Two Republican lawmakers urged the governor’s administration Friday to refrain from handing over a list of personal care attendants to a union. But the Malloy administration says it is already publicly available information.
The press conference at the state Capitol was the latest move in an ongoing campaign by Sen. Joseph Markley, R- Southington, and Rep. Rob Sampson, R- Wolcott, seeking the reversal of two controversial executive orders by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The orders provide a pathway to unionization for personal care attendants and daycare workers who receive funding from state programs. The daycare workers voted last month to allow CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 to represent them in negotiations with the state.
The union has not held an election yet among the personal care workers and has been awaiting a list of workers to send information to. A working group on the issue has only recently established a definition of which workers will qualify for unionization.
Sampson said the list shouldn’t be released because the workers in question are not actual state employees. People who need the care receive the funding from the state and they use the money to pay the attendants, he said. Since they are not state workers, their information is private and shouldn’t be turned over to the union, he said.
“Whether the governor should be able to release this information is certainly suspect in my mind,” he said.
Markley agreed that they shouldn’t be considered state employees.
“It’s not too different in my mind from somebody saying ‘I’m on social security and I hire somebody to cut my grass and therefore they become a state employee because I’m living on government money and I’m paying it to somebody,’” he said.
The governor’s office sees it differently. Malloy’s spokesman Andrew Doba said information relating to state vendors has always been accessible under the state’s freedom of information laws. Doba added that the conservative Yankee Institute think tank is aware of that.
“The names, addresses and payment information relating to state vendors, such as personal care attendants, cannot be withheld,” he said. “In fact, every year the Yankee Institute requests it, and republishes it on an online database.”
Markley said just because some of those names are accessible on online databases does not mean they should be.
“It doesn’t seem to me that they ought to be public knowledge and the fact that they are public knowledge, if that is not proper, it doesn’t seem to me that the names should be continue to be released,” he said.
Markley said the contention over the application of FOI law was just one more thing with which he disagrees with Malloy’s office. Even if it’s possible for the union to find the names of personal care attendants online, he said there should be a legal barrier stopping them.
Doba questioned whether Markley was advocating concealing the recipients of taxpayer dollars.
“Is the senator recommending that we keep secret how the state spends taxpayer money?” he asked.
Markley said that is not the case, adding that it is fine, for instance, for the state to tell taxpayers that money is going to help Manchester resident Cathy Ludlum, he said. Ludlum has spinal muscular atrophy and employs personal care attendants.
“Beyond that I think it becomes a relationship between Cathy Ludlum and her assistants. If I were a defense contractor and I was being paid to make missiles, it wouldn’t mean that my employees would be a matter of freedom of information,” he said.
However, Lisa Siegel, an attorney at the state Freedom of Information Commission, said none of the exemptions to the law would apply to prevent the governor’s office from releasing the names.
Ludlum, who spoke at the press conference, said the idea of a union contacting her attendants was upsetting.
“It’s breaking my heart to know that the contact information of my personal assistants will soon be given to the SEIU, a union with a long history of deception and intimidation,” she said. “1199 SEIU will now be able to visit people in their homes and call them, probably more than once, and make promises that it can not possibly keep.”
Teresa Sarmiento, a personal assistant from Hartford, said she would not mind being contacted by the union, which she hopes can help negotiate benefits for her. She said, among other things, that she hopes to get paid time off for when she is sick.
“I’m a single mother so I want a lot of concern, a lot of benefits. I don’t have anything,” she said.