Organizing = Strength in Numbers

If you work in Connecticut’s Judicial Branch, then you’re part of a system dedicated to making sure the scales of justice operate fairly.

More than 125 professionals in Connecticut's Judicial Branch have taken their own personal path to ensuring a fair workplace. They recently secured voluntary recognition of their free choice to unite with their AFSCME colleagues in Local 749 of Council 4 for a voice on the job – one of the latest developments demonstrating our union’s capacity to rebound through organizing.

The newest group of Branch employees includes a diverse range of professionals, with job titles that include Court Planner, Administrative Services Coordinator, Administrative Clerk, Administrative Secretary, and many more. Their settlement, signed late last year at the State Board of Labor Relations (SBLR), empowers Judicial Branch employees with workplace representation denied to them for decades.

“We organized so we could have a say about our jobs and our futures,” said Jessica Torre, an Opinion Specialist with 11 years at the Branch. “We’ve made the same concessions and sacrifices as other state employees, but we’ve been excluded from the benefits and protections of being in a union.”

“We just want to be treated fairly,” Torre added, “and we believe the union can help ensure that.”

Torre's comments refer to several of the factors that motivated her and her colleagues to seek the same benefits and safeguards extended to their colleagues in Local 749, which represents more than 1,500 employees in the Judicial Branch, Division of Criminal Justice and Public Defender’s Office. Those benefits and safeguards include a system for resolving grievances and “just cause” protections in disciplinary matters codified in the current individual unit contract. Additionally, as part of the State Employees Bargaining Agency Coalition (SEBAC), they will be shielded from layoffs through 2021.

(Click here to read about the protections won for state employees in SEBAC 2017.)

“Joining the union brings us greater respect than if we act alone,” said Deon McCoy, a Court Planner II for the last 11 years. “You can’t tackle problems alone. If you do, you become a statistic. The union give us more leverage through collective action.”

The increase in membership for Local 749 has taken place during a new surge of organizing among Connecticut's public sector workforce, both state and municipal. For example, Groton Police and New London Board of Education Secretaries are among the latest to join Council 4, with Organizing Coordinator Kelly Martinez overseeing these and other membership drives.

This growth has defied expectations in the face of unprecedented attacks on the nation's labor movement following the U.S. Supreme Court's Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 decision in June. Despite a deceptive campaign by the dark money-fueled special interests behind the lawsuit, Connecticut's public sector workers are sticking together for strength.

(Click here for Hearst Media columnist Dan Haar’s column on the failing attempt by anti-union forces to weaken the movement in our state.)

The next steps for Torre, McCoy and their branch colleagues as newly minted union members include impact bargaining to finalize coverage under Local 749’s current contract. Securing its protections and benefits couldn't come at a more crucial time for these hard-working professionals who just a months ago were facing an uncertain future without a union behind standing behind them.

“We are excited to work with Council 4 and grow our union family,” said Local 749 President Charles DellaRocco. “These employees deserve a seat at the negotiating table with us when it comes to decisions impacting them and their families — particularly their pay, pension and healthcare.”