What the 2022 legislative session means for members

Council 4 members and the political staff achieved significant gains during the Connecticut General Assembly's most recent legislative session, which ended May 4.

Several Council 4 members from a variety of job fields spoke during public hearings this session. Many more reached out to legislators through email, calls and letters.

Through the hard work of our Council 4 members and staff and our brothers and sisters in other unions, we won many victories that benefit working people across the state — not all of which were achieved through the bills that passed.

  • State employee contracts: In collaboration with labor groups statewide, we passed the historic State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) agreement —35 fair and honorable contracts covering 43,000 unionized state employees, with three years of retroactive pay raises totaling 7.5 percent and a $3,500 in lump sum payments for employees.
  • Budget wins: In addition to the SEBAC agreement, Gov. Ned Lamont added funds for COVID-19 premium payments in the amount of $15 million for state employee and $30 million for low-wage private and nonprofit employees. With Lamont leading the push, the Legislature added $3.5 billion to the state budget to better finance the state employee pension fund, $1.8 million to fund paraprofessional training, and about $450,000 to fully fund the State Contracting Standards Board for one year. Working with other unions and municipalities, we were able to gain an additional $45 million more in municipal aid over last year's state budget — hopefully this will be of assistance to our members when they bargain for their pay, retirement and health care in their next contract.
  • More access for paraprofessionals: Legislators passed H.B. 5466, which updates education statutes to include language that says students or parents can request paraeducators in placement and training meetings. This change elevates the integral role of paraprofessionals to improving student education results.
  • Captive audience: Legislators passed S.B. 163, which gives workers the right to leave meetings without the threat of retaliation if the meeting is substantially about the employer’s opinion on religious or political issues, including union organizing. This is aimed at ending “captive audience” meetings that employers use to intimidate workers.
  • Law enforcement/public safety: Legislators passed H.B. 5420, which addresses police mental health. Under the Police Accountability bill of 2020, police officers must have mid-career mental health assessments. If an officer fails their assessment, they theoretically could lose their job. This bill’s language protects officers by allowing them to seek treatment instead of being fired. Legislators also passed H.B. 5349, which requires police officers to inform family members about the death of a loved one within 24 hours of identifying a body. We were able to remove parts that would have created a burden on individual officers and stopped the authority of the inspector general — the state’s independent prosecutor who investigates police use of deadly force — from expanding. Despite the passage of S.B. 459, the Stop Solitary bill, we were able to remove sections of the bill that we felt created unsafe work conditions for correctional officers and other front-line prison employees. Members of our NP-4 Corrections Bargaining Unit delivered important testimonies that helped legislators better understand the risks that the bill posed to the safety and security of staff and inmates.
  • Juneteenth: Legislators passed S.B. 350, making Juneteenth a state holiday. In addition to the cultural benefit of recognizing the importance of the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to ensure all enslaved people were freed, state and possibly municipal employees will be able to commemorate the historical day with family and friends.
  • Plasma donation safety: Legislators passed H.B. 5500, part of which addresses concerns from our American Red Cross blood collection workers that some stringent Connecticut regulations for running plasma collection would be removed, including having licensed medical personnel on site. We were able to put in some language requiring a study about having a nurse on site and a report back to the legislature on what the state standards should be.
  • State marshals: Legislators passed H.B. 5393, which increases and unifies the fees that marshals collect for their services and shields their home addresses from public disclosure.
  • School indoor air quality: Legislators passed S.B. 423, which requires local and regional boards of education to maintain healthy indoor air quality in their schools. The state budget now includes $150 million to assist with critical HVAC upgrades. The Coalition for Healthy Air in Schools, which includes Council 4 and other unions representing public school employees, did a great job advocating for this measure.
  • Children’s health: Legislators passed S.B. 2, which expands mental health and behavioral services for children by providing and expanding resources for services. It also provides resources for social workers in DCF to help with these services

Along with the wins came some disappointments. S.B. 161, which would have allowed police officers in the process of being decertified or fired by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) to have some increased ability to argue their case by due process, did not pass.

Two dispatcher bills — including portal to portal workers compensation coverage — got through difficult committees but were sunk by opposition from municipal government and private insurer interests.

Although we got a proposal to restore Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) coverage under workers compensation for all employees through the Senate, it never got called in the House.

The 2022 legislative session was an overall success thanks to the many Council 4 members, staff and allies who mobilized in support of workers’ rights. Council 4 member participation and mobilization in this year’s state election will be pivotal to passing more worker friendly legislation in the 2023 legislative session.