
He said he was with CSEA before joining UPSEU and hasn’t regretted the move.
The literature UPSEU handed employees touted the fact that its union’s “sole purpose is to benefit its members.”
“Ask yourself—How has your current union handling the SEBAC contract situation?,” the flier says.
But a member of AFSCME Council 4 was also outside the courthouse Tuesday handing out a story from the Troy Record about UPSEU and its representation of New York County workers. The article details how union members represented by UPSEU felt neglected by them.
According to its web site UPSEU is asking at least three unions in Connecticut to join it. The Connecticut Police and Fire Union, the Judicial Professional Employees Union, and the Judicial Marshals Union. The National Correctional Employees Union, said its union has already obtained well over 2,000 signed “blue cards” from Connecticut prison workers who want to leave AFSCME for its union. It’s unclear if there’s any connection between UPSEU and NCEU.
Kevin Boyle, president of UPSEU, said in a phone interview Tuesday that his union was contacted by union members in Connecticut unhappy about the current events surrounding the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement, which was defeated back in June by a minority of its membership.
“They’re disenchanted with their representation,” Boyle said. “Now we find ourselves running a number of campaigns and we’ll find out at the end of the month if there’s sufficient interest.”
At least 30 percent of the members of a bargaining unit must return their petition cards to the Board of Labor Relations for certification by the end of the month.
The board will have to verify that all the names are valid. Then it will investigate the petition, meeting with the current union, the prospective union and the state. With that information the board will make a decision whether or not to hold an election.
The sentiment of SEBAC is that the move seems to show very little consideration for the state labor force in Connecticut, which will face massive layoffs and public service cuts if the deal isn’t ratified.
“They’re showing up on the eve of the most critical vote to protect jobs and save services,“ Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME, said Tuesday. “That speaks volumes to their approach in trying to raid our unions.”
If the unions fail to ratify the vote a second time, nearly 6,500 state employees will be laid off and numerous state services will be slashed.
Dorman called UPSEU a “business group trying to poach existing union members,” from other unions instead of going out to organize their own.
Boyle said his organization which represents about 24,000 employees already represents about 110 bargaining groups in Connecticut. Most of those are groups of municipal employees.
UPSEU does not represent any of the 34 bargaining groups that are part of the 15 unions in the SEBAC coalition.
Dorman said UPSEU is twisting the truth by telling members that if it joins UPSEU it won’t have to participate in SEBAC, which is a creation of state statute. He said every state employee union must belong to SEBAC.
But Boyle said he doesn’t see the benefit of commingling various bargaining units into one coalition.
“What one group wants to do may have little to do with the needs of another group,” he said.
He said he understands the logic behind SEBAC bargaining for health and pension benefits with the state, but he doesn’t believe there should be a commingling of negotiations. He declined to comment further on SEBAC saying his union has to be elected first “then it will decide how we move forward.”
He said if the contract state employees are voting on this week is ratified, then there’s nothing his group can do to change that contract. He said the petition drive is to offer members “better representation in the future.”
If the SEBAC agreement is ratified this week then any new union, including UPSEU, won’t have the ability to negotiate pension and health care benefits for another 11 years. The expiration of the wage contracts for each of the bargaining groups varies, but in order to receive four years of layoff protection promised in the five year agreement it will have to agree to that portion too. It’s possible some unions will decline the wage agreement, but voting doesn’t end until today.
Critics, including some state employees who oppose the agreement, have argued SEBAC is only able to negotiate health care and pension benefits and overstepped its authority by negotiating a wage deal, but SEBAC’s chief negotiator Daniel Livingston has said if it wasn’t for the power of the coalition he wouldn’t never have been able to negotiate the package he did.
The package being voted on currently includes a two year wage freeze, followed by three years of three percent wage increases. Any union that doesn’t approve the wage portion won’t be afford the layoff protection promised by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Asked if he had been approached by UPSEU, Mark O’Brien, a judicial marshal supervisor and president of their unit within CSEA SEIU Local 2001, said the union is “free to approach us but I don’t believe any of my members will be leaving.”
Matt O’Connor, spokesman for CSEA SEIU Local 2001, said he’s focused on answering members questions regarding the tentative agreement, which protects jobs for four years and health and pension benefits for another 11 years.
He said the benefits are benefits that all workers deserve, but fewer and fewer receive.