One of the state’s largest labor unions with 65,000 members threw its support behind Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election bid Wednesday. Labor officials said none of the other gubernatorial candidates asked for the endorsement, except third-party candidate Jonathan Pelto.
Paul Filson, SEIU’s political director, said neither Tom Foley nor Sen. John McKinney, the two Republican candidates vying for a chance to challenge Malloy, asked for a questionnaire.
Pelto, who was attacked by SEIU in May, said he requested a questionnaire, but was denied an opportunity to be interviewed by SEIU.
“They decided to go the way of the AFL-CIO and AFT-CT and prohibited me from having any contact with their members,” Pelto said Wednesday. Both unions snubbed Pelto and refused to let him participate in their endorsement process.
“There was never any question about whether they would give Malloy the endorsement, but whether they would give me a chance to be heard,” Pelto, a former Democratic lawmaker, said.
Pelto maintains that he was a full-fledged candidate when SEIU endorsed Malloy because the day after it did, he was able to speak at the Working Families Party convention, which was only allowing candidates to speak.
“The fact remains that his candidacy was not viable. It wasn’t viable,” Filson said. “We believe he’s been pretty much focused on a single issue and our two-party system is a straightjacket.”
SEIU has been the only entity to publicly attack Pelto for his work in 2001 with a nursing home association. Malloy and the Democratic Party have largely ignored his candidacy.
With the SEIU endorsement comes 1,500 volunteers to help Malloy get out the vote. Filson said the ground game will focus on some of the large cities, which helped give Malloy his margin of victory in 2010.
“We plan on doing more than we ever have in the past and we believe our work last time helped Gov. Malloy win,” Filson said.
Filson was unable to say how much money the union would use to support the campaign.
Malloy himself has had a rocky relationship with labor since first taking office in 2011.
Negotiating a $1.6 billion concession package with the state employee unions in 2011 proved to be a daunting task and the rank-and-file union members rejected the first offer forcing a rare second vote on the package. In between the two votes, Malloy ordered layoffs of state employees, including an entire class of state troopers who had just graduated from the academy.
Asked about his relationship with public employee unions after those negotiations, Malloy said he thinks they did what they needed to do.
“State employees understand that the work we accomplished together was really quite remarkable,” Malloy said. “And that the savings both on a short-term and a long-term basis have been quite remarkable.”
Filson said the unions know that Malloy was a “tough negotiator, but he was fair.”
SEIU represents about 10,700 home health care workers, who recently won the ability to collectively bargain with the state for benefits. However, whether those workers will need to pay their union dues was thrown into question by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Malloy was asked what he would tell a worker who didn’t want to pay their dues.
“I would tell them you got a raise, you got benefits, you got recognized, you got a contract that you didn’t have, you have rights, you have training opportunities you didn’t have,” Malloy said as he was drowned out by applause. “Fair is fair. Join us.”
Malloy was unable to say definitively what will happen with the collection of dues from that group of workers. The court decision is still being reviewed by attorneys in his office and the Attorney General’s office.
But he did say he disagreed with the decision and felt it was based on politics.
Malloy was introduced at the union hall in Hartford by a handful of union representatives who praised his record on making Connecticut the first state to heed the president’s call for a higher minimum wage and the only state to have a paid sick day law for certain employees in certain industries.