HARTFORD – Union members gathered in Hartford today to announce a strong majority of their colleagues have ratified agreements that would shield against layoffs and preserve their healthcare and retirement security. The news came at the conclusion of a three-week-long period in which approximately 25,000 state employees voted by a 5 to 1 margin to accept negotiated cost savings. In addition to a master agreement covering pensions and health benefits, union members also ratified 33 individual five-year contracts, retroactive to July 1 of last year.
Click here for the master agreement approved in June by union leaders.
“There’s a lot to take away from the ratification of our labor cost savings agreement,” said Ivonne Hamm, RN, a nurse in the Electro Convulsive Therapy Department at UConn Health. “I think the biggest is that we have demonstrated that collective bargaining works. We have again shown that the way out of our economic challenges isn’t to sideline working people,” added Hamm, the first vice president of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated University Health Professionals (UHP) union.
Hamm, who spoke this morning at the press conference to announce the ratification results, in her comments referred to efforts by state employees to resist politicians’ attacks on our unions. Public employees have since January defended collective bargaining as the most effective way for labor and management — the state workforce and the governor — to work together and solve problems.
Click here to watch the full press conference online.
“It’s been disheartening to see so much attention focused on savings from state employees over this past year,” said Michael Barry, a juvenile probation officer (JPO) at the Rockville Superior Court. “While we are willing to be part of the solution, we cannot be the only ones to step up. By demonstrating that mutual negotiations works, it should signal to politicians and the media that we deserve respect and appreciation,” added Barry, AFT Connecticut’s vice president for public employees and our Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union’s secretary.
Click here to send a message to your legislators urging they oppose anti-union policies that would lead to more income inequality.
“This process shows that we’re deeply committed to protecting the services we provide — and that residents and small business depend on,” said Janet Andrews, a fiscal supervisor in the state’s revenue department. “Now that state employees have stepped up — once again — it’s time for our elected leaders to do so, too. They should start by truly listening to our many recommendations for achieving additional efficiencies and reducing costs,” added Andrews, the second vice president of our Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union.
Andrews’ comments refer to sustained advocacy over successive legislative sessions and gubernatorial administrations by the unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) to promote greater efficiencies in public service. An independent actuarial analysis last month found over $24 billion in long-term savings in the framework for negotiations that produced the latest agreements that members have since ratified.
Click here for the actuarial analysis of the SEBAC framework’s cost savings.
The ratified master agreement and all 33 individual union contracts will next be forwarded to the General Assembly for further action. Republican leadership in both chambers, who have for seven months led the crusade to roll-back collective bargaining rights, have publicly stated their intention to oppose the agreements. Worse, they have threatened to introduce legislation in an upcoming special session on the state budget that would curtail union members’ future ability to negotiate their wages and benefits.