Defending the Future of Our Collective Bargaining Rights

A Republican legislative leader last week launched a politically motivated media attack on gains made by state employee unions. At issue are contractual bonuses due later this month as part of a 2017 agreement to protect jobs, extend benefits and preserve services. In reality, the true targets are the collective bargaining rights that secured them — rights which face an uncertain future in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
 
Click here for press reporting on the state Senate Republican leaders' remarks.
 
The bonuses are due July 19 to members of the unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) and are the product of comprehensive contract negotiations in 2017. The one-time $2,000 payments were won as part of an overall master agreement to shield against layoffs and extend members' benefits while protecting services and saving billions for taxpayers.
 
“Fixating on these bonuses misses the bigger picture,” said Council 4 Executive Director Jody Barr. “Last year, we did more than our part to help prevent damaging cuts to public safety, health, education and other vital services that our members provide to the citizens of Connecticut. It was the fourth time in less than a decade that our members agreed to step up and be part of the solution.”
 
“This fiscal year alone, we saved 40 times the total cost of these bonuses,” Barr added.
 
Barr's comments refer to agreements SEBAC union leaders reached through a series of mutual negotiations with former and current gubernatorial administrations beginning in 2009. Last year's contracts are reducing budgeted labor costs in both the short and long term through increased healthcare and pension contributions, as well as unpaid furlough days.
 
All told, taxpayers will see savings of $1.6 billion in the current biennium — approximately a third of the projected budget deficit — and $24 billion over the next two decades. Click here for press reporting on the SEBAC savings.
 
“It's not surprising that corporate conservatives in the legislature would criticize what we achieved at the bargaining table,” said AFSCME Local 704 President Taffy Womack. “They're intentionally ignoring the significant sacrifices we made at that same table just to score political points.”
 
“The real target here isn't contractual bonuses; it's the future of our collective bargaining rights now that the Supreme Court sided with wealthy and corporate special interests against every day workers,” added Womack, who is an Administrative Assistant at the Secretary of State’s Office, and serves on the Council 4 Executive Board.
 
Womack's comments refer to the U.S. Supreme Court's majority decision announced late last month in the Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 lawsuit and which targeted union members. The case was brought by deep-pocketed special interests whose ultimate aim was to weaken the American labor movement by imposing "right to work for less" policies on the nation's public sector.  Click here to learn more about who’s behind Janus.
 
In the two weeks since the high court ruling, the billionaire-funded network behind the case has escalated its attacks on public employees in the 22 affected states, including Connecticut. Union members have reported receiving postcards at their homes and e-mail in their workplaces, all pushing the same deceptive "quit your union" propaganda.
 
Click here for national reporting on the nationwide scheme to exploit the Janus decision.
 
As Council 4 and other unions have previously warned, members can expect union-busters to approach them in the days and weeks to come. For example, an out of state "think thank" is requesting members' personal contact information through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Click here to learn more.
 
Members are urged to report these deceptive tactics if they or their colleagues are approached with a "cheaper" alternative or flat-out urged to quit. Please share your experience with Council 4 if you've been contacted by anti-labor forces by contacting us at: [email protected].
 
We need to push back against the continued attacks on our right to union representation. One way is to be engaged in your local union and to make sure you have committed or recommitted to your Council 4 union membership.
 
Another way is to “Remember in November” by supporting candidates for Governor and the General Assembly who support collective bargaining and workers’ rights. Otherwise, we will see full-scale assaults on our pay, pension, health care and job security in the 2019 legislative session.