A member of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration said the clause was always part of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement, but it took many dissatisfied state employees looking to switch unions by surprise since it never appeared in their copy of the agreement.
The clause is being used by some to block employees trying to oust the current unions that represent them. And some employees say they never would have voted for the underlying SEBAC agreement if they had known about it.
Attachment H as it’s called says, “the contract bar for purposes of any constituent union of SEBAC accepting a contract extension or renewal in accordance with Appendix A of this agreement shall be computed solely from the expiration date of any such extension or renewal.”
This means none of the seven bargaining groups looking to switch from their local union to the United Public Service Employees Union or the National Correction Employees Union will be able to exit SEBAC—the coalition of 15 unions allowed to negotiate wages and benefits with the state—for at least five years.
A lawyer for UPSEU called the attachment to the agreement “a smokescreen.”
Barbara Resnick, a lawyer for UPSEU, which is looking to take over five of SEBAC unions, said Friday that the attachment shouldn’t eliminate state employees’ rights to an election to pick which union represents them under the existing contracts.
“They voted on them. They ratified them and they will carry forward that’s always the assumption we were working under,” Resnick said.
She said her group is not contesting the contracts, but she thinks it’s odd the state hired outside legal counsel to contest UPSEU’s organizing attempt.
“The state is putting on the staunchest opposition and is working very hard to make sure these incumbent unions stay exactly where they are,” Resnick said.
Resnick said the state hired Shipman and Goodwin and Siegel O’Connor to represent the state at the Labor Board of Relations hearings on the possible union elections.
As far as the attachment to the SEBAC agreement is concerned she said none of the bargaining units received a copy of it and then it suddenly appeared at one petition hearings two weeks ago.
“It has nothing to do with choosing a union representative,” Resnick said.
But spokesman for a handful of the bargaining groups involved in the petition drive disagree.
Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4 which represents one of the Correction Officers unions and one of the Judicial Branch bargaining groups, said his union has always maintained that the contract window for a rival union to come in and petition its members is closed.
Dorman said attachment H “is nothing more than standard boilerplate legal language and in no way changes the SEBAC agreement members voted on in August.”
“These raider unions were hoping these bargaining units voted against the agreement so they could poach them for union dues,” Dorman said. “It’s what bottom feeders do.”
He said the attachment is understandable because the state and the unions need to know there’s stability and certainty with respect to their employment.
“UPSEU’s petition to decertify our union is untimely because we have a contract,” Matt O’Connor, spokesman for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, said. “By a two-to-one margin the members of our P-4 Council ratified a five-year collective bargaining agreement on August 17. And it has been approved by the General Assembly.
“Yet in their petition to the labor board, UPSEU’s lawyer claimed our members’ contract expires in June of 2012. Apparently this small New-York outfit didn’t bother to read any Connecticut newspapers over the summer. If they had, they would know that state workers here just ratified bargaining unit agreements that provide four years of job security and three years of general wage increases—and which expire in June of 2016.
“Worse, their petition shows that this group wants to undue to the democratic vote of the members of our union and take away the gains and security we have just won.”
The units UPSEU asked to sign decertification petitions included 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.
The seven decertification 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.
On Oct. 12 the Board of Labor Relations will hold a public hearing on the petition filed by NCEU to decertify the Correction Officers union represented by AFSCME Council 4.The board will also hold two closed meetings that are not open to the public on Oct. 14 with the Judicial Professionals union and the P-4 bargaining unit represented currently by CSEA/SEIU Local 2001.
The Board of Labor Relations will have the final say on whether an election can be held.