HARTFORD, CT — The House of Representatives approved another labor contract Tuesday in a 77-67 vote.
The contract allows 34 deputy wardens in the state Department of Correction to join a union.
CLICK TO VOTE ON 2019 HR 24: Resolution Proposing Approval Of An Interest Arbitration Award Between The State Of Connecticut And The Connecticut State Employees Association, SEIU Local 2001, Correction Supervisors Council, Np 8 Unit
It’s the fourth labor contract or arbitration agreement the House has approved this year, mostly along party lines. On Tuesday, seven Democrats joined Republicans voting against the contract.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they were “chastised” by Republicans for many years for not voting for union contracts and they made the concession as part of the bipartisan budget negotiations.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said for more than 20 years the legislature didn’t vote on contracts.
“Whether you support or oppose it, it’s our responsibility to take up matters that affect the state,” Klarides said.
Aresimowicz said it’s not a forgone conclusion that his caucus would vote in favor of any union contract.
“We do look at them and we do talk about them,” Aresimowicz said.
However, the reality is it would be unusual for a labor contract to be voted down by the Democratic majority.
In 2016, the General Assembly, at the urging of former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, was prepared to vote down a labor contract for 1,900 non-teaching staff at the University of Connecticut, but it was withdrawn by the union before the vote.
Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said Tuesday that she knows she sounds like a broken record when it comes to these contracts, but someone has to look out for the taxpayers’ interests.
“We are continuing to get these contracts every week,” Lavielle said.
She said she knows that union members are also taxpayers, but they represent about 2 percent of the taxpaying public. She said that means 2 percent of taxpayers are getting great benefits paid for by 98 percent of taxpayers who are not getting these benefits.
“I don’t think it’s fair to any of the other taxpayers in this state,” Lavielle said.
Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, said he’s sure the deputy wardens do a great job and he respects anyone who signs up for that job.
But they are management and should not be allowed to unionize.
“It is a vote on a contract for management, not a vote on a contract for workers,” Davis said.
Davis said that based on his research he doesn’t believe these individuals, who are in management, would qualify for union membership in the private sector.
Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said the wardens are managing correction officers who are currently earning more pay than they are.
The average salary for a deputy warden is $103,000 a year. He said many correction officers who are able to earn overtime are making more.
D’Agostino said that the union did not prevail in arbitration on getting overtime and comp time even though they are on call 24 hours a day based on the nature of their work.
They also haven’t had a wage increase in eight of the last 10 years.
The contract will cost the state an extra $579,000 a year, according to the fiscal note.
The Senate, which was not in session Tuesday, still has to vote on the contract.