In response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Yankee Institute, the Connecticut Judicial Department provided a list of grievances that were dropped by AFSCME Local 749 in exchange for granting the union’s president a year of union leave time.
The Judicial Department worked out a stipulated agreement with AFSCME Local 749’s president Charles Della Rocco to provide a year of union leave to Della Rocco in exchange for the union dropping eleven union grievances against the department filed in September of 2017.
A majority of the grievances pertained to Della Rocco himself as he fought against the Judicial Department’s move to replace police officers with Judicial Court Marshals. Della Rocco also filed grievances against a letter of expectation and a letter of reprimand issued to him.
Complaints submitted to the State Board of Labor Relations on February 16, 2018 claimed the Judicial Department “has engaged in anti-union animus by targeting the President of Local 749.”
“The employer has restricted the Union President’s access to the Union membership. This restriction has made it very difficult for the Union to educate and explain the SEBAC agreement to the Union membership,” the complaint says. “Furthermore, the employer has disciplined the Union President without cause, unilaterally removed the police powers of the Union President and is falsely accusing the Union President of unauthorized leave.”
However, some of the grievances were filed on behalf of other employees related to compensation and some were filed on behalf of the entire Supreme Court police officer workforce regarding overtime pay.
According to two of the grievances filed on behalf of other officers, a supervising officer who retired in July of 2017 was never replaced requiring other officers to take over supervising duties, but they were not compensated for the extra responsibility.
Other grievances were related to officers not being offered voluntary overtime shifts in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.
“One of the security officers will be working at Tuesday thru Saturday work week,” the grievance read. “Having this officer work on Saturdays will be taking away Supreme Court Sergeant voluntary overtime. The contract states that these officers will receive overtime pay consistent with existing practice.”
A number of the grievances were denied by the Judicial Department and were likely going to be arbitrated requiring both time and money on behalf of the state and the union.
However, a deal reached between Local 749 and the Judicial Department allowed former Local 749 President Della Rocco to take a year of union business leave time in order to continue his campaign for re-election as union president. In exchange, the union dropped the grievances.
The revelation of the union deal with Judicial, however, sparked some Local 749 members to question union leadership on the status of their outstanding grievances and demand years’ worth of their dues returned.
I believe all my cases have been compromised by the union stipulation agreement that favored our former union president. I also believe my local AFSMCE 749, AFSMCE Council 4, Judicial Branch, and Court Support Services Division have been working together to suppress our grievances and complaints.Local 749 member email dated Feb. 27, 2020
“I believe all my cases have been compromised by the union stipulation agreement that favored our former union president,” wrote one member in an email dated Feb. 27, 2020. “I also believe my local AFSCME 749, AFSCME Council 4, Judicial Branch, and Court Support Services Division have been working together to suppress our grievances and complaints.”
“I would also like to request a refund of all my Union dues that I have paid over the past 7 years,” the email concluded.
Della Rocco received roughly $70,000 in salary and an additional $30,000 in benefits for the year he was not working.
According to the stipulated agreement, Della Rocco would receive a new job within the Local 749 bargaining unit, so he could maintain his union presidency.
This was rescinded, however, when Della Rocco filed a complaint with the State Board of Labor Relations alleging the Judicial Department had not bargained in good faith.
The Labor Relations Board ruled against Della Rocco and Local 749, forcing them to pay for the state’s costs to defend itself. Della Rocco then took a job as an animal control officer in the Department of Agriculture, essentially ending his tenure as Local 749’s president.
Although the deal struck between Judicial and Local 749 appears odd, according to Connecticut State Auditors, extensive periods of leave time are not isolated to the Judicial Branch.
According to an audit of the Department of Correction, two corrections officers took 230 and 405 consecutive days of union leave time during the years of 2016 and 2017. The total cost of union leave time at DOC added up to $2.2 million.