The controversy surrounding two of the governor’s executive orders intensified Wednesday when a press conference attended by the lieutenant governor ended with shouting from people opposed to a bill allowing care workers to collectively bargain.
The press conference was held by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in support of legislation giving daycare and homecare workers — who are paid through state programs — the right to collectively bargain salary and benefits.
The House passed the bill late last Friday in an 84-57 vote. The Senate has yet to raise the legislation.
“We know that this is a women’s issue,” PCSW Executive Director Teresa Younger said. “Seventy-nine percent of home health aides and 98 percent of family child care workers are women and we are looking for means by which their voices can be heard on an ongoing basis.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also spoke in support of the bill, saying it aims to support a group of people who do some of the toughest jobs, taking care of children, the handicapped, and the elderly.
“They are taking care of the most precious of our people. And yet they can be working for some agency that will be charging something like $35 an hour and the person that’s actually doing the work is only getting $10 an hour. We’ve got to be standing up and making sure their voices can be heard,” she said.
But the room was also filled with another group of people who say they haven’t had their voices heard — those who fiercely oppose it.
The executive orders that set the bill in motion have generated controversy since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed them last year. Three lawsuits have been filed in Superior Court alleging the governor overstepped his authority in issuing orders which they say amounts to the forced unionization of the groups.
Malloy’s executive orders created a pathway for the workers to form a union and both groups have since voted to do so. However, opponents contend many either did not know the election was taking place or didn’t understand the process.
And as soon as the speakers at Wednesday’s press conference finished talking, the room erupted with shouts of “Vote No!”
Laurie Wojnarowski, a daycare worker from Bristol, stood and demanded the panel answer her questions.
“One sided,” she shouted. “You’re all with the union representatives. It’s totally one-sided!”
Cassandra Parkman, a personal care attendant from Manchester who spoke in support of the bill, called back at Wojnarowski from the podium.
“I’m not with a union representative, I’m on my own,” she said.
Wojnarowski continued over her:
“I’m a childcare provider, I would like my voice to be heard free before you start taking my union dues.”
She asked how she could be considered to be volunteering if there were non-member fees applied. According to the legislation, the workers who don’t want to join the union will have to pay a fee, which is typically about 60 to 70 percent of the union dues.
Parkman asked, “Will you benefit from the same rights we fight for you?”
The shouting continued for several minutes with neither side really engaging the other. Younger said the press conference had ended and suggested if opponents wanted to talk about the issue she would speak with them outside the room.
The commotion died down when opponents of the bill left the conference room to find and lobby Sen. President Donald Williams.