Union applauds labor board decision in Bridgeport case

AFSCME Local 1522 and its parent union, Council 4, applauded a ruling this month by the state labor board that found the City of Bridgeport violated municipal labor laws by outsourcing bargaining unit work within the Board of Education to newly created non-union information technology (IT) positions and discriminating against the union.

In a 17-page ruling issued Sept. 14, a three-person panel of the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations found in favor of the union and ordered city officials to do the following:

  • Return the three former Local 1522 bargaining unit IT employees who were laid off to their union positions within the Board of Education
  • Return the two former Local 1522 bargaining unit IT employees moved to unaffiliated positions back into the Local 1522 bargaining unit
  • Make the workers whole for any monetary losses caused by the city’s unlawful actions
  • Negotiate with the union regarding placing the unaffiliated union positions into the Local 1522 bargaining unit
  • Reimburse AFSCME for attorney fees, costs and interests associated with prosecuting the case
  • Cease and desist from subcontracting bargaining unit work that belongs to Local 1522

Click here to read the full text of the labor board’s decision.

The labor board ruling comes nearly two years after Council 4 filed a municipal prohibited practice complaint against the city.

In that complaint, Council 4 said city officials broke the law and discriminated against the union when outgoing Superintendent Michael Testani and members of his leadership team abruptly contracted out the work of IT employees in November 2020.

“We are ecstatic that justice has finally been served,” AFSCME Local 1522 President Sherrie Weller said. “It’s been a long haul, but well worth the struggle. Right from the start, we said the school administration was union-busting. We appreciate that the board recognized this as a blatant violation of the law.”

Front: AFSCME Local 1522 President Sherrie Weller. Center, left to right: Local 1522 members Dustin Hargrove, Jay Benson. Back: Council 4 Staff Representative Paul Lavallee. (Not pictured: Council 4 Staff Representative/Attorney Patricia Johnson and Local 1522 member Julian Miranda.)

Local 1522 represents more than 400 employees in the Bridgeport school system and the city. School board employees include paraprofessionals, clerical workers, as well as many other non-certified staff.

Council 4 Staff Representative-Attorney Patricia Johnson argued Local 1522’s case before the labor board.

“This is a resounding and precedent-setting decision,” Johnson said, referring both to the ruling against outsourcing, the finding of anti-union hostility and the reimbursement of legal costs.

“It’s clear the [board administration] wanted to throw the IT staff out like dirty bath water,” she added. “The panel said, 'no way.'”

The three former Local 1522 bargaining unit members Jay Benson, Dustin Hargrove and Julian Miranda have the option to return to their previous positions.

Benson said he feels vindicated by the labor board decision.

“When I got the news about the decision, I was literally in disbelief," he said. "I felt like giving up when this happened, but I didn’t, and neither did the union.”