Connecticut state correctional officers and prison employees say they have been misrepresented by their union leaders. The current members of a Connecticut local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are actively soliciting membership, instead, in the Massachusetts-based National Correctional Employees Union (NCEU), following their union leaders’ participation in a decision by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) to change its bylaws. SEBAC voted on the change in order to make good on a $1.6 billion concession package deal struck with Democratic and Working Families Party Governor Dannel Malloy. The AFSCME local’s 4,500 members rejected the original concession package, leading to only a 57% approval vote, when the bylaws required 80% approval by rank and file members. SEBAC has now voted to lower the bar for ratification of contracts to require only a simple majority.
Since the rejection of the concessions package, Governor Malloy has threatened to lay off about 4,300 state workers and put an end to many government services. The governor plans to lay off nearly 900 correctional officers and close several prisons, two of which, Mr. Malloy’s advisor states, will close even if a new labor agreement is achieved.
According to CT News Junkie, correctional officer John Boyle, who will be retiring, said he is very unhappy with both AFSCME and SEBAC, both groups he views as existing only to collect dues from workers. “They’re taking people’s money going behind closed doors and selling them out,” he said. Mr. Boyle is organizing a class-action suit against union leaders.
The Day reports that Christopher Murphy of the NCEU, is helping to gather signatures to begin the process to allow the correctional officers to leave AFSCME. “They feel AFSCME is taking care of its own issues and has its own agenda, and is working very closely or is in bed with the governor.” Mr. Murphy said that SEBAC has overreached its authority by negotiating agreements beyond those related to healthcare and pension provisions. He added that SEBAC violated its own bylaws in the process of changing them and suggested NCEU would fight them with every legal avenue available.
According to the Wall Street Journal, union member, Paul Farley, said, “We cast our votes, and the deal was rejected by the members. The leaders didn’t like the result, and so they changed the rules. The union’s supposed to be our advocate, but now we don’t know who our advocate is.”
The upshot of this situation is that where, last year, there was euphoria among liberals in Connecticut state government, i.e., first Democratic governor in 20 years, the public sector thriving over the private sector in the state, the most liberal agenda passed in the legislature this year, the unions get a kind of “marshmallow” concession package that all the unemployed in Connecticut would die for- they have all tripped over themselves. The Democrats, the union leaders, and, the union members- all high-fiving each other- assuming they were one for all and all for one. But, they botched their concession deal and, now, with this rift, they have triangulated themselves into a more vulnerable position. That’s a cue for you, Republicans.
Side-note: Lucky for the union members they can “recall” their union when they feel poorly represented; the taxpayers of Connecticut, who are about to have an increase in income tax withheld retroactive to January 1st, don’t have the ability to recall their governor.