The Labor and Public Employees Committee ran out of time Tuesday to pass two bills that would give home care assistants and daycare workers the right to collectively bargain benefits with the state.
The committee had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to pass the bills which would have codified Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s two executive orders permitting the two groups of underpaid workers to form a union and collectively bargain with the state.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, applauded the four Republicans on the 11-member committee for successfully defeating the legislation through inaction.
“The Democrat effort to force unionization on workers who don’t want to unionize has been bad public policy from the start,” McKinney said. “Today’s courageous effort by the Republican members of the Labor Committee will allow us to continue to fight in the courts and the legislature on behalf of day care workers, personal care attendants and those who depend on them.”
Union officials said Republicans on the committee filibustered the childcare workers bill for about an hour, long enough to push past the committee’s deadline.
“The Republican minority doesn’t want the childcare workers or home care workers to have a voice. They didn’t want the Democratic majority to have a voice either and the only way they could prevent that was by talking the bill to death,” Deborah Chernoff, spokeswoman for SEIU District 1199, said.
Chernoff said members of the minority party talked about everything in the bill, even things everyone agreed on.
“I suppose it’s more interesting than reading a cookbook out loud but it was clear that’s where they were going,” she said.
However, Rep. Craig Miner, a Republican on the committee, said Republicans didn’t filibuster the bill to death. The meeting was pushed back from 10 a.m. and didn’t start until well after 1 p.m. He said the committee’s chairs could have easily raised the bills early in the meeting.
“If the union officials believe that was the result of Republican filibustering, they are far more naive than I ever thought that they were,” he said.
Cathy Ludlum, a Manchester resident with spinal muscular atrophy who opposes the bills, said she was happy with the meeting’s outcome but thought it was too early to celebrate.
“We have to watch out because it may pop up somewhere else. I think it’s very likely that it will,” she said.
The unions also believe that is a likely possibility.
“It’s a minor setback and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure a vote gets heard,” Ben Phillips, spokesman for CSEA SEIU 2001, said.
Chernoff agreed, saying they would push to have the concepts amended into another bill.
“This kills these particular bills, it doesn’t kill the concept,” she said.
Miner said the bills may not have been raised sooner in the meeting in effort to give legislative leaders bargaining power with the governor.
“I think what this does is provide a certain amount of horse power to the speaker of the house and the president pro temp,” he said.
Last year the legislature considered two similar bills and ultimately opted not to act on them, he said. But the governor saw fit to act on them with his executive orders.
“I think what this action today does is provides them an opportunity to horse trade with the governor. We’ll see how that all works out,” he said. “I’ve told people opposed to this legislation that, in my view, this is by no means the end of this for this fiscal year.”
Miner said he’s opposed to the bills but said their language puts the budgetary ramifications in this fiscal year. He said it would be “an awful showing for the state” if the Appropriations Committee didn’t fund an outcome of the bills, if the plan is to later pass them.
“If you believe this bill’s going to pass this year, somebody ought to make sure there’s enough money in the budget to take care of it,” he said.
One lawsuit has already been filed against Malloy for creating the two executive orders and another is expected to be filed within the next few months.
We The People of Connecticut, a Waterbury-based constitution advocacy group, filed a lawsuit on March 8 calling on the court to rescind the orders.
In issuing the orders, the governor exceeded the powers of the Executive Branch and usurped the authority of the legislature, the lawsuit contends.
That action disenfranchised six personal care attendants and daycare workers who are plaintiffs in the case and denied them their right to participate in the legislative process, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also states that the executive orders prevented the plaintiffs from petitioning the legislature for redress.