One Connecticut union launched a television campaign while another has filed grievances in an effort to get some of the 1,125 laid-off state employees their jobs back.
As of July 14, the executive branch has laid off 825 state employees and the judicial branch has laid off 300.
SEIU 1199, which represents workers at the Department of Developmental Services, launched a television campaign Wednesday that features a woman with cerebral palsy. The woman, whose name is Jenny, uses a special computer to communicate and the state employee who was able to customize the device was laid off in May.
Jenny’s able to have a voice through an eye recognition computer and in the 30-second ad she asks Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to bring the state employee who works on the computer back to work.
Nearly all workers who specialized in helping disabled clients communicate were laid off, according to Jennifer Schneider, communications director for SEIU 1199.
“There is a tremendous human cost to these layoffs and we ask that the governor bring back the laid off workers,” Schneider said. “People with disabilities rely on these workers to be able to communicate. By laying off these workers we have taken their voice away.”
Asked about the commercial Wednesday at an unrelated event, Malloy said he didn’t have an easy answer except that “we are dealing with a new economic reality in the state.”
Malloy went on to say that he doesn’t “make the union rules as to who gets laid off and what order and that sort of thing.” The union was quick to point out that the governor was the one who sent out the layoff notice, not the union.
The unions advocated for an increase in taxes in order to resolve the 2016 budget deficit. However, lawmakers — to the disappointment of the unions — pressed forward with a budget that only cuts spending. The unions declined to renegotiate their health and pension benefit package, which doesn’t expire until 2022.
Some people may want to see taxes raised, but “a vast majority of them don’t,” Malloy said.
He said they will continue to provide services, but they have to do it within “budgetary constraints.”
Schneider said there is a “tremendous human cost to these layoffs that needs to be reassessed.”
Larry Dorman, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 4 representing a large number of state employees, said they’ve been successful in getting at least 75 of their employees their jobs back through the filing of grievances.
“We are doing whatever we can to get people back to work,” Dorman said. “And get vital services restored.”
Dorman said they also want to make sure the layoffs of state employees remains an issue through the November election and into the next legislative session.
“They have to understand the harm to the economy,” Dorman said.
Earlier this week, former interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing community rallied at the Capitol to call on the governor to restore their 40-person unit. Malloy’s administration eliminated the entire unit and instead contracted with a private company to provide the services.
Meanwhile,the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition hasn’t filed any institutional grievances against the Malloy administration for the layoffs and the way in which they were handled. However, several unions have filed grievances regarding placement and training that are still at the committee level and could be officially filed in the future.
All but one of the state employee bargaining units are negotiating their salaries and working conditions with the Malloy administration. The General Assembly is expected to be asked to potentially vote on several of the contracts during the next legislative session.