Lisa Herskowitz, the prosecutor who filed a labor complaint to halt the union re-vote on a $1.6 billion labor concessions agreement, amended her complaint last week, calling on the Labor Relations Board to invalidate the contract.
“Now that the agreement has been passed the Labor Board must declare it null and void and take [State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition] and the governor and the unions and employers to task,” she wrote.
In July, Herskowitz filed the complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations, claiming that SEBAC overstepped its negotiating authority. A member of the board met with all parties to the complaint at a closed-door conference in August at the Department of Labor headquarters in Wethersfield.
The Labor Board has so far held off on making a decision on the case. Soon after the meeting, the unions voted overwhelmingly to adopt concession agreements containing a two-year wage freeze and changes to their healthcare and pension benefits.
The changes have already gone into effect, but in her recent Aug. 22 complaint, Herskowitz called on the board to reverse them.
The basis of her complaint rests on the claim that SEBAC negotiated union employee wage concessions with representatives of the Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office when it is only statutorily authorized to negotiate changes to healthcare and pension benefits. Changes to wages are up to the individual bargaining units to negotiate.
That didn’t happen, she said and after the more than five hour meeting, that emerged as an indisputable fact.
“They have effectively but illegally and intentionally sucked 45,000 state employees into one monster bargaining unit by usurping our bargaining agents and subjecting all state employees to their illegal rule,” she wrote.
In her amendment, Herskowitz said the unions characterize the talks that led to the wage agreement as “discussions” rather than “negotiations.” But she contends it does not matter what word they use if in the end they arrived at a wage agreement.
In the wage concessions package, state employees were offered four years of job security in exchange for a two-year wage freeze followed by a 3 percent raise in each of the three subsequent years.
After the August meeting, SEBAC lawyer Dan Livingston said that job security can only feasibly be negotiated on a coalition basis. SEBAC forced the administration to make an offer protecting workers from layoffs for four years but individual unions were still free to stick with their original contracts, he said.
But Herskowitz contends that mass layoffs ordered by Malloy after unions initially rejected the agreement in June, made it difficult for state employees to stick with their original contracts.
“I’ve heard from people saying they didn’t know how they could vote ‘no’ again when the person sitting at the next desk over was crying about how she was going to feed her kids,” she wrote.
Throughout the amendment Herskowitz paints Malloy as a coercive bully and SEBAC and the unions as all too eager to give up their lunch money. She pointed to union leaders’ decision in July to change SEBAC’s bylaws to make ratification standards for the second vote easier.
“[Malloy] also said that he TOLD the unions to change their voting rules. Isn’t that a prohibited practice for management to tell the unions to change their voting rules? Clearly coercive. Clearly an interference with union activity. And the unions did it,” she wrote. “Big surprise.”
Herskowitz’s own union, the Connecticut Association of Prosecutors, is not even a valid union, she wrote in her amendment. She said that is because organization is operating under articles of incorporation rather than bylaws.
Given that fact, she asked the Labor Relations Board to not only nullify the labor agreement, but also decertify CAP and reimburse her any dues she previously paid the group.
“Since we have not had bylaws for 11 years, and bylaws are what require dues, I request the board order that the dues that were deducted from my paycheck for the last 11 years be refunded,” she wrote.
The Labor Board received Herskowitz’s amendment on Aug. 24 and now must provide a copy to all the parties and give them a chance to respond, DOL spokeswoman Nancy Steffens said Friday. It’s unclear when the board will make a decision to pursue or dismiss the case.
CAP President Jack Doyle said he could not comment on the specifics of the complaint because it was ongoing. But he is looking for it to be dismissed.
“Anyone is entitled and has a right to file a complaint. But we feel the complaint should be dismissed because there is no merit to it,” he said.
SEBAC’s spokesman Matt O’Connor said union leaders aren’t sweating the complaint, which he called factually inaccurate. Unions are now focused on moving forward with efforts to get the economy working for working families, he said.
“Members of our unions are moving on to the next challenges. And that includes restoring critical services cut as part of the governor’s alternative budget that have not yet been reinstated,” he said. “We’re also pushing to get the agreement’s joint labor-management committees working in order to flatten wasteful layers of management and implement front-line workers’ recommendations for further cost savings.”