Labor Scuffles Continue in New York and Connecticut
By Melissa Maynard, Staff Writer
It took two tries for rank-and-file Connecticut workers to ratify a contract negotiated on their behalf by union leaders. Misinformation about changes to their health benefits was largely blamed for the collapse of the original deal in June, but leaders then changed the complex rules governing ratification to ensure passage on the second go-round.
Those changes turned out to be unnecessary. Every bargaining unit except for one approved the deal in August, so it would have passed even under the old rules. What probably helped was the threatened dismissal of up to 5,500 workers if agreement wasn't reached. Layoff notices had already gone out to about 3,000 workers when the re-vote was taken, making the consequences of another collapse all too real for those with jobs on the line.
The State Police Union alone rejected the deal. While most of the layoff notices were rescinded, a reluctant Malloy followed through by letting go 56 state troopers and 23 correction supervisors from the union that rejected the proposed concessions, the Connecticut Mirrorreported at the time, even though the state was already short of the statutorily required number of state troopers. "It's not a decision I wanted to make," Malloy told the paper. "As everybody in this state knows, I've done everything in my power to avoid layoffs."
Most of those layoffs have proven to be short-lived. As the Connecticut Postreports , all 56 state troopers have since been rehired, thanks to an unexpectedly high volume of retirements.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo finds himself in much the same situation as Malloy's over the summer. Rank-and-file members of the Public Employees Federation, the second largest union in the state, rejected a deal last week and face 3,500 layoffs if an alternative solution is not found quickly. All of the layoff notices have been delivered, reports the Buffalo News , with the first round of terminations scheduled to take place in two weeks.
Cuomo is in informal talks with the union over "revenue neutral" compromises, but options are limited because of a similar agreement that already exists with the state's largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association. Cuomo hinted on Thursday that he might consider a shorter contract, the Times Unionreports .
"The revenues that are critical are the immediate revenues, right?" he said at a press conference in Albany. "The revenues five years down the road, we're working on — but a lot can happen in five years, especially with this economy.
"We're talking about this year, next year, year three — these are key years for us," he continued. "... I don't want to negotiate in public, but we've been reasonable and flexible all through this."