The rival United Public Service Employees Union submitted their petition to the state Board of Labor Relations Friday to verify the names of P-4 bargaining unit members looking to switch unions.
Barbara Resnick, a lawyer for UPSEU, said she submitted the petition Friday and if they meet the 30 percent threshold the 2,500 member union will get to vote on whether to join the new union.
Currently the P-4 union is represented CSEA SEIU Local 2001. The union includes engineers, scientists, and technical workers in various state agencies such as the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection and Energy Department.
UPSEU, the rival union that represents members in the tri-state area, began to collect signature cards from a variety of bargaining units as the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition struggled to pass a $1.6 billion concession package.
P-4 was not the first bargaining group UPSEU tried to win over, in fact, it may have been the last union it sought to represent.
Matt O’Connor, spokesman for CSEA SEIU Local 2001, declined to comment on the petition.
Nancy Steffens, spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, confirmed the petition had been submitted to the Board of Labor Relations.
UPSEU is the second rival union to take advantage of the hard feelings over the SEBAC agreement. It’s affiliate union, the National Correctional Employees Union, was the first to launch a petition drive in early August.
The Board of Labor Relations is still in the process of verifying the names on the NCEU petition. It will then investigate the petition, meeting with the current union, the prospective union and the employer, in this case the state. With that information the board will make a decision whether or not to hold an election.
The board will have to verify 750 signatures on the UPSEU petition in order for a vote on decertifying the union to move forward.
Unlike the Correction Officers, represented by AFSCME, P-4 voted in favor of the SEBAC contract both times. The Correction Officers voted in favor of the contract the second time and the drive to get them to sign the cards to decertify AFSCME came between the first and second votes.
UPSEU has been actively recruiting several other unions including the Judicial Professional Employees and Judicial Marshals, but signature cards for those groups have yet to be submitted.
A rival union can only come in and actively recruit members of another union during certain periods of contract unrest. And if a rival union like UPSEU was successful in winning decertification it would still belong to SEBAC, the 15 union coalition that negotiates health and pension benefits for all state employees. SEBAC was created by the legislature to make it easier for the state to negotiate with its contracts.
Several union members were upset with SEBAC leadership for deciding to negotiate a two-year wage freeze in exchange for four years of job security.
State Prosecutor Lisa Herskowitz filed a complaint with the Board of Labor Relations alleging the coalition overstepped its bounds by negotiating wages. That complaint is also pending with the Board of Labor Relations.
Union members were also upset when SEBAC changed it bylaws in order to make it easier for a second vote to occur. Then there were also several more complaints about the changes to the health care and benefit package which increased the retirement age by three years and made those benefits less generous for workers not able to retire before Oct. 1 of this year.
UPSEU promises to give its members a seat at the negotiating table and its President Kevin Boyle told CTNewsjunkie he believes all contract negotiations should be handled separately.
Boyle has 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.”