The United Public Service Employees Union filed petitions Wednesday to secure the membership of five different state employee unions.
The units include two judicial units represented by AFSCME Local 749, the probation unit represented by AFT, the judicial marshal unit represented by IBPO, and the State Engineering, Scientific and Technical Unit, also known as P-4, represented by CSEA SEIU Local 2001. The petition for P-4 was actually filed last week.
Its affiliate union, the National Correction Employees Union also filed two petitions on behalf of the Correction officers and the Correctional supervisors. The Correctional Supervisors represented by CSEA SEIU Local 2001 was one of two bargaining units to vote down the concession package and have 21 members laid off as a result.
The seven petitions still need to be verified by the Board of Labor Relations, and if 30 percent of the membership in each of the units can be certified then an election can be held. The election will ask union members whether they want to leave their current union to join UPSEU.
UPSEU officials said they were contacted by state employees this summer when the employees became frustrated with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which is a coalition of 15 unions that negotiates health and pension benefits for all 45,000 state employees.
“The employees are simply disgusted by the lack of representation they have received from these unions,“ UPSEU President Kevin E. Boyle, Jr. said in a press release. “What unfolded during the recent ratification process, and the fiasco related to the lack of information and changing the ratification process midstream, put employees over the top.”
After a minority of the SEBAC membership defeated the first concession package, leadership revised their bylaws to make a second vote on a clarified agreement easier to pass. In the meantime, thousands of layoff notices were issued and some employees actually lost their jobs. Passage of the second agreement allowed those separated from their employment to com back to work if their unit voted in favor of the two-year wage freeze.
Thousands of union members were upset with SEBAC for changing its bylaws to make it easier for a second vote to occur. 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. Members complained union leaders failed to listen to them.
State Prosecutor Lisa Herskowitz who filed a complaint with the Board of Labor Relations became the spokeswoman for the thousands of SEBAC employees upset with the coalition’s decisions. Her complaint, which is still pending with the Board of Labor Relations, alleged the coalition overstepped its bounds by negotiating wages and failed to listen to its members.
“For too long state workers in Connecticut have lacked the opportunity to determine their choice of representation,“ Boyle said. “They will now get the opportunity to decide for themselves which union can best serve their interests and the interests of their families. We eagerly await the opportunity to serve them.”
Boyle did admit that with ratification of the recent agreement UPSEU will be forced to adopt those agreements, but believes the unions will be better off with it at the helm.
Lori Pelletier, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said Wednesday that there’s always going to be a certain percentage of employees upset over a contract. She said 99.9 percent of the people may be thrilled, but that 0.1 percent may still be enough for UPSEU to glom onto.
She said in her 25 years with the union she’s never seen a unanimous vote on a contract, and she believes UPSEU is trying to exploit what was an admittedly tenuous situation.
“With 80 percent of the workforce not unionized, if they really want to improve the labor movement they should go after employee groups that have no representation,” Pelletier said.
She called UPSEU a “raider union” and said its more of a marketing operation than a union with the best interests of the workers in mind.